In Remembrance of Rob (Robbie) Brown of Totnes, a quiet and quirky independent soul of Totnes.

Friends of Rob Brown gathered together on Sunday 7 May 2020 on Vire Island, Totnes, in remembrance of Rob (5 October 1950 – 13 January 2023), who died in Torbay Hospital. People shared reflections and memories of their contact with him. His daughter, Irina and her partner, Jacob, came from Austria to attend.

Some of his ashes were scattered in the River Dart and others buried in the back garden of Jo Hardy, a beloved friend of Rob.

Rob experienced declining health in the last two years, a gradual loss of weight, but with a mind that remained alert and curious.

His email address used vichara – a Buddhist term meaning reflection/inquiry – an important way of life for Rob.

We have had the privilege of spending time with Rob benefitting from his reflections and views involving daily life. I got to know Rob during his years renting a room in the home of the late Ursula Fawcett,  a friend and much respected psychotherapist. Ursula and I had afternoon tea together every week or two for years.

Ursula appreciated the presence of her quirky (as he was often described. which made him smile) houseguest who took care of numerous needs for Ursula.

Rob (others referred to him as Robbie) and I had a few points in common – love of solitude, Frank Kafka, Leo Tolstoy, Milan Kundera, and living in Totnes. He introduced me to the life and writings of Lewis Thompson, an early hippie living in India. I wrote two blogs (see foot of page for the second blog) in 2015 on Lewis Thompson.

People like Rob and Lewis Thompson lived an existential way of life that often puzzles friends, family members and secular culture. Such people are the outsiders taking life one day at a time with little need to talk about themselves, their history or future. They are precious souls, who are happy to go unrecognised. Their meditations, reflections and inquiry meant they have much to offer all of us.

His friend, Jo, wrote, “I shall miss his unique self, his fantastic mind, deep friendship, love of things nature, philosophy, politics and tenacity to be himself. “An accurate summing up of Rob’s heart and mind.

Personal contact

I would meet Rob and his beloved canine companion on the streets of Totnes. We emailed from time to time. Around six years ago, I asked him to be one of my editors  for a lengthy manuscript, which he promptly printed out for ease in reading and then entered into the computer. During the edit in his room in Ursula’s home, he wrote “My ‘cell’ bed and floor is a daily tidal sea of white (A4 sheet of paper) as I have started the process of cutting, pasting and examining passages or anecdotes which are duplicate. The text became two books a year or two later.

In 2017, he emailed me one of his reflections:

I stand by my personal ‘mantra’ of ‘not making a thing of things’ i.e. not just creating thingy-type groups or more ‘entities’ that are likely to become institutions. Perhaps, one way of visualising it is ‘cells of co-ordinated communication’ between neighbours, interest and issue groups and so on.”

His reflection typifies the mark of the true existentialist expressing concern about institutions while supporting co-ordinated communication. No wonder he felt at home in Totnes. We, his small circle of friends, recognised we had contact with a treasure of Totnes.

Thank you, Rob.
We were blessed to know you

Lewis Thompson (1909 – 1949). A Selection of Aphorisms from Mirror to the Light

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