JOURNALIST and author Barbara Robinson so endeared herself to the people of Hull’s sister city, Raleigh in the USA, that they made her an honorary citizen.
Yet it was the close personal links she forged with Hull’s twin city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, of which she was most proud.
Mrs Robinson, who has died aged 89, was involved from the start in the pioneering civic relationship, when Hull became the first UK town or city to establish such a bond in the developing world nearly 35 years ago.
She was working as a reporter at the Hull Daily Mail – where she was best known to readers through her Jane Humber column – when the link was first mooted. And like all good reporters she wanted to see it for herself.
John McSherrie worked under the town clerk at Hull Council then and helped arrange visas; it was the start of a lifelong friendship and both became members of the Freetown Society.
Mr McSherrie, 78, said: “Barbara, when she heard of the twinning, went off on her own to Freetown at her own expense and did a three-day spread of what she found there, a really good article for people who knew nothing about the place.
“When she proposed to do this I had managed to get to know the people she was involved with and was dealing with visas, so I helped to get her out on the first occasion. Barbara was the first one to follow up on the idea of a twinning between Hull and Freetown and went at the invitation of the Mayor of Freetown, Dr June Holst-Roness.
“The articles were precursors to all that followed. That was when I really got involved with her.
“She was just as avid in her pursuit of the sister-city relationship with Raleigh.”
Mrs Robinson made three visits to the West African city, and played a key role in getting an organ for the Judea West African Methodist Chapel in Wilberforce village, albeit by what Mr McSherrie called a “circuitous” route.
“She was made an honorary member of the church,” he said. “They thought the world of her and that’s one of the achievements she was most proud of.”
He added: “She was a go-getter, a learned woman, and single-minded. If she wanted to do something she would achieve it, with or without assistance.”
Mrs Robinson was born Barbara Duncanson in Uxbridge and moved to East Yorkshire when her father got a job at Blackburn aircraft factory in Brough.
She was married briefly to Peter Robinson.
She joined the Mail in 1948 and spent nearly 40 years at the paper, where she also worked as woman’s editor. She was eventually nudged into retirement by a new editor, a decision she did not take lying down. Her time at the paper led to a book, Hull Daily Mail: A Part of the Community, which included an update by historian Dr John Markham.
Mrs Robinson had wide and varied interests, and her other books included: The Hull German Lutheran Church 1848-1998, which was also published in German; Aspects of Faith; and her autobiography, called One-Off, Not Really an Autobiography.
She also edited The Swelling Scene, the Development of Amateur Drama in Hull, compiled by Pamela Dellar and Gillian Holtby, with a foreword by Alan Plater.
Mrs Robinson was secretary of Hull Theological Society, public relations officer for the Freetown Society, a member of the Hull Council of Christians and Jews, and a Soroptimist.
She also travelled widely, visiting Israel, Pakistan, Canada, and New Zealand in addition to her forays into Europe.
Rev Allen Bagshawe, chairman of the Freetown Society, who gave the eulogy at her funeral, said: “She was an incredible lady of commitment, somebody who was committed to making things happen. Thirty-seven years at the Hull Daily Mail is a fair stint and when they retired her she went kicking. She partly produced the Hull Daily Mail history, and her own story, which is out of print but I’d love to have seen it. The proceeds went to Save the Children, which was typical of her – she was not looking to feather her own nest but to do something that would make a difference.”