Hugh McRoberts was an Irish immigrant from County Down who settled in British Columbia in the mid 19th century. Between 1850 and 1913 more than 4.5 million immigrants left Ireland for opportunity overseas. The social and economic impact of the Great Famine influenced many young Irish men to try their luck in North America. Hugh McRoberts was one of those young men. McRoberts first traveled to Australia, then California, before settling permanently in BC. He arrived in British Columbia at the outset of the Cariboo Gold Rush and quickly made his mark. McRoberts was awarded a contract to build a section of the Fraser Valley road from Chapman's Bar (Spuzzum) to Boston Bar in 1861. The road was important to the movement of supplies to and from the gold fields. It was with the profits from this venture that he was able in 1862 to purchase 1600 acres of land on Sea Island on the north and south sides of the island. He named his farm Richmond View, because the view across the river reminded his daughter of Richmond, New South Wales, Australia.
Multiple theories exist for the historical source of the naming of the municipality of the Township of Richmond. Some say Hugh Boyd and his wife, who hosted the first council meeting in 1879, had the community named after Mrs. Boyd’s birthplace - Richmond, Yorkshire, England. Another possibility involves Hugh McRobert’s daughter naming their home on Sea Island “Richmond View” because it brought back memories of her former home in New South Wales, Australia. A third, most likely, possibility exists, which is that some of Richmond’s first settlers, including the John Wesley Sexsmith family, came from the Township of Richmond in Ontario. A fourth possibility is linked to W.D. Ferris, who drafted the petition for Richmond’s incorporation. This theory was proposed because it was thought Ferris was born in Richmond, Surrey, England, however Ferris was actually born in Bristol. Therefore, this theory has been proven incorrect.
As an early pioneer McRoberts made several other important contributions beyond farming the property on Sea Island. Hugh McRoberts established a dairy farm in the area of Surrey now known as Royal Heights and was instrumental in building the North Arm Road. This road formed the route for what is now Southwest Marine Drive in Vancouver. McRoberts also served on the city council of New Westminster and on the Hospital Board. Hugh McRoberts continued to serve his community until his passing in 1883.
This school was named in honour of the legacy he left as one of the pioneers of the city.