'Whistler's Father': The Life and Times of Andrew Sidney Dawes in Canadian Post-World War II Olympic Affairs

By Pound, Richard W.; Paton, Garth A. | Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

'Whistler's Father': The Life and Times of Andrew Sidney Dawes in Canadian Post-World War II Olympic Affairs


Pound, Richard W., Paton, Garth A., Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies


Since its first appearance in the indifferently organized Olympic Games of 1904 (which followed poorly organized Games in Paris in 1900, an unfortunate combination which led to the hastily but better organized 1906 intercalated Games in Athens), Canada has been a regular participant, showing occasional sparkle in the Summer Games and considerable muscle in the Olympic Winter Games. Until the World War I the organization of sport in Canada evolved from its trappings inherited from the founding British military traditions. Following the War this tradition was slowly eroded, effecting a transition influenced greatly by geographical and cultural proximity to its southern neighbor--the United States. A central figure in this transition was Andrew Sidney Dawes, a decorated World War I officer and corporate leader from Montreal, who was first recruited into sport at the national level by the skiing federation, later by the Canadian Olympic community at large, and finally by the International Olympic Committee, on which he served for more than twenty years.

Dawes was born in Lachine, Quebec on December 5, 1888, son of Presbyterians James Powley Dawes and Gertrude J. Brock. The family was financially well-off, thanks to his grandfather, who founded Dawes Brewery, one of the major breweries in the Montreal area. (1) He would have been less than a year old when Pierre de Coubertin toured the Eastern United States, Toronto (University of Toronto) Montreal (McGill University and l'Universite de Montreal) and Quebec (Laval University) in the late summer and fall of 1889 in search of educational and sport models. This was an initiative that would culminate in the 1894 Congress at the Sorbonne in Paris and the establishment of the International Olympic Committee, of which Dawes would become a member in his fifty-ninth year.

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Little is known of Dawes' early schooling, other than that he attended St. Albans School and the High School of Montreal before enrolling at McGill University in the Faculty of Arts and Science, from which institution he was graduated in 1910 with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Engineering. It does seem clear that he got an early start with skiing, initially on the not particularly challenging slopes of Mount Royal, igniting an interest in skiing that would stay with him for the rest of his life and eventually lead him to the pinnacle of international sports administration. Upon his graduation from McGill, he worked initially as an apprentice for The Canadian Westinghouse Company. In 1913 he joined the Atlas Construction Company, one of the foremost construction companies in Eastern Canada.

When World War I erupted, he joined the Royal Canadian Artillery, receiving a commission as Lieutenant in the 21st Battery. He was sent overseas as part of the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force (under overall British command, given Canada's constitutional status at the time). While in the trenches at Ypres, France, on 22 May 1916 he was wounded by shrapnel in the upper left arm. After hospital treatment in London, (2) he was granted leave to return to Montreal to recover, following which he returned to active duty in France in October 1916. In October, too, he was awarded the Military Cross. (3) On 12 April 1917, he was promoted to Temporary Captain. He was wounded a second time, again in the left arm, on 2 November 1917. He was given a field promotion to Major on 5 March 1918 and held that rank until his demobilization, sailing from Liverpool on the S.S. Lapland on 3 April 1919 and landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia a week later.

Following his discharge from the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Dawes returned to Atlas Construction in 1919 and by 1925 had become its president, holding that office until 1956, when he became Chairman of its Board of Directors, a position he occupied until his death in 1968. …

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