Ridout Row: Ancestral home of CF learning
KINGSTON, Ont. — More than 100 people gathered May 30 at Canadian Defence Academy (CDA) HQ on the historic grounds of Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the piece of Canadian military heritage known as “Ridout Row”. The award-winning heritage building, now home to CDA HQ, has served as living quarters for non-commissioned officers, RMC staff and Canadian Women's Army Corp officers.
Major-General Daniel Gosselin, CDA Commander, presided over the commemoration ceremony. “This historic treasure, built to house those serving Canada’s first military learners,” he said, “is today home to those who serve the entire CF learning community.”
Ridout Row was named after Captain Joseph Bramley Ridout, first Captain of Cadets at RMC from 1876 to 1882 and son of the Assistant Commissary-General during the War of 1812. Initially, the row comprised old cottages, family houses built along two terraces with an outdoor courtyard.
One of Ridout Row’s first residents was Thomas “Jock” Mackenzie, a retired Seaforth Highlanders sergeant-major who won the Meritorious Service Medal, and whose 23-year RMC career as “Head Chief Servant” began just as Canadian organized hockey was being born in Kingston. The MacKenzie family moved into Ridout Row with their four-year-old daughter, Margaret, in 1889. Her daughter, Maudie, was born and raised there, and moved into the new building with her husband, Delmar Cherry. Their son, Don Cherry, went on to become Canada’s iconic hockey celebrity – and a staunch CF supporter, as he made very clear at the commemoration ceremony.
“I have a photo of Sergeant-Major Jock MacKenzie here, wearing a top hat all adorned with roses, so maybe that’s where I get my flare for fashion,” Mr. Cherry said. “But, you know, I’m so proud of all the CF, and I get letters from troops all the time from Afghanistan and all over, and I appreciate every single one of them. To me, these folks are the greatest.”
In 2003, then-Defence Minister John McCallum announced a $6.9 million project to renovate Ridout Row, creating modern office and conference facilities for the CDA which was formally stood up in 2004 to manage all learning and professional development within the CF. Ridout Row’s courtyard was converted to a glass-encased mezzanine with a sunlit concourse joining its terraces under one roof, and in 2005 RMC received the Frontenac Heritage Foundation Award for the work.
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