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My Rockport

Old Rockportian John Robb

We were saddened at school to learn of the passing of Old Rockportian and Ballymoney man John Robb during the half-term. A former Irish Senator and an eminent surgeon who worked in RVH throughout some of the most challenging days of the Troubles, John always showed a keen interest in what was happening at Rockport and attributed the acquisition at least some of his free-thinking and liberal views to his time spent at the school.

At a time when it was perhaps at its least fashionable, John Robb followed a liberal Protestant tradition grounded in the all-Ireland tradition of 18th Century Presbyterianism, and in 1982 founded the New Ireland Group, an organisation itself dedicated to shaping a new agreed, cross-community vision of Ireland. He further made it his mission to learn and speak Irish. In 1982 he was made a Senator in Dublin by Taoiseach Charles Haughey and he would go on to serve there for seven years, making the news on one occasion by wearing a Poppy in the Seanad on Armistice Day. On learning of his passing, Irish President Michael D Higgins paid great tribute to John Robb: 

he was a voice not only for peace but for reconciliation, for recognising all traditions and beliefs on the island of Ireland, and the making of a future in which all in Ireland could share. One could not but be impressed by his deep humanity, and his unstinting efforts to encourage new thinking in politics. At a personal level, he was a joy to meet, always optimistic, an all-islander in the best sense. To have known him as a friend and regular correspondent was a privilege.” 

Just a few years ago, I was pleased and privileged to welcome John Robb back to Rockport. It was during that visit that he told me of how, during the war he and some other boys, having pinched a bunch of keys from the nearby POW Camp at Seahill, had then panicked and hurriedly buried them in the GT. He even pointed to the exact spot where he remembered burying them. I further know that he was extremely pleased when I sent him the Belfast Telegraph article describing how local historians Robin Masefield and Terry De Winne would unearth the very same keys soon after using a metal detector. Four big, rusty keys which now have pride of place in the Head’s Study.

See the full Irish Times obituary here: 1.3402549 

George Vance

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Written by E Thompson Posted on 09/03/2018



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