Walking Hadrian’s Wall with Robson Green was a history lesson for TV star Robson in more ways than one.
Not only did he learn the true stories behind the historic monument he has lived alongside all his life, he also took a trip down memory lane that on occasions brought him close to tears.
Life could have turned out very differently for Robson if he hadn’t risked everything 37 years ago to leave his job as a draughtsman to try his hand at acting.
And Hadrian’s Wall begins next to the shipyard where Robson thought he’d be spend all his working life.
It was when he was a young draughtsman back in the 80s that archaeologists unearthed Segedunum – one of the greatest examples anywhere of a Roman fort- that also marks the start of the Wall.
But the TV producers who booked him for a new show walking the length of the wall had no idea of his personal connection to the site.
“They said there is this place called Segedunum. I said ‘Oh yes I know about it. I was a draughtsman there when they uncovered Segedunum’.
“I am Northumberland born and bred. I think they asked me because I was cheap and I live next door – he won’t need accommodation, give him £28 a day, he will do!”
But that wasn’t the only link to his past career Robson unearthed on his journey.
Filming in the village of Corbridge – the Roman soldiers’ equivalent of Las Vegas where they would go for R&R – Robson bumped into his old work colleague Ray, the very man who convinced him to and be an actor.
Robson, 56, was born in Dilston Hospital, in the town of Hexham, where he lives today.
His parents were miner dad Robson and mum Anne who was a cleaner and shopkeeper.
And although the whole family loved movies, singing and amateur theatre, back then in the North East there were only two career choices.
Robson explains: “The shipyard or the mine, and there was no way I was going down the mine.
“My father was a miner for 42 years and he always said it was an industry not designed for human beings. He was a bloody good miner.
He looked after a team of 50 guys who were all brilliant at what they did, because if they weren’t any good lives could be at risk. But he never wanted me and my brother to do that. He never wanted me to go into acting because I think he was frightened of it and didn’t understand it.
“My mother and father had great taste in movies. While others were riding around on bikes, I was going to the cinema with my mum.
“I was seeing things like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Cool Hand Luke, and Magnificent Seven. It was a window to the world, a world I wanted to be part of. But I never thought I could make living out of it, I just thought it was something I could do.” So alongside his job at Swan Hunter’s shipyard, Robson would do amateur dramatics.
Deep down he had a nagging feeling his future lay in acting – and that is where Ray played a key role.
“He was a bloody good draughtsman and naval architect,” says Soldier, Soldier star Robson.
“I hadn’t seen him for 37 years and it was bizarre to bump into him. It was 1985 when I confided in Ray that I was going to leave the shipyard. Others were saying you are mad, they thought it was a job for life.
But Ray said nah, the writing is on the wall mate. It was not a job for life. He said if you are not happy, you are single, you have no responsibilities, all you have got is yourself and your supposed talent as an actor.
“Go for it if it will make you happy. And I did and I got a job at the theatre. He wasn’t saying follow your dreams, it was more do something that makes you genuinely happy.”
Watching Robson walk Hadrian’s Wall, you can tell that he truly is happy. And why wouldn’t he be? The scenery is breathtaking, the history spellbinding, and the people he meets are fascinating.
It is the sort of feel-good telly everyone needs, at times like these.
The beauty spots and scenery keep bringing Robson back to fond memories of his youth that will probably strike a chord with most.
Diving into the River Tyne, for a very cold water swim, Robson recalls how his dad taught him and his brother to swim by throwing them into the river.
He explains: “My dad was a prolific swimmer, he had a hell of an engine on him. He would swim in freezing cold water in a red pair of trunks and he wanted his two sons to swim.
“That was his method – he’d throw us in the water and say come on, swim before you turn blue. Nothing focuses the mind like hypothermic shock.”
Sadly Robson’s dad passed away a few years ago, so won’t be able to see his son lovingly recall these happy times. Mum Anne has dementia, but Robson believes watching the show will bring her memories back.
He says: “Anyone suffering severe memory loss gets triggers that make them relaxed and lucid. When mum watches it, it will just trigger so many wonderful memories.
“I am devastated dad won’t be able to watch it because of one of the things he always did was take a photo of the end credits as he was called Robson Green too.
“It always choked me up.” Despite travelling the world as an actor and presenter, and acting in TV series such as Granchester where he starred alongside James Norton, Robson says nothing would tempt him from Hexham where he lives with girlfriend Zoila Short, an ex-Sunday school teacher.
Robson was married to Alison Ogilvie, an occupational therapist, for eight years before they split in 1999. He has a son, Taylor, 20, with second wife Vanya Seager a former personal assistant to Simon Cowell.
Nowadays he can see the Tyne from his front room, and is proud to share the glorious county with the nation.
He adds: “One of the things Northumberland has which very few places in Great Britain have is space and beauty. You can walk for hours and not see a soul, just the Northumberland National Park.”
But along the way Robson says you can expect to meet people from all over the world drawn by the area’s natural magic and history.
He concludes: “It was a joy and a privilege to talk about a place I am proud to call home.”
Source: The Mirror