Archive for the ‘New Neil book’ Category

BLAST FROM THE PAST

December 6, 2017

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For yet another rare occasion, we see Neil from a different angle, on the other side of the microphone discussing his early life with Dennis Trudeau for the show Sunday Night.

Aired on 13/04/97

RADIO WAVES

October 2, 2017

 

Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.

NM001

Neil takes another call

Here is one of Neil’s daily episode of Exchange talking about Canadian psyche.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

September 12, 2017

A passage from Neil’s book: Neil McKenty Live!  The Lines Are Still Blazing.

Appendix

Earlier Years

Neil’s first speech given when he was nine years old

WHEN GRANDDAD WAS A BOY

I don’t see why the power has to go off just when we are listening to the last game of the world series.  I was cross and crosser still when Granddad, who was sitting on the porch next to me, began to chuckle.  ”Well, when I was a boy,” he commenced.  All thoughts of baseball and even the most thrilling game of the World Series were forgotten, for I knew that when Granddad began that way I was sure to hear something more interesting.  ”In those days we did not have radios, and not even electricity,” he went on, ”We used candles instead and we had to make them at home.”

”But Grandfather, how do you make candles?  I though you bought them from a store?”

”Well, the tallow was rendered from sheep and beef, poured into metal molds, perhaps a dozen at a time and allowed to harden.  My part of the work began then.  Often when I came home from school, I helped mother undo the knots at the bottom of the molds and pull them out from the top.  There were no flashlights in those days either.  We did the chores by the light of a home-made lantern in which one of those candles was placed.  By the light of those flickering tallow candles we studied our lessons.

We didn’t have the long summer holidays that you have now.  At one time they were only one week, then two weeks, and later they were for three weeks.  I spent mine at home helping with the crops.”

”Bur Grandfather, you work all the time – didn’t you have any fun?”

”Oh yes, but it was different from what you call fun.  We used to sit around the fire in the evenings when someone told stories, most often ghost stories.  There I would sit in the corner, listening and shivering, to creep off to bed as thirsty as I could be, because to run through that awful darkness from the house to the pump was more than I dared.  We all looked forward to getting to the fall fair.  It was one of the most important events of the year, and we certainly wasted no time in seeing that the potatoes were dug by the second week in October to make sure we could go.  We often went to our neighbours  to kelp with the work too, logging, threshing, husking, and woodcutting.  Then there was time for fun when we finished.

In those days we did not use a binder, but cradled the wheat.  Once fall at our farm, five or six men cradled 50 acres.  We had no time to bin the grain, but tied it with a band of the straw.  When the grain was threshed we took it to some of the nearest towns, Peterboro, Colborne and Trenton.  Once I had to take a load of 65 or 70 bushels of grain to market.  There were five or six teams, travelling and going to Brighton.  We got up at two o’clock in the morning because it was a whole day’s journey.  We took along hay to feed the horses as it was such a long trip.  The teams kept coming in from the whole countryside so that by nightfall there were 100 teams in Brighton.  When I went back to look for my team I couldn’t find them, there were so many horses in the barn.  Wen we went to church in those days the whole family went in the wagon for there were no buggies.  The first buggies were used around 1870.  They were rather clumsy, and there weren’t many of them.

”How far did you have to go, and how long did it take, Grandfather?”  I asked.

”It was about two miles and it took a half an hour.”

surely a difference from the few seconds it took me to get to church in my dad’s car, I thought.

”There were no milking machines or separators in those days either,” he went on.  ”We had about 18 or 20 cows at home.  The milk was put in earthen pans and set for the night.  In the morning it was skimmed.  We used dash churns to make the butter and it often took hours before any signs of butter appeared.  Butter was packed in firkins, small wooden tubs made by coopers in the nearby village.

Washing the sheep in the spring was hard work too.  They were sheared and wool rolled in a sheet or blanket, was pinned with thorns and taken to the carding mill in the village.  After that was done the rolls were taken home and the wool was spun into yarn by the women of the household on the spinning wheel.  It was now ready for the weaver, perhaps some local farmer, who had learned the art in the old country.  Then the full cloth and flannels were taken home to be made into clothes.  A tailor would go from house to house, sit on the table , and make the cuts.  Every boy had a new full cloth suit, bound with black braid, to start off to school in the fall.  And a new pair of boots, which were made by hand.  We made our own sleighs too, out of the staves of barrels with pieces of boards to hold them together.  We had just as much fun with them as you do now with a new toboggan.

 To be continued…

NEIL’S RADIO SHOW

July 26, 2017

Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.

The Lines Are Still Blazing!

On the program today, Neil chats with Barbara Matuson, author of the book The Evening Stars, and the live callers.

Tuesday Writing Conversation: John Main

June 13, 2017

 

From the forthcoming new edition of In The Stillness Dancing – The Journey of John Main this is chapter 3.

 

3. Special Communications Unit No. 4

During his school years Douglas Main did well in English and he liked writing. So it was natural that he should apply for a position on the Hornsey Journal, a suburban newspaper, located in the area where the Main family lived in north London. He was accepted and began his journalistic career in July 1942. In his wallet was a journalistic pass number, 23. Unfortunately, his duties were not very significant. The reason was not lack of enthusiasm on his part, but that the war had reduced the paper’s impact. For security reasons, the Hornsey Journal had no mast-head, and for the same reasons there were no signed stories or by-lines.

Still, Douglas managed to keep busy. As a junior reporter he covered the local courts, council meetings and social events. If the occasion called for it, he was not above a little journalistic licence. Clearly, the wedding of his older sister, Kitty, in August 1942, called for it. Douglas described the wedding lavishly, listed the bridal gifts, then added half as many again for good measure. He was also generous in other ways. With his first week’s pay from the Journal, Douglas bought his friend, Diana Ernaelsteen, a second-hand bicycle. She describes the scene, ‘I could see Douglas wheeling the bicycle up the road. It was in good condition. I was eight years old and Douglas promptly taught me to ride it over the week-end.’ Besides the Ernaelsteens, one other stop for Douglas was the local church, St Peter-in-Chains, Stroud Green. Douglas was checking on church news for his paper but he often stayed to chat with the pastor, Canon Aloysius Smith. The parish was staffed by the Canons Regular of the Lateran, a group that would later affect Douglas’ longer journey.

Besides his work at the Hornsey Journal, Douglas was also involved with his family on the war’s home front. The danger to their home life at 108 Muswell Hill Road was real enough. All the windows had been blown in by bombs dropping nearby. The church just up the hill had been set on fire by German bombers. Eileen Main was in charge of the red alarm-box located in their home. Their father, David, was a fire warden. Douglas and his sisters were all fire-watchers. During severe raids, Eileen would shepherd everyone onto mattresses under the heavy dining-room table.

Presently the war became more demanding for Douglas. Call-ups were becoming more numerous, so in the spring of 1943 he left the Hornsey Journal and took a course as a wireless operator. Then on 13 December 1943, he enlisted at Barnet, Hertfordshire, not far from his home, in the Royal Corps of Signals. He was then nearly 18 years old, and his russet- coloured ‘Soldier’s Service and Pay Book’ described him as 6 feet, l3/4 inches tall, weighing 145 lbs, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He wrote down his trade as a ‘student journalist’.

Douglas (John Main) in 1949 with his niece Anne-Marie Stanley

At this time, Douglas’s knowledge of the Morse code (some of it learned from his father, David) and the wireless course he had taken gave him a leg up in the Royal Signals. He was sent almost immediately to a training station in Kent. There he spent most of 1944 with his unit (Special Communications Unit Number 3) perfecting the sensitive skills required to recognize and retrieve enemy signals. He was never far from home and his family. That summer David Main had rented a house in Sussex. As the holiday time approached David sent his son a telegram. It read: ‘Tell your C.O. to let you home for the week-end for a family gathering or you will be our missing link. Your Daddy.’ The sergeant read the tele­gram to the troops in a booming voice, stressing the words, ‘Your Daddy’. Douglas William Victor Main of the Royal Signals was not amused.

In the autumn of 1944 another group (Special Communi­cations Unit Number 4) was formed for more specialized intelligence work overseas. The unit embarked for the Euro­pean theatre of war in mid-January 1945. S.C.U.4 was a mobile communications unit that included several ambulances containing wireless equipment for both receiving and sending messages. The unit proceeded overseas by landing craft to the port of Ostend. They then moved on to establish a listening base near Brussels.

The intelligence work itself was demanding but not specially dangerous (except for the occasional buzz-bomb). Primarily Douglas and the other ‘special enlistment’ were searching for hostile signals, especially the signals of enemy agents, some of whom were left behind the lines of the rapid Allied advance toward the Rhine. The knack was to pluck the correct signal out of the air, often cluttered with hundreds of signals criss-crossing like tracer bullets. Douglas would sit at a bank of receivers, one to monitor the sender, the other the receptor of enemy signals. (To confuse matters further the signals sometimes emanated from friendly agents.

Of course, there was help to penetrate the confusion. Normally Douglas and his fellow operators would receive a schedule of the special frequencies to monitor on a given day. But if they had no assigned frequencies, they searched for specified enemy signals. This demanded acute attention. Sometimes the listener-operator would recognize the appropriate signal by the manner in which the enemy operator pounded the keys. A secondary task involved locating enemy transmissions by D/F (directional finding). Bearings would be taken on the enemy transmitter from two or more intercept stations. Then the transmitter could often be located, at least in a general area, and its subsequent movements traced. Sometimes the Germans alone had as many as 4,000 messages in the air daily. These were normally transmitted in a variety of codes and ciphers, the most well-known being the complex Enigma, first broken, unknown to the Germans, in 1940. The undeciphered messages, whether from Enigma or other enemy ciphers and codes, usually ended up in a place called Bletchley Park. Located about 50 miles from London, Bletchley Park became the nerve centre for receiving, deciphering, re-encoding and disseminating information from the enemy intelligence system to Allied commanders in every theatre of the war. This information was one of the decisive factors in the eventual victory.

In spite of the pressure of their intelligence work, Douglas and his friends, especially Harry Spendiff and Tudor Jones, had their moments of leisure. Harry Spendiff was an older man. He had enlisted as a policeman from Newcastle-on- Tyne. He liked Douglas and, to some extent, took him under his wing: ‘Doug was a hell of a nice fellow, bright, out of the ordinary and definitely officer class.’ Douglas also spent a lot of time with Tudor Jones, a shy and retiring soldier from Wales. Jones taught Douglas how to swim and dive and, at Douglas’s insistence, they visited almost every church they passed so that Douglas could take a picture. Occasionally they spent a short leave in Brussels or dropped into a bar in Assche for a drink and a visit with a friendly young woman bar-tender. They also got to know and like a hair-dresser of English background in Assche to whom they took cigarettes. Tudor Jones remembers Douglas telling her he would like to become a priest.

Whatever the future held, Douglas did not like army life. He saw the war as something to be endured. He obeyed military discipline because he realized that was the way to endure it with the least inconvenience. He certainly did not relish army food, he did not appreciate the rigmarole of mili­tary regulations and he did not like some of his officers (Harry Spendiff characterized one of them as ‘a real bastard’). Still, Douglas made some good friends in the army, many of whom he tried to stay in contact with after the war. And he had fun writing poems for his mates. These lines describe the reaction of the unit’s brass on hearing Europe had been invaded on D-Day:

Our Colonel one morning, his headquarters in Bucks,

Had heard talk of invasion, amphibious ducks,

His game of golf was near its end,

Invasion! he thought, ‘For my majors I’ll send. . . . ‘Immediate action!’ the Colonel decreed,

Three months later the idea gathered speed.

When Douglas’s unit, S.C.U.4, arrived in Belgium on 19 January 1945, the Germans’ last major attack, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ had failed. Then the massive Allied sweeps across the Rhine into Germany began. After crossing the Rhine in late March, Field Marshal Montgomery (to whose Second Army S.C.U.4 was attached), proceeded to mop up enemy forces in north-west Germany. The Germans surrendered to Montgomery on 4 May. About the middle of June, Special Communications Unit 4 was ordered to follow the Allied advance into Germany. Henceforth they were based at Bad- Zalsuflen, a spa not far from Montgomery’s headquarters between Hanover and Osnabruck. Two months later Douglas managed a short leave to England to celebrate VJ-Day and the wedding of his sister, Yvonne.

When Douglas returned home from Germany to be discharged from the army in the summer of 1946, he had served two years and 285 days in England, Belgium and Germany. He received this testimonial, extant in the Public Records Office:

Military conduct exemplary. This N.C.O. has been with the unit since enlistment. He has always carried out his duties in a highly intelligent manner and is a popular member of the unit. He is honest and can be trusted in any position.

Until his death Douglas kept a small red address book with the names of most of the men in S.C.U.4. Some of them, such as Harry Spendiff who returned to his police job in Newcastle- on-Tyne and Tudor Jones who went back to Wales to join a small business, he never forgot.

Nor did he ever forget the fascinating intricacies of his work in intelligence. The intense search for the right signal and the appropriate frequency, the discipline required to ignore or discard all irrelevant distractions in the search for the assigned objective, required attention, stillness and concen­tration. This search demanded patience and, in the face of failure, perseverance. This experience provided Douglas Main with his most striking images for describing the inner search. This is how he drew from his experience in S.C.U.4 to portray an aspect of meditation:

In a previous incarnation … I served in the Counter Intelligence Service and one of the jobs that I had to do was to locate radio stations operated by the enemy. And so we would tune in our receivers to them, but the enemy were very clever and if they were operating that day on a frequency of ninety metres, at eighty-nine metres they would send out a jamming wave, a jamming signal, and at ninety-one they would send out another. So, in order to tune in exactly on their station you had to have an extremely fine tuning on your own radio. But we liked to think that we were just as clever as the enemy and so, when we found out the frequencies that they were broadcasting on, we took quartz crystals and then we would plug in the crystal to our receiver. Our receiver would then pick up their signal absolutely spot on, and none of the jamming devices interfered with it.

He went on to describe how the meditator, like the signaller, required a clear frequency so as to be ‘absolutely spot on’. But he was only to realize the full significance of these wartime experiences in another time and another place.

For the rest of the summer of 1946, Douglas, now for all practical purposes discharged from the army, helped his parents move from London to Belfast where David Main had been transferred by Western Union. Then Douglas enjoyed a trip through southern Ireland visiting the family and friends he had missed during the War.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

June 6, 2017

Here is Neil on the other side of the microphoneisd

interviewed for his biography of John Main.

Two short clips, the first was for the show

 » Take A Brake  » on CFTV aired on January 29th,

1987 and the second one was for  » Midday  »

on CBC aired on April 17th, 1987.

Enjoy!

BLAST FROM THE PAST

May 31, 2017

 

McKenty Live with host Neil McKenty.

On today’s program, Neil talks about the environment with guest David Suzuki.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

May 30, 2017

 

Catharine writes:

To my surprise I was sitting in a restaurant this morning, enjoying a cup of Mocha coffee and having a riveting conversation about writing and all its’ possible permutations and combinations with a young waitress I had never met before. Earlier this morning I had been thinking about Barbara Moser’s comment about Neil (Barbara is publisher/editor of Montreal’s Senior Times) she wrote “He’s edgy, he’s provocative and he’s ours.”

This is a comment about Neil who wrote a column called Pitstop every month for the Senior Times newspaper here in Montreal.

Well, wouldn’t you know I was sitting in a dentist’s chair earlier today while my dentist described his patient, Neil, in similar terms “We had the craziest and best arguments about all kinds of subjects. Sometimes Neil would rise half out of the chair, sometimes he was furious with my point of view, but if my argument made sense, had some logic to it, he’d admit it. My sense was that these discussions owed a great deal to his Jesuit training, how to formulate an argument clearly.”

Well, why should I be surprised? There was himself, my husband, never happier than when he found himself in the midst of an argument, even in the dentist’s chair!

Neil also loved to write, starting from the time he entered an oratorical contest aged nine. I found his original hand-written version among his papers in an old black suitcase that had been stored unopened in our cellar for some twenty years. The title was “When Grandad was a Boy” and will be included in the book about Neil being published later this year by Shoreline Press in Montreal with veteran journalist Alan Hustak as editor.

Over the years, Neil tried his hand at all types of writing – at age fifteen he became a stringer for the Peterborogh Examiner under Robertson Davies. He went on to write 5 books which you’ll see <here>

I had the fun of working on two of these books with him. From the time I was ten I had scribbled stories and playlets for my cousins and friends. Never in a million years did I expect to write a book. Too much work, I thought, as I watched Neil hour after hour at his typewriter (later his computer of course).

Has anybody else reading this felt the same and left bits of writing hidden away in a cupboard?

I did recently get an iPad but I see myself as more-or-less computer illiterate. And when I did find myself compelled to write a book (launched at my 79th birthday with the best Irish band in the city), believe it or not the whole thing was written by hand. Years ago, in 1970, I had started typing lessons, then landed a job as speechwriter for the Ontario Minister of Education, complete with secretary. End of typing lessons. I was working six days a week, researching, writing and rewriting, to keep up with my boss who was a splendid orator, when I met Neil on the dance floor.

Two weeks after our August honeymoon in 1972 he landed the job as Editorialist for CJAD, known as the best English-language station in Montreal. We moved lock, stock and barrel down the 401 to Montreal. He would be writing editorials in one corner of our tiny apartment on the 21st floor of a building behind the old Montreal Forum, while in another corner I was scribbling a story for the Reader’s Digest. I had landed a job there as researcher, then was lucky enough to be sent to Quebec City to write a piece for their Explore Canada book.

Another piece I wrote, about 2 Quebec children’s writers, never got published, but it landed me a rewarding experience as literary agent for one of the sisters, Suzanne Martel. Then one of her publishers, Heritage, asked me to take all his French-language children’s books to sell to libraries and bookstores in Toronto. I ended up collecting all the new French-language children’s books from his and other publishers at the Christmas Salon du Livre, lugging them on the train, and having a ball going around Toronto to sell them. This gave me enough money to visit my mom in Toronto every 2 months. That experience also stood me in good stead when Michael Price of Price-Patterson published our book on the early days of skiing in the Laurentians and Montreal (Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club, now available on Amazon as book and ebook). We had more fun tootling around with the trunk of our car loaded up with copies, to all the local bookstores in the Laurentians, Montreal and Toronto. Thanks to Neil’s skill in writing, this book became a best-seller, and won the international Skada award 2002 for the Best Skiing History at Vail, Colorado.

Working on this book with Neil and going to Ireland with him earlier ( a first for both of us) must somehow had an encouraging effect on my own interest in writing.

Neil had been asked to write the biography of a remarkable Benedictine Monk, John Main, who had been invited by Bishop Crowley to found a monastery right in the heart of Montreal, based on an ancient tradition of silent meditation found in early Christianity. This, at a time when many English-speaking Montrealers were leaving the city in the wake of the FLQ crisis.

Going to Ireland sparked Neil’s interest in his own O’Shea ancestors (on his mother’s side) and my determination to find the farm that our Fleming family (on my mother’s side) had left in 1847, in the midst of the famine. Neil’s family were Catholic, O’Sheas from the south and McKentys from the Glens of Antrim in the far north. My family were Northern Irish Protestant, from the Dromore/Omagh area, not all that far from the Glens of Antrim as I realised later.

Those visits to Ireland with Neil strengthened my awareness of the riches of Irish history, far deeper than sectarian differences that in many cases had economic and political causes.

The long-term result was that the book I eventually wrote, Polly of Bridgewater Farm – an unknown Irish story – was reviewed in both Catholic and Protestant newspapers and accepted into Catholic, Protestant, and integrated schools in the North.

A Dublin broadcaster told me he had never realised that Protestants suffered along with Catholics during the Famine,” the Great Hunger” as it has been called. I was asked to read from the book by the mayor of Monaghan at the first ever memorial in their city of the Irish Famine. And an Omagh school principal wrote me that “we need more books like this, that speak of hope in the midst of adversity.”

All the above experiences have shown me the power of each of our stories, to build connection with other people, and to bridge differences of outlook, age and background. Also the importance of making sure these stories don’t get lost.

This raises questions about writing. What kind of writing interests you most? Have you tried your hand at poetry? Writing your family story or a novel? Trying a short story?

Have you done a lot of essay writing? Is anything of this a labour of love or a drudge? Do you re-write?

Have you done an article for a student newspaper or any other publication?

I loved Vin Smith’s story of his 40 books, some published, some not.

Have you tried to get a book published, what was your experience?

When Neil wrote his memoir, The Inside Story, I tried 40 publishers without success. Some would say “maybe in a year’s time” then someone gave me the name of Judy Isherwood, founder of Shoreline Press. I will never forget what happened next. But that is a story for another time.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

May 1, 2017

 

McKenty Live with host Neil McKenty.

On today’s program, Neil talks about the environment with guest David Suzuki.

RADIO WAVES

March 6, 2017

 

Exchange on CJAD with host Neil McKenty.

NM001

Neil takes another call

Here is one of Neil’s daily episode of Exchange talking about Canadian psyche.