McLennan Family Roots JS The Business Man Years at Petersfield Pre-War Years War Years Louisbourg Other Accomplishments Other McLennans
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Pre-War Years: 1900-1914

JS was now settled at Petersfield, but he was still far from the point where he could retire completely from the professional world. In 1904, he purchased the Sydney Post the area's conservative newspaper, and became its owner-publisher. JS had high ideals when it came to journalism and the quality he expected of the newspaper. His son, John S. Jr., recalls his father's abhorrence of cheap journalism and any vulgarity of attitude, which he believed had no place in a newspaper.

Ideally, JS believed that a good newspaper could shape and lead the views held by a community and could be a guiding example of principles for the country. This was a very Victorian-Edwardian view of newspapers and it is not known how successful JS was in this measure. It is clear, however, that JS took the newspaper side of his career very seriously. This is attested to by his son and also by the fact that even in his very old age, JS requested to be driven into town every morning to visit the paper and chat with the staff and editors. This perfunctory trip into the office no doubt gave JS pleasure and a feeling that he was fulfilling his duty to the newspaper. Despite his long absences from Sydney and his interests elsewhere, JS is credited with making the Post into one of the most respected and influential newspapers in Atlantic Canada. In 1933, JS amalgamated the conservative Post and its rival, the liberal Sydney Record into the Post-Record. This was the predecessor of today's Cape Breton Post.

JS's literary talents were given vent in his newspaper, but JS was a great scholar and his literary accomplishments would eventually include a wonderful book on Louisbourg that was highly praised for its depth of research and broad scope. This book, Louisbourg: From its Foundation to its Fall, 1713-1758, would be called the definitive work on Louisbourg and is still read today. Research for the book took place over a span of ten years and involved many trips to the archives of Paris, London, and Ottawa. However, these trips were not totally consumed with work. JS had a great appreciation for the culture and beauty of European cities. The family's trips were filled with sightseeing, exploring ruins of ancient towns, visiting museums and other points of interest. The family was never without acquaintances in foreign lands or travelling companions and guides. JS's great love of travel continued throughout his life, until he began to find it difficult to move about. France and Italy were favourite locations to visit and England was so familiar to him, that traveling there was almost like going home.

The McLennan children were not left behind in Sydney. They undoubtedly benefitted from their extensive travels and all the experience that came with it. Katharine diligently kept journals of her trips and her notes are fascinating to read. The quality of life the McLennans had is hard to imagine today. Never home at Petersfield for more than a stretch of a few months, the McLennans would soon be off to Montreal, London, or Paris. Katharine studied art in Paris under Percyval Tudor-Hart and she and her mother spent time copying paintings in the museums and galleries of France and Italy. A fellow art student, Catharine Rhodes, became a great friend of Katharine's. Rhodes eventually married her instructor, Tudor-Hart, and settled in Cataraqui, the Rhodes estate outside Quebec City. Affectionately nicknamed Go-Go, Catharine was to be a lifelong friend to Katharine and would welcome her to Cataraqui several times a year, every year, until Katharine's death.

This watercolor by Louise McLennan, entitled "Ashby", portrays the Davenport estate in Sydney. The building gave its name to the present Sydney district of Ashby.

These years were exceedingly happy ones for the McLennans. The family traveled extensively and, in turn, entertained their friends and guests at Petersfield. JS was heavily involved with researching Louisbourg, and Louise was enjoying her painting, as her children were now mostly grown and she could devote more time to her work. In 1911, the McLennan's eldest child, Isabella, married John Wells Farley, a member of a wealthy Boston family, at the Petersfield estate. Life changed though on January 27, 1912, when Louise was stricken with appendicitis and died at the age of fifty-one. Her funeral took place at Christ Church in Sydney and some people still recall seeing the funeral procession cross the ice-covered harbour on horse-drawn sleighs. They buried her in the family plot in Hardwood Hill Cemetery. Petersfield, for a while, became a sad place for JS and so he took his children to Boston while he dealt with his loss. John S. Jr. believed that this Boston time was a relatively happy time for JS, visiting with friends and his newly married daughter. He also continued with his research.

In 1913, his next eldest daughter, Margaret, wed Dr. Ernest Kendall at Petersfield. The Kendalls had been longtime family friends of the McLennans and lived in Sydney. Dr. Kendall had been married before and a daughter from this marriage, Helen, was a friend of Katharine's. The two had known each other and played together since they were small. Helen had trained as a nurse with the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, and would spend most holidays from school with the McLennans at Petersfield, especially after her mother died. Helen had acted as her father's hostess after her mother's death and therefore Margaret's marriage to her father was somewhat of an upset. Although the situation was unpopular with Helen, she remained friends with Katharine and the McLennan family.

With two of his daughters married and his son Hugh overseas in Paris studying architecture at l'Ecole des Beaux Arts, JS found little to keep him at Petersfield. He took Katharine travelling to Europe and concentrated on his research in Paris. Katharine, only twenty-one, was his travelling companion and his research aid, copying plans and making sketches of materials found in the Paris Archives. Katharine's own interest in Louisbourg blossomed as a result of this experience. This interest and commitment would continue throughout her life.

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This sketch, completed by Louise McLennan in the year 1890, depicts the old barrack buildings in Victoria Park, Sydney.

Copyright, 1997. Cape Breton Regional Library, 50 Falmouth St., Sydney, NS  B1P 6X9

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