He was born in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire in 1940 into a traveller family which had settled there. His family background was rich in tradition, and from his aunt, folk singer Jeannie Robertson, he inherited a huge repertoire of north east ballads. He was the keyworker for the Heritage Lottery funded “Oral and Cultural Traditions of Scottish Travellers” project, from April 2002 until April 2005.
As an acknowledged expert and member of the Traveller community, Robertson documented his own lore and that of other members of this group, and promoted the cultural traditions of Scottish Travellers among young people, in schools and community groups, including young Travellers. Stanley’s storytelling, however, was affected by the different trades at which he has worked, including his long years spent filleting in the Aberdeen fish houses, where he gathered many contemporary stories.
In June 2006, he represented Aberdeen University and Scotland at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
He published three successful plays and seven books, some written in his local Scots dialect. He was featured in more than 100 radio programmes and 50 television appearances and made numerous personal appearances on stage and in theatres, schools and colleges.
On 27 November 2008, at age 68, Stanley Robertson, who was an Honorary Research Associate at the Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute, which studies human traditions, was conferred an honorary degree of Master of the University (MUniv), in recognition for the work he had done.
He was a frequent broadcaster and appeared regularly at storytelling festivals. He was an Honorary Founder of the Scottish Storytelling Forum. Stanley died at home in Aberdeen on Sunday, 2 August 2009.
A musical about Robertson’s life by Kyle Jarrow and Bright Lights, Big City composer Paul Scott Goodman tentatively titled Reek Roon is currently under development, reportedly commissioned by Fela! producer Steve Hendel.