Profile: Dave Robertson

6 May 1969

This Gazette profile of Dave Robertson follows the record turnout of this year’s Presidential election in which Dave was the defeated candidate of the left.  The profile was written by Fiona Macdonald-Hull:

Dave Robertson was very quiet and hard-working in his first term.  He spent his days in the library and his evenings being bored.

Then Dave Robertson became disillusioned.  Since then he has probably had more mud flung at him, received more adulation, and developed a bigger ego than anyone else in the University.

He describes himself as “vague, conceited, disillusioned, happy, peaceful, still with hope.  Without hope I would destroy myself.”

Other people describe him as a cross between a ‘black dwarf’ and some sort of Midas.  He has been attacked twice physically, because somebody thought he was a troublemaker.  His following in the Presidential election was more charismatic than that of the other three candidates put together and conversely many people think that Sandy Macmillan was put in to keep Dave Robertson out.

He doesn’t see himself as having any weaknesses.  Any that existed, he says, have been rationalised and ironed out.  “The one time I cracked was after the night of the elections and that was for other people’s sake.  It won’t happen again.”

Chris Chopping once threatened to sue him for libel – for something he printed in Gazette.  It was probably the first and last time that Guild Council ever received a two-page spread, and it was in that article that the cliché ‘petty politician’ first appeared.

He began on Gazette writing a back-page column entitled ‘Phred’  – he ended up ae editor.  This was, in many people’s view, his greatest achievement.

During this period he perhaps made most of his enemies, but even if they hated what he wrote, they always read it.

He described his sensations when he took the first copy of the first edition that he edited off the press as “just fantastic.  It’s your baby, all yours.  Every little bit, every detail, has come out of your head.”

Similarly it was one of his greatest disappointments when Gazette failed to take any of the prizes at the Student Journalism Conference that year.

I asked him if he had ever regretted anything during his three years here.  “I don’t regret anything.  Oh Jesus, I must regret something…I regret not being able to communicate with people, that I don’t know what they want.  This could lead to total rejection of all people; that’s bad, very bad.”

He thinks that he is too vain and too arrogant ever to consider committing suicide, but finds the idea of living in eternal blackness with nothing to worry him rather attractive.

His main criticism of the University is that it turns out unimaginative people who are taught only to answer questions and not to ask them.

He has no idea what he will do when he leaves, but thinks, with a tinge of bitterness, that he may end up teaching.  Finally, Sandy Macmillan once said to him in the Sphinx, “Well, Dave, you’re not as black as you’re painted.”

Dave thanked him very much.


Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

3 thoughts on “Profile: Dave Robertson”

  1. I entirely agree that ‘his following in the Presidential election was more charismatic…’: we were an extremely alluring bunch!

  2. LOL is all I can say. I’m….errrr…speechless 🙂

    And what’s all this ‘suicide’ stuff? I can honestly say neither thought nor deed has ever crossed my mind, then or since. Life is far too much fun. I guess the black cord jacket was to blame; and I didn’t smile enough. My kids would brand me an ‘Emo’ in today’s terms.

    I’d accept, looking back, the charge of arrogance. But I was never vain; and I’ve never felt my ‘ego’ was a problem. Clearly I still had some growing up to do though. Surprised reaching the final of the Observer Mace debating competition with Frank Milner didn’t get a mention. That was something to be proud of. Perhaps it was still to come. And yes, I was disappointed not to win ‘Paper of the Year’ for Gazette. We were hot favourite but it went to Oxford’s ‘Cherwell’ (again, sigh). Gazette did win a year later though – thanks to SocSoc supplying plenty of gripping news, but mainly to editor, Mike Smith and writers like Gerry Cordon, turning it brilliantly into fast-paced copy.

    Gerry says it was a ‘May 68’ profile: I would have had a lot on my mind that month, what with Paris & stuff. But I think it was in fact May 1969, post-election and just before finals.

    Fiona, the interviewer, went on to a successful career in journalism, eventually writing her own column in the ‘News of the World’. And, thanks in large measure to Gerry, I did become a teacher, in the process finding my true vocation. Lucky me!

  3. Sorry – my mistake. Dave’s campaign was Feb/March 1969. I’ve corrected it.

    Thanks, Dave, for the generous comments. I remember the Annual Awards for Student Newspapers in April 1969 very well. The feature I had wriiten the previous December about the University owning slum housing was in the running for the ‘Best Feature’ award, and was commended for being ‘hard-hitting and well-researched and illustrated’ but, unfortunately didn’t win.

    And Guild Gazette made it to the last two in the running for Best Student Newspaper. The judge said, “I particularly liked Guild Gazette for its clean layout and sensitive use of type, admired a very good careers supplement, and its front page of January 21st [which you can see on this blog] where it carried a blank space as its splash because the Vice-Chancellor had banned a report of his address to students on the reason for his resignation. Very good journalism indeed.”

    But we didn’t win – Union News, Leeds University did, “by a very short head from Guild Gazette which I would also like to give a Very Highly Commended award”.

    Ahh: days of glory!

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