ALMOST 27 years ago, amateur radio enthusiast Robin Bellerby found himself chatting over the airwaves to a man called Hussein.

The pair got on famously and their conversations became increasingly regular.

It wasn't until later that Robin discovered he was talking to one of the world's best-loved monarchs, King Hussein of Jordan.

The 63-year-old royal cancer sufferer was as big a radio enthusiast as Robin and the pair's discussions developed into a long-standing friendship.

Robin said: "It was a shock when I first found out I was talking to a king over the airwaves but we became good friends."

Robin, of Underdown Road, Southwick, was a physics teacher in Lancashire when they first made contact.

Now marketing officer at St Mary's Hall independent school in Eastern Road, Brighton, he said: "I had an amateur radio set in the lab at the school.

"One night we came across the King simply by chance. Whoever you are, you operate with your first name and he referred to himself simply as Hussein.

"After we had made contact a few times and he told us who he really was, he invited us to visit Jordan and arranged free air tickets.

"Since then I have been able to take children out there every two to three years."

Robin, who went on to become head of Davies's College in Cromwell Road, Hove, said: "When I went to Jordan the King introduced me to the head of his armed forced training programme and the British military attache.

"They were both trying to get the young Jordanian military cadets educated at British universities and wanted to know if I could help.

"The cadets needed A-levels to get to university because the Jordanian equivalent wasn't recognised by our universities, so up to 30 Jordanian youngsters each year, all boys, came to Hove on Government scholarships."

The scholarships to Davies's College, now renamed Bellerby's College, though it has no connection with Robin, continued through the Eighties and eventually it became so well-known in Jordan that families wanted to send their children to it.

In 1989, the King set up the Yasim Sa'udi Scholarship in honour of a Jordanian student who died of lung cancer. It enabled a British student to study in Jordan.

And the King Hussein of Jordan Scholarship enabled two or three young Jordanians, boys and girls, to study in Hove each year.

Towards the end of the Eighties, men at St Dunstan's in Ovingdean, who had been blinded in service for their country, formed their own amateur radio society and enlisted Robin's help.

They too contacted the King and he sent them a £10,000 cheque to buy their own equipment.

In 1990 a group of 15 men from St Dunstan's with their wives and carers visited Jordan and were treated to lavish banquets and trips in the desert.

The links with Jordan broke down after the Gulf War in 1990 when Jordan couldn't afford to send students to foreign countries.

But Robin and Susan Meek, headmistress of St Mary's, are due to fly to Jordan and Dubai in April to try to continue the good work by recruiting a new generation of foreign students.

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