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Meet The Major: The A.G. McLennan Story

Photo courtesy Stu McLennan

With gratitude to Gordon's grandson Stu, Estelle Lane of the Governor General's Footguards Museum and military historian Michael M. O'Leary, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a Canadian figure skater who was also a war hero!

The son of Elizabeth Ann 'Annie' (Wells) and Andrew McLennan, Andrew Gordon McLennan was born June 30, 1885 in Nepean Township, Ontario. A.G. - who went by his middle name, Gordon - grew up in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood in the family's home on Cobalt Avenue. His parents were devout Presbyterians and his father was employed as a civil service clerk.

By the time Gordon was in his early twenties, he had followed in his father's footsteps and taken a job as a civil servant. He had developed a reputation as not only one of Ottawa's finest rowers but also one of the Minto Skating Club's finest skaters. Under the tutelage of Arthur Held, Gordon and his partner Muriel Burrows became Canadian pairs champions in 1913. The following year, they finished as runners-up to Jeanne Chevalier and Norman Mackie Scott.

Left: Gordon McLennan. Right: Military medals awarded to Gordon McLennan after his service in the Great War.

In September of 1914, the twenty nine year old, five foot nine skater with brown hair and blue eyes put his figure skating career on hold when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Military service was nothing new to Gordon. He had already served for fourteen years with the 43rd Regiment (The Duke of Cornwall's Own Regiment) . He headed overseas with the 2nd Infantry Battalion - the Governor General's Foot Guards - to fight in the Great War. Sadly, he was wounded during the Battle of Ypres in April of 1915 and sent to an infirmary in London to recuperate. His service records noted that he was the victim of a gunshot wound to the right arm and that "his nervous condition still continues, there being pain and disability in the right arm, especially during exposure to cold or wet weather. Does not sleep well." After he recovered, Gordon returned to Canada and was appointed to the Office Of The Provost Marshal at the Militia Headquarters in Ottawa. By the conclusion of the War, he had been given the rank of Major as well as the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal, Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers Decoration - V.D., the British War Medal and The Victory Medal.

Alden Godwin and Gordon McLennan. Photo courtesy Minto Skating Club.

Gordon's injury during the war didn't stop him from returning to the ice. In 1920, he was a member of the Minto Four that finished second at the Canadian Championships. Two years later, he reclaimed the Canadian pairs title he had won nine years prior with a second partner, Alden Goldwin. 

Top: Dorothy Jenkins and Gordon McLennan. Photo courtesy Minto Skating Club. Bottom: Pairs trophy from the 1923 Canadian Championships. Photo courtesy Stu McLennan.

In 1923, Gordon teamed up with a third partner, Canadian women's champion Dorothy Jenkins, and finished second at the Canadian Championships. That same winter, Gordon and Dorothy made history by winning the very first North American Championships in pairs skating, defeating Boston's Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles. According to "Minto Skating Through Time" author Janet B. Uren, Jenkins later said that she "loved skating with a partner that felt the music just as she did."

Gordon and Ruth McLennan on their wedding day. Photo courtesy Stu McLennan.

Gordon married Ruth Lumsden McPherson on September 4, 1924 and took a job as an insurance broker, later managing his own agency. Though he never competed after his marriage, he continued to skate for pleasure on dance sessions at Minto Skating Club and perform in the Minto Follies long after he retired from competitive skating. 

Left: Edward and Diana McLennan. Gordon McLennan with his first grandson Edward. Photos courtesy Stu McLennan.

Gordon was an also an avid golfer and member of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. During World War II, he served with the Veterans Guard and Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps. He was in his late fifties at the time.

Gordon and Ruth McLennan, Girlie Craig Reid and Drew McLennan. Photo courtesy Stu McLennan.

Gordon passed away in Ottawa on March 28, 1955 at the age of sixty-nine. His victories at the Canadian and North American Championships and service to Canada during the Great War have sadly been underacknowledged.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":