Ned Hanlan

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Ned Hanlan
Ned Hanlan.jpg
Ned Hanlan, 1887
Born Edward Hanlan
(1855-07-12)12 July 1855
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died 4 January 1908(1908-01-04) (aged 52)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Cause of death
Resting place
Necropolis Cemetery, Toronto
43°40′4″N 79°21′41″W / 43.66778°N 79.36139°W / 43.66778; -79.36139
Nationality Canadian
Other names Edward Hanlan (Hanlon)
Height 5 feet 8.75 inches (1.7 m)
Weight 150 pounds (68.0 kg)
Title World champion sculler
Term 1880-1884
Predecessor Edward Trickett
Successor Bill Beach
Spouse(s) Margaret Gordon Sutherland
Parent(s) John Hanlon and Mary Gibbs

Edward "Ned" Hanlan (12 July 1855 – 4 January 1908) was a professional sculler, hotelier, and alderman from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Early life[edit]

Hanlan was born to Irish parents; one of two sons and two daughters. His mother was Mary Gibbs, his father, John, was first a fisherman and later a hotel keeper on the Toronto Islands. The Hanlan family originally lived at the east end of Toronto Island, but a severe storm in 1865 pushed their house into the harbour. It washed ashore near the north end of Gibraltar Point, at the island's west end. A few years later, Hanlan's father built a small hotel there, and the area started becoming known as Hanlan's Point, long before Hanlan became famous. Young Hanlan used to row several kilometres across the harbour to go to and from George Street public school, Toronto every day. He developed speed and strength by rowing his boat with freshly-caught fish to sell at market before other fishermen arrived to compete.[2][3] By the time Hanlan was a teenager, he was competing in rowing events and he gained his first important success at the age of eighteen, when he became amateur champion of Toronto Bay.

Rowing career[edit]

Ned Hanlan monument, sculpted by Emanuel Hahn, on the Toronto Islands

He turned professional in c. 1874 / 5 and soon afterwards he beat all comers at the Centennial International Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876. In 1877 he became champion sculler of Canada, followed by Champion sculler of the United States in 1878. That same year, Hanlan won the Dufferin Gold Medal[4] After further success in North America he decided to test his mettle against Europe and traveled to England in 1879 where, on 16 June 1879 he defeated the English champion, W. Elliott of Blyth, rowing the course from the Mansion House in Newcastle upon Tyne to the Scotswood Bridge on the River Tyne in the record time of 21 minutes 2 seconds.[5] Ultimately he lost only six of his 300 races during his rowing career. He was the world sculling champion for five consecutive years from 1880-1884. Unlike his English professional rivals, he used the slide simultaneously with the swing, kept his body well back, and held his arms straight long past the perpendicular before bending them, added strength being given by the skilful use of his great leg power.[5]

Ned Hanlan 1878

Hanlan was involved in twelve championship races with seven wins and five losses. Strangely, none of these races were in Canada. For further details of the World Title races that Hanlan was involved in see World Sculling Championship.

Diminutive compared to his competition at the height of 5 feet 8.75 inches (1.7 m) and normal race weight of 150 pounds (68.0 kg) and familiar blue shirt, Hanlan was called "the boy in blue". Actor Nicolas Cage portrayed Hanlan in the 1986 film The Boy in Blue. He married on 19 December 1877 Margaret Gordon Sutherland of Pictou, Nova Scotia; they had two sons and six daughters. His elder son, Edward Gordon Hanlan, served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and died in a flying accident in England in 1917.[6]

Later life[edit]

Following his career as an athlete, Hanlan became a hotelier like his father, and eventually became involved in municipal politics as an alderman of Toronto. He was the first head coach of the University of Toronto Rowing Club in 1897. In 1900, he decided to leave and coach the crew of Columbia University, New York for some years.[7] Hanlan died of pneumonia at age 52. Ten thousand Torontonians thronged to pay their final respects at the church where his body lay in state.


Toronto, New South Wales, Australia was named after Toronto, Ontario, in honour of Edward Hanlan.[8] Hanlan's visit to Australia in 1884 coincided with the opening of the new subdivision. The area's subdividers, the Excelsior Company, named the land in honour of Hanlan's visit.

In 1926, a larger-than-life bronze statue of a mustachioed, muscular, shirtless Hanlan, shown clad in his rowing trunks, was unveiled on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. This monument was relocated to a site near the ferry dock at Hanlan's Point in 2004.[9] In 1980, a postage stamp was issued in his honour commemorating the centenary of his first world championship.[10] In addition, the Ned Hanlan Steamboat is named after him.

A road in Vaughan, Ontario, Hanlan Road, is named after him. Gaudaur Road, named after a fellow World Champion, runs off Hanlan Road.

Ned Hanlan was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.[11]

Racing record[edit]

Single sculls[edit]

Double sculls[edit]

Although Hanlan mainly raced in the single sculls he sometimes partnered another person to race double sculls. At least twice Hanlan became the joint holder of the Double Sculls World Championship title. The following are some of his double sculls races.


"Edward Hanlan of Toronto - Champion Sculler of the World" (George Rees, 1880)
Sign at Toronto Island


  1. ^ Kidd, Bruce. "HANLAN, EDWARD (Ned)". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  2. ^ Sward, Robert (1983). The Toronto Islands. Dreadnaught. pp. 31–38. ISBN 0919567223. 
  3. ^ Gibson, Sally (1984). More Than an Island: A History of the Toronto Island. Irwin. pp. 82–84. ISBN 0772014469. 
  4. ^ History of the Administration of the Earl of Dufferin in Canada, by William Leggo, Toronto: Lovell Printing and Publishing Company (1878), pg. 889
  5. ^ a b The Times, June 17, 1879
  6. ^ Lieut. Edward Gordon Hanlan, RFC
  7. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  8. ^ "History of Toronto". Lake Macquarie City Library. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Collections Canada
  11. ^ "Ned Hanlan". Retrieved 25 September 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • T. C. Mendenhall, A short history of American rowing, Boston, 1980
  • S. Crowther and A. Ruhl, Rowing and track athletics, 1905
  • W. B. Woodgate, Boating, 1888

External links[edit]