Robert William Service was born in Preston, Lancashire, England of Scottish parents. He spent his childhood in Scotland and attended the University of Glasgow. His vagabond career took him throughout the world, with a diversity of jobs from cook to clerk, from hobo to correspondent . He emigrated to Canada in 1894 and took a job with the Canadian Bank of Commerce and was stationed for eight years in Whitehorse, Yukon. It was while in the Yukon that he published his first book of poems that was to make him famous - Songs of a Sourdough.
He was a correspondent for the Toronto Star during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and an ambulance driver and correspondent in France during World War I. He settled in France after WW I and married a French girl, Germaine Bougeoin. He returned to Canada during WWII, living in Hollywood and Vancouver. He wrote two autobiographical works,
Ploughman of the Moon (1945) and Harper of Heaven (1948) and 6 novels, including The Trail of '98 (1912) about the Klondike Gold Rush, and more than 45 verse collections containing over 1,000 poems. Several of his novels and his poem "McGrew" were adapted to movies. He made a brief appearance with Marlene Dietrich in the 1942 film The Spoilers. After World War II he returned to France, where Robert, Germaine, and their daughter lived the remainder of his life, mainly in Brittany and on the French Riviera.