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Robert MacBain was born in Inverness, Scotland, on March 30, 1937. His father was the ballroom manager of the town’s largest hotel and abandoned him when he was nine to live with his pregnant girlfriend in London. MacBain and his single mother moved to Canada in 1947.
During his first three years in Toronto, MacBain lived in seven different houses and attended four different schools.
MacBain dropped out of Grade 8 two months after he turned 14, left home and went to work on a dairy farm near Toronto. He then worked as a butcher’s delivery boy, service station attendant, coach building apprentice, ranch hand, retail sales clerk, apprentice mechanic, door-to-door salesman, auto parts cleaner, and shipping clerk.
When MacBain was 18, he went forward at a Billy Graham crusade in Toronto and became a born-again Christian. He attended Toronto Bible College for one year and picked up four papers of Grade 12. After considerable study of the Bible and other books, MacBain became a confirmed agnostic.
MacBain then went to work as a dump truck driver, earthmoving equipment operator, and tractor-trailer driver. He also spent six weeks in the Royal Canadian Air Force where he was required to bark: “56360, MacBain, Sir!”
Despite his lack of formal education, MacBain was admitted to the Journalism program at the Ryerson Institute of Technology when he was 23. He was bored out of his mind at Ryerson and spent most of his time rehearsing as a lead singer in RIOT ’61 — a school musical.
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Robert MacBain lives in the Upper Beach area of Toronto with his wife of 39 years – former International Cooperation Minister Maria Minna.