Sous-fonds 2 - W.P.M. Kennedy Personal Records

Identity area

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UTA 1294-B1998-0006-2


W.P.M. Kennedy Personal Records


  • 1926-1997 (Creation)

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0.60 m of textual, graphic and cartographic records (3 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Kennedy was the first Dean of the U of T Law School. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he came to the University of Toronto in 1914 and retired from the University in 1949.

Archival history

These papers were acquired by the Friedlands when they purchased the Kennedy property in Kearney, Ontario. The property, consisting of 165 acres on Beaver Lake and the Magnetewan River, was purchased by the Kennedys in 1940 and used by them throughout the 40s and 50s and by their son, Frere Kennedy, until he sold it to the Friedlands in 1983. The Kennedys called the property ‘Narrow Waters’ after a castle in Ireland and the Friedlands continue to call it ‘Narrow Waters’. Because Frere Kennedy spent more time at the cottage than any other of the Kennedy’s four children, many of the papers relate to his affairs. The Kennedys normally spent from May to early September at the property. They seem to have put papers that didn’t have to be brought back to Toronto in trunks in the cottage. Frere Kennedy acquired the property when his father died in 1963 and used it periodically. He was in the Anglican priesthood in Bracebridge for many years. At the time of writing he is in Ottawa, having taken vows of poverty.

Kennedy was the first Dean of the U of T Law School. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he came to the University of Toronto in 1914 and retired from the University in 1949. His academic career is discussed in a paper by Professor RCB. Risk, a draft of which is included in these papers (file 47). Risk’s paper shows how important Kennedy was in the history of legal education in Canada. His son, Gilbert Kennedy, did an oral history for the Law Society of British Columbia, which sheds light on WPM Kennedy’s career and is included in this collection (files 48-49). Dean Kennedy left very few papers, apart from these that happened to be left at Narrow Waters. Apparently he deliberately destroyed his papers. An empty binder dated 1931, which originally contained papers from September of that year, is included in these papers.

On his 80th birthday in 1959 the Globe and Mail had the following note about his career (file 3):
‘Instead of congratulating Dr. W.P.M. Kennedy on attaining his 80th birthday next Jan 8, I should prefer to congratulate him on a distinguished career. To outline it would outrun our space limitations. But William Paul McClure Kennedy, M.A., LL.B., LL.D., Litt.D., F.R.S.C., graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. He was professor at the University of Toronto 1914-26; at Cornell 1926-27; then became Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and held the post till retirement. He performed distinguished services in advising the Canadian and several other governments. He founded and edited the University of Toronto Law Journal, 1935. Among many other works, he wrote the Life of Archbishop Parker, Studies in Tudor History, The Development and Law of the Canadian Constitution, Short Treatise on Canadian Constitution, Short Treatise on Canadian Constitutional Law. More recently, when serious differences had arisen between the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Faculty of the University, wise suggestions from Dr. Kennedy led to reconciliation. Perhaps this was his greatest contribution of all.’

What role he played in the conflict is not clear. In terms of other countries, he apparently was involved in constitutional development in Ireland, South Africa, and perhaps India.

His four children are still alive as this is being written. Gilbert, his eldest, went to the U of T Law School, taught at UBC Law School, and then became Deputy Attorney General of British Columbia. The next eldest, Beatrice, apparently had mental problems and was institutionalised for some time. Both Gilbert and Beatrice were children from an earlier marriage. The first wife died in the influenza epidemic at the end of the First World War. Kennedy then married Pauline, a graduate of the University of Toronto, in the early 1920s. They had two children. Frere Kennedy, named after a Professor Frere from Ireland with whom Dean Kennedy worked during his early career in Ireland, also went through the U of T Law School, and later became a priest. Shelagh Kennedy, the youngest, married Casimir Lindsey, a scientist, who later taught at UBC.

Pauline Kennedy, who was noted in various ‘who’s whos’, was a very active volunteer in a number of women’s organisations, as her diary shows. She was a major figure in the Cancer Society (files 38-39).

Both WPM Kennedy and Pauline Kennedy wrote very frequently to Frere, particularly during the year 1945 when Frere was in the service. Most of the letters from 1945 are included in these papers.

The years between 1945 and 1949 are crucial ones in the history of legal education in Canada. These letters shed some light on the conflict. The letters from Gilbert Kennedy in British Columbia give an interesting perspective on the conflict between the University of Toronto and the Law Society (files 19, 20-23).

The Kyer and Bickenbach book on legal education in Ontario (‘The Fiercest Debate’) describes the crucial meeting at Narrow Waters between Caesar Wright of Osgoode Hall Law School, Dean Kennedy, and Bora Laskin, who was then teaching at the U of T. A plan had been cooked up by Sidney Smith, the President of the University of Toronto, and Caesar Wright to have Bora Laskin leave U of T for Osgoode and later the whole Osgoode faculty would come to the U of T. Because Bora Laskin was very close to Kennedy--(note in the diaries the number of times the Laskins visited Narrow Waters)--it was felt that Kennedy’s blessing was required. Hence the trip to Narrow Waters to persuade him. He was persuaded and the plan worked to some extent. In 1949, Caesar Wright, Bora Laskin, and John Willis left Osgoode for U of T.

Amongst the letters in the collection are letters from Vincent Massey, Sidney Smith, Louis St. Laurent and Louis Rasminsky (file 1).

Frere Kennedy knew, of course, that I was acquiring these papers along with the cottage, but obviously wanted me to have them, anticipating that I would deal responsibly with them. He visited the cottage on two occasions after we acquired it but never asked about the papers, although he suggested that I would be a good person to write Kennedy’s biography. Dick Risk’s major paper partially meets Frere Kennedy’s wishes.

These papers were shared with Dick. If a full biography is to be written, Risk is the one to do it. But because Dean Kennedy destroyed his papers, it is unlikely that anyone could do more than Dick has done. After acquiring the papers I made the decision to destroy many of the personal papers of family members that didn’t relate in some way to Dean Kennedy.

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