Tribute to Northumbrian piper at Northumberland County Show

Lance Robson at 99.
Lance Robson at 99.

A FAMOUS Northumbrian piper, who would have been 101 on Northumberland Day, will be honoured at Monday’s Northumberland County Show.

Organisers of the event, which takes place at Bywell on the day after Northumberland Day, have chosen to honour the memory of Lance Robson by inviting a group of local pipers to play to visitors as they arrive at the showground.

Born in Hartburn, near Morpeth, in 1916, Lance died at the age of 99 in 2015.

He took up the pipes at the age of 14 before forming The Border Minstrels in 1932.

When war broke out, he flew Catalina flying boats for the RAF. In 1945, he found himself amongst the crew of a stricken Halifax bomber half way between Ireland and Canada.

The pilot had been forced to ditch the plane over the mid-Atlantic and as they were plummeting into the water, Lance swiftly tucked his Northumbrian pipes, which had been his most precious 21st birthday present, into the top of his buoyancy suit.

Mercifully the crew were rescued after an eight-hour wait in a tiny dinghy, and it’s reported that Lance kept their spirits up by playing tunes throughout the ordeal.

Lance founded the Northumbrian Musical Heritage Society to encourage young people to get involved in performing.

Terry Forster, from Snods Edge, who is co-ordinating the pipers’ group performance at the county show, was taught by Lance.

“It was 37 years ago, coincidentally at the county show, when I heard this unusual music coming from one of the tents,” he said.

“I went to find out what instrument it was, as I’d never heard anything like it, and that was how I met Lance.

“We hit it off immediately and I started to go to his house, where he taught me to play the pipes, and we became lifelong friends.”

At the show, on Bank Holiday Monday, May 29, five pipers will take it in turns to perform to visitors as they arrive through the main gates.

Haltwhistle’s Nick Leeming, Louise Woodman from Stannington, Ann Sessoms from Shiremoor and Dave Wear from County Durham will join Terry on the day.

He added: “Although Lance was small in stature, he was a man with an enormous heart and an unforgettable generosity of spirit.

“It’s an honour to play for him at the Northumberland County Show this year.”

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