Ned Hanlan – Canada’s World Famous Champion Oarsman

1878 - Edward Hanlan (Library and Archives Canada c025324)
1878 – Edward Hanlan (Library and Archives Canada c025324)

Ned (Edward) Hanlan was born in Toronto in 1855 and was one of the country’s greatest oarsmen. He grew up on the west side of Toronto Island in what is now known as Hanlan’s Point. He learned to row as a boy and won his first amateur rowing championship in his late teens in Toronto Harbour.

Ned’s father was a hotelier on the Island. While we couldn’t confirm it, the story goes that Ned could out-row the police when transporting liquor to his father’s hotel.

Ned’s Rowing Career

In 1876, a group of Torontonians formed the Hanlan Club to back him as a professional athlete. The organization bought Ned an English-made shell with both swivel oarlocks and a sliding seat. While both these rowing innovations were reasonably new, Ned was the first to master them by creating a long and fluid stroke. Even though he stood only about 5′ 9″ tall and weighed 150 pounds, the Boy In Blue (a 1986 movie) defeated all of his much larger competitors, including those at the world single sculls championship held in England in 1880. He kept his title until 1884.

Hanlan was not only the first Canadian athlete to become a world champion in an individual event but also a household name. Many thousands of people came out to watch him row. He was a proud Canadian.

His Life After Being a Pro Athlete

1980 - Edward Hanlan commemorative stamp (Library and Archives Canada s004090k)
1980 – Edward Hanlan commemorative stamp (Library and Archives Canada s004090k)

In 1880, Ned Hanlan bought a lease for a point of land near his family’s home on Toronto Island and built a charming hotel. In 1892, he sold the hotel and moved his wife, six daughters and two sons to a home on Beverley St (near Baldwin St). In the late 1890s, Mr Hanlan became an alderman for a few years. In 1908 and at the age of 52, he passed away due to pneumonia. Thousands came to pay their respects at St Andrew’s Church. The following year, a fire swept through the hotel he built on the Island.

The Ned Hanlan Statue on Toronto Island

In 1926, a bronze statue that stands 6 m or 19 ft tall was dedicated to Ned Hanlan by the City of Toronto. It was at the grounds of the CNE for several decades until it was moved to Hanlan’s Point (by the ferry dock) in 2003.

Ned Hanlan Photos

2020 - View of Ned Hanlan statue and tugboat from Hanlan's Point ferry dock on Toronto Island
2020 – View of Ned Hanlan statue and tugboat from Hanlan’s Point ferry dock on Toronto Island
1876 - Ned Hanlan with oar (Library and Archives Canada c025316)
1876 – Ned Hanlan with oar (Library and Archives Canada c025316)
1878 - Edward Hanlan (Library and Archives Canada c025324)
1878 – Edward Hanlan (Library and Archives Canada c025324)
1878 - Ned Hanlan rowing (Library and Archives Canada c025309)
1878 – Ned Hanlan rowing (Library and Archives Canada c025309)
1890 - Edward Hanlan portrait (Toronto Public Library c1-97c)
1890 – Edward Hanlan portrait (Toronto Public Library c1-97c)
1907 - Hanlan's Hotel, once at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island. The building was destroyed by fire in 1909
1907 – Hanlan’s Hotel, once at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island. The building was destroyed by fire in 1909 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 163)
1908 - Hanlan's Hotel and Toronto Rowing Club, once located on Toronto Island
1908 – Hanlan’s Hotel and Toronto Rowing Club, once located on Toronto Island
1900s - Edward Hanlan statue at Canadian National Exhibition grounds
1900s – Edward Hanlan statue at Canadian National Exhibition grounds (Library and Archives Canada a050380)
1970s - Ned Hanlan tugboat at the CNE
1970s – Ned Hanlan tugboat at the CNE
1980 - Edward Hanlan commemorative stamp (Library and Archives Canada s004090k)
1980 – Edward Hanlan commemorative stamp (Library and Archives Canada s004090k)
2000s - Ned Hanlan statue at Hanlan's Point on Toronto Island
2000s – Ned Hanlan statue at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island
2020 - Ned Hanlan heritage plaque at Hanlan's Point ferry dock on Toronto Island
2020 – Ned Hanlan heritage plaque at Hanlan’s Point ferry dock on Toronto Island
2021 - Ned Hanlan heritage plaque on Beverley St
2021 – Ned Hanlan heritage plaque on Beverley St
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