Triumphs Over Death - G. J. McLellan

G. J. McLellan

Other Scholars in St. Dunstan's College


G.J. McLellan (1876-1964)

Rev. Dr. Gregory James McLellan was born 24 April 1876 in St. George’s, Prince Edward Island. He was born to Nancy Ann McIntyre and Donald McLellan. He had six siblings Roderick James, Peter D., Flora Ann, John Andrew, Angus D., Pius James. All of the children attended St. George’s Public School.

Rev. McLellan would continue his education at Prince of Wales College. He would obtain his teaching license and teach in the public schools, before he entered Saint Dunstan’s College in 1896. After graduating in 1899, he continued his education at the Grand Seminary of Laval University in Quebec City, where he obtained his Doctorate in Divinity, and was subsequently ordained on 17 May 1903. Following his ordination, he returned to the Island and was promptly given a three-year contract to teach philosophy at Saint Dunstan’s College. This was the beginning of a long relationship between Rev. McLellan and Saint Dunstan’s.

After his teaching contract, he was appointed to be Rector of Saint Dunstan’s Cathedral by Bishop Charles MacDonald. During his time as Rector of the Cathedral, he would be described as “A man of good intellectual ability, good judgment and common sense, good tact, of most exemplary priestly conduct, a persona grata in the Cathedral city and honest in matters of ecclesiastical policy.” (MacCormac p. 32)

After eight years as Rector of Saint Dunstan’s Cathedral, Rev. McLellan was appointed Rector of Saint Dunstan’s College in September 1915. His time as Rector of Saint Dunstan’s College would prove to be extremely fruitful, for himself and Saint Dunstan's. He was responsible, with the help of his older brother and politician Roderick, for creating the charter that turned Saint Dunstan’s College into Saint Dunstan’s University in 1917. He would also be responsible for doubling enrolment and for overseeing the construction of Dalton Hall. Rev. McLellan was a strong believer in the notion that everyone deserved to be educated, regardless of their socioeconomic status. In his speech, given at the Saint Dunstan’s convocation in May 1916, he said:

The greatest good which we can receive here is the development and perfection of our superior faculties or a true education. This is unquestionably nature’s greatest bounty and there should be equality of opportunity so as to render it accessible to all…(MacCormac pg. 55).

His Rectorship ended in 1923 when he was appointed the pastor of St. Simon and St. Jude in Tignish, PEI. However, he remained involved with the University's growth well into his senior years.

Rev. McLellan continued his passion for educating in Tignish. He was instrumental in building the Dalton School for Boys in 1930. It would remain open until 1979, with the completion of Westisle Composite High School. His time in Tignish would also give him a quick brush with politics, as he was crucial in Cyrus MacMillan becoming the first Minister of Fisheries in 1930.

In 1931, Rev. McLellan was appointed to be the pastor of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, in Summerside, PEI. Four years after this appointment, he would be promoted to the dignity of Prothonotary Apostolic, an honourary title conferred by the Pope.

In 1958, Rev. McLellan began a long battle with illness. He died eight years later, on 27 January 1964. During the time he was sick, he would be one of the first to receive an honorary law degree from Saint Dunstan’s University in 1961. He was remembered fondly:

“To those who knew Monsignor McLellan best they stated that he: Carried the same zeal and enthusiasm into his pastoral and other duties, and won the esteem and affection of all classes by his breadth of knowledge and understanding, by his friendliness, his warmth of personality, and his devotion at all times to the responsibilities of this high calling….If there is a word more than any other which describes the feeling that his parishioners held for him—and this was true of many people of other faiths who knew him well—the word was respect. He was universally respected for his learning and his mental capacities, for the strength of his faith, for his integrity and his stern sense of duty.” (MacCormac pg. 96)

The PEI Provenance Collection book, The Triumph's Over Death, by The Ven. Robert Southwell, S.J., includes G.J. McLellan's signature, the date June 17, 1914, and a “St. Dunstan's College Library from Books Donated by G.J. McLellan" bookplate.

Other G.J. McLellan books in the UPEI Provenance Collection:

MacDonald, Alexander. Questions of the Day: Thoughts on the Biblical Question. New York: Christian Press Association Pub., 1905. [G.J. McLellan signature]

Procter, Adelaide Anne. The poems of Adelaide A. Procter. New York: Crowell, 1903. [Signed as a gift to Frank McQuaid from G.J. McLellan.]


1881 Census of Canada. Census Place: Lot 54, Kings, Prince Edward Island; Roll:
C_13164; Page: 13; Family No: 55

1891 Census of Canada. Census Place: Lot 54, Kings, Prince Edward Island; Roll:
T-6382; Family No: 86

1901 Census of Canada. Census Place: Lot (township/canton) 54, Kings, Prince
Edward Island; Page: 8; Family No: 65

MacCormac, Megan Elizabeth. “Build for the Future!” The Educational Biography of the Very
Right Reverence Doctor Monsignor Gregory J. McLellan.
PhD diss., Acadia, 2013.

McLellan, Gregory. 1916. “St. Dunstan’s Convocation Exercises Address by the Rector” Speech, St. Dunstan’s College. May 1916.

“Msgr. McLellan Dies At Age 87." The Guardian (Charlottetown), 28 January 1964, p.1. Retrieved from Island Newspapers. Accessed June 27, 2016.

“Prince Edward Island Baptism Card Index, 1721-1885," database with images, FamilySearch, Donald McLellan in entry for Gregory J Mclellan, 25 Apr 1876; (accessed 12 December 2017) citing p. 76, volume 2, Prince Edward Island, Public Archives, Charlottetown; FHL microfilm 1,487,763.

“SDU To Confer Three Honorary Doctorates." Red and White. 10 May 1910, p.1. Accessed June 27, 2016.


Photo courtesy of SDU Digital Archive. Class of 1905. Identifier: sdu:52

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