Kenneth Cowen Morell (Ken) Dalrymple*

Kenneth Cowen Morell (Ken) Dalrymple was a native Montrealer, born August 12, 1909 when his father James Dalrymple was in his 62nd year. Ken's mother, Elsie Edith Pearson - 38 at the time of his birth - was James's second wife.

In Ken's youth, he had jobs such as driving a horse-drawn grocery wagon, skinning eels at the Harbour, and raising rabbits for profit.

Ken also joined the Black Watch in Montreal at an early age; his father had been involved in that regiment. One of the other men in the regiment at the time was a chap by the name of Neville Cross (son of George L. Cross) - which became important when Ken wanted to successfully meet a beautiful young woman who turned out to be Neville's younger sister, Wendy Cross; she worked in the Sun Life building on Dominion Square, as did Ken.

A self-made man who had only a grade 10 formal education, Ken had married Wendy secretly in 1934, as she was working and married women were not supposed to work during the Depression. When WWII began, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Too "old" to fly anything other than a desk, he held several administrative positions during his tenure from April 1940 to July 1945.

In 1941, Ken and Wendy drove west to Dafoe, Saskatchewan, where Ken was posted as an RCAF training instructor. Married officers could not live on the base, instead having separate "married quarters" nearby. These turned out to be not much more than wooden huts in the middle of a field. They had no water or other utilities; Wendy had to walk a long way to a farm, under the hot prairie sun, to get water and carry it back to their tiny home. But they were together. (Photo: Officers' Quarters - Dafoe, Sask. 1941. Collection: Lesley Dalrymple O'Neil)

Luckily for Wendy, they soon moved back to Toronto, where Ken was an instructor at #6 Initial Training School, on the campus of what is now Ryerson University. He had the unenviable task of training many newly-enlisted doctors to march properly, and led numerous parades through downtown Toronto during this process. (Many of the medical men remained his friends after the end of the war.)

In August of 1942, Ken obtained a four-day leave of absence so he could return from Toronto to Montreal for the birth of his and Wendy's only child, daughter Lesley Dalrymple. Lesley and her mother were living with Wendy's brother Neville Cross, his wife Florence, and their young daughter Joan Cross during and after the birth. 

(Photo: Ken Dalrymple in uniform holding Lesley in '42 before he shipped overseas. He was able to get a couple of days leave to say "hello" to me. Collection : Lesley Dalrymple O'Neil)

In late November 1943, Ken was shipped to England, taking over administrative positions on loan to the Royal Air Force (RAF), including administrator of Tholthorpe bomber base in Yorkshire. He wrote dozens of letters home to Wendy, the love of his life, but had consideration for others as well. Ken somehow arranged gingham curtains for the windows in the women's barracks, which earned him their enduring loyalty. He also usually ate in his quarters, rather than in the mess, as he did not want to witness (and therefore be duty-bound to report) some of the antics of airmen who may be leaving on the final mission of their lives the next morning.

Other incidents included his being literally blown out of bed (uninjured, luckily) in a hotel in Bournemouth in 1944, when some sort of shell dropped nearby. (In 1955, Ken took his small family on a trip to England, and for sentimental reasons they stayed in that same hotel. The remains of trenches were still visible in the Bournemouth beach.)

Ken returned to Canada in late June 1944, and retired his commission of Squadron Leader in July 1945.

(Photo: Ken and Wendy on St. Catherine Street, Montreal, 1938. Collection: Lesley Dalrymple O'Neil)

He worked his way up through the ranks of Sun Life Assurance next, first in Montreal, then in Toronto, and becoming branch manager in Peterborough, Ontario in 1949. He held many positions of local note in Peterborough, including president of the Rotary Club and founder of the Air Cadets in that city.

Later in life, he opened his own general insurance agency, and he and Wendy followed their daughter and her husband to Edmonton in 1979. There, he worked at his own pace until the age of 82, and continued a serious interest in Canadian politics, including Meech Lake.

Ken died March 6th 1998 in Edmonton, Alberta, after suffering a minor stoke and complications. He is memorialized on the Dalrymple family plot, in Mount Royal Cemetery, which was purchased by his grandfather Robert Dalrymple sometime in the mid-1800s.

(Photo: Kenneth Cowen Morell (Ken) Dalrymple 1984. Collection: Lesley Dalrymple O'Neil)

By: Lesley (Dalrymple) O'Neil, August, 2002

*Researching Kenneth Cowen Morrell Dalrymple.......Lesley Dalrymple O'Neil (daughter)

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