Ned Hanlan 1855 - 1908
Ned’s father, John Hanlan, was a boat builder in Kingston and then moved to Toronto where he was the first lease-holder on Toronto Island now named after him, where Ned was born in 1855. They lived at the west end of Toronto Islands and John Hanlan ran a hotel on the island. The hotel was built in the 1870s. Ned ran it after his father. The hotel burned down in 1909.
To get to school, Ned had to row to and from the City. He first made the newspapers at age five when he rowed a skiff to Market Wharf across a bay crowded with vessels awaiting the arrival of the Prince of Wales.
At the age of 18 he became Champion Amateur oarsman of Toronto Bay and at 22 he won the Canadian championship before 25,000 Toronto spectators.
By age 23 he was also the American Champion.
On November 15, 1880 he raced on the Thames River’s historic Putney to Mortlake course and, with 100,000 spectators lining the banks, won easily, becoming the English Champion. In doing so he became Canada’s first world sporting champion in an individual or singles event. He remained the champion until 1884.
Although he was only 5 ft 8 in. tall and weighed 150 lbs, he raced in 350 recorded races, lost 6 and tied one. Betting on these races was big business and very heavy, with bets often exceeding $10,000. Ned Hanlan was known to bet on himself regularly.
After he retired from racing, he later became a City Alderman and publicly condemned the harbour trust, on which he sat, for its contribution to lake sewage and the neglect of breakwaters. Moreover, he advocated public ownership of the profitable ferry service despite it being managed by his brother-in-law.
He contracted pneumonia in January 1908 and died at the young age of 52.