Dr. J.T. Harold Robinson (May 6, 1895- May 8, 1983)
“He was one of the few surviving so-called old-time physicians in the Province, and his entire period of active participation in the medical profession was in the Bruce Capital.” Obituary (Died May 8, 1983)
Dr. Harold Robinson was a true “Explorer” of Bruce County as he was the first Chief of the Medical Staff at the Bruce County Hospital in Walkerton. Harold was born on May 6, 1895 in the township of East Wawanosh, Huron County. He began his early education at a country school and then proceeded to work on his dad’s farm near Wingham. When he was almost 20 years old, Harold sustained a severe leg fracture. During his convalescence, he decided to return to school to become a doctor.
Harold enrolled in Wingham High School and upon graduation, he entered the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. He received the M.B. degree in 1924 and then proceeded to receive an internship at Highland Hospital, Rochester, New York. In 1925, at the age of 30, Harold established his practice in Walkerton.
Harold was affectionately known as “Doc Robbie” during his 48 years of service in Bruce County. He began his work when many babies were born at home and tonsils were sometimes taken out on the kitchen table. House calls were an important part of Harold’s practice and before town roads were ploughed in the winter, he made many trips through major snowstorms to visit patients. While he was on his way to deliver a baby in Formosa, Harold had to be picked up by horse and sleigh. It was such an event as this that prompted him to put runners on the front of his car. This vehicle became classified as Walkerton’s first snowmobile as he placed heavy chains on the rear wheels to plough through most County roads.
Harold was credited with fulfilling a number of medical roles while continuing with his general practice. He was the first Chief-of-Staff of the Bruce County General Hospital and was honoured with an Award of Merit in 1965. During the early 1920’s and 1930’s, he was the Secretary of the Bruce County Medical Society. Harold was on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Medical Association, as well as serving on several O.M.A. Committees. One of these committees was the Committee on Homes for the Aged and he extended his interest in this area as he became the resident medical doctor at Brucelea Haven. Always keenly interested in the community, Harold organized the first Christmas Seal Campaign in Walkerton in 1942. In 1953, he established the Bruce County T.B. Association. At one point in time, Harold had also been a coroner and jail surgeon.
Community involvement also came in the form of Harold’s participation in sports. He was a keen curler, golfer and lawn bowler. He was an active member of St. Paul’s United Church, Walkerton where he served in the capacities as Sunday School Superintendent , Church Board member, and a member of the Choir. Harold was a member of the Saugeen Masonic Lodge and he received his fifty-year pin in 1975.
In 1931, Harold married Sadie Bremner of Barrie. They had the privilege of celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1981. Harold and Sadie produced three children whom chose careers in the health field. Their son, Campbell became a doctor and daughters; Sylvia graduated in physical and occupational therapy and Ann graduated in physical and health education.
On May 8, 1983, Dr. Harold Robinson passed away and his funeral took place at St. Paul’s United Church with a large crowd of mourners in attendance. Internment followed in the Walkerton Cemetery. His granddaughter, Tara Keating who is presently employed as a physiotherapist at London Health Services Center, Victoria Hospital Campus recently wrote: “Yes indeed I have come across a handful of patients who had Grandpa as a doctor! Most recently was within the last 6 months. I can’t remember their names, unfortunately! They all had nice things to say about him!” (January, 2017)
“Doc Robbie’s” service and contributions in the medical field and his involvement in Walkerton’s community life, makes him an integral part of being a “Bruce Explorer”.
Sources: Research File A2017.006 (.001, .002 Dr. J.T.H. Robinson) from the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre.