Show to pay tribute to Northumbrian piper

Lance Robson at 99.
Lance Robson at 99.

Northumberland County Show organisers have chosen to honour the memory of Lance Robson, the famous Northumbrian piper who would have been 101 years old on Northumberland Day – the day before the show.

At the Spring Bank Holiday Monday, May 29, event, a group of local pipers will play to visitors as they arrive at the showground.

Lance Robson with his Northumbrian pipes.

Lance Robson with his Northumbrian pipes.

Terry Forster, who is coordinating the pipers’ group, was taught by Lance himself.

“It was 37 years ago, coincidentally at Bywell 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.”

Lance passed away at the age of 99 in 2015 after a fascinating life. Born in Hartburn, near Morpeth, in 1916, he took up the pipes at the age of 14, taught by Jack Armstrong, whose band he joined before forming The Border Minstrels in 1932.

When war broke out, he flew Catalina Flying Boats for the RAF. In 1945, he found himself among the crew of a stricken Halifax Bomber halfway between Ireland and Canada.

As the crew were plummeting into the water, Lance swiftly tucked his Northumbrian pipes, his most precious 21st birthday present, into the top of his buoyancy suit.

For the rest of his life, Lance committed himself to spreading the joy of Northumbrian music and founded the Northumbrian Musical Heritage Society to encourage young people to get involved.

Terry added: “He never charged a penny for a lesson and when he saw poor kids with talent, he’d often buy them a set of pipes from his own money or even donated a set from his own collection so they could keep playing.”

At the Northumberland County Show, five pipers will take it in turn to perform to visitors as they arrive through the main gates. Nick Leeming, Louise Woodman, Ann Sessoms, Dave Wear and Terry Forster are all delighted to take part in the show that celebrates the life of this remarkable gentleman at an event that showcases the best of Northumbrian talent in so many areas.

Visit www.northcountyshow.co.uk for tickets and more information.