Ned Hanlan – Canada’s World Famous Champion Oarsman

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1878 - Ned (Edward) Hanlan was born in Toronto in 1855 and grew up on the west side of Toronto Island in what is now known as Hanlan's Point
1878 – Ned (Edward) Hanlan was born in Toronto in 1855 and grew up on the west side of Toronto Island (Toronto Public Library 978-48)

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 the first Canadian athlete to become a world champion in an individual event and 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 - Ned Hanlan commemorative stamp
1980 – Ned 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

2022 – Looking south towards the Ned Hanlan statue from Hanlan's Point on Toronto Island
2022 – Looking south towards the Ned Hanlan statue from Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island
September 20, 1926 – Edward Hanlan's Monument, once located at Exhibition Place and later moved to Hanlan's Point on Toronto Island
September 20, 1926 – Edward Hanlan’s Monument, once located at Exhibition Place and later moved to Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4524)
2020 – Looking northwest towards the Ned Hanlan statue and tugboat from Hanlan's Point ferry dock on Toronto Island
2020 – Looking northwest towards the Ned Hanlan statue and tugboat from Hanlan’s Point ferry dock on Toronto Island
1876 - Ned Hanlan, one of the world's greatest oarsmen
1876 – Ned Hanlan, one of the world’s greatest oarsmen (Library and Archives Canada c025316)
2022 – The Ned Hanlan tugboat on Hanlan's Point
2022 – The Ned Hanlan tugboat on Hanlan’s Point
1878 - Ned (Edward) Hanlan was born in Toronto in 1855 and grew up on the west side of Toronto Island in what is now known as Hanlan's Point
1878 – Ned (Edward) Hanlan was born in Toronto in 1855 and grew up on the west side of Toronto Island in what is now known as Hanlan’s Point (Toronto Public Library 978-48)
1878 – Ned Hanlan was the first Canadian athlete to become a world champion in an individual event
1878 – Ned Hanlan was the first Canadian athlete to become a world champion in an individual event (Library and Archives Canada c025309)
Circa 1890 – Ned Hanlan became an alderman for a few years
Circa 1890 – Ned Hanlan became an alderman for a few years (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 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 10724)
1900s - Edward Hanlan statue at Canadian National Exhibition grounds
1900s – Edward Hanlan statue at Canadian National Exhibition grounds (Library and Archives Canada a050380)
August 20, 1972 – The Ned Hanlan tugboat on display and the Shell Tower in the background at the CNE
August 20, 1972 – The Ned Hanlan tugboat on display and the Shell Tower in the background at the CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 62)
2020 – Looking southeast towards Ned Hanlan's Monument on Hanlan's Point
2020 – Looking southeast towards Ned Hanlan’s Monument on Hanlan’s Point
August 20, 1972 - Looking south from the Shell Tower towards the Ned Hanlan Statue, Canadian National Northern steam locomotive, former Marine Museum and Lake Ontario in the background
August 20, 1972 – Looking south from the Shell Tower towards the Ned Hanlan Statue, Canadian National Northern steam locomotive, former Marine Museum and Lake Ontario in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 19)
2022 – The Ned Hanlan statue and plaque on Hanlan's Point
2022 – The Ned Hanlan statue and plaque on Hanlan’s Point
1980 - Ned Hanlan commemorative stamp
1980 – Ned Hanlan commemorative stamp (Library and Archives Canada s004090k)
2000s - Ned Hanlan, one of the world's greatest oarsmen at Hanlan's Point on Toronto Island
2000s – Ned Hanlan, one of the world’s greatest oarsmen at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island
2022 – Looking northwest from Hanlan's Point towards Ned Hanlan's statue, tugboat and plaque. Also, in the background, the CN Tower with a plane taking off from the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
2022 – Looking northwest from Hanlan’s Point towards Ned Hanlan’s statue, tugboat and plaque. Also, in the background, the CN Tower with a plane taking off from the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
2022 – The Ned Hanlan heritage plaque reads: 

"Ned Hanlan 1855 – 1908 "One of Canada's greatest oarsmen, Edward Hanlan was born in Toronto. As a child he took up rowing when his family settled in the vicinity, now named Hanlan's Point. Although standing only 5 feet 8 ¾ inches and rarely heavier than 150 pounds, he became a leading international sculler. In 1873 Hanlan won the amateur rowing championship on Toronto Bay. Becoming a professional in 1876, he defeated all opponents in the Philadelphia races that year. He overcame all leading North American competitors and in 1880 won the world single sculls championship in England. Hanlan retained his title until 1884. A popular Toronto figure, he was elected alderman for this area in 1898 and 1899."
Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Recreation
2022 – The Ned Hanlan heritage plaque reads:

“Ned Hanlan 1855 – 1908 “One of Canada’s greatest oarsmen, Edward Hanlan was born in Toronto. As a child he took up rowing when his family settled in the vicinity, now named Hanlan’s Point. Although standing only 5 feet 8 ¾ inches and rarely heavier than 150 pounds, he became a leading international sculler. In 1873 Hanlan won the amateur rowing championship on Toronto Bay. Becoming a professional in 1876, he defeated all opponents in the Philadelphia races that year. He overcame all leading North American competitors and in 1880 won the world single sculls championship in England. Hanlan retained his title until 1884. A popular Toronto figure, he was elected alderman for this area in 1898 and 1899.”

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Recreation
2021 – The Ned Hanlan heritage plaque by Toronto Legacy Project and Heritage Toronto
2021 – The Ned Hanlan heritage plaque by Toronto Legacy Project and Heritage Toronto
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