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East Coaster

Bob Bertram (1928-2009) ‘The People’s Poet’

From Paddy Bort, Edinburgh Folk Club


"The sad news has reached us that Bob Bertram, a Southside character if ever there was one, has succumbed to a short but serious illness. Last year, on 9 July, he celebrated his 80th birthday at Edinburgh Folk Club, singing some of his topical and satirical songs at the Pleasance.

Though born in Melbourne, Bob was a proud Scot. His mother was from Lanarkshire, his father from Edinburgh. The family returned to Scotland n in 1931 when Bob was three years old. A year later, the family moved to Niddrie Mains on the Southside.

Bob left school when he was fourteen, and in 1946 he was conscripted into the Army, trained at Fort George, and was later sent to Lagos, Nigeria. On his return in 1948 he joined Thos Scott & Co, a wholesale ironmongery in the Grassmarket, where he worked until age 55, when he joined the Scottish Office until retirement age.

In the 1960s he got sucked in by the burgeoning Scottish folk revival, cutting his teeth at the evening sessions in the Waverley Bar. The great Sottish folklorist Hanmish Henderson hailed him in 1964 as a ‘folk poet’ – by then he had already written umpteen poems, songs and ditties, some, as Hamish observed, “mere ephemeral squibs about current affairs”, but also others which “look as if they might prove more durable.” As an example, he printed ‘The Buckie Wife’, a song about childhood memories of Newhaven fishwives coming up to town to sell their wares:

Fine buckies, fine buckies
Noo that was her cry.
Fresh mussels the day-o,
Oh please come and buy

Bob actually acknowledged the help of Hamish Henderson with that particular ballad. When Hamish died in 2002, Bob wrote a moving poem about his funeral.

In the past few years Bob Bertram rediscovered, and became a regular at, Edinburgh Folk Club. He enjoyed his music, and he enjoyed singing a few songs on a Wednesday night. Songs about his memories of growing up in Edinburgh, songs about watering holes (for whom he had a penchant), humorous sketches and, of course, political comment – he was a lifelong believer in Scottish self-government – and topical lampoons – be it about the BSE crisis, the Royals (one of his favoured targets) or budget day, when, year on year, ever more taxes seemed to be heaped on booze and fags.

Last December Nora Allan saw to it that a selection of Bob’s ‘Songs and Poems’ were published in book form, and he was delighted that the print run of 250 sold like hot cakes. David Hardy has recorded lots of Bob’s songs to be archived at the School of Scottish Studies. Edinburgh Folk Club is planning to use some of the recordings made at the Pleasance for an ‘In Memoriam’ CD – so that his many friends can remember him the way he surely would like to be remembered, as the people’s poet and singer.

We would have hoped that he could celebrate a good many more birthdays with us. But Bob Bertram died, on 22 July, a fortnight after his 81st birthday. During his final days in hospital he was bright to the last, and planned his funeral and wake at Jeanie Dean’s Tryst. We will miss the sparkle that he brought to the Club."
East Coaster

I would like to add my personal condolences here.

Bob was a very popular and supportive member of Edinburgh Folk club over the last few years and will be sorely mised by all who knew him.

We will post further details about funeral arrangemnets when they become known
Onny

From Scotland on Sunday.

http://news.scotsman.com/obituari...lives-Bob-charmed-folk.5495826.jp
East Coaster

Thanks for that, Onny.

Jeanie Deans's Tryst is situated at the rear of St Leonard's Police Station which I'm sure is known to many.

Unfortunately, there are no further details of funeral arrangements although it is now thought that the sevice might not take place this week. I'll update the thread as soon as we hear more.
East Coaster

Funeral will take place at Cramond Kirk - Friday 31st July 10-30 am.

All family and friends are invited but there's no mention of flowers or a charity. I believe the funeral party intend to go on to Jeanie Deans Tryst, St Leonard's Hill thereafter but I don't have confirmation of this as yet.
Onny

Isn't Cramond Kirk a wee bit out of the way for a Southside character?

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