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Memorable Manitobans: William Orme McRobie (1838-1908)


Born at Perthshire, Scotland in 1838. With his parents he emigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal in 1850. He joined the volunteer fire brigade of Montreal when only 14 years of age as a torch boy, and was promoted to the position of branchman at 19. When the paid brigade of Montreal was organized he was appointed foreman, and in 1872 he was given the position of captain of the salvage corps, from which he resigned in 1881 to write his memoirs, Fighting the Flames.

After finishing his book he became a traveller with the Canadian Rubber Company until June 1882, when he accepted the position of Winnipeg’s first Fire Chief at a salary of $1,800 per year. He held this position until his retirement in 1889. He then took up the manufacture of chemical fire extinguishers, and travelled all over western Canada selling his invention.

McRobie was active in Winnipeg municipal life until his death, which occurred on 12 May 1908.

See also:

William Orme McRobie by Keith Wilson, Canadian Biographical Series, 1991.


Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 22 December 2015

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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