Bob Roberts (folksinger)

Bob Roberts (folksinger)

Bob Roberts (1907 – 1982) was a British folk singer, songwriter, storyteller, bargeman, author, and journalist. He was the last captain of a British commercial vessel operating under sail, and brought to an end a centuries old tradition.


Alfred William Roberts was born in the village of Hampreston, Dorset where his parents taught in the village school. Robert’s father, who was brought up in North Wales, ran the church choir as well as playing the piano, church organ, melodeon, concertina and fiddle for village dances. These musical interests led Ralph Vaughan Williams to visit him at the village.

Roberts attended Wimborne Grammar School on a choral scholarship. After leaving school at 17, he eventually became a journalist at the Orpington Gazette, before moving to work as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail on Fleet Street. Robert found it difficult to settle at job at the Mail, and twice took off on long sea voyages. Finally he left the newspaper to work on a Thames sailing barge. Apart from a short stint as a sub-editor at the East Anglian Daily Times in the late forties, Roberts would work on eight barges over the next 35 years, initially as a mate and on his final five boats, as skipper. His other voyages at sea would take him to the West Indies, Ascension Island, West Africa and Brazil.

In 1940 Roberts married his wife, Amelia or ‘Toni’, whom he’d first met in the late 1920s and in 1949 they moved to Pin Mill, on the River Orwell. And it was while working at East Anglian Times that F.T. Everard and Sons offered Roberts the captaincy of the "Cambria", the Thames Sailing Barge he was to make famous.

Working as a bargeman allowed Roberts to collect songs from bargemen and others he met along the East Anglian coast, which he added to his repertoire of his own songs. Working on barges also affected Roberts literary output, because even as a skipper his wages didn’t support his family, which included two daughters. So, he supplemented his income by writing books and articles, often while waiting for good sea-going conditions.

Roberts had a good selection of songs by the 1950s when he met the folklorist Peter Kennedy. Kennedy was making field recordings for the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the BBC, and together they recorded some of Robert’s folk singing contacts for the BBC folk programme "As I Roved Out".

From the 1950s onwards, Roberts appeared in folk clubs and festivals. He gained the reputation as a great story teller, distinctive singer and charismatic personality. In 1966, Roberts read five sea-faring stories on the BBC children's programme Jackanory [ [ Bob Roberts' IMDB entry] ] .

As Thames Barges became increasingly economically unfeasible, Everards offered to sell Roberts the "Cambria" which he ran as owner between 1966 and 1970 when it was sold to the Maritime Trust. He then bought a replacement, a motor coaster called the "Vectis Isle". In the seventies Roberts and his wife moved to live on the Isle of Wight where he made his last two records, as well joining in sing-alongs. After Toni died in 1978, Roberts married his second wife Sheila. Bob Roberts died in 1982 at the age of 74.


"Songs from the Sailing Barges", Topic Records 12TS361, 1978
"Breeze for a Bargeman", Solent Records SS054, 1981
"Ballads, Complaintes et Shanties des Matelots Anglais" (Various Artists: Chants de Marins IV – 2 tracks), Le Chasse-Marée SCM005, 1984
"Sea Songs and Shanties" (Various Artists - 14 tracks recorded by Peter Kennedy), Saydisc CD-SDL 405, 1994
"Hidden English" (1 track), Topic Records TSCD600, 1996
"My Ship Shall Sail the Ocean" (the Voice of the People series Vol. 2 - 1 track) , Topic Records TSCD652, 1998
"To Catch a Fine Buck Was My Delight" (The Voice of the People series Vol. 17 - 1 track) , Topic Records TSCD668, 1998


"Breeze for a Bargeman", Bob Roberts, Seafarer Books 0954275063
"Last of the Sailormen", Bob Roberts, Seafarer Books 0953818047
"Coasting Bargemaster", Bob Roberts, Seafarer Books 0953818012
"Rough and Tumble", Bob Roberts, Seafarer Books 0953818098
"A Slice of Suffolk", Bob Roberts, Terence Dalton Ltd 0861380207


"The Last Sailorman", Dick Durham, Terence Dalton Ltd 0861380673


External links

* [ East Anglian Traditional Music Trust] Biography of Roberts
* [ The Cambria Trust Website]
* [ National Historic Ships webpage on Cambria]
* [ Seafarer Books page, including four by Bob Roberts]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Robert Roberts — or Bob Roberts may refer to:* Bob Roberts , a 1992 film written and directed by and starring Tim Robbins *Robert Roberts (cleric) (1680–1741), Welsh cleric and writer *Robert Richford Roberts (1778–1843), American Methodist bishop *Robert Roberts …   Wikipedia

  • performing arts — arts or skills that require public performance, as acting, singing, or dancing. [1945 50] * * * ▪ 2009 Introduction Music Classical.       The last vestiges of the Cold War seemed to thaw for a moment on Feb. 26, 2008, when the unfamiliar strains …   Universalium

  • Phil Ochs — in concert, May 25, 1973 in Ann Arbor, Michigan Background information Born December 19, 1940(1940 12 19) El …   Wikipedia

  • literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… …   Universalium

  • Josh White — Infobox musical artist Background = solo singer Instrument = Guitar Name = Josh White Img capt = Josh White in 1945 Born = February 11 1914 in Greenville, South Carolina (some sources incorrectly list his birthplace as Greensboro, NC) Died =… …   Wikipedia

  • Dick Rosmini — Born 1936 Died September 9, 1995 Genres Folk, Blues, Ragtime, Roots music Occupations Guitarist, author …   Wikipedia

  • David Carradine — Not to be confused with David Cannadine. David Carradine …   Wikipedia

  • The Byrds — Not to be confused with The Birds (band). The Byrds …   Wikipedia

  • List of guest stars on Sesame Street — 1* 14 Karat SoulA* Buzz Aldrin * Jason Alexander * Maya Angelou one segment with some of the kids and Elmo singing about the fact they like their names just fine . * Kofi Annan, one segment: Then the Secretary General of the United Nations, Annan …   Wikipedia

  • Dick Rosmini — Naissance 1936  États Unis Décès 9 août 1995 …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.