OBITUARY: Armagh hotelier Robin Forster

Robin Forster was 75 when he died, having spent most of his life running the family hotel
Robin Forster was 75 when he died, having spent most of his life running the family hotel

Robert ‘Robin’ Henry Forster spent most of his life at the helm of the 18th century hotel owned by his family.

The businessman and motorsports fanatic died last month, having suffered for many years from Parkinson’s disease.

Born on January 5, 1940 in Hartford Place, Armagh, the son of Robert and Elizabeth Forster, he studied at Drelincourt and Armstrong primary schools.

His parents had purchased the Charlemont Hotel in the town in 1934, and mourners at his funeral were told this meant he “practically grew up in the hotel”.

After he finished school he joined the business, eventually taking the reins with wife Gretta (whom he had wed in 1962).

However, the decades that followed proved hard on the family.

Though daughter Judith said they had “never been a family that distinguishes between religions”, their business was attacked numerous times, and they had to virtually rebuild the whole thing in the late 1970s.

An Associated Press report from April 1980 also records that the Charlemont was one of a trio of hotels targeted in a spate of PIRA explosions, with a car bomb causing extensive damage to the hotel.

During his leisure time he was fond of following motor racing, and was a very regular annual attender at the Isle of Man TT and North-West 200. He was also a member of the Masons.

Judith said that the Charlemont is the longest-established family hotel currently operating in Ireland, north or south, having celebrated their 75th consecutive year of ownership in 2009 – a fact of which Robin was extremely proud.

She is now one of the family members who are carrying on running the business into a third generation.

The onset of Parkinson’s disease in Robin’s later years forced him to step back from the running of the hotel.

He was taken into hospital in December, and on February 3 died of pneumonia. He was 75.

His funeral was two days later in St Mark’s Anglican church, Armagh, and he was interred in the adjoining cemetery.

He is survived by widow Gretta, daughters Judith and Helen, son Gary and four grandchildren.