Reprinted with kind permission from The Scotman.
Bob Noble, who has died aged 80, was a stalwart of the Scottish farming scene as well as being a gifted and industrious musician, a talented writer and an extraordinarily compelling performer.
As Secretary of the Borders National Farmers Union in the early years of the century, Noble was confronted with the considerable challenge of foot-and-mouth disease which devastated the region in 2001. First detected in February that year, the disease caused a crisis which lasted seven months and necessitated the slaughter of six million animals nationwide.
Genuinely philanthropic and charismatic, and a thorough expert in his field, Bob Noble was the man for the task of helping the farming community through the trauma, making necessary arrangements and organising compensation, providing consolation and understanding. For this work in particular, and for his services to farming in general, Noble was awarded the MBE.
Robert Rutherford Noble was born at Newcastle on Tyne on July 9 1942. His father Cecil was a ship’s engineer and HM Inspector of Factories, his mother Isabel a home-maker.
Young Bob attended Dame Allan’s School in Newcastle and then went to Durham University to study Agriculture.
In 1966, Bob Noble joined the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, for whom he worked first in Dundee and then in Shetland until 1970, when he moved to Northumberland to join the National Farmers Union. In 1975, Noble took up a post with the NFU in Duns, Berwickshire, where he remained for the rest of his working life and in retirement, becoming a distinctive and much-loved presence in the town.
A gifted guitarist, Bob Noble played in bands all his life and could well have made music his profession. He met and played beside folk legends such as Ally Bain, The Corries, Rab Noakes and The Fureys. He knew Alan Price of The Animals and his fund of anecdotes included merry accounts of times with Barbara Dickson. Characteristically, he put his talent to the service of charity, forming the Duns Mamas & Papas to play at a charity concert at Berwickshire High School in 1985. It was meant to be a one-off but they lasted for 15 years, raising thousands of pounds for good causes in the process.
Their motto – “No fees, no hassle, no rehearsals, just great music” – summed them up. Their shifting line-up, which always included Bob Noble, sometimes featured his friend, the politician Archie, now Lord, Kirkwood, on harmonica. Although their antics gave rise to significant levels of hilarity among both audience and band, they were seriously good musicians, with Bob Noble in the lead.
A pillar of the community, Bob Noble joined the Duns Rotary Club in 1993 and was President 2005-6. Serving on the District Team in the early 2000s as Environment Officer, he encouraged clubs to think about climate change and get involved in recycling schemes long before such practices became fashionable.
He was also deeply involved with the Episcopalian Church in Duns, Christ Church, where he was a serving Vestry member and licensed to “lead worship, administer the Chalice and take services from the Reserved Sacrament”; his deep belief in the living Christ was the foundation on which he built his life.
Bob Noble’s services were always interesting, challenging and often filled with humour. He organised and led the music group and his voice, either singing or speaking, was a particular asset to the congregation, except when he was whispering as his “whispers” were just as loud as his ordinary speech.
In 2008 he realized that the dormant troupe, Duns Players, still had a bank account and set about breathing new life into the theatrical life of Duns. Since then, led and inspired by him, the troupe has gone from strength to strength, staging highly-acclaimed productions of classics and new writing, their ambition giving rise to an early-May festival of new drama, DunsPlayFest.
Bob Noble was the Life President of the troupe and highly esteemed by all Duns Players for whom he provided several comic plays, the most recent of which, Still Nothing Ever Happens in Duns, proved the greatest hit of DunsPlayFest 2023. He was also a highly imaginative maker of props.
He took on extensive acting roles for both Duns Players and Duns & District Amateur Opera Society playing, among much else, both Jesus Christ and God Almighty. A cabaret evening devoted to his life and musicianship was staged in February this year, to considerable acclaim.
Bob Noble was a thoroughly engaging, kind-hearted and humorous man, beloved by all who knew him. His courage in the face of various health issues over recent years was astonishing.
Bob Noble married Joan Sweet in 1967. They had a son, Gus, who received the OBE for services to Scottish Culture in the United States in July, and a daughter Kirstie.