Biography

Andrew D. MacLean (1896 – 1971) was born on Toronto Island, the only son of Hugh C. MacLean, co-founder of MacLean Publishing Company (later Maclean-Hunter and then part of Rogers Communications) and Bessie Dyas (daughter of Thomas Winning Dyas, business manager of the Globe and then the Mail, later the Globe and Mail). He has an enthusiastic sailor and amateur inventor, designing a retractable propeller for motorboats and introducing to Canada electric lights as Christmas tree decorations.

He volunteered to fight in the First World War, travelling at his own expense to the UK to join the Royal Navy and engage in active combat. (At the time Canada did not have its own navy.) He served as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Mediterranean and the North Sea and witnessed the surrender of the German fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

Between the wars he launched Canada’s first photograph-led newspaper, the Toronto News Mirror, and served as secretary to Prime Minister R.B. Bennett.

In 1939, ten days before the outbreak of the Second World War, at the age of 43, he offered his services to the RCNVR (Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve) and then, with Ottawa’s permission, applied for temporary sea-going service in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as no opportunity then existed in Canada for officers with his specialisation in high speed motorboats. He returned to Canada to be senior officer of a squadron of Fairmile anti-submarine motorboats.

As early as October 1939 MacLean alerted the Ministry of National Defence about the urgent need for modernisation of the fleet as part of the defence of the St. Lawrence and the North Atlantic. Throughout the war, while in the Royal Canadian Navy and after his release in October 1942, he used his connections and publications to advocate both for an end to the discrimination between the branches of navy regulars and the reserve, and for modernisation — equipping the fleet with much-needed, up-to-date detection devices and anti-submarine weapons such as the multi-torpedo launching ‘hedgehogs’.

Maclean retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, but did not retire from criticizing the naval leadership, provoking a political crisis in the spring of 1943 when he went public. His criticism led the Minister of Defence, Angus L. Macdonald, to attack MacLean in the House of Commons, even while the Department was quietly instigating many of his recommendations.

After the war MacLean continued to head Hugh C. MacLean Publications (later Southam Press, then CanWest) and subsequently a chain of rural Ontario newspapers. He divorced and remarried in the fifties, a rare and controversial thing at the time. Andrew died in 1971, leaving one daughter and four sons.

A portrait of Andrew D. MacLean by Karsh.

Above: a portrait of Andrew D. MacLean by Karsh. © Estate of Yousuf Karsh.

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