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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Bob’s musical legacy lives on across the world

A MUSICIAN who transported the music of Tynedale to audiences Down Under has died at the age of 86.

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The late Bob Ballantine is pictured playing his father Billy Ballantine’s piccolo.

Bob Ballantine emigrated to Linton, Victoria, in Australia, in 1961 – but took the spirit of his birthplace with him through music.

A celebrated whistle player, he was born in Simonburn in January 1928 to Emma and Billy Ballantine, and two years later his family moved to Greenhaugh Farm, which remained the family home for another 64 years.

Bob was the only one of seven children to follow in the musical footsteps of his father, a piccolo player who had numerous recordings and radio performances to his credit.

Straight from leaving school, Bob joined the Army in 1942 as an engineering apprentice but kept up the music by joining the Army band playing the flute and piccolo.

He met his wife, Ivy, while serving in Stevenage and, after leaving the army, they moved to Carlisle with Bob taking up a job at the ammunition factory at Spadeadam.

However, in 1961 the couple decided to emigrate to Australia on the popular £10 ticket passage with their three children.

They moved from there on to New Zealand – where their youngest was born – but later returned to settle in Australia at Linton.

Despite working in civil engineering, Bob kept up his love of music, playing with many bands and musicians over the years including regularly with the Rubber Band and dance bands Guy Charmers and Emu Creek.

He was also a regular attendee at folk festivals, including the annual National Folk Festival held in Canberra.

He happily showcased the music of Northumberland with performances and workshops at festivals – as well as playing with groups specialising in Irish, Scottish and even traditional Australian tunes.

His music has been recorded and can be found in the National Library of Australia and his performances have even made their way on to YouTube.

Bob’s family, who still live in the North-East, were among the first recipients of his CD Northumbria Down Under. Showcasing both Northumberland and Scottish folk music, it featured his birth place Simonburn on the front cover.

His sister Joan Benson, who lives in Haydon Bridge, is proud of Bob’s musical legacy.

She said: “When we went to see our father play the piccolo at the local dances, Bob hardly ever got up to dance – he was always watching the musicians.

“I was amazed when we went to visit him in Australia how many people knew him because of his music.”

As well as his music, Bob was also a keen sportsman, excelling in running, rugby, football, cricket and boxing during his army days, and also enjoyed seeking out gemstones.

He is survived by his wife, Ivy, and children Robert, Linda, Paul and David.

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