Robert Dunnett

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Robert Forrest Dunnett
Born (1910-05-11)11 May 1910
Died Expression error: Missing operand for -. 1990(1990-Expression error: Unexpected < operator.---) (aged Expression error: Missing operand for and.)Expression error: Unexpected > operator.Expression error: Unexpected > operator.
Nationality Scottish
Education Edinburgh Academy
Alma mater Edinburgh University, BA? (Hons) English Literature
  • BBC Scottish talks assistant, 1936
  • BBC war correspondent, ??
  • George Victor Dunnett
  • Jane Forrest

Early life

Robert Forrest Dunnett was born 11 May 1910.

Was the son of parish minister George Victor Dunnett and his wife Jane Forrest.

Brother of the writer and broadcaster Alastair Dunnett, who became editor of the Scotsman and then a BBC talks producer in Edinburgh before transferring to London in 1950 to be an agricultural talks producer.

He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1932 with honours in English literature. After graduation he attended University classes in fine art.

He then joined the Scotsman as editorial assistant.

BBC Scottish Talks Assistant

In July 1936, the 26-year old Dunnett was appointed the BBC's second Scottish talks assistant, working alongside James Fergusson.[1] For the previous three years he had undertaken a considerable amount of programme work for the BBC.

Dunnett was chiefly responsible for sports talks of all kinds, keeping the BBC more closely in touch with the world of sport generally, and taking more notice of mid-week fixtures than the talks department had been able to do in the past.[2]

In 1938, as part of a policy of staff redistribution following the opening of the BBC's broadcasting centre at Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow, Dunnett was transferred to the new building from Edinburgh. One of his first initiatives there was a competition to find new voices for wireless programmes. Through the weekly Out to Play summer magazine programme he edited, listeners were asked to write a 400-word essay about the best holiday they ever had. If they were within convenient reach of the studio, the winners were asked to broadcast the essay in person.[3]

Programmes he edited

  • Highways and Byways"
  • Fan Fare (October 1936 onwards)
  • Out to Play (summer 1937/38)

BBC war correspondent

Upon the advent of the Second World War in September 1939, the BBC's Scottish Region used Dunnett's experience as a journalist to gather interviews. But already earmarked for work with the Home News Service in London, he did not spend long in Scotland. He was finally lost to the Scottish war news organisation in 1942 when he became the BBC's observer with the First Army in North Africa, following the activities of the US Forces.[4]

In his monthly report to head office in May 1943, the Scottish Director Melville Dinwiddie noted that Dunnett's work as a commentator on the battlefield "has been warmly commended by many listeners".[5]

Dunnett did not see active service in the war. When he was called up, his medical revealed he had TB. He went home to his minister father's parish of Birse in Aberdeenshire, where his mother could nourish him back to health.[6]

When, following some time in Germany, Dunnett returned to Britain towards the end of the war, he introduced a review of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on the BBC Home Service on 31 May 1945, an appropriate calling given he was a son of the manse.[7]

BBC publicity officer

At the end of the Second World War in 1945, Dunnett returned to Scotland to be the BBC's publicity officer there.

Later work

In the late 1950s Dunnett presented a number of children's television programmes from Scotland, directed by David Pat Walker and produced by Kathleen Garscadden.


He died in early 1990 aged 79.


  1. 'BBC appointment: R.F. Dunnett, talks assistant', Glasgow Herald, 10 July 1936, 13.
  2. Scottish Talks Section Editor to Chief News Editor (head office), 'Sports News', 7 July 1936, BBC WAC R28/229.
  3. 'Search for new voices', Scottish Daily Express, 20 July 1938.
  4. BBC Handbook 1943, 35.
  5. Melville Dinwiddie, 'Monthly Report: Scotland', 27 May 1943, BBC WAC R34/748/1.
  6. Confusion to Our Enemies: Selected Journalism of Arnold Kemp (1939-2002) (Neil Wilson Publishing, 2013).
  7. 'An editorial diary', Glasgow Herald, 31 May 1945, 4.