A man who for 56 years guided walkers across the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay, has died, aged 88.
Cedric Robinson was the longest-serving Queen’s Guide to the Sands, a job created in 1548 during the dissolution of the monasteries, when the reigning monarch inherited an obligation to appoint guides for travellers over the sands of the bay.
For a salary of £15 a year, he steered hundreds of thousands of people away from the quicksands and fast-filling channels of the ever-changing bay, including Prince Phillip and Victoria Wood.
In a tribute, the Guide over Sands Trust said “now Cedric, it is time to rest your sandy feet”.
Born into a cockle fishing family in the village of Flookburgh, near Grange-over-Sands, Robinson knew the sands like no other. He would lead huge groups of walkers across the bay in bare feet, his jeans and shirt sleeves rolled up and a staff in his hand, making sure his guests crossed safely, usually from Arnside to Kents Bank.
He was forced into a reluctant retirement in 2019 after struggling to recover from two hernia operations, guiding walkers in his tractor in his later years. “I thought I could go on for ever. My dad lived until he was 103,” Robinson told the Guardian then, clearly not quite at peace with the idea of hanging up the whistle he used to stop walkers going off course. “I always thought the day I retire would be the worst day of my life.”
In 1963 Robinson and his wife, Olive, moved into Guides Farm, a ramshackle cottage right on the coast in Kents Bank which comes with the job. In the early years they had no electricity or running water and even in recent years an open fire was their main source of heating. They were allowed to stay after his retirement, and Olive died there in August, aged 96.
Robinson loved the celebrity aspect of the job and never tired of regaling visitors with his more unusual crossings. Most traversed the bay on foot – though Prince Philip used a horse-drawn carriage.
His voice would drop when he talked of the Bay’s darkest hour, when 23 Chinese cockle pickers died in 2004.
If someone proposed an idea that tickled Robinson, he usually gave it a go. Once he crossed with 27 geese as a fundraising stunt for an arthritis sufferer. On another occasion he hid in the bay from Anneka Rice for an episode of Treasure Hunt (“I was wondering if the helicopter and crew were ever going to find us, but eventually they did,” he recalled in one of the many volumes of his memoirs). Once he took Rick Stein out fishing for flounder. The TV chef said the flounder were “equally as good as fresh halibut”, Robinson remembered proudly in 2019.
Earlier this year he joined his successor, Michael Wilson, guiding a group of naturists across the bay. “When we asked if he was getting out of his tractor he simply replied, ‘no, I have the best view from up here!’” remembered Wilson on Saturday.
A family spokesman said: “He pioneered fundraising cross-bay walks and was responsible for leading 6,000 charity walkers a year, avoiding the treacherous quicksands and dangerous areas.”
In a statement, Wilson and other marshals from the Guide Over Sands Trust said: “It is with great sadness that we write this post. Last night at the grand age of 88 our beloved Cedric Robinson closed his eyes for the last time, Cedric is now at peace and is with his wife Olive who he missed so much.
“Cedric had a huge following and we know that this news will make the community shed a tear upon reading this.
“Cedric joined us this year out on the sand – even though he had retired he kept going all he could. Now Cedric it is time to rest your sandy feet and keep an eye on us from up there.”
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