Born in Kirkby in 1861, Robert spent his youth as a ploughboy but later took holy orders at St. Aidan's Theological College, Birkenhead and became Rector of the parish church at Bolnhurst in Bedfordshire, a post he occupied for 15 years. Whilst there, he began writing what became an extensive collection of verse which caused some to regard him as the 'Lancashire Burns'. During this time he aquired the nickname Robin O' Bobs and the reputation of an eccentric.
He left the Church in 1904, and became a 'wandering poet', living for a time in Birmingham and Manchester before returning to Kirkby to live at Pear Tree Farm where he resided until his death in 1930. He was buried in the churchyard at St. Chad's.