Neil and television

October 13, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book – The Lines Are Still Blazing – will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

Photograph of the McKenty Live set while Neil interviews Dr. Ruth


Early years

October 11, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book – The Lines Are Still Blazing – will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

A photograph of Neil from the 1940’s


Neil and this blog

October 10, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book – The Lines Are Still Blazing – will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:


All his life, Neil was a news junkie and in his role as editorial director of CJAD he would read all the newspapers of the day looking for subjects upon which to write editorials for broadcasting on air. For the rest of his life this was a habit that would continue. The internet expanded his reach, adding the New York Times, The Huffington Post, and the Washington Post to his reading list. And then Neil hit upon starting his own blog which took off with a bang and quickly drew a band of dedicated readers (in his words a ‘merry band of bloggers’).

Top ten postings :
A writing query 929
Most visits in one day    <800 hits

The image below is the wordmaze produced by subjects discussed on Neil’s blog



After Neil’s death in 2012, a group of his friends, including his wife Catharine, decided to maintain the blog and add archival radio and television clips to it to this very day.

Neil and radio

October 9, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

CJAD tribute to Neil

Neil McKenty


He’s got the whole town talking – and no wonder! His EXCHANGE with listeners is always lively and informed. Neil’s nightly editorials are formidable and thought provoking.

Neil was a seasoned academic and author before he became a broadcaster. He brought to CJAD an M.A. in Canadian History from the University of Toronto and an M.A. in Communications Arts from the University of Michigan.

A political writer of stature, he is well known for his book, Mitch Hepbum, which won the University of British Columbia medal for the best political biography published in Canada in 1967.

Neil’s vast knowledge, his sensitivity to the issues and to people, and his sharp wit were deve loped as a teacher of Canadian History and English. He brings it together every day on CJAD.

Off the air, Neil loves to walk, explore Montreal on his bicycle and to talk to people.

His appetite for reading is enormous and he devours information.
You are just as likely to find him at Place des Arts or a rock
concert or dancing in a disco. Neil loves life and people.

Less known is Neil’s charitable work. He was Executive
Director of the Harry E. Foster charitable
foundation specializing in work with retarded children.
The Foundation worked with the NHL to
introduce floor hockey for the mentally-challenged in Canada
and Neil helped to get the Special Olympics organized.

Neil is always one of CJAD’s prime motivators in
Public Service projects. He and his wife Catherine always
find room to do a little bit more.

Neil has been Director of, Public Affairs at CJAD since 1972.

CJAD promotional copy

Reading and writing

October 8, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:


Neil took many courses in his retirement. Here he discusses taking a course with family friend Clare Hallward.
Sometimes with the Hallwards — and I do mean all the Hallwards young and older – you get more than you bargained for. Take, Clare, for example. At first glance you wouldn’t think Clare Hallward is an intimidating person. I’ve known Clare Hallward for a quarter of a century and I know, for a fact, that she doesn’t think she’s intimidating. Well, I’d advise you to take a second glance. Because if you don’t you might just find yourself on a banana peel or in the ditch.
Because that’s where I found myself – sliding on a banana peel into the ditch – after I signed up for a course at the Thomas More Institute. I knew Clare was also in the course which was one of the reasons I signed up. I thought she would be fun to be with in a course — you know, provocative and stimulating. And indeed she was. But, you know something. You can overdose on stimulation.
Let me explain what I mean. The course Clare and were taking together involved reading a series of biographies. Perhaps you think this was child’s play. Let me assure you it wasn’t. The biography on Dickens alone was twelve hundred pages long with a hundred pages or so of footnotes. As I told Clare and everybody else in the class when I finished this opus I knew more about Charles Dickens than I knew about my wife.
But do you think this was enough for Clare. Not on your life. I staggered into the weekly session having just finished the required reading of three hundred pages or so only to find Clare at her place with the Dickens biography (several times the size of a telephone directory) on the table in front of her and beside that a pile of other documents relating to Dickens that she had scrounged out, read a now threw into the discussion. She had found an obscure review called the Groundhog Literary Journal published once every four years in Red Deer, Alberta. How do you think the rest of us felt? As though we had brought pork and beans to a pot-luck supper and Clare walked in with champagne and caviar.
This feeling reached its apogee when we came to the biography of the tragic American writer, Sylvia Plath. The moderators assigned us one of the latest Plath biographies to read. I was determined to do a good job. I read the book carefully, made meticulous notes, marshalled my arguments and strode into the seminar room smiling inwardly with a good feeling of being well prepared to contribute to the discussion. This feeling didn’t last long. I was soon enlightened. Shortly after the discussion began I learned six biographies had been written on Plath. Not only that, Clare had rounded them up and read them all. Not only that  I could plainly see all six were laid out neatly in front of her place and she began, with erudition and good humour, to compare the five I hadn’t read to the one I had. How did I feel? Well, as though I had put on my very best suit for a party and just after I arrived at the party my pants fell down.
Would I sign up for another course with Clare? You bet your boots I would. But first I would see my optometrist and get a set of trifocals.

Neil and politics

October 7, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

This page from Toronto Star in 1965 catches Neil at a political rally with Diefenbaker.

Network Scan Data

Neil and television

October 6, 2014

Details of the forthcoming book will be released soon. In the meantime, to whet the appetite:

Neil recounts his time on TV

After returning from Ireland in the summer of 1987, where the John Main biography had been launched at Trinity College, I was astonished to receive a telephone call from a senior program producer at CFCF television, Don McGowan, a well-known Montreal television personality in his own right. Over lunch at the garden café of the Ritz-Carlton, McGowan asked me if I would be interested in doing a live talk show on television, a sort of poor man’s Larry King Live. McGowan would provide a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick me up each morning (impressive for the neighbours) and an extensive new wardrobe (a delight for Catharine who never approved of my doing radio in a scruffy T-shirt).

Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and in September 1987, we went on air with Montreal’s first English live call-in television program, McKenty Live. Television is more cumbersome and complicated than radio, but for the next three years I had a lot of fun – the limousine with a bar, telephone and TV set in the back seat; the warmth and soft hands in the make-up room; a small, friendly staff. During the three years we had some remarkable guests: the famous sexologist, Dr. Ruth, who was so tiny she had to sit on a Montreal telephone directory; Canada’s chief negotiator, Louis Reisman, with whom I had a ferocious argument on free trade two days before the federal election; and René Lévesque, the only guest who not only smoked, but offered a cigarette to everyone in the crew. Only a week later, this man whom I liked very much, died of a heart attack. René Lévesque’s last appearance in public might well have been on McKenty Live.

Although I enjoyed McKenty Live and my associates on the program, Daniel Freedman, Wendy Helfenbaum and Bernie Peissel, at the end of the third season, I decided to leave the program. My reasoning was: I would be repeating programs we had already done; some of my associates were being changed; I wanted to do some more writing, perhaps a book on Catharine’s grandfather, onetime mayor of Toronto; and both Catharine and I were busy with the Benedictine Priory and meditation. So in June 1990, I left CFCF television.

from the Inside Story.


The Laurentians

October 1, 2014


Catharine writes:

     Last Sunday I spend a magical few hours in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal.  The changing colour of the leaves in the bright sunlight drew families from far and near to St. Sauveur.  At lunch I sat reading a copy  ”Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club”.  Neil and I had to much fun working on that book.  For days our dining room table was piled high with all the information about the Laurentians.

     Neil had an amazing way of boiling down a vast amount of information into a few paragraphs.  He could pluck a metaphor out of thin air the way a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat.  Here is one of what he wrote about the Laurentian Mountains :


More than a billion years ago, a lumbering land mass collided with the Precambrian Shield, squeezing the oceans between.  In this collision, rock buckled and scrunched up like sheets of plasticine crushed at both ends.  Out of this upheaval emerged the mountains we now call the Laurentians, probably as high then as the Rockies are today.

Meanwhile, deep in the belly of the earth, red hot rocks flowed upward under the surface of the continents, splitting them apart and, from this fiery maelstrom, forming a basin for the ancient lapetus Ocean.  About six hundred millions years ago, the waters along its western coast encroached on the subsiding land and the Laurentian stood on the shore of this warm, shallow sea, basking in the tropical temperature.  In these same waters, sediment accumulated that later formed the rock on which Montreal now stands.

After more cycles of collisions and upheavals, about a million years ago, tons of glacial ice formed and flattened the Laurentians.  These ponderously moving glaciers, like great icy balls of steel wool, scraped and gouged the mountains, polishing them down to  the bedrock.

Some 100,000 years ago, these ice caps coalesced to form the Laurentian Ice Sheet, a sea of ice four times as high as Mont-Tremblant. The pressure of this ice weighed on the mountains, smoothing and rounding them into softer bosomy shapes.  Finally, some 12,000 years ago, this sea of ice began to melt and recede.  Slowly out of the steaming mists, the Laurentians emerged, crowned by the majestic Tremblant, much as we see them today.  

As the ice sheets retreated, the climate, warmer than ours is, was able to sustain vegetation, forest of birch and aspen groves, deer, caribou, and small game.  Than after the ages of granite and ice came the first humans to gaze on the rolling purple hills from the top of Tremblant which thy called ”Manitou Ewitchi”, the mountain of the mysterious Manitou, the spirit in all things.

Are you a skier ?

Have you been to the Laurentians ?

Neil with Red Foster

September 19, 2014

Network Scan Data

Ay or Nae?

September 18, 2014

Today is the day the Scots vote on staying or leaving the United Kingdom. From a sluggish start the Yes side has had a late surge in support. Now the polls are neck-in-neck with a very real chance this ancient union will break apart.

Unusually for the British media, Canada has been oft-discussed with much reference to the 1995 Quebec referendum. Michael Ignatieff has been on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today discussing the tactics used to prevent votes in favour of Quebec separation.

For Canadians, it hits home not only with our own separatist movement but also in our history with the major role that Scots played in the construction of Canada, starting with John A. MacDonald. There are over 4 million Canadians with Scottish ancestry.

Do you think Scotland will separate? Do you think there will be an impact on us here in Canada?


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