Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lennox, M.P.P.
208th (Irish Fusiliers) Battalion
It is hard to think that we must make this sacrifice to help the slackers to get a higher education. Any of my men are willing, and I am willing, to go and die for those who cannot go, but I would hate like the dickens to go and die for the fellow with the creased trousers and silk stockings.
(Lennox, Toronto Star, 6 Nov 1916, 4.)
Thomas Herbert Lennox was the Conservative member of the Ontario legislature for York North from 1905 to 1923. Born on 7 April 1869 in Simcoe County, Ontario, to an Irish immigrant father, Lennox was proud of his ancestry and a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 643.
A keen sportsman, Lennox was a player of lacrosse and president of Canadian Lacrosse Association in the late 1890s. He was also active in military affairs as a member of the 12th York Rangers, the Governor General’s bodyguard and the 110th (Irish) Regiment.
In the context of the spring 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, Lennox hoped the 208th Irish Fusiliers would help in “harmonizing the two elements.” He wrote to Prime Minister Borden:
My Battalion is composed of Protestants and Roman Catholics and I I am delighted to be able to tell you that the very warmest feelings exist among these men. Religion is never discussed, in fact we know no man’s religion in the battalion…
At a recruitment event in November 1916, Lennox praised his volunteers but pointed out the majority were working-class labourers such as my great-grand uncle, George William Barrett. By contrast, the Ontario MPP denounced those who had not signed up, particularly University of Toronto students, disparaging them “pink tea gentlemen.” He further called on the Ontario government to shut down the city universities for the course of the war.
Anticipating the coming of conscription, Lennox warned, “Take it from me, if you don’t come willing, you will be forced to come some other way.” The 208th sailed for England in May 1917. One month later, 15th Battalion veteran, Major Willard Park Malone, replaced Lennox.
Lennox remained in the Ontario legislature until 1925, when he ran in the federal election and defeated Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in the riding of York North. In Parliament he advocated for a more generous pension policy, arguing:
…the veterans of this country are not looking for assistance nor are they asking for charity; they are asking that they be indemnified for the loss which they sustained by reason of going to the front to protect this country.
Lennox died in office on 3 May 1934.