Robert William Service England France Canada Scotland

Biography of Robert William Service

Robert William Service, courtesy of Anne Service Longepe
Robert William Service, courtesy of Anne Service Longepe

Robert William Service attended the University of Glasgow in 1893 to study English Literature.

Service was born in Preston, Lancashire, of Scottish parents, although returned to Kilwinning at an early age. Educated in Glasgow, at the Church Street primary school and Hillhead High School, Service attended the University of Glasgow in 1892. He was taught by Andrew Cecil Bradley, Regius Professor of English Language and Literature (1889-1900) and described as "arguably the greatest literary critic of his day." For the class final project, Service wrote an essay on the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, focusing on the character of Ophelia, which was not received well by Bradley.

After a brief period as a bank clerk in Glasgow, Service emigrated to Canada in 1894, and worked at the Canadian Bank of Commerce for eight years in Whitehorse, Yukon, where he published his first book of poems that was to make him famous, Songs of a Sourdough.

During the war years, he was a correspondent for the Toronto Star covering the Balkan Wars(1912-13), and an ambulance driver and correspondent in France. He settled in France after WWI and married Germaine Bougeoin. They returned to Canada during WWII, where Service continued to write autobiographical works and novels. After World War II he returned to France with his family until his death in 1958.

The Robert W Service Prize was founded in 1961 by his widow in memory of her husband. It is awarded annually on the recommendation of the Professor of English Language and Literature for distinction in the work of the Ordinary class of English.


Archival Materials

  • R8/5/14/8 Matriculation Slip 1893-1894, Men S - T
  • R9/1/8 Class Catalogues 1890-1895


Robert William Service
Born 16 January 1874.
Died 11 September 1958.
GU Degree: Arts, 1893-94;
University Link: Student
Occupation categories: poets
English snippet: Scottish-Canadian poet
Record last updated: 18th Dec 2012

Country Associations

England England, Lancashire, Preston
Place of Birth

France France, Lancieux
Place of Death

Canada Canada, Yukon, Whitehorse

Scotland Scotland, Glasgow

University Connections

University Roles

  • Student