Robert’s Biography
by Joyce Sandilands-Whittle
(yes, it’s authorized!)

(written previous to 2017 when we were both retired from Markets)


An Unplanned Career

In mid-1995, for the umpteenth time finding himself on crutches and unable to move around a great deal, my husband sat in front of his computer … typing with 1-finger! (He says he can keep up to his thoughts this way.) Over the next few years, a wonderful new hobby took shape due to having nothing else to do for the first time in his 62 years. Robert surprised us all by writing fiction and enjoying it! After that, a little voice in my head nagged so hard at me, that in August 1998, I decided it was time to publish this 3rd book he had written and it became … Lizzie: Lethal Innocence.

Fast forward to 2010, Robert was now selling 10 novels on his market stand in Bastion Square, Victoria, BC … 3 of which were Canadian (BC) bestsellers and we had together won 2 Gold Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY).

Each year he meets and talks to probably a couple thousand tourists and locals. This has been his position and passion for the past 13 years (May-Oct at Bastion Square alone), and yes, some of these days are mighty cold and/or wet! Some of the comments he hears are: “You are always so happy” or “friendly” or “good looking” or “what a wonderful voice you have” – the latter prompting us to produce an audio book of his bestselling book Lizzie and, in 2005, a partial autobiography on CD entitled Laughing Through Life, Tales of a Yorkshireman. We sold out of our CD products but you can now download all 4 of those products from this website.

We sell our books right here on this website or, if you live near Southern Vancouver Island, BC, you can phone us and pick up your order. We also have ebooks and Print on Demand books now, to make it as simple and inexpensive for our readers.

Purchase Robert’s bio-CD via download
Laughing Through Life: Tales of a Yorkshireman

Eldest Son

When you meet J(ohn) Robert Whittle you are instantly impressed with his wonderful voice, ready smile and his ‘largeness’. At 6’2″ this broad-shouldered Yorkshireman is a gentle and sensitive, family man known for being a helpful friend to scores of young people who have been lucky enough to meet him. His lifetime of fascinating and unusual, often dangerous, accomplishments have taken this raconteur and entrepreneur to the four corners of the globe and blessed him with a remarkable life. Yes, and being a true Gemini, he also has a nasty side, not seen as often in later years but his sharp comments are often difficult to keep in check! This comes to the forefront when he witnesses situations where he doesn’t agree with what is happening. It began when he had to protect his little sister, Hazel, from all manner of situations. 

Despite the normal family hardships of a poor working-class farm lad born pre-WW2 and the fact that he spent many, many months nursing serious work injuries in the early and middle years of his working life (due to his job as a mining engineer/disaster team leader and later, in construction), he remains the consummate happy-go-lucky fella. Robert enjoys people and, kids, in particular, thus reflected in his family style writing.

This ‘crazy Yorkshireman’ or simply ‘Uncle Bob’, as many young people have called him over the years, was the eldest son and second-born in a family of ten children. His parents were hardworking, happy, farming stock who taught him that hard work never hurt anyone. His father often said, “I got me a hard-working horse when you were born, Bobby lad!”

Bobby Whittle, well-known in his village for an outgoing personality, was a scrapper even as a scrawny kid. Armed with secrets of defense gained from his pro wrestler grandfather, he often took on bigger lad(s) in defense of others … and he didn’t always win. His hardworking ethic began early in life getting up each morning at 4:30 am to milk the family’s cows and then deliver the milk even before beginning school … later, a 3-mile journey to school with his younger sister.  He was also a seasoned business-kid from the ripe-old-age of six thanks to his step-grandfather Mark Appleyard!!

But despite his full schedule, he somehow found the time to allow the love of the sport to invade his young life playing soccer and County Cricket in which he particularly excelled, representing England at 13 years-of-age. He was notorious for his skills as a wicketkeeper beginning before he was 12  (trained by his mother throwing eggs at him through the kitchen window!). At 16, he began a 10-year career as a highly sought-after professional wicketkeeper around England, at the same time studying, working the mines and graduating from Leeds University as a Mining Engineer and having his own trucking business on the side (which began with a horse and cart at about age 7).

After graduating from Mining College at 19 and ready to accept his Degree of Mining Engineering, he was told that by British law he was too young to receive it and would have to rewrite the exams when he was 25! Thus, he was hired by the British Coal Board, who had given him the scholarship to university and had other plans for him. Recognizing his speed of wit and mining skills underground, as those needed desperately in the dangerous field of underground coal mines. They continued to train him and to wait until the time was right … at 25, offering him the deadly job as the leader of a First Response to Disaster Team.

For his efforts saving people, he often suffered the consequences of what must have been the most extreme job of the era, spending about 50% of his working life in hospital beds and recuperating to go back and do it all again. On the upside, however, he gained the respect and gratitude of the many men and their families whose lives he saved. The local hospital staff was often heard to comment that it was nice to have his pleasant personality around but they were sure glad to get back to normal when the fun-loving miner returned to work.

In the mid-60s, recognizing that his reaction time was waning, he packed his family off to Australia seeking a less dangerous life and worked in the Australian desert for a few years trying to keep his work experience a secret. In 1970, the Canadian gov’t discovered who he was and lured him to Baffin Island and again found himself working the extremes … in Canada’s Far North at Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, (now Nunavut) building a school and making friends of the Eskimos. He gained his Canadian citizenship in 1971, soon after arriving in Victoria, BC. It was in Victoria that Robert and I met in 1977.  By the mid-80s we had formed a personal and business partnership, marrying some years later.

Robert’s Stories

But let’s move forward a wee bit … to the time of his first knee surgery in Feb 1994 when his life nearly ended and our lives were changed forever. Knowing he would be out-of-commission for 6 weeks for that surgery, I persuaded him to use our old XT (80s computer) to try his hand at writing. He had always entertained us by telling wonderful stories of his youth and I wanted him to start writing his memoirs for his grandchildren. No one else would be able to tell Robert’s story quite like he could!

However, true stories were not in the cards for the moment and to fill his recuperation period he began writing an adventure story of 18th C Yorkshire, a time he often said he wished he could have lived. His mother must have fed him history from an early age when they lived in their Yorkshire farmhouse with its 18″ stone walls because he remembers always having a thirst for the subject. He had also developed a wonderful ability to conjure up wonderful bedtime stories for his many siblings. As he wrote that first book, history and storytelling quickly became intertwined. What happened next, however, was the beginning of a horrific health challenge with a staph infection that over the next couple of years almost cost him his leg and potentially his life. It laid him up for 4 years. A miracle, however, was also beginning to develop in the guise of three full-length novels!

An Unexpected Talent!

In his first book (unpublished to date), a historical novel about a lad named Josh, a storyline began to emerge of his beloved moors and some fascinating characters quite possibly drawn from people he had met in his youth. He read me bits and pieces and we were both amazed at his incredible ability to weave a story without any thought or planning. We had definitely found his hidden talent and with nothing but time on his hands he soon completed his first full-length novel. By the time his R&R ended after a major knee-replacement surgery almost four years later, he had completed his third title!

It was this third novel that we found ourselves self-publishing in the Fall of ’98.  As Robert was now a Senior Citizen, we decided not to dally around waiting for a publisher to accept his manuscript and give him his big break! So when Deborah Wright offered to give her assistance, especially with proofreading, we jumped at the opportunity.

LizzieAs a result, Lizzie: Lethal Innocence, a novel set in early 1800s England about a young girl much like Robert himself had been as a youngster, was born. We formed our own publishing company (Whitlands Publishing) and began learning the ropes … but we had no idea what we were in for! However, 2,000 copies (of one-to-one sales) and 16 months later, we launched our first sequel, Lizzie’s Secret Angels. We figured we must be doing something right with readers demanding a sequel and, as he had already written it, we obliged!

On April 1st, 2000, Lizzie’s Secret Angels was introduced to eager fans at the Victoria Art Gallery, our first and only official Book Launch as from here on we usually launched each new book at whatever show we were attending. Lizzie sales reached Canadian Best Seller status by late 2000. Today, we are into our 3rd printing – a magnificent feat for a self-published book of fiction, we were told! Over the next five years, we released the Victoria Chronicles Trilogy and the last two books of the Lizzie Series. The trilogy became hot sellers at local markets and shows due to their factual content and his already well-loved Whittlesque Style (aka family friendly). The first two books of the Trilogy became Robert’s next two bestsellers and the third book won our 2nd Gold Medal in the 2008 IPPY Awards.

In 2003, we branched out into Audio Books (CD, MP3, and Tape) with Joyce narrating Leprechaun Magic and Robert doing a masterful job with Lizzie: Lethal Innocence (unabridged).

To purchase our books, order directly from this website (the best method), leave a message on Facebook OR phone/text us (on Joyce’s smartphone 250-857-0840). Please leave a message if we don’t answer, we are not as fast as we used to be! 

An astounding discoveryBy 2008, having collected addresses for many years, Joyce amassed the information and plotted it on a map. We had sold books to visitors from over 65 countries, every US State (Washington, Oregon, California, and Florida being the highest sales) and all over Canada. Thousands of local readers had also supported us over the years, for which we are eternally grateful. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

Our efforts surprised even us …

Over the past 16 years, we’ve attended nearly three thousand market/show days selling our books in all kinds of weather and Robert sometimes in frigid cold. We’ve met many thousands of wonderful, supportive people who were often shocked to hear we’de done all of this by ourselves, assisted only by Joyce’s one-day-a-week OA, Tara. Initially, we mainly sold our books at the small James Bay Farmer’s Market (2 summers) and then the BC Ferry Terminal Crafters Market at Swartz Bay (mainly Joyce for 3 summers). Robert was at the Bastion Square Market for 16 years. Together, they began selling at The Sidney Street Market in 2003 and Robert assisted for 9 of the 13 years.

2003-JRW-70thIn 2003, Robert turned 70 and family, friends, and fans feted him at a local restaurant where he gave an impromptu talk telling some of the hilarious tales of his young life in Yorkshire. At last my desire for him to share his memoirs was coming to fruition.  In March 2004, he told even more of his stories at another event attended by fans. Then, armed with close to 50 professionally recorded stories, Joyce met with Corrie from Majestic Recording Studio and together we edited and produced a much-anticipated new CD.  In the Fall of 2005, we introduced Laughing Through Life, a compilation of these delightful stories from Robert’s past. People say our CD is a hidden gem and we heard that at least one senior’s home in Victoria played a new story each morning over their speakers to give their lodgers an upbeat start to their day. I wouldn’t be surprised if more got the idea from reading this!

For well over a decade we attended 6 Christmas Craft Shows during November and December, on and off Vancouver Island. Our books became a labour of love that just kept rolling on and as long as people continue to buy our books, they will be available. 

We very much appreciate our readers and the people who purchase our books as gifts for others. Your support is what keeps us going. We hope you’ll not forget us because you don’t see us at the markets. Christmas Shows have now been decided for 2017 … check out our Events page. Up to date news of our events, etc., will be posted firstly to our Facebook Page(This is a public page, you don’t have to be a member? Check it out!)

Now, go and do something nice for yourself or someone you care for . . . visit our book pages and buy one of our very popular novels by Robert and Joyce … and thanks in advance!

Locals and Visitors: We have added a “Pick Up” option … you can still order from this website, pay for it with a credit card and pick up your books (we’re near Sidney). We will be notified and contact you. Otherwise, phone (250-477-0192 or cell: 250-857-0840 leave messages) or email us to book an appointment … although we prefer you order via our website as Joyce often forgets to turn up the volume of her smartphone!

Fondest regards,
Joyce and Robert