This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two.
Perth Legion President Eric Devlin gave more than 42 years of military service to his country at various times in the previous century. He served in the Canadian Army during World War Two, as well as in Japan, Korea, Germany, and with the Canadian Army in Active, Special Force, and Regular categories. Deployments included Indo-China with the International Commission for Supervision and Control, and Canadian Armed Forces Regular and Reserve, including Supplementary List, Primary Reserve, and Cadet Instructor List.
That in itself is remarkable, but Devlin never intended to fade away with rocking chair and slippers after his military career was over. At age 96 he is still going strong. In keeping with his personal policy, “when you leave town and come back, you put something back into the community,” he is still on two town committees, namely McMartin House and the Recreation Advisory Panel, after having served on Perth Town Council for many years. From 1989 to 1991 he was chair of the police committee, and for the following 20 years was on the Police Services Board after it was formed in 1991.
Born in Drummond Township on Dec. 1, 1920, to Joseph Henry Devlin and Mabel May Whyte, the family lived in a house on what was then known as the Second concession of Drummond Township, about four miles east of Perth. Great grandfather William Allen Devlin came over from County Wexford, Ireland in 1819, three years after the Military Settlement in Perth was founded, making a home for his family on the Fourth Concession of Drummond.
In 1921 the Devlin family moved to Perth when father Joseph Henry became first a Children’s Aid Inspector, and a member of Town Council, and then a Division Court Clerk and Justice of the Peace in the 1930’s. Young Eric attended Perth Collegiate Institute (PCI) from 1933 to 1940 inclusive.
Marilyn Walker Devlin recently recalled her husband’s musings during the 2016 Grey Cup football game: “As we watch the pre-game Eric reminisces about using his money earned from delivering papers to buy a ticket for himself for the 1939 Grey Cup game in Ottawa. He earned $3.25 a week. He was 19. He saved $2.00 from every pay. He hitchhiked from Perth to Ottawa to buy the ticket at the gate. He thinks the ticket cost him $10.00.”
Devlin enrolled in the Royal Canadian Artillery (25 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, 9th LAA Regiment, RCA) of the Canadian Army in May, 1942 with basic training at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa, followed by a posting to Petawawa that July. He served with the Regiment in Vancouver, Port Alberni, Wainwright, Terrace, Vernon, Nanaimo, and Wainwright, then posted to Officers Training Centre in Aldershot, Nova Scotia. At Aldershot he was known as “Doubling Devlin,” as he had a penchant for pushing his platoon to high fitness levels by using the double time march during training. An Infantry Training Battalion posting to Peterborough took place in October, 1945, and Devlin then attended a Sports Instructor Course in Kingston, Ontario in January, 1946. After a stint with The Royal Canadian Regiment in Brockville starting in March, 1946, he was released from service in late July, 1946.
Following World War Two, Devlin bided his time as a farm worker for short time during harvest season near Yorkton, Saskatchewan, then returned to Perth due to the illness of his father. In January 1947, he obtained employment in the Credit Department of Andrew Jergens Co. Ltd. He also assumed the local positions of his father temporarily, until his father died in April, 1948. In The Perth Courier of May 1, 1947, the following appeared in a column titled “Rollin’ Around” (roller skating): “There is a great deal of talent among these young people, and you can bet that they’ll get all the help they need to develop it. Already there are two or three dance teams forming who show real promise. Eric Devlin and Joan Barrie show all the earmarks of being real skaters, and both are putting their minds on the steps, as they are done correctly.”
Devlin then resigned from Andrew Jergens and was confirmed in the positions for the Ontario Attorney-General appointments of Justice of the Peace, Division Court Clerk, and Bailiff, and Sheriff’s Officer in Perth until October 1950.
“As a result of the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in June, 1950, and the announcement of Canada’s participation in August, I volunteered by mail through channels, for service with 25th Special Force Brigade of the Canadian Army,” said Devlin. He managed to see his sister married before going off to another war, as indicated by this notice in The Perth Courier of July 20, 1950: “A pretty wedding ceremony was held in the garden of Eric H. Devlin recently, when his sister, Helen Noreen, became the bride of F.L. Donald Evan Cameron, R.C.A.F. Mrs. Cameron’s parents are the late Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Devlin of Perth and the groom is the son of the late Dr. D.R. Cameron and Mrs. Cameron of Ottawa.”
Another newspaper article dated Nov.15, 1951, mentions that: “Mr. Ivan K. Penfold of Perth has been officially appointed Clerk and Bailiff of the First Division Court of the County of Lanark by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor under the division Court Act. Mr. Penfold has been acting in this capacity for the past year plus the duties of the Justice of the Peace. He succeeded Mr. Eric Devlin in these positions and the appointment was only temporary. This official release verifies the investiture.” Of course Devlin left those positions to re-enlist in the Canadian Army, answering the call to service yet again because of the War in Korea.
These are a few insights into the early and military years of Eric Devlin’s life, and will continue in the next edition with the Korean War years and civilian life.