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Obituary: Robin Bush, archaeologist and an expert on Channel 4's Time Team

Robin Bush, Archaeologist and an expert on Channel 4's Time Team. Born: 12 March, 1943, in Middlesex. Died: 22 June, 2010, in Somerset, aged 67.

FOR nine years, Robin Bush was the resident historian on Channel 4's popular Sunday afternoon programme Time Team. The programme set up camp on some ancient archaeological site and proceeded to dig for, and then analyse, remains. Bush added a touch of panache and lustre to the programme. He was no dry academic or formal historian with dates and facts at his fingertips, but a genuine enthusiast and an archivist with an outsize personality.

Bush, often wearing a Panama straw hat, appeared in 39 episodes of the programme between 1994 and 2003, and presented eight episodes of Time Team Extra in 1998. He was a member of the team from the start and was involved in the making of the pilot programme with the actor Tony Robinson, who was already well-known to the public as Baldrick in TV's Blackadder.

Robin James Edwin Bush was the son of a schoolmaster and attended Exeter School. He won a scholarship to read History at Exeter College, Oxford, and graduated in 1965. He often appeared with various undergraduate theatre groups and his love of theatre and singing was to remain a passion all his life.

His first jobs included working as an assistant archivist at various records offices and acting as assistant editor (1970-78) for the Victoria History of Somerset. Later he returned to the Somerset Records Office as deputy county archivist until he took early retirement in 1993. His retirement was necessitated because Time Team was born. C4 saw that pilot (from Dorchester-on-Thames) and immediately commissioned a series, which was filmed in 1992 and broadcast the following year.

The programme travelled throughout the UK and also visited Europe. The shows from Scotland included Rough Castle Fort near Bonnybridge outside Falkirk. There Time Team explored the remains of a Roman fort on the Antonine Wall that stretches from Bo'ness on the River Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. The uncovered inscriptions were analysed and Bush suggested that the fort had been the base for 500 men recruited from a Gallic tribe.

Among the other sites that Bush visited in Scotland with the Time Team were Govan, Leven in Fife and Orkney. At the last the team travelled, at the suggestion of Shona Grieve a local enthusiast, to the island of Sanday. The team researched the area and tried to determine whether four mysterious mounds provided evidence of a Viking settlement or, as local folklore had it, a Viking burial site. Significantly, Bush returned to Sanday in 1998 when he did the Time Team Extra programme. At Govan, the team explored remains at Old Govan church.

Bush's most frustrating experience in Scotland was on the Isle of Islay. He had taken great trouble to learn the – often complicated – history and powers of the Lords of the Isles. He delivered his piece to camera only to discover that the director decided to concentrate on some prehistoric finds the team had turned up. Most of Bush's contribution was never seen. On his way south, there were problems at Glasgow Airport and Bush spent a few happy hours drinking Islay malts with the crew.

Bush fitted well into the team of specialists and his avuncular personality added an air of calm and relaxed informality to the three days that were allotted to the digs. Bush's explanations to Robinson about the finds were always easily understandable by all viewers. When asked about his decade on the programme, Bush gushed in typical manner: "Revealing – exciting – fun. As a former archivist and historian my experience of 'dirt' archaeology had been limited and I found the three-day experience intriguing and new." Although he added: "Frankly, I also found the necessarily superficial historical research experience frustrating."

In 2001 Bush was not re-engaged for the series, although he was involved in the 100th programme two years later from Athelney in his beloved Somerset. He was a popular lecturer and championed various causes connected with historical matters. For example, he believed that too many historic battlefields were being ruined. To this end, he encouraged local archaeologists to properly record their finds. He much regretted that in "Scotland there are no official lists of battlefields".

Bush wrote extensively on the history of the West Country and on the 17th- century emigration from the south-west of England to America. He was a popular figure in the area and was much involved in many amateur musical and drama groups. Robin Bush, is survived by his second wife Hilary Marshall, whom he married in 1993, and by two children from his first marriage to Iris Reed.

 
 
 

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