Born in Belfast, he came from a Quaker background in Holywood, Co Down and was educated at the Friends’ School, Lisburn, Co Antrim. A printer by trade, he became central to the republican revival in Ulster after joining the Gaelic League and was founding secretary of Antrim GAA.
In 1903 he established Fianna Éireann, a scouting organisation named after the legendary Fianna, which would later have Con Colbert and Seán Heuston in their numbers. Founder of Ulster Literary Theatre, in 1904 Hobson was sworn into the IRB by Denis McCullough and soon after they formed the Dungannon Clubs, named in honour of 1792 Irish Volunteers seeking Irish independence. The Dungannon Clubs advocated extreme nationalism.
“In 1901 it was clear to me that the two alternatives in Irish politics were tame constitution agitation or resort to physical violence. The first I discarded as leaving all the advantages in the English hands. They determined the law and we pre-determined to obey it. As James Fintan Lalor said, “dogs tied and stones loose are no bargain’,” said Hobson in his 1916 Witness Statement. Hobson had a major role in the formation of the Irish Volunteers, but allowed John Redmond to take control of the organisation ahead of World War 1.
When he suspected on Holy Thursday that the Rising was planned for Easter Sunday he told the Irish Volunteers Chief-of-Staff Eoin MacNeill of his suspicions. However, the IRB Military Council had Hobson kidnapped, or placed under arrest, in Cabra Park, Dublin, until Easter Monday and he did not take part in the Rising. Hobson later became Chief of the Revenue Commissioners Stamp Department in the Irish Free State 1922, and author of A National Forests Polity (1923) and Ireland Yesterday and Tomorrow (1968), one year before his death.