Posts Tagged ‘Neil’


February 27, 2017

Here is another episode of EXCHANGE, Neil’s radio show on CJAD.

This episode talks about reincarnation.


Jean P.


January 25, 2017



As long as he could remember, Neil McKenty was interested in writing. A teacher in grade school gave him a key piece of advice: “Find something to write about.” And he did.

At 9, he won his first oratorical contest, no doubt helped by his mother, Irene, a talented teacher.

His father, Arthur, owned a hardware store in the small town of Hastings, Ontario.

At 15, Neil signed on as a stringer for the Peterborough Examiner whose editor was Robertson Davies. He covered village council meetings, sports events, accidents, runaway horses, lawn bowling and Sunday afternoon teas. He was paid 10 cents a column inch.

He and his cousin bought an old Dodge car for $30, patched the leaky gas tank with bubble gum and put a big sign marked PRESS on the windshield. He learned about politics, prices and world affairs while sitting with the farmers on bales of twine around the glowing pot-bellied stove in front of nail kegs in his dad’s hardware store.

While studying with the Jesuits, he got one a master’s degree in history and another in communications from the University of Michigan.

In 1967, his biography of controversial Ontario premier Mitch Hepburn won the centennial prize for best biography.

I met Neil on a Toronto dance floor in 1971. At the time, he was finishing a three-year stint with the Foster Foundation, working with the Kennedys and Brian O’Neill of the National Hockey League to bring the Special Olympics to Canada.

He was looking for a new challenge. He found it.

Two weeks after our honeymoon, we moved lock, stock and barrel to Montreal.

Neil did his first editorial at CJAD hardly knowing where Peel and Ste. Catherine were.

With one part-time paycheck and no car, we explored this fascinating city by bus in all kinds of weather.

One bitter January day, we were waiting on a street corner near the Botanical Garden.

We decided then and there you had to join the Montreal winter or freeze to death, so we bought skis for $49 a pair at Eaton’s and slithered around Angrignon Park.

A member of the Laurentian Lodge Ski Club took pity on us and the result was some memorable friendships, including Jackrabbit Johannsen, and a book, Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club, which Neil turned into a best-seller.

By Catharine McKenty

For the Senior Times 2012





April 5, 2016

The Inside Story

Lets continue the story…




The Special Olympics And A Special Wedding

I arranged to see Catharine that same evening in early May 1972.  For the next ten nights straight we went out dining, dancing or to the theatre.  Sometimes Catharine would come for breakfast.  I also began sending flowers and telegrams to her office on a daily basis.  This was about as normal for me as getting up at midnight to floss my teeth.  But nothing was normal these days.  I was in a new space, one I had never inhabited before.  This wasn’t puppy love in Hyde Park or infatuation over a weekend.  This was the real thing.  I had sensed in Catharine a depth both mysterious and translucent, a spiritual quality that rang true.  Add to that an effervescent sense of humour and a musical laugh that tinkled like Christmas bells.  Would she marry me?  Yes, she would.  I don’t understand now why we waited ten years.

That same evening.  Catharine went to a large family gathering where she told her mother she had become engaged.  A few days later I was invited to meet her mother, Victoria, in her elegantly furnished apartment off Avenue Road below St. Clair.  In some respects Victoria, affectionately called ”Aunt Queenie” by her close friends and family, fitted the description of a mulier fortis, a matriarch, in the Old Testament.  She was a woman of character, faith and wisdom garnered over long years rich in experience, people and giving to others.  Her life was centred on her extended family.  Her father, Robert J. Fleming, ”the people’s Bob,” had been mayor of Toronto in the 1890’s.  Her husband, Walter Turnbull, a Protestant missionary, had been killed in a car accident before their only daughter, Catharine, was born.  Victoria never remarried but devoted her life to her family, her friends and her many charities, especially those related to the church.

So in terms of background our meeting was a curious one.  Victoria had come from a long line of northern Irish forebears rooted in the Protestant tradition, a tradition that viewed Irish Catholics and some of their superstition and drinking habits with, not to put fine point on it, some suspicion.  And here I was in her spacious living room, not only an Irish Catholic but former Jesuit priest, ostensibly asking for the hand of her only daughter in marriage – ”ostensibly” as the question was academic, since Catharine, like her mother, had a strong mind of her own and had already made it up.  Nevertheless, Victoria expressed her concerns about our relationship, then explained to me how she and her large family had been praying since Catharine was a little girl that the Lord would provide the right husband for her.  Summoning all the years of Jesuit training going back to Aristotle’s advice on how to make one’s case, I replied quickly, ”All your prayers have now been answered.”  In spite of herself, Aunt Queenie’s sense of humour surfaced and we both relaxed into our chairs and began to discuss plans for the wedding.

There was one problem that seemed insuperable.  It was one thing for Victoria to agree to her daughter’s marrying a Catholic; it was quite another to agree the marriage should take place in a Catholic church with a Catholic priest.  Catharine told me frankly this would be asking too much of her mother.  So we took our problem to a senior official in the Catholic Archdiocese who promised to take it higher.  To my relief, Archbishop Pocock gave permission to have a Protestant minister officiate at our marriage.

So on August 19, 1972, a hot cloudless day, Catharine and I were married in the chapel at Bishop Strachan School which she had attended.  An old friend of Catharine’s family, Canon Dann of St. James Anglican Cathedral, presided at the ceremony, assisted by my good Jesuit friend, Father Edward Dowling.  Afterwards the reception for our family and friends was held at the Hunt Club overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Ontario.  We drove to Muskoka for a few days of canoeing and swimming, then to the shores of Lake Simcoe to Victoria’s splendid sixty-years-old summer home, Peribonka, named for the river in Quebec where she and Walter had spent their honeymoon.  For Catharine and me on our honeymoon on Lake Simcoe, they were happy days.

Visit the bookshop here: click here

Jean P.


January 21, 2016

Here is another episode of EXCHANGE, Neil’s radio show on CJAD.

This episode talks about reincarnation.


Jean P.


January 19, 2016

The Inside Story

By Neil McKenty


The Special Olympics And A Special Wedding

Early in November, 1969, I went to see the Jesuit provincial’s assistant, Father Ed Dowling, to tell him of my decision to leave the Jesuits.  He was understanding and supportive – as were the provincial himself, Father Angus Macdougall, and all my other Jesuit friends and associates.  There was no hint of blame, no mention of the enormous sums of money the Jesuits had invested in my education and my health through a period of twenty-five years.  Quite the contrary – I was invited to stay in my old room at Hawthorne Gardens until I could find a job.

So it was with optimism and enthusiasm that I began my job search in mid-November.  Far from being stressed, once I had made the decision to leave the Jesuits, I experienced a feeling of peace, energy and well-being, in a word – liberation.  This was perhaps the first mature decision I had ever made, mature in the sense that it was not dictated by the expectations of other people.  So, looking for work, sometimes lining up as many as three or four appointments a day, was an adventure.  Within six weeks of my forty-fifth birthday I was excited as a teenager about what exciting prospects lay just around the corner.

I looked where I thought I had some strength – communications and publishing.  An editorial position with a large publishing house fell through at the last minute as did another at TVOntario.  I declined an entry-level reportorial job at The Globe And Mail.  Then, at the suggestion of Father Gordie George, I went to see Harry E. ”Red” Foster, the founder and owner of the successful advertising firm bearing his name.

Red Foster, then sixty-four, was a big man in body – he had been a star football player on the Balmy Beach Grey Cup champions – and a big man in spirit (a dynamic, ebullient mixture of business tycoon E.P. Taylor and Mother Teresa).  In memory of his intellectually handicapped brother, Red Foster had established a foundation to advance the cause of the intellectually handicapped across Canada.

I went to see Foster, not about his advertising agency, but about his Foundation for the Intellectually Handicapped.  I had heard that he could be as tough as nails, but I liked Red Foster right away and I think he liked me.  After several searching interviews, he hired me as the first executive director of the Foster Foundation.  It was the first real paying job I had ever had.  I well remember the salary, $12,000 a year.  Then for good measure, Red threw in the keys to his old family home at 4 Oaklands Avenue, just below De La Salle College, where I could live rent-free.

As I packed my trunk at Hawthorne Gardens in early March 1970, I could scarcely credit my good fortune, but it was tinged with a sadness for what was ending.  In the trunk was the last official document I would ever receive from the Jesuit order.  It was just three words relating to a decision already ratified in Rome about my dismissal from the society of Jesus:  Litteras dismissionis acceptit.  So few words to end so long journey.  Then Father Logie drove me the few short blocks to my new home at 4 Oaklands.  We wrestled my trunk up to the second-floor living room.  Logie left and I sat down and looked at the telephone, thinking to myself I could ring up the world.  And I laughed out loud.

Working with Red Foster for the next two and a half years was like working for a threshing machine.  There were speeches to write and sometimes deliver, meetings to attend and events to organize.  But by far the most exciting element of the job was Red’s association with the Kennedy Foundation in the States.  The Foundation was headed by the late President’s sister Eunice and her husband, Sargent Shiver.  As a result of this connection, we introduced the Special Olympics for the Intellectually Handicapped into Canada and convinced the Kennedys to accept floor hockey as part of the Special Olympics program.  Red persuaded the National Hockey League to support floor hockey and we convinced Prime Minister Trudeau to throw out the puck at the first floor hockey tournament, which was held at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

To be continued…

Visit the book shop now, and get your copy: click here

Jean P.




January 14, 2016



Here is an episode of Exchange with Neil on CJAD.

This episode is on welfare.





* Adjust your volume.

Jean P.


January 7, 2016



This is an episode of Exchange, Neil’s radio show broadcast on CJAD.


This one is about drunk driving.


Jean P.


December 16, 2015


Hosted by Neil McKenty on CJAD.

This episode focused on child day care.

* Adjust your volume.



Jean P.


December 9, 2015

Brand New Edition


Neil McKenty Live! The lines are still blazing.

A brand new edition is now available get it here:click here


A special thanks to Light Messages Publishing in Durham, North Carolina.

Here’s a link to their website: Light Messages



Jean P.


December 8, 2015

Neil McKenty Live! The lines are still blazing

Chapter 3

CJAD’s First-ever Open-line Talk Show

Covering the Olympics was an exciting adventure.  It was a great time to be in Montreal and to be on radio.  One of my indelible memories is strolling down to the Montreal Forum one night to watch gymnast Nadia Comaneci score a perfect ten.  I was on the phone and on the air within ten seconds.  Blackman and I never became pals, but I believe he began to respect me.

One day he called me into his office, sat me down, and asked me if I would be interested in becoming moderator of CJAD’s first-ever open-line talk show.  I nearly fell off my chair.  The program would run from 10 to 11 a.m., five days a week, and my co-host would be Hélène Gougeon, seasoned professional.  (Her husband was a distinguish author, playwright, and Laurier biographer, Joseph Schull,)  I was startled by Blackman’s officer, because I didn’t think he had that much confidence in me, and I certainly didn’t have that much confidence in me.  Doing a daily talk show in Montreal, with all its conflicting and treacherous undercurrents, seemed to me a daunting prospect.

The day before the show was to debut Elvis Presley died.  I say this not because I was a fan of Presley, but because his death was the topic of my first ”Exchange” program.  Normally, I would not have chosen Presley, But Montreal was going nuts over his premature death of a drug overdose.  There were candle light vigils and special charter flights to take fans to his funeral in Tennessee.  I couldn’t ignore the impact of Presley’s passing.  I did the only thing I could do.  I took a contrarian view.  I switched on the microphone and openly questioned why there was so much fuss over the death of an overweight, bloated, pill-popping singer with rotten teeth.  You can guess what happened.  The lines melted with outrage.  the response was exactly what I had wanted.  It demonstrated that (a) I had a lot of listeners, (b) many of them were young, which was great for advertising sales, and (c) any self-doubt I have had about generating calls was unfounded.  The lines opened and kept blazing for the next ten years.

Thanks to my enthusiastic and intelligent producer, Trish McKenna and Holy Haimerl, it became one of the most exciting in the business – being plugged into a Montreal audience for two hours.  We talked about everything from abortion to incest.  One of the zaniest shows I recall was ”Driving With Your Mate,” – ( – how to get along with your spouse while driving a car.  Live radio is simultaneously exhilarating, intimate, anonymous, and enormously flexible.

The program which provoked the most uproar involved Brian Mulroney when he was still leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.  He agreed to be a guest on the program, but his handlers informed me that one of the conditions of his coming on ”Exchange” was that he would not take nay telephone calls.  To me, that made as much sense as going for a television interview on the condition that no one turn on the lights.  The Toronto Star got wind of Mulroney’s conditions, carried the story on it’s front page, and by the time he arrived at CJAD he was in rage.  I was ordered to the station manager’s office.

There was Mulroney, perspiring, red-faced, and yelling at me for embarrassing him politically.  ”Why should I waste my time taking calls from English-speaking Montrealers?” he shouted, ”They are all bloody Liberals.”

But Mulroney was no fool.  He knew that he had more to lose than to gain if he ducked the questions.  So he stood up, squared his shoulders, flashed a wan smile, and went on the air.  He took a dozen or so calls, almost all of them in his favor.  Callers gave him both a warm and intelligent reception.




Book available here: click here




Jean P.