This week I have been staying in the Hotel Hanlan on Toronto Island. Until 1858, this island was a peninsula, until a big storm washed away the connecting land. The island is really a shifting sandbar, but people build summer cottages here anyway.
|Toronto Island, across the Harbour from Toronto|
I have been staying at Hotel Hanlan with a lovely view of the harbour from my window. John passed away some years ago, but his son Edward, better known as Ned, has taken over. Ned in fact invested quite a bit of money in enlarging the place. Ned got rich rowing. In fact many a Torontonian got rich betting he could out row everyone else.
|Hotel Hanlan in 1894|
|Ned Hanlan rowing in a competition|
All the other racers had sliding seats, too, but Ned was the first to learn how to really use it to the best advantage. Only 150 pounds and less than 5’9”, he was smaller than most of the men he raced against. However they rowed with their arms; Ned used his legs. He rowed 36 strokes per minute while others rowed 44, but each of his strokes had more power and took him further. Ned was so fast he once mocked an arrogant competitor by crossing the finish line, then doubling back to where his opponent was so he could beat him twice in the same race.
Ned Hanlan always wore a blue shirt when racing, earning him the nickname “the boy in blue.” He will be remembered as the greatest Canadian athlete of the nineteenth century. And all because he couldn’t afford to ride the ferry to school.