Symons, Robert David, 1898-1973

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Symons, Robert David, 1898-1973

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Robert Symons was born on April 7, 1898 in Mayfield, Sussex, England, the eighth child of William Christian Symons, an artist, and Cecilia Symons, a musician. He was educated privately according to his father's precepts. At the age of sixteen, he came to Canada resolved to become a cowboy. He found work on the Scotty Gow Ranch at Grayburn near Maple Creek. He went overseas with the Canadian Army in 1915 and returned to Canada in 1919. He ranched in the Arm River Valley in Saskatchewan during the early 1920's. In 1927 he began a job with the provincial government as a fishery and game officer, which took him to the North Battleford, Cumberland House and Cypress Hills area.

In 1942 he moved to Fort St. John, British Columbia, to work as a game warden. There he met his second wife Hope Onslow, who was working with the Anglican missionary to the Peace River District, Monica Storrs. In 1945 Symons and his wife bought land in the Upper Cache Creek country and started Hope Springs Ranch.

Throughout his working life, Symons drew and painted. His subject matter was usually the natural environment such as birds, animals and landscapes. He took time off from ranching in the 1950's to paint dioramas for the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History. He also wrote articles and stories for magazines and newspapers.

In 1961 because of declining health, he sold his ranch and returned to Saskatchewan. He settled in the village of Silton to paint and write. He wrote stories, articles and books and became known locally and nationally as an artist. He taught art classes and lectured widely on natural history, conservation art, and prairie life. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws in 1970 by the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus.

Symons died of leukaemia in Regina on February 1, 1973. He was survived by his wife and four children. Hope Symons lived at Silton until her death on August 12, 1989.


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