Development & Alumni Relations Office 


Dr Robert (Bob) Swann, BSc, PhD (died November 2019, aged 82)


Obituary provided by a member of Lady Victoria Rowing Club


Robert Alexander Swann was born in Newcastle, County Down on 16 March 1937. He grew up in a fine house on the Demesne Road, Holywood, opposite the golf links. His father was a bank official, and when he became manager of the Northern Bank in Holywood, the family moved to the bank house in the town as was the norm in those days.


Robert grew up as a member of a small group of boys, all roughly the same age who lived near each other, went to Sullivan Upper School, joined 3rd Holywood Scout Troop and subsequently went to Queen’s University in Belfast. His father, however, wanted him to get a State Exhibition so sent him as a boarder for his final year at school, to Armagh Royal School. Robert was not at all happy at Armagh as his letters which are still extant reveal, but he did get his scholarship. There were practices at Armagh which were out of date even then. In 1955 he went up to Queen’s to read civil engineering, something he had always wanted to do.


At University he was persuaded by his best friend to join the Boat Club. He rowed in the Maiden VIII in 1956, followed by the Junior or Intermediate VIII in 1957, and in 1958 he was a member of the Senior VIII which was selected to represent Northern Ireland in the Empire and Commonwealth Games, held that year in Wales. The crew also rowed at Henley Royal Regatta which led to him being a member of the Stewards' Enclosure at the regatta for almost 50 years. He also coached at Worcester Rowing Club and was awarded the Captain’s prize in 1997.


Graduation with First-Class Honours came in 1959 with a PhD in 1963. In 1961, he married Connie Miller and they went to Spain for their honeymoon where they found to their delight that spirits were 10d a tot! At this time, he was generally known as Bob.


Bob and Connie moved to England where he worked for the Cement and Concrete Association on the Fiddlers Ferry Power station at Warrington. After this they lived at Wraysbury near Windsor. A few years later they moved to house restoration at Naphill, and subsequently to Tutnall near Bromsgrove. They enjoyed refurbishing old properties and were also involved in projects that involved concrete such as the Milestone Trust. His career moved to truss design and manufacture in which he had a national reputation.


Apart from their joint interest in refurbishing old houses, Bob liked to fish just as his father had before him. He retained his love of fell walking from his school and Scouting days. When the family moved to the bank house Bob started to keep bees, and did so for the rest of his life.


Bob Swann was honest, highly intelligent, practical and modest. He and Connie were married for 57 years. She died in 2018 and he followed her in November 2019.


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