A top journalist – and a gentleman

ROBERT JAMES KILBEY 1945-2013

By ASHLEY WALTON

A packed East London chapel heard many tributes from the world of broadcasting for Radio Two DJ Bob Kilbey who never seemed to be off the air in the late 70s and 80s.

But his time in Fleet Street was not forgotten either. Bob joined the Express in 1969 together with Tony Boullemier and the pair, as the Express's youngest subs, became firm friends. They were surrounded by stars from the Street of Shame  who the young pair found a constant source of wonderment and amusement.

As Tony explained to the congregation: "There was crafty spycatcher Chapman Pincher, bowler-hatted sports writer Desmond Hackett and natty tipster Peter O'Sullivan. Not to mention cartoonist Osbert Lancaster.  He was a moustachioed old gargoyle and Bob thought he looked just like one of his own caricatures."

Tony said that Bob loved working on the America column. Brian Vine picked up all the gossip in New York and "slung it fairly loosely" down the phone line where Bob was eagerly waiting to polish it into pearls for our 12 million readers.

Bob moved to The Sun but Tony didn't lose touch with him. "We met on the football field where he played centre forward for The Sun and as I was centre half for the Express I often found myself marking him.

"He was just like Alan Shearer. Similar physique, powerful shot, great in the air and brilliant at shielding the ball."  Tony said the only way to stop Bob was by fouling him.

In the 90s Bob and Tony found themselves working together again when they were both freelancing back at the Express. Bob started a Christmas lunch group with pals like Tony, Ross Tayne, Bill Reynolds, Geoff Compton, Ashley Walton, Ray King and Bingo McIntyre. The laughter in the Cheshire Cheese or El Vino's went on late into the evening.

Tony said: "One of Bob's biggest passions was Everton Football Club. He used to joke that when he died he wanted six Everton players to act as his pall bearers just so they could let him down one last time!"

He ended with a personal tribute to his friend: "Bob you were one of the gentlemen of Fleet Street. A top journalist and broadcaster, great sportsman, husband and father and a friend to so many. It's time to put your feet up. God bless you Bob!" 

Bob's son Kevin added his own tribute to his father saying: "As most of you here today will know, Bob had strong views on many aspects of life. He hated mobile phones, bad manners, incorrect grammar and inconsiderate drivers.  

"He was, however very sociable, loved good food, good wine, all cats, particularly his beloved Simba, travel, music and sport. There could not have been a more fitting end to his extremely full and varied life than playing tennis on his old school courts." 

The committal music was Bob's favourite When Somebody Loves You (You're Never Alone) by Gladys Knight and The Pips. The coffin disappeared to the Beatles singing Paperback Writer.


© 2008-2014 Alastair McIntyre