Memorable Manitobans: Hugh Amos Robson (1871-1945)
Lawyer, judge, MLA (1927-1930).
Born at Barrow-in-Furness, England on 9 September 1871, son of Robert and Jane Robson, he came to Canada in 1882. He was a law student at Regina, North West Territories (NWT) in 1885 and was an eyewitness at the trial of Louis Riel. Called to the territorial bar, he practised law before joining the law firm of James Aikins at Winnipeg, in 1899. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1909. He served as a Bencher for the Law Society of Manitoba from 1918 to 1925. With Jabez Bowen Hugg he co-authored several important law texts, including Cases on Municipal Law (1915 and 1920).
He was appointed as a judge in the Court of King’s Bench in 1909, but resigned to take up the chair of a public utilities commission for the province (1911-1914), introducing public hydroelectric power. He was replaced in the position by Patrick Anderson Macdonald. Robson was chosen Liberal Party leader in 1927 and elected to the Manitoba Legislature, serving until his appointment to the Court of Appeal in 1930. He served on the court until 1943 and was Chief Justice of Manitoba from 1944 to his death. He served as President of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg (1935-1937). He was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba in 1914.
In 1897, he married Fannie Laidlaw of Regina, with whom he had six children: Jean Robson (1898-?, wife of Ephraim H. Coleman), Agnes Isobel Robson (1902-1990), Hugh Laidlaw Robson (1904-?), Kathleen Madge Sarah Robson (1906-?, wife of David S. Fensom), Gertrude Frances Robson (1906-?, wife of Alistair Napier), and Norman Robson (1912-?).
He died at the Winnipeg General Hospital on 9 July 1945, following a prolonged illness, and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery. He is commemorated by Robson Hall at the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
Birth registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1916 Canada census, Ancestry.
The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]
“Engagement notices,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 June 1944, page 5.
“Chief Justice Robson is dead,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 July 1945, page 1.
Obituary [Agnes Isobel Robson], Winnipeg Free Press, 11 October 1990, page 57.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
We thank Elizabeth Vaitkus for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 15 April 2022