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Death of Bob Samson, 94, Broughty Ferry joiner, funeral director and yachtsman

Bob Samson and his wife Sheila.
Bob Samson and his wife Sheila.

Bob Samson hitched rides on bombers during the second world war, built racing boats by hand and ran a Broughty Ferry company employing up to 50 joiners and apprentices at its peak.

He died on March 19 aged 94, just over a week short of his 95th birthday.

Mr Samson had been chairman of the firm Robert Samson funeral directors, founded as a joinery firm in 1913 by his grandfather, also Robert Samson.

Mr Samson received his primary school education in Monifieth before moving on to Grove Academy.

His son David said his father always had a passion for working with wood, so a move into the family business was a logical step. He joined his father George in the firm aged 15 in 1941.

Bombers and boats

Mr Samson was too young for war service but joined the ATC. It was at this time Mr Samson and his fellow cadets made frequents forays to airbases in the Dundee area. They managed to get flights on almost every aircraft flying at that time, including a Halifax bomber and a Sunderland flying boat.

In 1947 Mr Samson met his future wife when he was invited to tea with the Morris family.

David said: “Sheila’s father Bill asked him for a go on his motorcycle. My dad asked if he thought he could handle it. Off Bill went in a puff of exhaust. Later, Bill showed my dad all his motorcycle trophies.”

Bob Samson in earlier years.

Another of Mr Samson’s passion was sailing and he built his first boat in his youth before joining Royal Tay Yacht Club in the late 1940s.

It was during this time Sheila, then his fiancee, earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to attend the yacht club’s annual meeting.

David said: “My mother went along to the agm with my father. There was no rule against women attending but they never did. It wasn’t a deliberate act of feminisim but it was a first for the club.”

Marriage in Broughty Ferry

Bob and Sheila Samson were married in St Stephen’s Church, Broughty Ferry, on March 10, 1950. They celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary nine days before Mr Samson’s death.

Under his father’s stewardship, the firm of Robert Samson undertook housebuilding, caravan construction, tree surgery as well as coffin manufacturing.

When his father died in 1961, Bob Samson and Sheila took over the running of the firm. In 1965, they acquired James L. Wallace funeral directors, Strathmartine Road, Dundee.

Joinery was the mainstay of the business in those days but that side was closed in the mid 1970s when the firm went on to specialise in funerals.

In 1987, Mr Samson took a step back from day-to-day operations but remained as chairman until 2000 when David took over as managing director.

Mr Samson remained a committed sailor until well into his 70s, David said.

Solan, the last boat owned by Bob Samson, Broughty Ferry businessman.

He built most of his own sailing boats including Flying 15s and Kittiwakes. He sailed mainly around the Tay, the Fife coast and out to the Bell Rock.

Mr Samson’s last boat, Solan, was a five-berth cruiser. It was a sailing boat with a back-up engine.

In summer he would sail it to St Abbs and Sheila would follow by road.

Both Mr and Mrs Samson were made honorary members of Royal Tay Yacht Club.

In his younger days, Mr Samson enjoyed skating at Dundee ice rink and playing informal ice hockey games.

His passion for aviation continued throughout his life. He flew from Riverside and almost completed the required hours to gain his private pilot’s licence before a period of ill health set in.

A love of travel

In the mid 1990s Mr Samson combined his love of Hawaiian music and travel by taking his wife to the island.

They also visited Antarctica by flying to Chile and sailing south before returning via Buenos Aires.

Mr Samson was also a long-standing member of Abertay Probus Club.

David said: “My father was a gentle man and a gentleman. He was a fair man who was skilled in wood, fair in business, well liked and a great communicator.”

At the start of December last year Mr Samson took ill and was admitted to Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. He was later transferred to Royal Victoria Hospital, Dundee.

Broughty Ferry businessman Bob Samson in later years.

David said the family spent three months without being able to visit their father. David was allowed in once to explain to his father his mother was being admitted to a care home.

The next day David was told his father wanted to join his mother in care. They were reunited on March 9, the day before their 71st wedding anniversary and just days before his death on March 19.

“He loved his garden and spent many happy hours tending to his plants and lawn. He grew the best tomatoes and grapes and his garden was always full of colour. The love of his life was his wife and it is a blessing that, following his stroke, he was able to be with her at the end.”

Mr Samson is survived by Sheila, sons Philip and David and daughter Valerie, three granddaughters, four great-grandchildren and two step grandchildren.

The full family announcement is here.

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