As the presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Take the Floor and The Reel Blend, Robbie’s strong Doric tones have made him welcome in homes throughout Scotland. And with the advent of internet broadcasting, his audience now stretches across the world.
Robbie was born in Dunecht, twelve miles outside Aberdeen, and when Robbie was growing up his father used to go into the city once a month to buy records. The young Robbie could hardly wait to hear the latest Jimmy Shand, Robert Wilson and Kenneth McKellar offerings, and his enthusiasm for Scottish music has never diminished.
His own instrument is the moothie. In his younger days he played with a band and once supported Calum Kennedy. But it was language that was to bring him to the public attention. He has commentated on the Highland Games circuit, including the famous Braemar Gathering, since the 1960s and as a popular concert compere he travelled the length and breadth of Scotland and down to the Royal Albert Hall with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra.
His weekly columns for the Aberdeen Press & Journal, in which he reflects with wry humour on current affairs, books and films, has long enjoyed an enthusiastic following. Written in Doric – hence the published collection, Doric Columns – they find their way all over the world to appreciative readers, and Robbie’s acknowledged expertise in his mother tongue resulted him being awarded the M.Univ (Master of the University) by Aberdeen University in 2001.
When the original host of Take the Floor, David Findlay, died in 1981, Robbie was given the opportunity to take over. Despite initial opposition from some who found his broad Doric accent unsuitable, Robbie soon made the programme his own. His warm welcome and genuine love of the music he presents immediately puts an audience at ease.
This is particularly true when Take the Floor takes to the road and broadcasts live from Lerwick or Achiltibuie or the many other places where Robbie and crew have rolled up. Such adventures don’t always go entirely to plan. Robbie well remembers the time he and his production team had to saw through a chain across the door of a Glasgow hall before they got in and got the show going. Then, on Mull, they had to keep pumping coins into a hungry electricity meter so that the power would stay on through the show.
The power of Robbie’s personality has ensured that many honours have come his way. In 1992 Robbie’s services to Scottish Music were recognised by the National Association of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs, and in 1998 he was presented with an award for his outstanding loyalty to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.
In the 2001 New Years Honours List Robbie was appointed MBE for his services to Scottish Music and Culture. Other recognition has come in the form of a ceilidh band calling themselves Robbie Shepherd’s Nightmare and a poem written in his honour by Simon Brown – a suitable tribute to a man of letters and a poet of the airwaves.