For Co Down historian Robert Linden there was a story around every corner (as the oul fella would say)
OVER the years Robert Linden, often with a twinkle in his eye, dispensed a host of ‘as the oul fella would say’ pearls of wisdom.
One of his favourites perhaps defined him best: “As the oul fella would say, there’s a story around every corner.”
The Co Down man was passionate about documenting the life and times of local people and their area, gleaning as much information as he could from the older generation.
If ever a person deserved to have his own life remembered, it is Robert.
A native of Rostrevor, he was the son of William John Linden and Annie Sloan. At one time they lived at Syenite Place in the village.
Along with so many others, including a large number from this small row of houses, Willie Linden served in the British army in World War One.
After a recruitment meeting in the old hotel in Rostrevor in May 1915, where the main speaker was Mick O’Leary (VC) from Tipperary, he enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Travelling to a military depot in Tipperary by train, it did not feel that it was such 'a long way to go’ for the young recruits setting out on an adventure.
Recording his father’s time in the army, it was in his typically refreshing and honest approach to history that Robert noted how he ended up in the Tower of London for being awol for three days.
On leave in Rostrevor with another villager, they had decided to spend an extra few days there - “Sure we might never be back.”
Robert wrote history without fear or favour to anyone. He always had an eye for the human interest story.
In 1970, he married Deirdre McKevitt from Mary Street, Warrenpoint and they settled in the town. They were blessed with a daughter, Aveen, and a granddaughter, Amber.
Over the years Robert worked at Forestbrook linen mill, Reed Corrugated Cases as well as in the forestry service.
He was also a warden at the Kilbroney Centre, the most rewarding time of his working life.
The cross-community nature of the role, combined with the outdoor pursuits involved in this local area of outstanding natural beauty, really appealed to him.
Throughout his life Robert was also involved in numerous initiatives in the community, joining an array of groups including the Rostrevor Society, the Rostrevor Annual Art Exhibition, Kilbroney Society of Bell Ringers (All Ireland champions 1954), Cloughmore Male Voice Choir, Kilbroney Park Preservation Society, as well as historical societies in Warrenpoint, Killowen and Rostrevor.
A member of the Tom Dunn Society over many years (dedicated to the memory of the Rostrevor hedge school teacher and United Irishman who died after a flogging in 1798), if ever there was a walk or talk to be ‘Dunn”, Robert, ‘straight as a rush’, volunteered.
In recognition of his ‘life of local history’, Rostrevor Historical Society published a compendium of his work in 2015.
In a tribute posted on social media following his death, Rostrevor Action Respecting the Environment spoke for many in expressing deep gratitude to Robert for ‘the support, advice and inspiration which he gave in our common goal to respect and protect the natural and built heritage of Rostrevor".
"Like many others, we have good reason to appreciate his knowledge and the generosity with which he shared it."
Robert Linden died aged 83 on November 9. He is survived by his wife, daughter and family circle.
Dr John McCavitt