Michael Robins

Elaine Evans interviews - Michael Robins

Tour guide and custodian

Last autumn I heard that Mike, a long-time and enthusiastic member of our Society, was in hospital, so I went along to visit him. We had a happy hour together, and although he had a serious health problem, he was his usual bright-eyed, perky self. We had a long chat about his work as a tour guide and before that his career with British Airways, and I was keen to interview him for the series "Hove residents of note". He cheerfully agreed, and as the first step completed the initial questionnaire that I use as a starting point. Unfortunately Fate stepped in on my side to delay our next meeting, but I kept in touch with his good friend Meg Stone, pending my planned visit. It was therefore with great sadness that I read of his passing on 10th January.

Remembering our conversation and having assistance from Meg, I have put together this rather unorthodox interview, plus Mike's questionnaire.

Date and place of birth:
26th October 1946, Sidcup, Kent

Your job (past or present):
Flight purser with British Airways 28 years; tour guide/custodian Woburn Abbey; custodian/historian St Andrew's, Waterloo Street, Hove

What do you like about your house/flat?
Studio flat

Where would you take a first time visitor to Brighton/Hove?
St Andrews

Favourite restaurant / Ideal dinner guests / Favourite author/musician/actor:
Too many to choose from (Mike added: I can elaborate on this!)

Your most memorable experience of the last five or so years:
Watching the last kiosk of the West Pier during a storm crash into the sea.

What do you consider your most satisfying professional or personal achievement in life (so far)?
Having made so many friends of all backgrounds, ages and beliefs.

I know that Mike had been a guide on the West Pier about ten years ago, and it's significant that his most memorable experience concerns the Pier. He also led tours of the Brunswick area, but for me his work for the beautiful Regency church of St Andrew's was his most valuable contribution to Hove.

Meg Stone now lives in the house that Mike called home when his grandmother lived there, just a few doors from the church. His family had lived there for seven generations. Their shared connection with the house is how they met. St Andrew's was in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust but much in need of restoration. It is Meg's understanding that Mike's name was put forward to be custodian of the church, a task that he carried out with passion and dedication. However, there was no heating, which affected his health, and in the end his doctor advised him to retire. The Friends of St Andrew's Church blossomed, and today it is a big success story, with continued access for the public on Sunday afternoons, important restoration projects achieved, and it is also a popular venue for concerts - the acoustics are marvellous.

It is entirely appropriate that Mike's funeral service was conducted there. Father Robert Sayers of St Michael's and All Angels officiated before a packed congregation.

Some of you may remember Michael's knowledgeable guiding with M&M Tours in 2009 - he was one of the Ms. He used to bring some of his reference books with him and he was very helpful to me personally by sending me photocopies of two pages of particular interest.

Michael had a great sense of humour. During his flights with BA he would sometimes put an olive in a small transparent plastic cup, fix the two cups in his eye sockets and then walk through the plane to make the children laugh. He received an award from BA - not necessarily for his party tricks!

Cllr. Paul Elgood writes: "He was really 'Mr Brunswick,' known by many for his local history and passion for our heritage, such as St Andrew's ... few people make such a strong contribution to their local community as Michael."

The last line of the questionnaire is: Any future ambitions / desires?

Michael's answer was: "To depart this life peacefully and happily."

Meg is able to confirm that he received wonderful care and comfort at The Martlets and slipped away peacefully in his sleep.

So happy that Michael achieved his last wish.