The Principal

Lieutenant Colonel E. W. Hagarty
201st (Toronto Light Infantry) Battalion


I saw a mock funeral to day up to the 201 Batt they are being split up tomorrow, their Col. lost his job as they have less than 600 men. They dug a grave and buried a dummy representing their Col. They hated him, he was a whiskey soak, so on top of the grave they put a cross, a whiskey bottle, cig or some branches for flowers. Some reporters took a picture of it so likely it will be in the papers.

(L. E. Johns, 161th Bn. to Mother, 20 Sept 1916.)

Edward William Hagarty was principal of Harbord Street Collegiate from 1906 to 1928 and  member of Orange Order Lodge No. 344. He was born on 7 September 1862 in Brantford, Canada West. He served four years with the Queen’s Own Rifles while an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. An influential figure in the cadet movement for twenty-five years, Hagarty was selected to raise the 201st Toronto Light Infantry in January 1916.

Competing with several battalions for an increasingly limited number of volunteers in the city, Hagarty struggled to fill the ranks of the 201st. He had hoped to attract the best caliber of young men from the Toronto school system and cadet corps by emphasizing morality and temperance. The promise to raise a “liquorless battalion,” inspired a member to pen a poem:

The two hundred and first
Will have no thirst
For whiskey, Scotch or rye, sir,
But, strong and good,
They thirst for blood,
The blood of Billy the Kaiser

The colonel’s twenty-one year old son, Lieutenant Daniel Galer Hagarty, had been expected to leave France in order to join his father as the battalion adjutant. However, before he could return to Toronto, the younger Hagarty died in action on 2 June 1916 while fighting with the P.P.C.L.I.

Three months later, Hagarty announced his resignation for “personal reasons” and disbanded the 201st Toronto Light Infantry. Perhaps the death of his son removed any enthusiasm for organizing the battalion. One company went to the 170th (Mississaugas) and another went to the 198th (Canadian Buffs). Major General Logie defended the former commander, “Hagarty is not to blame for the failure to fill up his battalion. He has done good work.”

HarbordMemorialHowever, the sudden breakup of the 201st angered many of the volunteers who held Hagarty responsible for the failure. Believing the decision to be a great injustice to the men, a former recruiter wrote to the Toronto Globe, “they have never had a commanding officer, as Col. Hagarty was only in name.” According to Private Lawrence Earl Johns of the 161st Battalion, the men despised the collegiate principal as an inept leader and hypocrite. While Hagarty preached temperance, many of the men alleged that he was a “whiskey soak.”

One year after their son’s death, Hagarty and his wife erected a memorial tablet at Harbord Collegiate. In summer 1919, they traveled to Flanders in search of their son’s grave. After locating the marker, Hagarty complimented the work of grave labour units: “Thousands of bodies are being found which no one ever expected would be found again.” The retired principal died in Oakville on 2 March 1943.

Image: Unveiling of War Memorial at Harbord Collegiate, 1921

Digitized Service File (LAC):

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