Hart Devenney: His Early Years

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The following article was researched and written by Richard Devenney. More contributors.

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Hart Devenney: His Early Years (1903-1923)

Researched and written by Richard Devenney © R. A. B. Devenney on February 16, 2008

On July 8, 1903, Hartland Morrison Devenney was born, at his family’s wood frame home, in the small community of Buckingham, Québec. The ‘mill-town’ of Buckingham still exists today on the north side of the Ottawa River, some 50 kilometres or so, more or less due east of Ottawa.

“Hart” Devenney, as he was known throughout his adult life, was the first child of the marriage of Samuel David Devenney and Ida Georgina Morrison, who had married in 1901. Hart thus had a mixture of Irish and Scots parental heritage of which both had come to Canada nearly 100 years before. In time, he became the older brother of Allan Devenney (1905), also born in Buckingham, and of sister Marguerite Devenney, called “Peggy” (1910). Peggy was born in Ottawa. Following a violent industrial-union dispute at the lumber mill located outside the community of Buckingham in the fall of 1906, Hart’s family left the town in the spring of 1907 for the greener prospects to be found in the capital city of Canada. The family home then became a brick and stone house at 269 Flora Street in Ottawa, a structure that stands today.

The family was never of substantial financial means as Sam Devenney, Hart’s father, was only ever known as a “carpenter” or “lumberman” and later a “delivery man” for a large bakery company. His mother Ida was a teacher. The family must have been frugal with their resources, and it is known they also let rooms in their home to tenants from time to time according to family records.

Hart attended public school in Ottawa - at the Glashan School - no doubt assisted by some home schooling from his mother who, as mentioned, was also a teacher. He then followed on to achieve his junior and senior matriculation at the Ottawa Collegiate Institute (which later became known as ‘Lisgar Collegiate’). It is and was a venerable and notable institution with a long history beginning in the early years of the 19th century. Prior students who had attended at OCI had included Dr. James Naismith and Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, both noted physical educators and physicians.

At OCI, Hart had an active sports career notwithstanding his small personal physical stature by today’s standards - growing to only 5’7” as his full adult height. A small silver cup from OCI dated 1920, when he was just about to turn 17, stipulates that he had won the school’s overall “85 lb. Championship”. During those years he was an active participant on the OCI “Gymnasium Team” for 3 years, plus involvement in basketball, track, soccer and a variety of other sports.

By the spring of 1923, he graduated from OCI, yet there was a year gap before Hart decided and finalized his plans about his next important step. This may well have been a period in which he finally came to the conclusion he should indeed attend the well-noted YMCA College at Springfield, Massachusetts, where Dr. Naismith had famously invented the game of basketball in 1891. At that institution Hart could really study the theoretical underpinnings of the value of physical education and recreation.

Once he made that decision, he would have had to take all steps to obtain the necessary application papers and references, completing and submitting them, and receiving his admission. He was not the first, but one of the early few Canadians interested in physical education and recreation at the College deciding to do so. This ‘spare’year may have also been a period when he obtained his Senior Diploma at the Dominion College of Music, a recognition that his personal papers indicate that he earned. These were the times of the splendid Summer Olympic Games of 1924 in Paris.