Personal Profile Collections


Gordon Sidney Harrington

Short Biography:

Gordon Sidney Harrington was born in Halifax, NS, on August 7, 1883. He was one of three children of Sidney and Mary Harrington. Gordon’s father was a prominent Halifax lawyer whose business partner was the future prime minister of Canada, Robert Borden. Gordon grew up and was schooled in Halifax. Like his father, he set his sights on a law career, and in 1904, he graduated from Dalhousie Law School. Not long after graduation, Gordon left Halifax and set up a law practice in Glace Bay. He quickly made a name for himself defending the rights of coal miners and became legal counsel for the United Mine Workers of America in Cape Breton. He was so well respected in the local area he became mayor of Glace Bay.

In 1910, Gordon married Catherine Agnes MacDonald, a local girl from nearby Reserve Mines. Her father was a coal miner.

After the outbreak of World War 1, Gordon resigned his position as mayor of Glace Bay and returned to Halifax, where on October 31, 1915, he enlisted in the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). He had eleven years of militia training with the 66th Regiment “Princess Louise” Fusiliers, who were based in Halifax, and retained his rank of captain upon enlistment. He was quickly promoted to the rank of major and given command of "D" Company where the men had all been recruited in Cape Breton. On February 23, 1916, he was transferred to the newly created 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) as junior major in charge of training. The 185th Battalion was headquartered in the abandoned mining town of Broughton, near Sydney, and was recruiting in Cape Breton. Gordon took command of “B” Company whose men came predominately from the coal mining towns of Glace Bay and New Waterford, and from the surrounding areas. He may have known many of the new recruits and their families from his time living in Glace Bay. In May of 1916, the 185th Battalion relocated to Aldershot, NS, where they joined their sister battalions of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. The brigade trained in earnest before sailing to England in October, 1916.

Upon arrival in England, the 185th Battalion moved to Witley Camp where training continued. In December, 1916, Gordon was attached, for approximately a month, to the 193rd Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), one of the four Nova Scotia Highland Brigade battalions. A short time later, in the spring of 1917, Gordon was transferred to the 17th Canadian Reserve Battalion located in Bramshott, England, where he assumed command of the battalion. That position was also short lived. In May, 1917, Gordon began a series of administrative staff postings with The Ministry of Overseas Military Forces of Canada (OMFC) in London which culminated in his appointment as Deputy Minister with the rank of colonel. His position saw him make frequent trips between OMFC Headquarters in London and the Canadian Corps Headquarters in France. He was heavily involved in negotiations between Canada and Britain over control of Canadian forces and with the repatriation of Canadian troops after the war. Gordon arrived back in Canada on October 31, 1919 and immediately reported for duty with OMFC in Ottawa. In April, 1920, he was posted back to London and was finally demobilized on January 5, 1921.

After the war, the Harringtons moved back to Cape Breton where they bought a home in Sydney and Gordon opened a legal practice on Charlotte Street in Sydney. They also had a cottage on the Mira River. Gordon again fought for miners’ rights and, as before the war, he became legal counsel for the United Mine Workers of America in Cape Breton. In 1925, Gordon entered into a successful political career in provincial politics. He was elected conservative MLA representing either Cape Breton Centre or Cape Breton South, for three consecutive elections. He became Minister of Public Works and Mines and from 1930 to 1933, Premier of Nova Scotia. He continued to champion the rights of miners and to improve workers conditions for the working class. In the 1933 provincial election, Gordon won his seat but his government lost to the liberals under Angus L. MacDonald, a Cape Bretoner and another former officer of the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders). Gordon remained in the Nova Scotia house of Assembly until 1937.

In 1918, while overseas, Gordon fell ill with the Spanish Influenza that was ravaging the world. He spent ten days in hospital. Throughout the rest of his life he continued to be plagued by health problems. It is not clear whether they were related to the Spanish Influenza and/or his very aggressive and stressful work ethic, both during and after the war. On July 4, 1943, Gordon Harrington passed away. He was only 59 years old. His wife Catherine passed away on June 17, 1956. They had no children. Both Gordon and Catherine were laid to rest at Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax.

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