Big Dunc, funky dunky and Duncan
12th December 1973 – 1st January 2016
Duncan Robertson was a ‘one off’. He was a real character and his death just weeks after his 43rd birthday left his friends and family mourning, but in amongst the sadness there was a lot of genuine laughs too as people reminded themselves what great fun he was. In fact at his funeral service, which was standing room only, both Scott McMillan and Scott McKay reminded the congregation time and time again that Duncan wouldn’t have wanted people to be sad.
Duncan started his working life in his dad’s fish and chip shop in Wemyss Bay, where he was in charge of the sweetie counter. His ability to make his customers feel good stayed with him, and was one of the most charming things about him. But his first job in the licensed trade was in D’Arcy’s in Princes Square, Glasgow, where he first met Scott McMillan and Scott McKay, both of whom went on to be lifelong friends. He was in charge of the coffee as at the time he was only 16.
By the time he was 18 he moved on to work at the Brunswick Cellars where he met lots of artistic types and he himself probably began his own artistic journey there, although it wasn’t until many years later that he set himself up in business painting pictures of buildings.
But I deviate after Brunswick Cellars he briefly worked at The Lounge and The Monkey Bar, the most popular bar on Bath Street at the time, and then he and best pal Scott McKay looked for a place on their own and opened The Candy Bar. This is when I met him, in fact I was at the opening party of The Candy Bar and over the next few years as the bar became one of the most popular in the city, the two boys – who were only in their early 20’s, created a haunt that was fun, where the customer was well-looked after. There used to be a queue to get into in at night winding its way along Hope Street.
While Duncan was happy looking after customers he wasn’t one for dealing with drinks reps, as Scott McMillan recounted. “One time he saw this guy coming, it was 11am in the morning and Duncan couldn’t face dealing with him, so he hid under a table. The guy came in and asked me if Duncan was about. Of course Duncan thought I was going to say “no he’s at the bank’. But I didn’t, I said instead “he is over there under the table”, at which point Duncan crawled out exclaiming, ‘I was just checking to see if there was any chewing gum stuck under the table!”
He used to arrive at work on a Chopper bike, and later a Vespa, and you would see him tootling about town. I didn’t have the privilege of seeing his renovated VW, but I did hear about it! He did his friends tell me have a very eclectic taste in music, but he was a MOD at heart. He was never a fashion plate but he did have a very eclectic fashion sense – from wearing odd converse shoes to green welly boots with shorts, and deerstalkers.
The success of the Glasgow venue saw them opening The Candy Bar in Edinburgh, which too proved to be a success. His days at the Candy Bar his friends say were probably the best days of his life. The boys eventually sold it to Montpeliers. They then bought the 500 Club, a new build at the foot of Byres Road, it was more of a challenge, and they came out of it a few years later, with Duncan then building up a new ‘Hot Dog’ business. He was definitely versatile!
The pull of the trade was too great and five years ago he once again ventured into it when he took on the lease at The Lock Inn, it was an eclectic bar, and when Duncan and I sat down for a bite of lunch he was full of enthusiasm for the new project. It was right across from Kelvingrove Art Gallery, and while the new venture didn’t last, what it did do was re-engage his interest in painting. He used to paint memorable paintings like Oran Mor to people’s houses, he had his own quirky style and set up an art business called Arty Farty.
He was an institution in the West End with this popular Hot Dog stand right outside Oran Mor – come rain or snow he was there, with some great banter, and one liners. Often I’d stop for a chat but sometimes the queue of women around him was too great to get an audience, but that was Duncan for you. He’d lift his hand and wave instead. I also used to see him in Kelvingrove Park with his great buddy his black lab Bomber. Although last time we met he said Bomber wasn’t really interested in long walks being a grand old age.
It’s such a pity that Duncan didn’t live to be a grand old age. But I am sure that he is up there with the best of them laughing uproariously and causing mischief. If you have the time have a look at his facebook page where you will see lots of lovely memories posted by his legion of friends and fans. This one from Ali Burns sums him up, “If you are lucky in life you will get to meet someone so Rock n Roll that they talk you into trying to surf an ironing board!”
Duncan Robertson RIP Weeeeeeeee!