The Mayor of Doncaster for the years 1902-1903 was Robert Robinson J.P. Born in 1846, at Thorne Levels, near Doncaster; he was the son of a farmer. He was privileged enough to be sent to a private school – Brunswick Terrace, Leeds, kept by Mr. Hardy. Mr Hardy later became Dr. Hardy and went on to conduct a successful school at Nether Hall, Doncaster, “when that old hall stood in its own park, but now covered with cottage property”. On leaving school, Mr. Robinson assisted his father in the management of the farm until he was 24 years of age, when he and his father-in-law, Mr. T. F. Hudson, acquired a mill at Conisborough.
The partnership lasted for 4 years, at the end of which period Mr. Robinson and Mr. Thomas Hanley, who died early in 1903, took the Fishergate Mill at Doncaster from Mr. Thomas Walker Fox at a yearly rental. When they had had the mill for about 2 years a hurricane blew off part of the roof, and they then bought the property. In August, 1881, the mill was burnt down. They bought a mill at Retford, and Mr. Hanley went to reside there and manage the branch, Mr Robinson taking the Doncaster end. This arrangement until the up-to-date steel-roller mill in Fishergate was built, when Mr. Hanley came back to Doncaster.
It was estimated that the damage suffered by Messrs. Robinson and Hanley in connection with the Doncaster fire on the 21st August, 1881, was £10,000, and unfortunately the firm was under-insured and only received £5,000. They supplied their customers from the Retford mill whilst the new mill at Doncaster was being built, and then sold the Retford mill to Messrs. Goodbody, of Co. Clare, Ireland.
Mr. Robinson went to America in 1883, and inspected a number of mills there, the only idea he brought home with him as a desirable innovation in the old country being electric lighting, and electric lighting was adopted henceforth.
The firm built a mill at Goole, the style of the firm being Hudson, Robinson, and Hanley. Some idea of the magnitude of the business of the firm attained may be gathered from the fact that the Doncaster and Goole mills each cost about £18,000 to build. Mr. Robinson retired about the year1893, and Mr. Hanley purchased the Doncaster concern and took his son into partnership. Being free from business cares, Mr. Robinson and his wife went globe-trotting, first visiting most of the British colonies and the Antipodes. He also made trips to Norway, to the Holy Land, along with other places in the east, and really became quite a great traveller.
Mr. Robinson entered the Doncaster Town Council in 1891, to fill the vacancy in the East Ward caused by the death of Councillor Huntriss, when he was unopposed. He served on the Market, Finance, and School Attendance committees, and was chosen by the Corporation to represent them in London when the Railway Rates Commission sat. He was a member of the Hatfield Chase Corporation, and on the Infirmary Committee, and held numerous public offices. However, he will probably be best remembered for his work at Priory Place Wesleyan Church, in connection with which he held the offices of circuit steward, Sunday School Superintendant, and trustee for a number of other chapels in the circuit.
In November, 1902, Councillor Robinson was unanimously elected Mayor of the Borough, a position he held with dignity and courtesy toward all parties with whom his office brought him in contact. Before his elevation to the Civic Chair, he was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the Borough, and his experience on the bench stood him in good stead in the office of Chief Magistrate. It was said that in 1903 that there were 2 more popular men in Doncaster than the Bishop of Sheffield and the Mayor of the Borough.