Teacher of dancing;
Born: May 14, 1919; Died: September 14, 2013
Robert Barr, who has died in Paisley's Royal Alexandra Hospital aged 94, was a teacher of dance who began his career in an era when ballroom dancing was what everyone did on Saturday night and was still teaching in an era when it was what everyone watched on Saturday night television.
It was while apprenticed as an engineer in John Brown's shipyard that he began to attend dances in Paisley town hall. After a reluctant start, he discovered a talent for ballroom which led to success in competitions and a measure of local recognition. This was a time, alien now, when men and women would go out at the weekend and actually dance with one another; and to be a young man was to be immaculately, but not ostentatiously, tailored. Robert Barr never outgrew the habit of being dapper and ever mindful of his appearance.
It was at a dance in Paisley town hall that he met his future wife Margaret McCrae. They married in 1943, the same year he started to teach at the Albert Ballroom in Bath Street.
The youngest of five boys and three girls, in 1946, he and Margaret followed his brothers to New York with no real plan other than to teach. The American craze for Britain's ballroom tradition led to jobs teaching in the Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire schools in Manhattan.
Returning to Paisley in 1959, he established the Bobby Barr school in the High Street. People still wanted to learn the waltz and the quickstep but also now the jive and the still-new cha cha cha. In the decades which followed, he taught thousands of couples to dance, including hundreds of brides and grooms-to-be who wanted to get their first waltz just right.
By the 70s and 80s, fashion had changed and ballroom became more about competitions and exhibitions. More of his time was spent teaching others to teach, including his daughters and granddaughters, and he became involved in the administration of dancing in the UK. He was active in the British Association of Teachers of Dancing, serving two terms as president.
Last year, he lost his beloved Margaret after a long illness. Despite that, and his own advancing years, he continued to teach. He coached one of the couples who competed in this year's Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice Strictly Come Dancing fundraiser, 70 years after he taught his first class.
He is survived by his daughters Bonnie and Sharon and his granddaughters Ashleigh, Courtney, Hayley and Carly.
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