Roy Thomson of Fleet Street

Citation preview

Russell Braddon

m — and how he got there

At a famous dinner party, Lord Beaverbrook paid his host, Lord Thomson, the greatest compliment he is likely to receive. He urged him to give up his £ioom news empire and take to anything else, so long as he ceased, in Fleet Street, to "trouble our little group of newspaper proprietors". Yet only fifteen years earlier, when Beaverbrook had been asked about his compatriot, this same Thomson, he had replied, "He's a little guy. Owns a lot of little newspapers". In this biography, Russell Braddon is totally frank

and the




Roy Thomson was born in Toronto in

1894 with few advantages. His family was poor and his eyesight was bad. His early ventures were inauspicious. He failed as a most unlikely farmer in the prairies of Saskatchewan, his first business in Toronto went bankrupt, and he plunged into radio, in the midst of the depression, in spite of the fact that he was penniless and knew nothing about broadcasting. The chance of his becoming a millionaire by the time he was 30, an ambition which he had characteristically proclaimed to all and sundry on every possible occasion, was then already gone, but his ramshackle radio

somehow survived on loans, overpostponed salary cheques and above on its owner's self-confidence and all Thomson even started to expand. He station drafts,

opened more radio hired important of


stations, raised more more employees and, most

all acquired his first newspaper in the raw mining town of Timmins, Northern Ontario. These were the romantic years of this man's life, when he was bringing up his family and developing those do-it-yourself techniques of whole-hearted free enterprise which he has followed ever



at this time also, in early

middle was joined by young Jack Kent Cooke, and together they forged ahead so dramatically that, by the beginning of the war, though he was still not rich, he It

age, that he

continued on back flap


Digitized by the Internet Archive in


Roy Thomson of Fleet


by the same author biography






Collins LONDON - TORONTO 1965

© Russell Braddon,


Printed in Great Britain Collins Clear- Type Press

London and Glasgow

3 7



page 9

Introduction 1

The Thomsons

2 Alice,

of Eskdale


Aunt Hislop and Horatio Alger




Impatient Youth"




Son's Girl-friend Lives Here too"


5 Farmers Winter in California


6 Sparkplugs and Insolvency


7 Reception





to Start a

in the North


Radio Station


9 Defeat in the Status Stakes 10 1


A Stranger in Timmins How to Buy a Newspaper when How to Run a Newspaper

13 Friends

14 Alter



69 Penniless



15 April Fools'




and Expansion

17 Year One,

World War






Embryo Monopolist

of the

The Man with



20 Public Figure: Minor but Quotable 21

85 92


16 Conflict


Limitless Credit

130 136 143

Contents 22


Partnership Dissolved

page 150

23 "I Love Big Figures"


24 Keeping Busy


25 Peers and Snubs; a Defeat and an Invitation




Stranger in Edinburgh



27 Edinburgh Displeased


28 Letters to the Nobility




A New Managing Director A Charter to Televise


an Empire


31 Inauguration of


32 Distinguished Guests


33 Reverse Bid


34 Successor to Lord Kemsley


35 "It Pays to be Honest"


36 Philanthropy with Commercial Overtones





and a Proposal of Marriage


38 Innovations


39 Face to Face


40 Tycoons to Moscow


Honours Candidate



42 Waiving



43 The Rest of the


346 358











Roy Thomson



With Bud Pethick With In

his wife


facing page 32

and Bob

new Canadian





Third Avenue, Timmins, Ontario


With Jack Kent Cooke


[Canada Wide Feature Service Lid.]

At war

in Berlin


his election







and on duty

New York



to take over the Scotsman

1 1




[Endell Inc.]

At work and [Globe



& Mail,




Face to face with John Freeman



Goes home by tube


[London Express]


his family


[Toronto Star]

In Lord Kemsley's His


office at


Thomson House



[Council of Industrial Design]

With the


[Thomson Newspapers]



Lord Thomson and Lord Beaverbrook

facing page 305

Lord Thomson and Mr. Krushchev



Lord Thomson and Russian


Lord Thomson photographed by Lord Snowdon

320 321


The prime people

difficulty in the writing


upon leading

of a biography

their lives with a


that real

vehement disregard

for literary shape.

Real people in real life fall ill, or in love, make fortunes or go bankrupt, act with a lack of consistency or perversity, ignore the

demands of narrative and plot or talk incoherently in a way that no novelist would tolerate in any fictitious character of his creation.

Not only this, but remarkably few people who finally acquire and status to command the attention of a biographer realise from infancy that they will do so. Wantonly, therefore, as they live their shapeless lives, they throw away the letters, photographs and original documents that would have been the stature

keep be his clay; and instead, complacently, they send the biographer to interview their innumerable friends, acquaintances and colleagues. With whom the trouble is not that they are not co-operative and diligent, but that they contradict one another, cancel each other out, give dates varying by as much as five years for the same event and unconsciously distort their subject into a chameleontype character who is incapable of contrasting himself, in their anecdotes, from the colour of their own narrative. For what gin is to chastity, the raconteur's art is to truth: what divorce court evidence is to a judge, the evidence of a man's friends and acquaintances must be to his biographer although very rarely do witnesses subpoenaed to give evidence to a biographer deliberately lie. It is just that, being human like the biographer, or like his reader they are incapable of the whole truth. Memstraw to their biographer's bricks; those




idiotically they fail to

diaries that should



ory, emotions, prejudices, amour propre, the point of the story

these simply

For biography

story. is

do not allow of

the record of a




Least of


not story;

it is


lived in a


the point of the

the antithesis of story;


inevitably alien to a

implied literary shape, to conceal which


the biographer's

constant literary problem.

Lord Thomson of Fleet, when I began working on this biography, could provide me with no letters of any relevance prior to 1957, no photographs prior to 1923, no engagement diaries prior to 1953 and no personal diaries of any kind. He could not remember even such dates as that of his own


he had practically no childhood recollections; and this dense fog of "I don't remembers" lift to per-

only rarely did

mit an elated instant of total recall

which was associated, almost amounts of money. Pentathol, doubtless, would have been helpful; but I was not allowed to use it. I interviewed hundreds of his acquaintances and his friends, most of his family and as many of his enemies as I could contact. Of all the hundreds of thousands of words of wisdom that I took down, the most impartial and heart-warming came from Cecil King, who dislikes everything Thomson represents and the most critical came from Thomson himself. In between these two, endlessly, people assured me that Thomson's great virtue (his only virtue, some claimed) was his honesty, about everything. "It blows," said Leonard Brockington, perhaps Canada's most eloquent orator, "through the stale air of all his big deals like a invariably, with


gust of innocence."


strange aspect of Thomson's

of anecdote.


life is


it is

almost devoid

one remembers Thomson doing things, only

but fortunately his dialogue is as identifiable as it is not only easy to reject the apocryphal but also to provide valid quotes right through from his earliest business days in the twenties, to his first press interviews in the forties, and finally to his readily asserted philosophy of the sixties. In North Bay, or Timmins, or Toronto, or Edinburgh, I would invariably be given ten different dates for any one event in his life; but I would also be given ten almost exactly similar saying things;

Mozart's music, so that



But, rightly or wrongly, I decided to let Thomson's

spoken words, as


as the historical facts of


liis life,




him. To this end, I sat for many hours in his office transcribing, verbatim, conversations that he had with his executives and employees, his constant visitors from all over the world, his financial advisers


his fellow financiers.



to recognise

but also the Thomson themes and even though most of the notes I made have not been quoted in this book, they have been used as a criterion whereby to judge the authenticity of words widely attributed to him in the past, and as evidence for or against their inclusion in this biography. Finally, needing a definition of the man as my own yardstick, I took Thomson's candid description of himself, made in November, 1963. "Most people," he said, "don't like me for myself, but for the newspapers I own. To be honest with you, I guess I'm a bit stingy, and boastful I talk too much and my only two loves are my family and my business. And if I had to choose well, I don't know, I'd probably choose my between the two business, because my family can now look after itself." not only the








The Thomsons of Eskdale

Heredity, some say, contributes most to man's character:


according to them, one must, when studying a Thomson, take most into consideration an ancestry that is Scottish and all that

such a past implies. Local historians relate that the Thomsons of Eskdale, with whom we are concerned (not to be confused with any Thompsons with a "p," who are not Scottish at all, but English and contemptible) were a small fifteenth-century clan, obeying the call of the larger clan Beattison, mostly for raids across the border. Not that the Thomsons lacked initiative or needed leading

In 1504, John Thomson of Bonese was fined £10; another Thomson, for crimes that ranged allegedly from sheep-

into mischief.

was hanged; and the entire Thomson clan horsemen who, although temperate and delighting in music, knew their way round the misty marshes of the frontier so well that to pursue them for their crimes was almost pointstealing to treason,




"The Batysons and Thomsons of Eskdale," England's Lord Wharton reported sourly, "have burnt a town called Grange, with all the corn therein, and brought away nolt and other goods amounting to eche of them in their dividing 8 shillings." Later: "The Batysons, Thomsons and Lytles of Esskdayle, Ewesdaill and Wacopdale" Lord Wharton's spelling of place names in the 1540's was as contemptuously inconsistent as T. E. Lawrence's was to be some 380 years later "burnt a town on the Water of Dryff called Blendallbush, and brought away 16 oxen and keyne, some naggs with all the insight of the town."



constant drain of

nolt, oxen, keyne, naggs, insights



his territory's corn,

and other forms of "boutie",


Roy Thomson of Fleet


must be allowed that Lord Wharton's reports were admirably But then, Lord Wharton knew what he was doing. In 1544 he invaded Scotland and not only brought the clans ruthlessly to heel, but even persuaded some of them, under an English assurance, to transfer their predatory attentions from the objective.

southern to the northern side of the Border.

and Thomsons,


Thereafter the

as energetically as ever, raided not the

English but the Scots.

"Hundrethe of the Batysons of Eskdaill and the Thomsons," Wharton subsequently advised the Earl of Shrewsbury, "brent a town called Fastheughe, taking away all the insight, certain naggs and fiftie nowte." Amiably taking up a suggestion of Wharton's, the same two clans attacked Branxholme and Mosshouse, "smoked very sore the towers," slew many Scots and then, crowning all their ravages, "wanne a tower of the Captains of Edinburgh Castle, called Burdlands, burnt all the roofs within the walls,


and coming

many oxen and

shepe beside one Scott slayne." But by the end of the sixteenth century authority on both sides of the border was impatient with the lawlessness of the raiding clans, assurances of good conduct being required from all of took

them: and when old habits died hard, many were caught and hanged as rebels Thomsons among them. Presumably such hangings had their deterrent effect, because the Thomson family soon vanished from the records of those days and were not heard of again until 1679, when the Buccleuch rent

books reveal their presence as tenants of the smallest farms in the district.

Times were not good, however, for farming. In 1681 a wickedly dry summer was followed by a wickedly cold winter. During the "Thirteen Drifty Days" of 1684, pitiless snow storms wiped out ninety per cent of all the sheep in the district, those that survived being kept alive only by the walls of dead sheep built

around them by

their shepherds.

of 1740, 1746 and 1755 were calamities spoken of with horror for years afterwards. The summer of 1 756 was one of severe drought aggravated by a plague of green caterpillar grubs which destroyed all the grass in the district,






at the roots.

more than a third of the local








and snow



The Thomsons ofEskdale All of which




perhaps the reason

why Andrew Thomson,


third of the eighteenth century, chose to be a stone

mason and not a farmer; and why Archibald,

the second of his

seven children, father of a large family and master carpenter, decided to emigrate with his family to Canada in 1773.

In 1796 Archibald's two younger brothers, David and Andrew, accepting his advice, followed him to North America, where all three built homesteads in the same street of the town York, later re-named Toronto. Surprisingly, neither David nor Andrew prospered as the


Also Archibald's youngest son, older Archibald had. George, married and had ten children, one of whom, Hugh, was

born in 1834. This Hugh (who married a girl called Mary, from Markham, and by her had three children, all boys) has not been treated kindly by word of mouth, and there are no documents to disAllegedly, though by trade prove the rumours about him. gambler he a and a drinker and a harness maker, was he was a rolling stone even, some say, a card-sharper and a confidence man. Fecklessly he took his wife and three small sons to New York and there, even more fecklessly, he either died or decamped. Whichever it was, he left his wife penniless and she, wasting no time on self-pity, herded her young family back to the one place where she knew people, which was Markham, in Canada. There, for a while, she supported her three sons by needlework and dressmaking. Then a widower called William Pethick, with two sons of his own, married her and took her to Bowmanville and by him she had three more children. Meantime Herbert, her youngest son by her first marriage, had met a strong, red-cheeked English girl who worked at the hotel near Bowmanville railway station. Her name was Alice Coombs, and she had been brought out from Bath by her aunt,


Mrs. Hislop, who owned the hotel. So Herbert, who was a barber, and Alice, who was a hotel maid, married in 1893 and moved into a Toronto house which Mrs. Hislop a shrewd dealer in second mortgages made available to them. The house was in Monteith Street, a cramped cul-de-sac in mid-town Toronto: and into this house, on 5th June, 1894, was born a son Roy Herbert Thomson descendant


Roy Thomson of Fleet


of border raiders, ruined farmers, hard working artisans, elderly migrants, a ne'er do well grandfather, a strongminded grand-

mother and an even stronger-minded mother. If the influences of heredity are important in the creation of

character, the infant


stood equal chances of becoming a

distinguished Canadian, like his great-great-grandfather Archi-

bald; or an inconspicuous Canadian like his great-grandfather George ; or a drunken Canadian like his grandfather Hugh or a barber like his father; or a mother's boy; or an opportunist or even a corpse buccaneer like his fifteenth-century forebears dangling from a hangman's noose, like that sheep-stealing ;


Thomson of 1504. One of the few destinies for which his heredity entirely unsuited him was that he should ever become a peer of the British Realm. remote descendant of a clan so small that it was by a Thomson but by the Beattisons, such an elevation was unthinkable, and would have outraged Lord Wharton as the mere taking away of English naggs, nowt, keyne and other boutie In

fact, for the

led not

never had.



Aunt Hislop and

Horatio Alger


claim that heredity most moulds a man's character there are those who favour the influence of environAgainst those

ment; and for their benefit it is only fair to admit that the environment in which Roy Thomson developed from infancy to parenthood was plebeian and un-promising in the extreme. The house Aunt Hislop had made available to Bert and Alice Thomson, on a mortgage, was one of a terrace of eighteen. All eighteen had a basement, a ground floor, a middle floor and an attic floor. Each also had gas lighting and an upright piano which latter was working-class Toronto's status symbol in the nineties. Across the road from the terraced houses were the blind

and sloping roof of the local curling rink. The city itself held just over 200,000 people and was warm in the summer and freezing in the winter, and when it snowed the


snow was dug

off the sidewalks

and flung

into the roads

for in

mattered more than any hansom cab or tram-car drawn by horses. Horses were not given priority over a man on foot; and a twentieth-century style Toronto where one could grow visibly older just waiting on street corners for the lights to change from don't walk to walk was those late Victorian days a pedestrian



When he was two years old, Roy's parents presented him with a brother, Carl. Because their father, as well as being away barbering at the Grosvenor Hotel from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m., was a and ineffectual man, who liked to drink a little and read a and smoke altogether too much, the two boys grew up in a home where all decisions were left to their mother, the robust and homely Alice. quiet






Roy Thomson of Fleet


Alice worked hard and took in lodgers to augment her husband's meagre earnings. Usually there were five lodgers (women, because they were tidier and easier to manage and ate less than men and only women, because to mix the sexes on that middle floor of the house which she rented out was, to Alice, un:

Her boarders often ate with the family talkative meals in an atmosphere of talkative femininity and this habit enhanced Alice Thomson's position as head of the household. Every Sunday Bert and Alice took their sons to Bowmanville to see Grandma Pethick (Bert's mother) and a swarm of Pethick step-relations. Grandma Pethick was a fine looking woman with a magnificent figure and a gentle nature who could nevertheless be firm. She was not afraid of her moody and occasionally savage second husband and, because of what gambling had done to her first, she would allow no playing of cards anywhere in the thinkable).



The two


Thomson boys were

by the way the facing a blind wall and


various Pethicks lived not in a cul-de-sac,

a sloping roof, but in cottages by a lake. And they were delighted by the way Grandma Pethick always sat talking at their bedside till they went to sleep although they took for granted entirely the way their mother, at home, would let them go to sleep on a settee in the dining-room, whilst she finished her day's work, and then carry them separately up two flights of stairs to the attic back room they shared, waking them as she lit the gas, a bare, popping flame on which there was no mantle, and then supervising their brief, drowsy prayers. Until he was five, this was Roy's fife women and relatives



in the background, the slight greying figure of his

whose hands were so clean and whose cough so persistent and dominating everything, his big strong mother with her red face and her kind but undemonstrative ways. At five he went to kindergarten, a shy child, more than usually introverted. At six he was promoted to junior school and


there found that, although he sat as far forward in the class as

he could not see what was written on the blackboard. For a year he complained of this and when he was seven he was taken to a doctor who diagnosed myopia and prescribed the thick glasses that have been his ever since. Thus bespectacled, he became more withdrawn than ever. In






Aunt Hislop and Horatio Alger

complete contrast to his cheerfully extroverted brother, Carl, he from the active life of small boys into the more satisfying of books. world Not that he was timid. On the contrary, he stubbornly refused to practise the piano, although his mother insisted that he retired

took lessons;

he climbed other people's fences to raid their

—and was occasionally caught, which he was punished mother, not father; and when the people who lived at began Monteith Street — a family called Mackintosh —









make toffee in their basement, attracting hordes of children who hung around cadging, it was Roy who negotiated a two-bagsof-toffee-a-week contract to keep them away. He persuaded the youthful intruders to stay away simply by feeding them delectable Mackintosh toffees, of which he took for himself no more than his share but the prestige of the operation was entirely his and that, even then, pleased him as much as it to


isolated him.

His mother sent him to Sunday School and he attended won him the right to go on annual outings by ferry to the islands in the bay, or to Niagara with its whirling rapids and tumultuously exciting Falls. His father talked pleasantly at nights when he came home from work, talked of books and day-dreams whilst his mother kept the house going. Carl joined a gang of local boys to play: Roy joined a local regularly because regular attendance

library to get

Relatives Street


more books. and friends occasionally


and invariably Alice obliged her all

the family pictures in



guests to




down and

her family albums.

Bert caught typhoid and would have died, only Alice would let him, nursing him with fierce devotion until he could return to work. But he was never again to be a sure provider for his family and as Alice's responsibilities increased, and were


stolidly shouldered,


spent more time on the parlour settee, or

his attic bed, reading. this, his father, from the time Roy was eight years old he was ten, took him regularly to baseball games at the Riverdale Grounds, and these afternoons of fervent support for the Toronto team became the highlights of his game-starved life



for the truth of the

matter was that Roy, with 19

his thick glasses,



Roy Thomson of Fleet


mousy haired boy, slim and silent, would never be able to play any of the games that other small boys played. Instead, he would fall asleep over his latest novel by Horatio Alger (in which poor boys always made good and became rich men) and then be carried fondly up to bed by his mother. Even when he was nine years old, Alice still regularly carried her son upstairs to bed. It was when he was ten that the really memorable event of his boyhood occurred. The month was April and the weather had been unusually warm. Suddenly a blizzard hit Toronto and by early evening the icy, gale-swept city was deserted. Just after eight o'clock a wisp of smoke was seen streaking out of a building in Wellington Street and an hour later down-town Toronto was :

engulfed in


Roy and Carl watched excitedly, first from the roof and then from their parents' bedroom window. They saw the flames and heard the roar of a giant fire, fanned by a freak gale. They watched the people of Toronto pour south down nearby Church Street to witness the incineration of their


city, their


down- town. And steadily the flames leapt northwards, towards their home. Every fireman in Toronto was in the streets, fighting the conflagration; then the army too. Rigs from Hamilton and London and Buffalo set out to help building after building was engulfed the watching Thomson boys grew tired and frightened. Firmly their mother put them to bed, promising that if the fire came too close she would come and wake them and dress them and take them away. So they slept confidently and when they awakened, Toronto looked as, forty years later, London and Hamburg were to look after airborne explosives and incendiaries had done with them. Thirty acres of the city centre were black and skeletal; a hundred and twenty buildings had been gutted; everywhere, for fifteen days, fresh fires kept breaking out; and over five thousand people out of a total population of 219,000 had lost their jobs. This was a disaster; and much of it the Thomson boys had witnessed together before their mother put them to bed. Thereafter they were to be more together than previously,

father joining this pilgrimage



taking time off from his books to lead Carl in forbidden

expeditions along the


length of the terrace roof;



— Alice,

Aunt Hislop and Horatio Alger

tobogganing together. Roy led, Carl followed. Each was doing well, although Carl was the cleverer of the at school two and at arithmetic was brilliant. Each became aware that together;




controlled their lives so completely, neverthe-

awe of Aunt Sarah Hislop, who was and portly and always reminded her niece's sons of Queen Victoria, and that nothing in life was so important as paying off the mortgage Aunt Hislop held on their house. Father's extra hours, till n p.m., on Saturday (when his desire to please his customers by accepting their invitations to have a drink in the hotel bar often left him not quite sober) were simply to pay off the mortgage. The lady lodgers who laughed and chattered at the diningroom table; their mother's endless work in the house; the fact that it was impossible to spare money for dentistry when Roy broke a tooth tobogganing all this was simply to pay off the mortgage. The work Roy and Carl did in their father's shop, sweeping up and serving at the counter, was to save him money and to help pay off Aunt Hislop's mortgage. Yet, no one in the Thomson household resented Aunt Hislop or her mortgage. She had done a deal with them now she must be paid her dues. Both this fact, with which he lived, and the unless

stood in considerable



varying financial success of all of Horatio Alger's youthful heroes, lodged themselves in Roy's mind. At twelve he qualified, ahead of the average age, to enter the free Jarvis Street Collegiate. to

buy and pore over

At twelve he also began, with Carl, News of St. Louis which

the weekly Sporting

tediously tabulated the massive statistics of all league baseball players,


under the headings At Bat, Runs,

Hits, Doubles, Triples,

Runs, Runs Batted In, Puts Out, Assists, Errors



Devouring these (Roy jabbing impatiently at the charts with a stubby thumb; Carl, more accurate and less impetuous, often arguing his brother's conclusions, but usually, in the end, agreeing with them), they



so conversant with the statistics of

and had not had the sense to buy players they would have bought. Each of them read these cumbersome tables as easily as others could read a sports report on only one game. This was the environment in which the Thomson boys lived the


that they used often accurately to predict scores


contemptuously the



of clubs that

— Roy Thomson of Fleet a




women, run by a woman

Street ;

a close knit, clannish

by the fate of Grandma Pethick's late and unlamented husband Hugh, against gambling, becoming prejudiced, by Bert's inability to refuse a drink, against alcohol and, by his cough, even against tobacco; a house living its life according to the Victorian pattern of metropolitan Canada; a house dominated by one woman and obsessed with its mortgage family, prejudiced,

obligations to another.

Their entertainments were picnics, Alice's family albums, manage a laboured version of Beautiful Lady on the status piano) and week-ends at the lakeside homes of Bert's half-brothers, or in the country on a farm with a remote cousin of Alice's. It w as during such a lake-side week-end with the Pethicks that Roy, twelve years old and impressionable, was chilled to learn that parents did not for ever remain cherished and infallible in their children's eyes. Puzzled, he heard two men, brothers, friends of the Pethicks, arguing which of them should now house the "old folks." One complained that he had had them long enough, that it was time the other did his share. The other protested that he already had a wife and three children to support, which the first did not, so the parents should stay with the former. It was, he declared, only fair. Though both mentioned fairness in their arguments, neither,

songs in the parlour (Roy could



noticed, mentioned loving his parents




should house and support them. Anxiously then he looked at his own slight, weak-willed father and wondered whether he or


Carl would eventually have to look after him. Then his mother appeared and he realised with relief that she would look after

Dad, for she was indestructible. Nevertheless, the fact that love and that the old become a burden had been recorded in his


subconscious. followed,




Reminded of to worry him


several times in the years that


spent a year at Jarvis Collegiate but then, prematurely

money, to contribute, as soon as was paying off of Aunt Hislop's mortgage, even though the Collegiate education was free to

aware of the need

to earn

legally permissible, to the

he decided

leave and attend instead Mr. was near his father's shop.






Business College, which






Aunt Hislop and Horatio Alger

beyond the Thomson family's means (any fee, at that time, was beyond their means), so Bert suggested that Roy should work his passage as a janitor, to which the principal agreed. For a year Roy dusted the desks and window ledges, cleaned the blackboards and filled ink wells early each morning; studied typing, shorthand and book-keeping during the day; tidied up and swept out after classes; and later, at home, relaxed with his favourite detectives, Sexton Blake and Nick Carter, or read and absorbed the weird trivia of the magazine Answers, or analysed afresh the statistics of Canadian and American baseball. At college he learnt to type adequately and accurately, to write a shorthand which, while not excessively speedy, was classically legible, and to distinguish, with reasonable confidence, debits from credits. This was not, perhaps, the most massive of foundations for a career in commerce but it was all that could be afforded and it had therefore to suffice. In 1908, aged fourteen, Roy obtained work first as a clerk in a coal yard, and then with the Colonial Cordage Company, for which he was paid five dollars a week. But even then, as he answered the telephone, took orders, wrote invoices and checked loads out of the yard, he knew that, like all the young heroes of his favourite novelist, he was on his way to fame and fortune. ;




Impatient Youth


Toronto's latest recruit to the ranks of commerce worked hard

and each week handed his mother all his wages, in return for which she gave him his tram car fares, and because it took too long for him to come

and a piece of



and an



— —a daily packet of sandwiches

The balance of her son's five Aunt Hislop, to pay off the mort-


dollars Alice sent regularly to


Apparently Aunt Hislop respected her nephew's sense of began to see more of him, inviting him and sometimes either Carl or his mother as well to come to dinner at the apartment provided for Mr. Hislop, who was her second husband, by the bank of which he was janitor. Aunt Hislop had grey hair, wore big flowered hats and was possessed by a powerful instinct for economy. "Look," she would snort as she sat on a free park bench and watched urgent crowds streaming towards the baseball ground, "look at the fools rushing to part with their money." In the eyes of Roy and Carl, and of their parents, too, Aunt Hislop was rich, extremely rich but Roy, skilled now in the most refined techniques of first year book-keeping, was shocked to find that this extremely rich business woman kept no ledgers. She simply bought crops of second mortgages at a discount from Toronto's suburban builders, kept the documents in a bank and made a note of each deal in a little black book so Roy suggested that he should bring some sort of efficiency into this chaos, and Aunt Hislop good-naturedly agreed. Thereupon he drew up ledgers, made hundreds of entries and eventually so mastered the details of his aunt's affairs that at any moment he could tell her what she was worth, how much she was owed, and which payments had been made when by whom.

responsibility, because she




"An Even though, quite

Impatient Youth"


Aunt Hislop preferred

to ascer-

from a bank statement or from the mortgage documents themselves, or from her little black book, she was pleased with her nephew. His passionate devotion to money even when it was only figures in a ledger, and someone touched a chord in her frugal soul. Such a else's figures at that respect for money deserved reward so she offered her fifteen-yearold great-nephew an unusual opportunity. She would, she suggested, stake him a half share in the purchase of some discounted second mortgages. When repayments were made on them she would deduct the amount she had advanced him, plus a reasonable rate of interest, and then share the balance with him. With no hesitation at all, her nephew tain all these facts either


accepted the


Having embarked upon a new business, he decided to change His immediate superior at the Colonial Cordage his old job. Company, a Mr. Scythes, an enterprising young man of twentyfive, had gone into business on his own, and quite soon Roy joined him as a junior stenographer. Ardagh Scythes was at first amused by the rawness and brashness of his bespectacled clerk who had only one suit of clothes and took his job with such passionate seriousness but, realising that the boy was well behaved and unusually hard-working, he soon came to like and even to confide in him. After work, Roy, who did not smoke or drink and who seemed unaware of the fact that there were girls in the world, :

regularly patronised Toronto's vaudeville theatres, being addicted to singers

and comics,



he was prepared to



parental rage and spiritual damnation as might be involved in

attending also the supporting items of burlesque, which he freely

admitted to be rather wicked. More respectably, he frequented the Princess Theatre on King Street, which staged musicals. The Arcadians, The Dollar Princess, The Merry Widow, The Pink Lady and The Chocolate Soldier these became a delight to the drab fifteen-year-old who sat alone in the gods, endlessly and myopically examining the vast pocket watch he kept in the left pocket of his waistcoat, impatient for the


to start.


fell desperately in love with each leading lady, and at any time thereafter could be transported simply by hearing her latest


— Roy Thomson of Fleet


number played

either on a piano or on one of the thick wax Mr. Edison's new-fangled phonograph. No sound on earth, in those days, was more beautiful to Roy's romantic ears than a phonograph's far from stereophonic reproduction of "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and his week-ends at Bowmanville suddenly acquired soulful significance as he and the local youngsters adjourned at night to the sandy shores of the lake and there lit a bonfire of drift wood and, sitting round it, sang the latest songs from the latest musical. It was at this time that he conceived another passion for long distance running. His athletic hero was a Mohawk Red Indian called Tom Longboat, who unfortunately drank too much so that he had to fall out of the Olympic Marathon but who could control his appetite for liquor when there was money to be won by running sober. Longboat's numerous professional victories so impressed Thomson that the young pale-face decided to become a marathon runner himself. He set about training with the zeal of the drunken Longboat and Longboat's rivals, the great Dorando and the indomitable

cylinders of


Alf Shrubb,



rolled into one.

Relentlessly, after work,


and finally he entered a race at the University Stadium. He dropped out after the second lap and decided that he was not, after all, intended to be a long the streets of Toronto


distance runner.



who had


Roy through


same terms, and taken his first job with and Taylor Safework, was proving to be a good baseJ. J. baller, an ideal companion at the theatre and an even better bookBusiness College, on the

keeper than his brother: Whilst

Roy startled




by announcing, be a millionaire by the time I'm

his fellow clerks at Scythes

as a seventeen-year-old, "I'll

good fellowship and quick-spoken, easykept rather aloof from his fellow workers, Carl liked everyone and everyone liked Carl. Apparently it did not occur to Roy to consider whether his colleagues at work liked him or not. He felt secure in the affections of his family; and outside of his family was too busy planning his future to care what people thought of him. Not for him other people's get-rich-quickly by gambling dreams. In fact he disliked gambling as intensely as his grandthirty,"

Carl was

going fun.





"An father

had reputedly

Impatient Youth"

lived for


and the mere idea of a


cent of his now sixteen dollars weekly salary being risked on a horse, a card, or a number caused him indignation and pain. The people he admired were not those who gambled on the unpredictable, and won, but those who confronted life with determina-

and prospered. Hence his very real adulation of men


Shrubb, the Englishman,



who ran




Longboat; or of fifteen mile

World War I and staged his last race in Toronto when he was fifty-one. Hence his worship of the burly ex-footballer, Gus Sonnenburg, who wrestled often at the Mutual Sonnenburg did not have much skill, but he Street Arena.

races before in 1938,

could neither be stopped nor kept down. " You'd have to kill him to beat him," Roy used to enthuse to Carl and never missed

when Sonnenburg was

a fight


Probably some of this admiration for toughness began to show by 191 2: certainly Ardagh Scythes, his employer, found him at this time obsessed with the idea of making money. Himself a gentler, Not secretly obsessed, but publicly so. imminent, kindlier man, Scythes, with Christmas called Roy into his office and, in confidence, told

bonus would be one hundred


that his Christmas

any other

dollars, twice that of


Straight out of the office

went Roy, and shouted

to another

junior: "Fred, I'm getting a hundred dollar bonus. Bet get

more than


Furious at


you don't

breach of confidence, and at the bragging,

Scythes promptly recalled his favourite and cut his bonus to

but he was


He own


His chastened clerk thus learnt to respect a confidence:


never to learn reticence

about what he had earned or

to earn.

Ardagh Scythes, and admired him for becoming his when he was only twenty-five, and was grateful to him



rudiments of business training which he imparted. He was impressed too by the way Scythes's transparent honesty and apparent naivete did him no harm commercially though there were times when these qualities caused embarrassment. After a fire in the building, an insurance assessor arrived to inspect the water-damaged Scythes' stock and to arrange a settlement. Roy met the assessor and showed him around. for those


— Roy Thomson of Fleet


"What adjustment," the assessor asked, "would be reasonable on this? Twenty-five per cent?" "Geez no," Roy protested. "This cotton twine's useless when it's



Seventy-five per cent at least."



moment Ardagh entered upon are we getting for this?" he

the scene. asked, pointing to the


"I've suggested seventy-five per cent,"



him proudly.

Scythes looked shocked.


no," he protested, "twenty-five per cent'd be plenty."

was a staggering instance of truthfulness in Roy's opinion one that he would never forget and yet, since he admired the man, and thought him a good salesman (a soft seller; quiet, but clever), there must somewhere be virtue in it. Scythes, on the other hand, saw no virtue in Roy as a salesman. He considered him too impetuous; an impatient youth, reaching, always reaching; a youth for whom nothing would ever go fast enough. Yet he had made him his head clerk, and planned to make him his Toronto branch manager, and in the meantime, he was paying him twenty-five dollars a week all of which Roy gave to his mother for the mortgage. It





Son's Girl-friend

Lives Here too


In 191 2, at long last, Aunt Hislop's mortgage on the house in Monteith Street was paid off; and at once Alice decided to sell up and buy a better house in a better street. Thus the family left the cramped house in which both boys had been born and moved to No. 7 1 Isabella Street. Here, for the first time in his life, Roy had but it was not, his mother made it clear, a a room of his own time for relaxing, and filled the house with a fresh group of female two of whom were sisters called May and Ann Irvine. lodgers By now Alice Thomson was growing restive at her first-born's failure to find himself a prospective bride or even to look for one and had begun to hurl him at the head of any suitable girl, or, conversely, to hurl all available girls at him. But nothing happened, Roy having become less than ever interested in the opposite sex because at last his investments with Aunt Hislop were yielding a return, so that he spent all his leisure time deciding where to re-invest his profits. Either out of loyalty or perspicacity, he finally decided to buy shares in Scythes and Company Limited, of which he had now become branch manager. Being branch manager in fact meant little in the way of managerial duties and a great deal in the way of attending to orders and paper work. In this latter, the unusual devotion of the Thomson brothers to each other, and of each to his job, was pointedly illustrated. Regularly each week Carl would visit Roy at Scythes, at night when everyone else had gone home, to work with him on Scythes's books and equally regularly Roy would work late with Carl on Taylor's books. :



Roy Thomson of Fleet Each firm was perpetually astonished neatness with which one


Street at the thoroughness

clerk kept



books, and

it regularly had the services of two Thomson clerks but if Roy did Scythes a favour with hours of unpaid overtime, Scythes certainly repaid him though not at

neither ever discovered that in fact ;

by sending him out as a salesman to sell cotton, duck, twine, rope, fishing tackle and cotton waste (and this in



spite of the fact that

he did not regard


young manager



ideal salesman).

was having

go out and sell to construction companies, and marine suppliers that transformed Roy Thomson's life. Gradually he lost his shyness gradually the introvert became less introverted and gradually, more important than anything else, he developed a passion a genuine, unquenchable passion for doing a deal, for horse-trading, for making a quick buck. Fired with this new passion, and stimulated by his new status as branch manager, Roy Thomson worked harder and more contentedly than ever. He even took to working on Sundays, sitting alone in the office, poring over the books, visiting Aunt Hislop a few doors away for lunch, and then returning: until Ardagh Scythes, who was a religious man and disapproved such Sabbath-breaking, eventually forbade this extreme devotion to duty, insisting that Roy spend Sundays with his family. Here Roy's title of branch manager sounded splendid and impressed everyone the lady lodgers, the Pethick cousins, and even (for he was only nineteen) Roy himself, so that, more confidently than ever, he announced that by the time he was thirty he would be a millionaire. More and more the conviction grew in him that he would never be, must never in his old age become, a burden on his kids. Of this his mother was also beginning to become conIt


lake shipping companies






clear that she did not think her son

have children upon



be a burden


would ever

he did not soon start

courting and find himself a wife.

must have been heightened when Minnie, married to young Edward Bilton, frequently visited the house in Isabella Street: but fortunately,




one of the Irvine

this subject


when May decided girls





were plenty more Irvine more to be precise and four

leave, there (four


"My Son's Girl-friend Lives Here too" brothers as well) and one of these, Edna,

Edna was

now came

red-haired, green-eyed, slim, shy

to join




and before Alice Thomson had a chance to hurl Roy at her head, Roy decided that this was the girl for him and set about winning For twenty years past he may have been slow with the now he moved with a speed that surprised


opposite sex, but


As soon as Edna's time at Business College was done he persuaded a vehemently reluctant Ardagh Scythes first that it would be a good idea to employ female rather than boy stenographers, and then that the first female so concerned should be a certain

Edna Irvine. Edna having been installed at Scythes, Roy twenty-nine-year-old opinion had "damned

lodger of his mother's called

attractive girl,



—who, in Ardagh's an being anything but glamorous" — moved confid-

to the next stage in his




to offer

sweep her off her


His mother was delighted. Now she not only made her look at pictures in her family album but also told them proudly, "My son's girl-friend lives here too." In fact the only visitors


who was unconvinced about her destiny with Roy was who said very little, but who did know

the shy, red-headed Edna,

another man, a dentist, with whom she did have a sort of agreement at some future date to become engaged.

Not even clannish still


courting, however,

of the

Thomsons and

was allowed the Pethicks.


disturb the

Sundays were

spent at Bowmanville.

was that the news of the outbreak of World War I as he and all his boyhood friends and relatives lazed pleasantly by the lake. Protesting that it was terrible to be way out in the country at such a moment, when there must be so much excitement in Toronto, Roy, ignoring all suggestions that the war would continue till Monday at least, took the train back to Toronto that night, determined to enlist. His determination, for once, was short-lived. Taking one look at those pebble glasses, the recruiting department sent him packing. They gave him a badge on which were the letters A.R. (Applied and Rejected) and suggested kindly that he might help defend Canada from the Germans by joining the Militia. This he did and thereafter heard no more on the subject till 191 7.






Roy Thomson of Fleet


and failed to take an active World War I, he wasted no more time

Characteristically, having tried

part in the hostilities of fretting


about them, but flung himself wholeheartedly into


—where soon, because of military orders, both business and

his shares in the business




were booming.

again and Alice at once put aside everything

him. The lodgers had to go, she insisted, all of them, even her son's much vaunted girl-friend. Edna and Ann and May therefore moved to a house in Jarvis Street which in 19 15 was a considerably more salubrious area than it is to-day and Roy had to court his red-head away from his own home. In this he was helped by having assigned to him a company motor car, which boosted his morale so greatly that when Edna told him about her "other Roy," the dentist, Roy the rope seller was able to ask, with the scorn of near certainty, whether his rival owned a car. Told that he did not, the rope seller asked what on earth Edna could see in her dentist. From 1 916 to 191 7, however, he took no risks with his rival (who had gone overseas), but drove with Edna on innumerable, well-chaperoned picnics, and courted not only Edna herself but the whole tribe of Irvines as well, travelling a hundred or so miles to Drayton, along primitive roads that were one puncture after another, to do so. Indeed, he saw so much more of Edna's family than he did of his own that the Irvines wondering whether their sister would not do better to marry a dentist, with whom she had an understanding, rather than the branch manager of a rope factory, with whom apparently she also had an understanding finally asked Edna her intentions. She replied, "They're both nice; but you watch this Roy. He's going places." And that is all the discussion there ever was between five Irvine girls, four Irvine boys and their red-headed sister as to whom she would or should marry. Edna, in fact, was possessed of a degree of determination to match even Roy's. Wanting her sister Ann to work with her at Scythes, at Scythes her sister Ann was shortly installed. Liking to nurse

to go and sit had washed

Thomsons' backyard to dry her hair after she Ann would go and sit in the Isabella Street backyard and dry their hair. Anxious for Roy to commit and invariably Alice himself, she let his mother do the pushing Thomson would urge her two sons to go outside and tease the two in the it,

she and


Roy Thomson and Bud Pethick




Mrs. Leslie,

Thomson and


Roy Thomson

in his

new Canadian



Toronto in the early years

of the war

Third Avenue, Timmins, Ontario

" girls as


My Son's Girl-friend Lives Here too'

they sat in the sun, thus making sure that


Roy and Edna


Disliking the idea of marrying in front of a congregation,


persuaded Roy to take her to a minister's home where later, by appointment, with no guests at all, but with Carl as best man, they were married. They took the train to Albany and from there, as they set off down the Hudson River by steamer for their honeymoon at the Astoria Hotel in New York, they sent telegrams to both families telling them what they had done. Now it only remained for all the members of both large clans to see whether what had been done was right. Roy himself, of

had no doubts. "One of the best selling jobs I ever done," he commented: and the comment was as typical of the man he was to become as was his purchase and reading each day, in the honeymoon bedroom, of every New York newspaper sold course,

by the Astoria Hotel.




Farmers Winter

For a while

in California

Roy and Edna had an apartment moved back into the Isabella Street

after their marriage,

of their own, but soon they

house with Alice Thomson, her husband, her son Carl and her

new dog. The next few years seem to have been a period of consolidation for Roy Thomson, and of some almost normal moments of relaxation too. These moments of relaxation were to occur only over a period of a few years, and they were to conform neither to the

preceding pattern of his youth nor to the future pattern of his maturity but, while they lasted, they had about them a quality :

and charm. Imbued from his boyhood with a love of shore-side cottages, Thomson, the young married man, first bought a lot of land by Lake Simcoe and then purchased a small wood-frame cottage from a farmer some miles away on condition that this farmer, who must have been half-witted, transported the cottage at his own expense and set it up by the lake. The ownership of such a property gave Thomson a sense of status and pleasure, as he and Edna visited it each week-end in the spring of 191 7. One thing in 191 7 that did not please him was his summer period of training with the York Rangers Militia Regiment at Camp Borden. All around him were men training for service on the Western Front, which depressed him, and he had left his wife at home with his mother, expecting their first child, which made him anxious. He returned from Camp Borden a second lieutenant and a father; a daughter, Audrey, having been born to him on of feckless gaiety

July the sixth. For most of the ensuing year, life followed its usual course. He worked hard; he was surrounded by Irvine girls, Florrie having


Farmers Winter

now taken Edna's place Carl was the



in California

at Scythes; his

mother had her pekinese;

soul of every party;

Carl's friend


played the piano, so that parties went more merrily than ever; all the Irvines played cards, in a way that would have appalled Grandma Pethick; and Roy himself, under the influence of mar-

was putting on weight, whilst Edna, under the same inwas again pregnant. It was just after his second daughter, Irma, was born, in October, 191 8, that Thomson seemed suddenly to weary of picnics in the country, cards with the girls, sing-songs with Kip and life as branch manager to Ardagh Scythes. To a startled family and employer, he announced his firm intention, at the age of twentyfour, of giving it all up and heading west, to the prairies of ried



Saskatchewan, to farm.

Not unnaturally, his announcement was greeted with dismay. The Irvines, as kinfolk of farm people, realised that he knew nothing about farming that actually he knew nothing even

about gardening.

Thomson did not argue, he just proceeded with his plans, which Edna dutifully supported. Her husband's investments in partnership with Aunt Hislop, and in Scythes' shares of his own, were now worth about fifteen thousand dollars and if he chose to invest the lot in a prairie farm, that was his business. Roy, she had always said, was going places and if that involved farming or even diving for pearls in Australia for wheat in Saskatchewan she would follow him unquestioningly. For Thomson himself, any explanation of his motives was difficult: for how to explain that, just as he had in the past had ;


successive crazes for baseball statistics, musicals, long distance

running and superhuman wrestling, so




seen a giant billboard, advertising tractors, which depicted a

healthy young




on a

tractor, surveying vast vistas of

—he had developed a craze

for farming ? he had heard that when the prairies vanished under a foot of snow and ice, from October till April, all these farmers, rich from the sale of summer's harvested crops, likewise vanished to spend their winter comfortably and warmly



to explain that

in California?

Thomson, at twenty-five, very much wanted to buy a farm and sit alternately on a splendid tractor surveying his rich crops 35

Roy Thomson of Fleet Street and on a splendid beach surveying other rich farmers: but anyone at all, not even to Edna, why he proposed to farm, or how he hoped to pass his future

sensibly he refused to explain to


When Ardagh Scythes realised that he could not dissuade his manager from leaving Toronto, he adapted himself to the farming plan and made use of it. If Thomson was going out west anyway, he reasoned, he might as well go there a little early and open a new Scythes branch in Winnipeg, which was a mere five hundred miles from the Saskatchewan prairies on which Roy had set his heart and to which he, Scythes, would pay Roy's fare. Unable to resist the offer of free transportation, Thomson went to Winnipeg in the winter of 19 19, whilst Edna and the children stayed at Isabella Street.

In winter time, in Winnipeg, the locals warn,

if you stand on and Main Street, you will freeze. freeze, you will freeze for sure; your

the corner of Portage Street


will not just possibly





for Winnipeg, in the a cold, vilely cold, and incredibly windy city. Thomson, having taken lodgings, tried to generate some

nose, they promise, will drop off;

In it, enthusiasm for Ardagh Scythes's best quality three-inch rope; but he soon found that on the prairies of Manitoba and Alberta and Saskatchewan, no one wanted three-inch rope. On the other hand, they did want binder twine and cotton waste, and Lake Winnipeg wanted fishing supplies, so he opened a new branch for his old employer. Then, as spring came to the west and the snows vanished, Edna and the children joined him, and out they all went to the six hundred and forty flat acres of prairie that now were theirs, But life on those six close to an uncle of Edna's at Holdfast. hundred and forty acres of prairie near Holdfast, Thomson discovered almost immediately, in no way resembled what farming had promised to be on the billboard in Toronto. That billboard had told nothing of the loneliness of the west. It had not mentioned that there were no trees and that if you wanted to sit in the shade the only place you could do it was on the lee side of a telephone post. That billboard had not told of the eerie way the interminable telephone wires, running straight

hundreds of miles on end, straight into oblivion, hummed and whined in the wind. That billboard had not warned that plough-



Farmers Winter

in California

ing and sowing, even with a tractor, were hard, parching and monotonous tasks; still less that a good crop was unlikely; and least of all that

a man's crop could always be dried out, or hailed even eaten out before ever he

out, or rusted out, or frosted out, or

could harvest


"Goddam," Thomson began constantly to mutter to himself, "what a fool I am"; but he laboured desperately to make his folly profitable, and to make his wife's exile endurable. For him, the one pleasure to be derived from this self-imposed purgatory was to let his horses who knew the way, once he had crossed the rail tracks have their head on the road home from

where he had collected stores and supplies, whilst he himself lay on the bottom of his grain wagon and read newspapers. Always, in Holdfast, he bought all the newspapers he had missed since his last visit. Eagerly, once he had crossed the rail tracks, he used to clamber into the back of his wagon, sort the papers into chronological order, and then his horses goodnaturedly plodding read the whole way home. That, he enjoyed; everything else he hated. Autumn approached, and with it winter's inevitable threat of icy bleakness but far from having made so much money that now they could all go to sunny California, Thomson, talking it over with his wife, agreed that farming was so unprofitable a hell that, however much they lost on the deal, they must sell up and get out. The decision once made, Thomson promptly ceased being a farmer and reverted to his more familiar role of salesman. His crop was not good (it had been an unusually dry summer) but it was not disastrous, and he negotiated a reasonable price for it. He sold his tractor for a good price, and exchanged his farm truck for an automobile. He exchanged that automobile for a second automobile and sold the second at a handsome Holdfast,



Finally, he rented his six hundred and forty acres to a share farmer and returned to Isabella Street. He had lost much of his fifteen thousand dollars, but not so much as he had anticipated; not so much that the investment of what remained could be made

except after the most careful deliberation. the age of twenty-five: if he

he must not






He had failed

become a

once, at

millionaire at thirty,


Sparkplugs and Insolvency

Ardagh Scythes suggested that Thomson return to him, now that his farming fever had died; but Thomson's fever had been more for independence than for farming, and not even the prairies of Saskatchewan had cured him of it. He refused Scythes's offer, and around for a business of his own. As capital for this purpose he had not only what he had salvaged from his farm, but his brother's savings as well. As a boy, day-dreaming like his father, Roy had often said to Carl, "Let's go into business together and make a million," and Carl had always agreed even though Carl was cautious and methodbecause Roy had always been his leader. ical like his mother Now, in 1920, the agreement still stood and the time had come to decide what kind of business their joint capital was to launch, and cast

— —

After the most thorough discussions, which even a chewing gum project was mooted, they decided to sell and distribute spare parts for

their joint energies sustain.

in the course of

and rejected, motor cars. For young men born shrewd

if logical choice.

at the turn of the century this

Roy and

was a

Carl, having seen Toronto

develop from a quiet city of wood-paved roads where all transport was horse drawn through the clangorous days of electric trams, to the more rackety era of the automobile, now decided Their that the internal combustion engine had come to stay. fortune would be made, they decided, selling replacements of those many parts which constantly fell off, broke, or exploded in

the automobile of 1920.

They might

just as easily

have gone prospecting,



gold deposits had been found in Timmins in 191 1; or have plumped for bootlegging, for Prohibition had been imposed in


— Sparkplugs and Insolvency or have set off in search of oil, which was the logo's new 1 916; kind of gold. Any of these Carl, with his analytical mind, might have extracted from the statistics of those days as their best but none of these would have appealed to his investment: brother, even if


had been

suggested, for

a business where he could go out and


Roy had

to have So motor parts it

was. it was motor parts he chose then, Roy hundreds of newspapers and magazines. Thomson to-day owns Rich he might well have become, starting even as a shoe-shine boy; ennobled he might still have been, though he had chosen bootlegging for his vocation; but a press baron he could have become only if first, in 1928, he would go into business selling sparkplugs, back axles, spot lights, anti-freeze, batteries and anything else that garages and motorists between them might


precisely because


He bought

such a business a small one at the south end of Church Street and Carl joined him in it in 1921, and Minnie's husband, Ed Bilton, also. They sold hard, in a steadily expanding

made money. Between 1920 and the end of 1925, there was

market, and they




time for

After 1925, Edna Thomson was solely responsible for the care of her children whilst

family as well as business

her husband battled,

problems up off and devote them to :




that time



with his


liked to take the week-ends

his children.

was the criminal negligence of a drunken driver, in 1921, that most effectively orientated Thomson's devotion of his leisure hours towards his children. In that year, when Irma was three years old and Audrey was five, Edna Thomson was walking along Isabella Street, one child on either hand. Suddenly a car veered fast and insanely across the road towards them, mounting It

the sidewalk.


leapt backwards, dragging her children with


but Irma's outflung arm was pinned by the car against a




received a message at his Church Street office that daughter was injured and in the College Street Hospital for Sick Children. Not knowing which daughter it was, or how seriously she was hurt, he ran to his car and drove to the hospital where his instant consent was demanded for the amputation of his


— Roy Thomson of Fleet


Irma's arm. Horrified, he pleaded that the arm be somehow but was assured that without amputation not even the child's life could be saved.


He gave his consent; and as soon as Irma was well enough understand what he said, he promised that somehow he would compensate her for the pain and the maiming she had endured. Always, from that day onwards, he kept his promise but never quite so devotedly as in the next three and a half years. Those were the years when Edna, each summer, took her children down to the cottage at Big Cedar Point on the edge of Lake Simcoe, and when Roy, at week-ends, drove the fortyfive miles from Toronto to be with them. Knowing that he was coming, Audrey and Irma, and any cousins or friends of their own age who happened to be staying with them, would sit waiting for him each Saturday on a large rock at the last corner in the road before Big Cedar Point. The excitement would be intense, not only because Roy was better fun than any other grown-up for miles around but because he always brought presents. Plasticine, jig-saws, jacks, balloons small things, cheap things; but always, for each child, something these were their regular presents from the man whose unruly hair, thick spectacles, thickening figure and oddly shambling walk reminded them all of a good-natured bear. They would pile into the car with him and, examining their loot, drive the last mile down the dirt road to the wooden cottage on the to


There, at once, Thomson would be required by the children swim and even to teach them to dive. Somehow, although he saw little without his glasses and could hardly be expected to dive bespectacled, he gave diving lessons. Then he would lie in the water and float, completely relaxed, recovering equally from the week's hard work and the inevitable mending of punctures and blow-outs incurred on the drive down from Toronto. Finally, floundering out of the water, he would deposit himself heavily in a hammock, and read. to

he just grass could be three feet long, he did not mow it with the kids, floated on his back, lay in the hammock and


swam read.

Nails could need hammering, lights could need mending, cans could need opening he did not hammer or mend or open. All


Sparkplugs and Insolvency he said, were "fixing jobs," and Edna did all the fixing: he just played games with the kids and then floated and lay in these,


hammock and


"Anything to be done by Roy that's not business," Edna would remark cheerfully, "you've got to remind him" and then would do it herself. They were an easy-going couple and, towards their numerous house guests, Roy was a most amiable if somewhat

inert host.

In September of 1923, a son, Kenneth, was born and the The girls concentrated on their baby brother; Edna devoted herself equally to her three

family's centre of gravity shifted again.


Roy remained

kindly to


children, but obsessed

himself with the need to compensate Irma for the loss of her



during the working week

except business.



when nothing


scouring orders from every garage and

supplier in the province, Roy, Carl

and Ed continued




They bought a machine-shop that manufactured fly-wheel They moved to larger quarters. They travelled their salesmen's rounds tirelessly; and by 1924 they had built up their ring gears.

an annual turnover of about seven hundred thousand At which moment, disaster struck. For some months all of them probably, but Roy certainly, with his wide grin and his air of slightly helpless warmth, had oversold their garage customers and in the process they had lost sight of two immutable business facts. First, that garages are almost as slow to pay the distributor for supplies obtained as the manufacturer is quick to demand payment from the distributor; second, that no business can afford to expand its inventory without considerable resources of capital upon which to fall business to dollars.



The Thomson



their Bilton brother-in-law did

not have such resources.

Thus, in 1924, they found that they had sold tens of thousands of dollars' worth of parts and machinery to garages that could not

them, whilst the manufacturers, from whom they themparts and machinery, were demanding punctual payment. But the money to cover such punctual payments was not available and, from the garages that owed it, could not be ob-




had purchased those


Roy Thomson of Fleet tained.




even as they received demands for payments

they could not meet, so also they received orders from customers who would pay later but expected delivery straight away. In

by 1925 they faced bankruptcy. "We're stopped dead in our tracks," Thomson at last admitted and set about retrieving whatever could be retrieved.


With his partners he arranged that their creditors accept payment of debts over a long period. They appointed a trustee. They borrowed money using a small hotel owned by Ed Bilton as their main security from the Bank of Nova Scotia, to which they were already in debt. They carried on with extreme caution and paid off their debts gradually, a little each month. Only Roy

— —

seemed unperturbed. Having done all that he left this


could be done in Toronto, he

area to his recently married brother, and to a loyal if

somewhat dismayed Ed Bilton, and set out, full of optimism, for Ottawa where, he had already convinced himself, there lay a market that was virtually untouched. Here in the east, he decided, lay his best opportunities for selling automotive parts;

and a short stay in Ottawa confirmed this belief. Briskly, as if he had never known failure, he opened up a new company, Service Supplies Limited.

This was 1925, and in 1925 a new wonder radio arrived on the twentieth-century scene, and manufacturers of radio sets, reluctant to open shops of their own, were looking for energetic

automotive salesmen who, as well as selling spark plugs to garages, might sell radios to everyone, including the garage proprietor. High on their list of energetic salesmen was one Roy Thomson. He was offered and accepted the franchise to sell De Forest Crosley radios. He accepted because he needed any extra money he could earn to help pay off his debts, and because the necessarily slow build-up of Service Supplies Limited left him

impatient to


more of anything.

Thus, just as a farming debacle had diverted his free enterprise instincts towards selling automotive parts, so now the avalanche of debts that engulfed his Automotive Supply firm sidetracked some of his energies at least into hawking round the new-

and it was this unlikely side-track that was eventhim to Fleet Street. Thrice more he would have to be balked, stopped dead in

fangled radio


ually to lead


Sparkplugs and Insolvency his tracks, before at last the stream of his impatient energies was running inexorably towards the vanished river Fleet: but twice already, at Holdfast and in Toronto, he had shown that obstacles did not halt him. Like water, he merely swirled around whatever blocked him and surged ahead on a new course almost always to his ultimate advantage.


7. Reception is

Carl's marriage to as a shock



in the

Mabel Soul

to his brother, for

in September, 1935, had come Mabel, one of the most beautiful

Toronto, was a Roman Catholic and Roy's attitude towards mixed marriages was, as he publicly stated: "There are enough problems in married life without bringing religion

girls in

into it."

Inevitably, though

quently, though

Roy continued

to visit his brother fre-

Mabel generously admired Edna

for her all-

round competence, saying that she felt positively put to shame by it, though the two men shared the continuing responsibility of debts to discharge and a new business to sustain, they began to drift apart. They were to remain always devoted but they now abandoned their habit of close inter-dependence and sought opposing rewards from life. Carl, determined to look after a family which eventually included eight children, was to plump for a life of security in Ottawa: Roy, sacrificing his family's comfort and bear-like security as ruthlessly as he did his own, was to prowl hunting one barren ground from to another, endand myopic lessly searching for the biggest pot of honey in the world. By 1928, the two brothers had built up their Ottawa business Roy and his to a turnover of eighty thousand dollars a year. family had lived for the past two years in Ottawa itself; Carl was just preparing to bring his family east from Toronto to the nation's capital; and, most important of all, every debt owed to every creditor of their now defunct Toronto business, including the Bank of Nova Scotia's loan, had been paid off. Now Roy and Carl and Ed could look forward to a secure and profitable future with Service Supplies Limited in Ottawa a future whose prospects, they knew, were heightened by the fact that the Nova :




Bad in



repayment of an customers worthy in future of

Scotia Bank, because of their conscientious

onerous loan, regarded them as excellent credit.

But Roy was

For two years he had travelled the whole and an apparently passionate conviction that no one could afford to be without any of the items he sold; yet eighty thousand dollars was Service Supplies Limited's optimum turnover and eighty thousand dollars annually was not nearly enough for him. With all and sundry, therefore, he began to discuss what new territories might yield him a better return. With apparent ingenuousness he told everyone exactly how much his Ottawa business was worth and declared that he wanted more, because he intended being a millionaire. With complete humility he even asked the head of De Forest Grosley whose radio sets he and this gentleman, Major sold what advice he could offer; Hohn, remarking on the prosperity created by the gold fields of Timmins and Kirkland Lake, suggested Ontario's north. restless.

of Eastern Ontario with determination


De Forest Crosley had no distributor such Thomson would be ideal but also

did so partly because

in the north



because his firm had just decided that, Ottawa being so rich a market, they wanted to deal there direct, rather than through Service Supplies Limited.





on the

prairies in the west,



Toronto to the south, and having not sufficiently succeeded in the east, where now, anyway, he would be the poorer for the loss of the De Forest Grosley franchise, Thomson accepted the Major's advice. Edna and her three children, who were just becoming used to life in Ottawa, uprooted themselves and moved to the bleak north; Carl was entrusted with the responsibility for Service Supplies Limited in Ottawa; and in 1928, Roy started a new life in a town called North Bay.

North Bay is not a bay but a lake, which is not called Lake North Bay but Lake Nipissing. The township is not a mining township, nor an industrial one, it is simply a central railhead for the north, and a tourist resort in the summer months. In winter time it has been known to become a forty-below-zero hell.

Everyone in North Bay knows everyone 45


Everyone in

Roy Thomson of Fleet


North Bay goes to church on Sunday. Everyone in North Bay lives by railway work or by trading something to someone else in North Bay and the lonely lands beyond. It is so today: it was so at the beginning of 1929 when Edna rented an old wood-frame house on the wrong side of the tracks, and her husband rented a minute office-cum-warehouse on Oak Street.

In their first home the Thomson family, that winter, froze. The house had no central heating and nothing Edna did could

morning temperature to anything that approached to work each morning; the girls walked to school; Kenneth was taken to kindergarten. Thomson also walked home each day to join his family at luncheon: but no one ever knew what time luncheon would be because each day, incorrigibly, he stopped to talk to everybody he met en

raise the inside


Thomson walked


Having employed someone to look after his Oak Street warehouse, he now set out by train to sell automotive parts and radio sets and washing machines and refrigerators. He travelled north to Cobalt, New Liskeard, Haileybury, Englehart, Timmins, Cochrane, Kapuskasing and Hearst. He travelled west to Sudbury and Sault Sainte Marie; and east to Temiskaming, Rouyn and Val d'Or. At least three hundred miles in each direction. To this day, in those areas, he is remembered as the salesman who arrived shabbily dressed, protected only by a raincoat and a fedora hat in weather that plainly demanded a fur coat and a fur hat, anxious to sell fifty cents' worth of washers to a garage, half a dozen radios to a hardware store, or a refrigerator to a dealer.

No matter what time his train drew into a township or a city (anywhere in Canada with a population of more than ten thousand is by definition a city), Thomson would have telegraphed ahead for the local dealers to meet him and even at two in the morning, so keen was competition then, the dealers would be :

there at the station, waiting.

Gradually, though, Crosley's radios that he





it was with the selling of De Forest became obsessed. Here, he realised, was especially since Rogers had just invented

no batteries but simply plugged into the household supply of electricity. It would no longer be necessary for the set that needed




Bad in



people to have cumbersome pianos in their front parlours and music lessons; radio sets would

for small boys to take hateful

bring better music to front parlours than reluctant pupils of had ever done.


Likewise the phonograph was doomed. Why bother with the weary business of winding up and changing records, and putting in new needles, when all you had to do was buy a radio and listen to music from some remote studio where an invisible slave, a sort of tireless and ingratiating genie, for hours on end, did it all for you? Here, Thomson appreciated, was a light, easily operated, easily transportable machine that combined the virtues of both the piano and the phonograph whilst possessing the defects of neither. Naturally he wanted to sell it: but that he sold it so desperately was largely due to the ruthless pressure exerted upon him by De Forest Crosley's sales manager, Don Pollitt. Sell more, Pollitt threatened, or someone else will have to be given the distribution rights. Order more (and be ready to pay for them) or, Pollitt would hint, "I guess we'll have to sell direct up there." "You're killing me," Thomson protested: but he sold harder, and ordered more sets for whose payment he then became responsible, and kept the distribution rights. Soon he realised that it was not enough just to sell sets to the dealer in towns like White River, allegedly the coldest spot in Canada. If ever he was to get his money back, he realised, he must also help the dealer to sell to his customers and that, in many areas where there was almost no reception except static, was not easy. "Geez, it's cold," he would greet the dealer as he stamped in out of the snow and warmed his hands by the inevitable iron stove.

"Now, who are our prospects?" The dealer would list their prospects and he and Thomson would then load the required number of radios on to a sledge and drag it along to their first victim's house. The objective then was not to



—that was quite impossible—but simply

persuade the victim to allow a battery

set to be installed in home. "I'm from the factory," Thomson would explain. "I'm not buying," the victim would interject.





Roy Thomson of Fleet

"No, no these parts.




just we're conducting a survey

on reception




"I don't know nothing about reception. "And we'd like your permission to install .

"But I'm not buying. "Sure, you're not





this set.





a week, we'll rig up an a report. ..."

install it for


and you be kind enough

"What about?" "What stations you



to give us



"I don't have to pay?" "No, we just want your report: I'll be back for your report." Out then to the sledge and on then to the next prospect. And after that, on to the next town or city and thence to



hopes of a

a week



for the "reports":

back in the


"Well?" Thomson would ask, "how was reception?" "Not bad," grudgingly. "What did you hear?" "An American station." This often boastfully, and untruthfully. "Late at night."



"I did too"

—at which point the customer should have been

hooked. Should have added: "Say, to which Thomson could then reply

how much

are these sets?"

"Oh, well now, you've helped us a with your report, so we'd like to help you. I can arrange that if you gave this dealer here say twenty-five dollars he'll accept it as a down payment. Pay the rest over a couple of years." And so it was done. At Trout Greek the dealer was a garage man and business was not brisk. Thomson persuaded him to set up a radio in the garage in the hopes that someone, hearing it, might be lured in to buy. Suddenly, quite clearly, the radio came to life. "This is W.J.Z., New York," it announced: but only an ancient, pipe"These sets?" surprised.


smoking farmer heard it. He surveyed the radio for some time, " spat and then asked: " Is he talking in New York? " Yes." "I don't believe it!" "Why should you?" it

Thomson sympathised. "Hardly




— Reception




how many

that he


as well to the farmers


Bad in





North sold,



yet another freight car-load and sell them and timber men and miners of Northern

Ontario. Every year De Forest Grosley like their competitors produced a new model. Always they wanted all their old stock not only ordered by distributors like Thomson but safely sold before this new line appeared. Constantly, once the new models were available, Pollitt threatened, "Take more of our new line or we'll have to get someone else as our distributor." " Don," Thomson once protested, " don't you know I've still got about two hundred of your old Invaders I can't get rid


"So what are you going




inquired coldly;

museum?" After which Thomson abandoned all hopes of sympathy and concentrated on selling. He knew too well the potential of this "Start a

market in the north to risk losing it by not living up to Pollitt's demands. Here, where the nights were long and freezing, where one was cut off from the world, where life was harsh and bleak and devoid of entertainment, the sound of music, of voices from big metropolitan cities, could be so comforting as to make the idea of owning a radio irresistible. It was his job, he accepted, to get the sets into the houses on trial. Then, if the customer heard music and voices, a sale should ensue. Here, however, was the flaw. Most customers did not hear music and voices once a set had been left in their homes; they heard howls and whines and cracklings, and when Thomson returned, hoping for a sale, it was to find instead an indignant and frustrated householder who demanded, "Take that goddam yowling thing away." About this he could do nothing except take his sets away. If signals from Canada and America were so weak that they could not penetrate the magnetic barrier built up by a mineralbearing countryside, not Thomson nor even Marconi himself could wring music from De Forest Crosley's sets. Yet if he continued to buy car-loads of sets from De Forest Crosley, and to be unable to sell them because they made no noise except static, he would soon be in financial trouble again. So he improved his technique with the dealers, showing them


to estimate their needs


more 49




how D


— :

Roy Thomson of Fleet


him more boldly; and he fought De Forest Crosley for and he delayed paying his North Bay accounts as long as possible (so that, on one occasion, for the sake of a five dollar bill, the electricity was cut off at his shop) and

order from

longer term credit;


he sold people


over the north the magical idea of the box that

would bring music and entertainment into



homes. It was at this time, as he was driven by an oil salesman through a particularly wild reserve, that he looked out and mused "You know, Jack, one day, if we live long enough, we'll be able to sit

by these

here, right



listen to

music from


over the


His companion, Jack Macleod, did not comment. Driving was difficult enough without also indulging in

in those days


drop and soon Thomson got back to company on these long, slow trips; and Thomson was glad of the free transport; and each was glad of the other's introductions in any town they visited. In fact, the only bone of contention between them was a washing machine that Macleod had bought from Thomson, about which each argued bitterly that the other should have paid the one


saner topics.

let the subject

He was

glad of Thomson's

and sledge that had carried it from Oak Street to Macleod's home. Money, in those days, was short so short that even one dollar fifty cents mattered enough dollar


cents hire of the horse


arguments lasting for months. In spite of which, Thomson, who sold so cleverly from Swastika to Sudbury, was regarded by other salesmen as a bad collector of debts. However, he survived; and in September of to cause

1929, Edna,


who had


the instincts of a gipsy, was even able

home, whilst he himself was able to employ a book-keeper called Johnson to straighten out the ledgers on the automotive side of his business. Working together, in the months that followed, Thomson and Johnson tried vainly to fathom why, though dealers were still ordering briskly, actual payments had fallen so dramatically. It worried Johnson; Thomson it seemed rather to irritate than to worry, and, occupying all his spare time with a new hobby reading the Nugget, North Bay's local newspaper he seemed as to

to a less distressingly cold

placid as ever.

In short, at a time when the


rest of



had begun



Bad in



wonder how on earth it could stay in when bad debts had become the rule rather than the exception, Thomson was regarded as "the kind of guy who just rather desperately to business,

owes a bit, and borrows a bit, and pays a bit and meantime don't worry about nothin\" That he could thus behave was certainly a tribute either to his insensitivity or to his courage, for


Depression had reached Canada's north.

at last America's

Not dramatically.

Nothing changed visibly. It was just that shops suddenly began not to be able to sell their wares and that old habits of resistance to new-fangled ideas were resurrected. Like the traditional one of putting perishable food out in the snow, so who needed a refrigerator? Like buying a fairly expensive washing machine and then arguing bitterly about who, vendor or purchaser, should pay the one dollar fifty cents for cartage. This was the moment that Edna's brother Fred, and her sister Florence, and Florence's husband Sydney Dunnett, chose to join the Thomsons in North Bay, running a Main Street shop stocked with radios, refrigerators and washing machines from Roy's warehouse.

The shop was called Modern Electric and, full of confidence, Fred Irvine and Syd Dunnett waited for the business to roll in.


did not, of course,

roll in;

not to


Electric nor, for

on any North American Main Street. In spite of which, the presence of in-laws in North Bay, between 1930 and 1932, brought a sudden resurgence of the old

years to come, to anyone else

Thomson household. Edna had occupied herself

family zest to the Previously,

entirely with


which she usually won, and with the activities of the local United Church. Now she renewed her pleasure in swimming and looked forward to spending July and August in a rented cottage by Lake Nipissing. The clannish atmosphere of the pre-1919 days was restored. Once more, sheer femininity dominated, and even Alice Thomson herself, ruddier faced than ever and always accompanied by her dogs, visited occasionally. She came because her husband, an invalid for years, paralysed by a series of strokes, had recently died, releasing her from his wheel chair. She was at last enjoying a life in which there was no need to work hard, or pay off mortchildren, with bridge games,


— Roy Thomson of Fleet gages, or nurse the sick.

authority seemed to assert



Even now, though, her good-natured itself

over the entire family.

Audrey and Irma, Edna and Florrie, Olive (the girl Fred Irvine was courting), and herself on the one hand on the other, Roy and Fred and Syd and the entire family, at this time, being


eight-year-old Kenneth.

Thus, in the cottage at Lake Nipissing, the talk was all of and the other Irvine girls; of how Aunt Hislop had recently won a week's pass to a movie house and used it every single night, though the same films were shown all the time; of how the conductor on the train from Toronto to North Bay had threatened to evict Alice's dog and how she had routed him by saying he'd have to throw her off too; of how little Kenneth, aged eight, had rushed indoors one evening to tell the entire week-end gathering, "Fred's kissing Olive!" Useless then for Roy to attempt to restore the prestige of the mere male by suggesting to Olive: "Gimme a thousand bucks and I'll make you a rich woman." Olive simply retorted: "If I had half that I'd be a rich woman!" And anyway, they all knew that no one in North Bay in 1931 was getting rich. Practically the only masculine point ever scored off this gaggle of women was in fact scored by Kenneth who, one morning when Olive prepared the children's breakfast, remarked: "You sure can't cook bacon." Thus the carefree summer week-ends passed carefree, that is, as long as one was indoors, away from the water's edge, away from the spruce and the pine, well before dusk. Otherwise the black fly, tiny and swarming like minute, winged piranha children


would attack; and in seconds have arms and face and legs streaming blood from innumerable tiny punctures. Week days, working days, however, were no longer carefree as North Bay reeled under that world-wide pestilence which was the Depression. As winter approached and potential customers prepared to store their food in the snow rather than buy his refrigerators, and continued to boil their laundry rather than buy his washing machines, and refused even to discuss buying a radio set because reception was so hopeless, Thomson announced that he would overcome this lack of reception by the most obvious means of all. He would open a radio station, right there in North Bay, whose transmissions everyone would be able to receive. 52



Bad in



He had no licence to do so, no technical knowledge of how to do so, no equipment and no capital with which to do so, but this was his plan; and whilst those in whom he confided (which was everyone who would listen to him) mocked, he himself became absorbed in the exercise of figuring out how to put his plan into effect.





Start a Radio Station

He had already inquired about a licence to broadcast, going about this inquiry in the most direct way by travelling to Ottawa, asking which government branch dealt with broadcasting, approaching the Transport Department as instructed and from them demanding to know how one started a radio station. He had been told that a licence was necessary but that no more licences were being issued, so he would have to get hold of one already in existence. How, he asked, did he do that? Two men, Messrs. Manson and Brown, were particularly helpful to him. They looked up records and they produced the answer the Abitibi Company at Iroquois Falls held the only licence that would serve his purpose. He must get that or abandon his idea of broadcasting from North Bay. Although the Abitibi Company, when it had requested a licence in 1925, had done so with the simple intention of maintaining a radio link to their lumber camps, the licensing authority had authorised them to broadcast everything from market news to Board of Trade talks, from music to bed-time stories. Abitibi had subsequently renewed their licence each year, talked with their lumber camps by telephone and by radio transmitted not so much as a nursery rhyme.

Aware of this, Thomson proposed

that the Abitibi


might lend or transfer their licence to him, and ment of Transport might then allow him to operate from North Bay rather than from Iroquois Falls. Both agreed, the Abitibi Company granting him, in consideration of the payment of one dollar, the loan of their licence for a year, on condition that at the end of that year they could either ask for it back or, by not that the Depart-


How to Start a Radio Station asking for in


back, allow

Thomson. He was now


automatically and in perpetuity to vest

under the code letters CFCH, to was to find the site, the money, the technicians and the equipment with which in fact to do so. He approached the management of North Bay's Capitol Theatre and pointed out that backstage there was room enough to set up a broadcasting studio: if they would give him this space free, he would give them free "time" on his proposed radio station time to advertise their films and their dance hall. The Capitol broadcast;



that remained



They appreciated

that as yet

Thomson had

but they hoped that he would succeed in getting them and presumed, from his condition of



for broadcasting,

somewhere in the background there must lurk a rich backer. Backing and credit (in those days when the insurance man might have to call three or four times to collect weekly payments as small as twenty-five cents) were everything. They were what every man needed and what, lately, no man ever obtained. They were what Thomson needed, what North Bay was beginning to assume Thomson must have found but in fact Thomson had no backing, he had only a licence to broadcast and space for a studio in which to do so. What next he needed, he was advised, and it sounded reasonable, was a transmitter. With his brother-in-law, Fred Irvine, he accordingly set off to Toronto by car to search out and acquire the cheapest transmitter available: and, because he bought batteries from them, he made his first inquiry at the offices of the Canadian National Carbon Company. Where, he asked, could he find a very cheap radio transmitter? Fortune favoured him, or perhaps merely rewarded his initiative. The Carbon Company not only sold batteries to dealers like Thomson, it also broadcast from its own Toronto station, CKNC. And years ago CKNC had discarded its first transmitter, a 50- watt affair, about the size of a tea chest, which might now be blithe self-assurance, that


for sale.

Who, Thomson Ernest Bushnell.


would know?

He was shown

—and was told



to see


Bushnell's office,

shook hands with him and at once requested the sale of the old 50-watt transmitter, asking Bushnell to name a price for


Roy Thomson of Fleet Bushnell,



"That's O.K.," to


for it,"

offer in the

wildly, suggested five

Thomson "I'll



agreed, "but I don't have any cash

and suggested,



it were the most reasonable you a promissory note for three

as if


months." Bushnell put this somewhat unorthodox proposal to his super-

Mr. Gregg, who agreed.



The Canadian National Carbon

an old 50- watt transmitter for which no one had any use and to accept in return a note that might turn out to be valueless. Thomson and his brother-in-law carried the heavy, box-like transmitter downstairs and put it in the trunk of their car. Now all they needed was an expert who could make it work. CKNC agreed that one of their engineers, a young man called Jack Barnaby, should travel up to North Bay and install their ancient thus undertook to


CFCH's new studio. Thomson then spoke to Barnaby, who told him that the speech rack had better be assembled in Toronto and shipped by train to North Bay. Having never heard of a speech rack, Thomson asked what this transmitter in

was and how much it would cost; and after Barnaby had explained, he still had no idea what it was but he urged Barnaby to build it and ship it north as quickly as possible, and himself to follow post haste to install it. Barnaby agreed. Arrived in North Bay, he discovered that the transmitter was Thomson reuseless because two of its tubes were burnt out. turned to Bushnell in Toronto and asked: "Will you folks trust


for a couple of eighty dollar tubes ?"

Realising that without tubes the transmitter would not trans-

and that without transmission Thomson could earn no money, and that without earnings their promissory note would Bushnell never be redeemed, the Carbon Company agreed. ordered the required tubes to be sent to North Bay at the Carbon Company's expense and Thomson had thus manoeuvred them into giving him not only $660 credit but the service of one of their most ingenious engineers as well. mit,

Ingenious, Barnaby certainly needed to be, for

was not



all at

North Bay

should have been in the construction of a radio




had been

built to function


on Toronto's

— How to Start a Radio Station 25 cycle power, but North Bay had 60 cycle power; so a motor generator would have to be installed. But the cheap generator they then acquired had been brutally misused by its previous

many times and, not having been properly re-wired, it hummed. This hum, Barnaby said, would be broadcast with the authorised stock-reports, music and bed-time stories and would sound bad. Before it could hum on any broadcast, however, it gave up Barnaby used tubes as a substitute. He the ghost entirely. improvised with four jam jars full of salt water, each with an electrode held in place in the water by a hole in the lid. But the combination of electrodes and salt water generated gas, which blew the lids off the jam jars; so Barnaby had to start again improvising instead with the elements out of a number of electric irons, the elements strung together gracelessly but effectively with owners. It had obviously burnt out



above the Capitol's stage was to be the studio. Barnaby knocked down the walls of all the small offices on this floor, making one large studio, and then roofed it over with old chicken wire and even older






sort of acoustical effect,



room had Barnaby to house his transmitter and his illtreated generator and his speech rack and the exploding jam jars and all the elements out of electric irons strung together with wire. Since there was no other way of communicating between studio announcer and studio engineer on the floor above, it was agreed that they should attract one another's attention by banging on the pipes of the central heating unit. Whilst Barnaby thus battled with wornout equipment and an almost complete lack of funds, Thomson was down in Main Street selling advertising time for his new station. He offered one hundred word "spots" for the princely sum of thirty-five cents each and having successfully extracted his thirty-five cents' worth from Sol Waiser, the doyen of North Bay's traders, he soon got orders from most of the remaining stores and dealers. He arranged an opening broadcast from the stage of the Capitol Theatre itself employing the Capitol Theatre's orchestra and exploiting local talent and to it he invited everyone in town. No one would have dreamed of staying away. the floor above the studio, one small dressing

been allotted



— Roy Thomson of Fleet



announcer, Stan Burnett, was employed; Thomson all the commercials and Barnaby advised that the transmitter and generator between them produced so uneven a frequency that listeners would be chasing the new station all over their control panel. Unperturbed, Thomson pointed out that, for the opening night at least, this would hardly matter everyone would be at the Capitol ceremony anyway. As the opening day drew closer, Thomson spoke seriously to Jack Barnaby. "Jack," he said, "why don't you stay with me? You stay with me and you'll do all right." Confidently then he busied himself writing

and frankly he explained that at the moment he could only pay Barnaby twenty-five dollars a week, whereas the Canadian National Carbon Company was paying him fortyfive dollars a week: but "Stay with me," he urged. And so, at the height of the depression in Canada, Barnaby gave up his forty-five dollar a week job with a massive national company in Toronto to join Thomson's puny radio station in North Bay, at a drop in salary of twenty dollars a week, but with the promise that it would increase to forty-five dollars as soon as outlined his plans



Barnaby returned to Toronto, collected and their new car, and drove north again

his wife, his


to nurse the delicate

innards of Canada's youngest radio station. At his wife's instigation he made only one condition that Thomson should arrange

whom, on terms of monthly payments, he had purchased his new car, that the car could be taken to North Bay and that Thomson would himself deduct the payments due from Barnaby's salary and be responsible for sending them to the finance company. Finally, amid tremendous local excitement, March 4th, 1931, the much publicised day of the opening of CFCH arrived. Thomson threw an Inaugural Dinner at the Empire Hotel, to which he invited North Bay's leading citizens and tradesmen and half a dozen top Toronto journalists. Speeches were made and broadcast, and there was a floor show of imported comics and singers, who were shortly to perform a second time before both the dinner guests who took cars or walked the short distance to the Capitol Theatre and a packed house as the first ever broadcast from Northern Ontario went on the air. Those who listened-in heard perfectly; those who watched with the Toronto finance company from


— How to Start a Radio Station were fascinated by the sheer magic of broadcasting brought to them by this citizen of only two years' standing; and North Bay exulted because Sudbury their hated rival to the west had been defeated in the race to be the first northern town to have its own radio station. Except in the eyes of The Nugget, far from

overjoyed at



that night,




advertising revenue,

was undoubtedly the most popular







more, he remained popular, just as he remained

shabbily dressed; just as he continued to shamble into town, his

fedora hat on the back of his head, his overcoat unbuttoned and swinging, his lower jaw clenching and jerking slightly rightwards

whenever he concentrated, his hand conwhere he kept a bag of candy. He was a very big man now weighing over two hundred pounds and more than ever his curious walk, plus his glasses, plus his bulk, put those who watched him in mind of a bear. But an amiable bear. He seemed always cheerful. "Gees," he would say, "I wish I could get paid some money. I got a car-load of radios to pay for. I got bills. I reckon I must owe maybe thirty thousand dollars but no one ever pays me a cent! Still, I'll come out of it all O.K." "How's the radio station going?" people would ask him. "Good," he would reply. "It's going to be real good." It needed to be real good. For his consignments of De Forest Crosley's radios alone, his unpaid accounts were beginning to be frightening, even though GFCH had sent orders booming. The trouble was, he would have to pay De Forest Crosley for those booming orders, and who was going to pay him ? Just as well that the two leading North Bay shop-keepers, Sol Waiser and T. M. Palmer, had each now booked a full week's "spots" at five dollars each, because where Waiser and Palmer went, the rest would follow. And just as well that his broadcasting costs were low. What music the Capitol Theatre orchestra did not provide free, he got from discs exchanged for a "spot" with the local music shop. Weather forecasts were guessed. Whoever was announcing simply had a look outside, and then guessed; and results seemed no less efficient than those provided by the more conventional meteorological services. Church and social choirs cost nothing


an involuntary


stantly dipping into his jacket pocket



Roy Thomson of Fleet



were popular so they were much heard on GFCH. Local talent anxious to perform for nothing, or next to nothing, just to be heard "on the air" was surprisingly versatile. Like the Bourasa Sisters of Sturgeon Falls who could read no music at all but who, to facilitate rehearsals they could not attend, always sent the bandleader a letter containing a picture of a piano key-board and an to mark the note at which their


number would


Or like Kay and Eileen Giles, touching ballad of the times


repeatedly sang that

"If my baby cooks like I'll

News was


baby looks

be hungry, hungry,


the time."

main problem. It came from Toronto in morse which unfortunately no one at CFCH could read. Inevitably Barnaby had rigged up a typical Barnaby device which, using a stylus and paper, transcribed the morse sounds into visual morse dots and dashes (which transcription the staff used then to take away and laboriously de-code), but no one pretended that this system was anything less than cumbersome. It was all they could afford, however, so it remained with them for the


Obviously, with Thomson's debts to


Forest Crosley, his

promissory notes to the Canadian National Carbon


was as well that CFCH's costs were low. They would need to remain low: which they did not. Suddenly the whole over-wrought generating system in the control-room burnt itself out and nothing Barnaby could do would revive it; and for the next nine days, at ruinous cost, CFCH was kept on the air only by using every 45-volt battery in town. Realising at last that he had to have efficient machinery, Thomson raised a one thousand dollar loan from the Nova Scotia Bank (who still remembered his scrupulous repayments of his 1925 debts) and bought a reliable 100- watt Marconi transmitter to


his salary expenses,

replace the



useless 50-watt-er.

Everywhere he looked at this time, Thomson saw money pouring out faster than it came in and still Pollitt demanded that he accept yet another car-load of radios. 60


to Start

a Radio Station

Desperately Thomson set off to sell these sets, eventually reaching Chapleau, about 300 miles west of North Bay. He made his way direct to the leading store, Smith and Chappie's, and there mesmerised a

young employee, Arthur Grout, into ordering


needed. not for himself, Grout realised that the order was quite invalid unless Thomson could get it initialled by the head of the department; so it was with mixed three times as

sets as his store

Fortunately for the store,


feelings of relief and anxiety that

the senior

he watched Thomson approach



hour and a half later, Thomson returned the order initialled and doubled. "We'll have radios sticking out of our ears," Grout protested. "Most important order of my life," Thomson told him, waving the piece of paper.

"You came out into the sticks to find a sucker," Grout rebuked. But Thomson only laughed. Smith and Chappie were a highly regarded firm. Their credit was excellent. On the strength of this order he himself would get enough credit to pay for the whole of De Forest Crosley's last consignment, and so keep his head clear of the rising tide of bankruptcy. He returned to North Bay more cheerfully than ever. More cheerfully not only because he had landed a good order, but because he had a new plan. The council elections were soon to be held and he, Roy Thomson, radio benefactor of the North in general

and of North Bay

in particular,



had decided




g. Defeat in the Status Stakes



to Jack

Macleod, the


salesman, that

Thomson first


Macleod replied that he would ask him about it again in the morning perhaps, after a night's sleep, he might not be so keen. But in the morning Thomson was still keen he still wanted to be an alderman. Macleod took him to the Empire Hotel where a group of travellers played endless crap and poker and drank endless fided this dream.





"Boys," Macleod shouted, "I got a politician here" explained the situation.


One of the locals looked across at Thomson the newcomer. "Always thought you was a nut," he commented, "now I know you are." But Thomson was not to be deterred. He started an enthusiastic campaign in favour of Thomson which was robustly supported, it surprised no one to observe, by CFCH, and just as robustly opposed, it still surprised no one to observe, by The Nugget.


Macleod collected together all his and explained that North Bay's Little Italy must vote for Thomson. "I don't know anything about politics," he briefed his debtors, "but just you impress on your people, Roy's gotta get in !" To the chagrin of The Nugget and the delight of CFCH, Thomson did get in; and at once announced that his special interests within the council would lie in the realm of polling day, Jack

Italian customers


Looking back upon this assertion, it seems reasonable enough. Naturally a multi-millionaire of the 1960's would, in the 1930's, be a logical choice


a council's Finance Committee. 62


— Defeat

in the Status Stakes

examining the claim in the light only of the evidence available in 1 93 1, it becomes ludicrously unjustified, Thomson's history having been one of near bankruptcy in 1925, chronic insolvency since 1925 and the imminent collapse of Modern Electric that year. Yet very soon, so convincingly did he sell himself, he became head of the Finance Committee. In which capacity he was altogether too radical for his colleagues, who consistently opposed almost everything he suggested in his attempts to reform or rationalise or modernise North Bay's precarious economy. Until eventually, tiring of finding himself so constantly in a minority of one, he took either to ignoring his critics (when he could be observed to be engrossed in The Nugget) or to taking down in his still impeccable shorthand, as evidence possibly to be used against them, every word they uttered both of which tactics they found eccentric and disturbing. Such tactics, however, were not mere acts of insolence within the council chamber. Thomson also spent a lot of time at his shop carefully measuring every column inch of The Nugget, calculating what exactly were the proportions between editorial and advertising matter, and he did it purely for the academic pleasure of finding out how a newspaper paid its way. He was not to make use of any of his findings for more than two years. Throughout all this time he played no part socially in the life of North Bay. Some thought this was because he had no party clothes especially so since, every time he stood up to speak in Council, always in the same old tweed suit, his only suit, his fellow aldermen could see the small patch that Edna had sewn into the seat of his pants. Others thought he was anti-social which was unfair to a man who could not see well enough to indulge in curling or golf, who hated bridge as much as he did pills (which he was constitutionally incapable of swallowing), who had no car for picnics and who found it difficult even to give his wife her weekly housekeeping allowance of twenty-five

dollars, let alone to entertain.

Indeed Thomson's position in the community can best be this time, to her husband's first and recent press interview, in which he had blandly asserted that he would soon be a millionaire. "What a crazy thing to say," she sobbed. "We can't even pay gathered from Edna's reaction, at

for the milk."


Roy Thomson of Fleet By now carious,


the state of his finances was truthfully most pre-


no one knew better than




nineteen-year-old ledger keeper at the Royal Bank. He handled the Thomson account and knew as much about the Thomson


fact, his


income and


as Thomson himself. In how Thomson worked was fre-


intimate knowledge of

quently embarrassing.

Thomson therefore decided to make use of the knowledge and remove the embarrassment by employing the bank's ledger keeper as his ledger keeper. The bank paid the youth sixty dollars a month, Thomson now offered him thirty-five dollars a week: and the youth an athletic, tough-minded young man who knew perfectly well that there was no money at all with which to back up this generous offer was so beguiled by Thomson that he quit the bank and joined the staff of Northern to


At the end of his

week's work, Darling received a cheque promised; after the second, he received


for thirty-five dollars as

thirty dollars; after the third, twenty-five dollars; after the fourth,

twenty dollars and

after the fifth, nothing.

During which period, chasing both the wherewithal for his family's milk,

out on the road to


his elusive millions

Thomson continued




He had bought a dilapidated car and now

travelled largely in this.

Whilst he was thus one day some miles out of North Bay, Stan Burnett, the announcer, suddenly suffered a severe toothache

was advised by

his dentist that


he needed four immediate ex-

telephoned to Johnson at the Modern Electric shop and asked him to find someone to stand-in as announcer. One after the other, everyone in the shop declined tractions.

this offer



of stardom, except



Darling, that day at the microphone, lacked in exper-

ience he also lacked in confidence:

so that

Thomson, driving

away from North Bay, listening to CFCH on his car radio, suddenly heard the voice of a stuttering stranger, and had a frightful thought. His creditors had seized his station. Wrenching his old car round on the gravelled road, he roared back to North Bay and stormed into the studio to give battle. And there was the youthful Darling, still fluffing away. "What the hell," Thomson bellowed, "do you think you're 64

in the Status Stakes



doing ? ruined




word of explanation, Darling he knew perfectly well that not even

So, without a

the Capitol Theatre


Goddam Tommy

get out of here quick.



could ruin a business already almost extinguished by bad debts and the Depression. Well might Edna sob that it was crazy of her husband to en-

his broadcasting

The bailiffs moved in on Modern Thomson was even unable to pay the instalments due from him, as agreed, on Jack Barnaby's car; and De Forest visage himself a millionaire. Electric;

Crosley were arranging to "tidy up" his accounts.

Far from losing


nerve under

this pressure,



son merely allocated one of his bookkeepers, H. E. Johnson, to

Northern Supplies, and the other,

down Modern


Darling, to



Syd and

Florrie returning, bitterly disappointed, to Toronto;







pay off eight months' arrears of instalments on Barnaby's car; and arranged that in future most of his family's household necessities be paid for with advertising time on CFCH, which, above all, he was determined to keep alive. raised the



year of operations being already over without demanded the return of their licence, this licence


Abitibi having

became his absolutely and he risked everything to take advantage of it. Nineteen thirty-one's profits had been swallowed up by payments due

to the

Carbon Company and the Bank of Nova

Scotia. Nineteen thirty-two's profits looked like being inadequate

even to cover those amounts due to De Forest Crosley: but he did not falter. CFCH, he determined, would stay on the air. In doing so, he consciously accepted the possibility of bankruptcy for his family as well as for himself, which possibility was stronger than ever now, for when he had asked Carl to join him in the broadcasting venture, Carl, choosing security for his

had declined. Thus CFCH had become Roy Thomson's first solo venture since his farm at Holdfast and often his employees were convinced that it was doomed to the same dismal end. family,

Barnaby's salary, for example, got no closer to the forty-five Toronto days than it had been since the station

dollars of his

opened. full,

He was


on twenty-five


—which was paid in

but irregularly.

Tommy r.t.f.s.

Darling, to save money, lived at


home and

took a e

Roy Thomson of Fleet


week instead of the thirty-five promised, and usually found that the bank would not cash it anysalary cheque for fifteen dollars a

way. Burnett's assistant, in the absence of a cashable pay-cheque,


therefore of

money with which


buy himself lodgings, took

were purchased with studio "time." Everyone did every job there was from announcing, to selling time, to writing copy and CFCH somehow survived. "Here's your cheque," its employees would be told on pay days, "but don't cash it for a while" "a while" usually being to sleeping in the studio. All supplies

four or five days.


they would take their cheques to the bank only to be

greeted, as soon as they entered the door,

reached the counter, by a


and yards before they

who lugubriously




Fortunately for Thomson's employees, close to the Capitol

Theatre was a coffee and food called Phil the Greek, his real


run by a European immigrant

name being unpronounceable.


was Thomson's own age and inexplicably sympathetic towards the big man with the thick glasses. Also (since people must eat, and since food is traditionally paid for, even during depressions), Phil always had money in his till. Good naturedly he began to cash CFCH's salary cheques, sticking the cheques on a hook at the end of his soda fountain, and so became Thomson's unofficial backer in North Bay. Occasionally when Roy advised him that funds were available he would clear his pile of cheques through the bank; but more often than not he kept them. Why? people asked him: to which Phil, the good-natured Greek, replied simply that he liked Thomson, trusted him, had

faith in



Darling, noticing once how thick was the wad of cheques impaled on the hook, asked: "Aren't you worried about all

dough?" "Nope," replied




thirty years later,


"They'll be good one day"


and more

running an eating shop, was to explain

by saying that that was how people behaved then. "Them," he said, "were the good days the days of the Depression, you know." Such times and conditions were neither easy nor happy for Edna Thomson. A splendid organiser, full of vitality, she did not enjoy the gossip about the patch on the seat of her husband's his generosity




Defeat pants any

in the Status Stakes

more than she did her husband's well-known obligation

to Phil the

Greek; but she did not complain.

Nor did her children, even though North Bay was so unexciting a town for teen-age girls that Audrey took to idling each afternoon with a group of teenagers at a


pop and even smoking


thunderously pronounced that if this wild cease he would dispatch her to a convent.

In fact





at this time, partly because

partly also because


did not occur to


Street restaurant,



which her father did not instantly

he was so busy, but


do otherwise, that

gradually allowed his wife and family to


habit of extreme social reticence, so that, in later years,


into a



seemed almost to prefer to be faceless, as if they had become accustomed to the shadows. Though his wife remained acquiescent merely the annual chooser of the new house to which the family would move, the mother and mentor of his three children Thomson restlessly set his sights higher and decided that, however remote his millionairedom might be, there was no reason at all why this year at least he should not become North Bay's mayor. There were, in fact, at least two excellent reasons why he should not do so, the first being that it was a custom of the North Bay Council that a mayor in his first term of office should always be re-elected unopposed (and Mayor Richardson had served only his first term) the second being that North Bay was a railway town, full of railway employees who, being vehemently opposed to all change, would resent Thomson's break with mayoral traditions just as fiercely as they had disliked his reactionary ideas light finally


to blaze, they


about finance. Mayor Richardson's conservative opponents, however, urged Thomson to run for election and he, being brash and ambitious, fell in with their plans. Once again, GFGH propagandised stoutly on Thomson's behalf; and so, to everyone's surprise, did The Nugget. "We have Alderman Thomson," The Nugget editorialised in lumbering prose, "with a definite programme of financing to the end that taxes may be reduced . . Thomson is the man. He is young, aggressive and has that experience which broadens a man and fits him to carry on an executive job that demands much." But just as The Nugget had failed, in 1931, to keep Thomson .


Roy Thomson of Fleet


now it failed to get him in; and Richardson retained the mayorality by 1,936 votes to 1,587. "Of course you lost," Jack Macleod rebuked Thomson at the Empire Hotel next morning. "You didn't get me in to work on

out, so

you." "I couldn't have won,"

Little Italy for


guy's been here since 1905"; prestige in

North Bay, forgot

and decided that a




and, divested of his hopes of civic

changed his course entirely would be more radio stations


better objective

in Northern Ontario.

This decision made, Thomson's career in the medium of communications at last got under way. Had he been elected Mayor he would, for two years, have been a big frog in North Bay's little pool and might then have lost any inclination to leap into other bigger pools. But he was not elected Mayor. On the contrary, Mayor Richardson was re-elected, and about this, years later, Thomson himself was to comment, with great accuracy: "I was lucky to get defeated."





Stranger in

told his wife his plans


and she replied only: "All


but be careful."


told everyone else his plans, too;

them how he mining towns of


intended opening Timmins and Kirkland Lake, and spoke with such confidence radio stations in the gold



wore patched pants who for months past had been patiently helping collect all the moneys owed to him so that both they and he eventually received most of what was due positively enthused over the project, which, after all, would help sell more of their radios. But to his engineer, Jack Barnaby, at the very end of 1932, Thomson spoke soberly. He was now nearly thirty-nine years old that

believed him.

spite of the fact that




Forest Crosley, for example,

and, for

all his

soaring ambitions, a


"Jack," he warned, "if we don't get our licence for a station at Timmins soon, you're going to have to look for another job."



brilliantly, it

said, at


application for this licence (such in policy, being



Ottawa, in support of his change

licences, following a

occasionally granted)

and won

his case.

Then, needing studio space, he asked a garage proprietor, to whom, in the past, he had regularly tried to sell anything from batteries to anti-freeze, for an introduction to Timmins's most controversial civic figure, Mr. J. P. Bartleman. A tall, gaunt man with a booming voice, Bartleman like Father Therriault and Walter Eccleston and Leo Mascioli was one of the pioneers of Timmins, as well as a product of it. One cannot, in fact, understand the character of men like Bartleman (or even Thomson) until one understands Timmins which, before 191 1, did not exist. But in that year, legend has it,

— —




Roy Thomson of Fleet


a farmer killed a chicken and found gold in

its gullet. So he had digested and then, secretly, set out to find its source. Having done so, he staked a claim and suddenly the word spread, and from all over the world

killed all his chickens for the gold dust they


prospectors poured in, hoping to share in one of the richest gold strikes


Men women



and around them grew a township.

of every nationality were there, prospecting.

with her husband, Prospectors'

—of whom


one, Viola MacMillan, and became President of the Association. All who came to Timmins from 191

eventually prospected

made a


onwards were either looking for gold or planning to syphon off some of the earnings of those who had already found it. They were not looking for beautiful homes, so they built an ugly town. They were not interested in the Arts, so they either relaxed in one of


Pigeon's three


houses or played poker at

where "pots" of four thousand dollars were not uncommon and where one game, at the Mountjoy Social Club, ran uninterrupted, night and day, for three years. They were not obsessed with a respect for the law, so they drank illicit grog as only frontiersmen can drink. They were not all successful, so they formed a tough community, skilled in "horse trading," eternally aware of the value of a buck, and, above all, warily respectful of those who had not failed. Of these latter, J. P. Bartleman emigre from New Zealand, alderman, mayor, speculator, political in-fighter, loyal friend, determined enemy, orator and insurance salesman was one. He had patronage to offer, Thomson knew; and so, in 1933, tables

Thomson sought him



who was in partnership with a hard-headed miner called Max Ryan, offered to lease Thomson the top floor of an old wooden building in Spruce Street imthey met, Bartleman,

mediately opposite


Pigeon's second-floor brothel


the bootlegging joint which occupied the ground floor beneath

her establishment.


the ground floor of Bartleman's building were the relics

—an old flat-bed press and crates of disused —which once had printed Bartleman's defunct newspaper, but Thomson gave the dead presses barely a glance The two-hundred pound man in as he ran upstairs — a

of a printing works type



his fortieth




chasing the millions he had promised himself by the


A Stranger in


He approved

time he was thirty. agreed on a rental.

the space offered to

him and

Now all he needed was money to buy broadcasting equipment, visited all the big businessmen of Timmins, asking each of he so them to invest. Each refused only Leo Mascioli producing a valid excuse, which was that he ran three movie houses in town and regarded radio as direct opposition to them. At which Thomson ceased being a radio entrepreneur, became a repre-

Northern Supplies and sold Mascioli a huge icemaking machine for his Empire Hotel. He then returned to North Bay and, remembering Barnaby's ingenuity with jam jars, elements, chicken wire and mattresses, asked him how much he could build of the equipment that would be needed for Timmins, and how much that, plus the equipment he could not improvise, would cost. Saving his employer an estimated seven thousand dollars of good 1933 money, Barnaby built first the new station's speech rack and then, from crystal to antenna, its entire transmitting unit. Money was still, however, required to pay for items of equipment that not even Barnaby could improvise, and this Thomson raised with a loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia his sentative of

second since the disastrous days of 1925. Having built the speech rack and transmitter, Barnaby and

Timmins and then but were almost immediately arrested and escorted to the police station on a complaint by the local electricians' union that such installations were illegal if carried out by a junior colleague freighted their handiwork to


about installing


non-Timmins labour. Thomson, eventually located acquainted with



Ottawa by telephone, and

the facts of the situation, placated both the

union and the local police by agreeing that a local elecshould accompany Barnaby and his colleague for the rest of the job and be paid full union rates for doing so. Barnaby and his colleague were accordingly released and the local electrician, accompanying them to the Spruce Street studio, where he contributed nothing, watched the setting up of the new station and was paid more for doing so than was either of the two exhausted Thomson employees. Barnaby having returned to North Bay, a new engineer called Mooney was employed for Timmins; Tommy Darling (now in local




Roy Thomson of Fleet


twenties) was made station manager, newsand announcer; a pianist, Bill Davis, was hired; a few gramophone records were acquired and that was that. Station GKGB opened to a captive audience and was blessed, at its very first newscast, by the sensational announcement of a local murder. Following this up swiftly and before the population of Timmins could tire of "In a Monastery Garden" which was played about five times daily Thomson bearded Sam Buckovetsky, the owner of the biggest general store in town, and sold him some "time." That obliged Buckovetsky 's greatest rival in the clothing business, Sam Fishman, also to buy time. They ended up, in fact, sponsoring successive programmes. Then, just as Main Street, North Bay, had followed the example of Sol Waiser, so Third Avenue, Timmins, hastened to emulate its two his

very early


— —


Whereupon Thomson announced

that he


raising his

At once, in great agitation, the town's traders met and appointed a spokesman to go to Thomson and tell him that these rates were too high but Thomson, looking ingenuous with his amiable smile, and somewhat helpless in his baggy clothes, advertising rates



not only did not lower his rates, he sold the spokesman a year's time signals at the new high rates as well. Every day after that, following the morning session of news

and piano playing and "In a Monastery Garden," Thomson, Darling and Davis could be observed walking the streets of Timmins, calling at store after store, trying to extract custom. Except for the local paper, The Porcupine Advance (which, like all newspapers of the day, regarded radio as anathema) and Leo Mascioli (who still regarded radio as his movie houses' worst opposition; and who anyway was angry with Thomson because the ice machine he had bought from him would not make ice) except for these two, anyone in Timmins was a potential customer, in Thomson's eyes. "My name's Thomson," he would introduce himself, "call me Roy." And he would beam his wide smile at them, confident that he could sell them. All that was needed was the right line, the right argument. Tirelessly dispensing their ingeniously propounding their arguments, Thomson, lines, Darling and Davis daily plodded through the town. Often, in this procession, Thomson would be observed to fall behind the other two, his head bent and peering myopically at .



— A Stranger in notes he was making in a jaw twitched rightwards


Timmins Then, as his lower would become he was asked what he

black book.

in concentration, he

him; and if was doing, he would reply, "Just figuring." He would "figure" how a drug store had been able to afford electric sign, whether a business might be worth buying new a purely for the property on which it stood, how much another business should be able to earn, what made a certain trader tick. a mere extension of the long-ago All of this was purely academic habit of compiling baseball statistics and figuring which player should be bought by which team but to Thomson it was oblivious of those watching


One outcome

of his "figuring" was that he realised


he opened a bank account in Timmins his subsequently paid North Bay staff with Timmins cheques, and thus giving himself two to three extra days in which to raise and then to deposit the funds necessary to cover his payroll. As a result of this move, Jack Barnaby and CFCH's new manager and announcer moved into a halcyon period when, within two expedient


would be


days of getting their pay cheques, they occasionally also got cash. In Timmins itself, however, Thomson's improved banking techniques

made no

difference to the

immediate solvency of


employees, since pay cheques could be rushed from the office to

bank upon which they were drawn in two minutes rather than two days and on pay day the money was rarely in the bank to the

cover such cheques.

By now, though, Thomson employees had become persons of considerable financial initiative

a bank.

They went


rarely bothered going near

instead to Emile Brunette, the taxi driver,

round the corner, or to Bert Sutherland, the Each employee, in fact, had his own jealously guarded private banker, to whom, of course, was owed the duty of advice the instant Thomson's official bank had funds enough to cover any or to the cigar store druggist.

cheques outstanding. Since




one hoped for satisfaction, that one these comparatively rare occasions, each employee to advise his respective

essential, if

arrived early at the

became necessary

bank on for

private banker of the availability of funds as swiftly as possible

which usually was by telephone. This meant that a code became necessary because if another Thomson employee heard one


— Roy Thomson of Fleet saying to one's


own man, "go

immediately ring


cash your cheque," he would man, and then half the town might get there


So a Thomson bank deposit of any significance was always the occasion of a series of most curious telephone

"The hay's in "The eagle's flown

the barn!" a creditor









would hear, or

"Get on your








a nice day for riding" ... so that at the very moment that Thomson's account was being augmented at one bank "wicket," it was being diminished, by an ever lengthening queue, at another. Sometimes, when money was unusually tight, the loyal Darling would make out pay cheques on Friday night (eighteen dollars to himself, fifteen dollars



to Davis,

eleven dollars to

drawer overnight and then save money, at about six in the morning and hide for most of the day in the Italian section of the town. Then, just too late, he would telephone the station and say "Holy cow, I'm here with a client and I've forgotten to give you your cheques; but they're in my desk drawer." At which everyone would rush to the desk and then rush to the bank which would be safely closed till Monday. Thus providing Darling with an extra forty-eight hours in which to raise the necessary money. Meantime, late on Saturday afternoons, the three of them would all meet at the station itself and do their housekeeping These scrubbing, cleaning, polishing and making their beds. were young men enjoying life in a hell-raising, hard gambling, illicit-grog-running town, which is perhaps why they endured so cheerfully their constant skirmishing in pursuit of pay packets. Or perhaps they stayed to enjoy the wild and bawdy flavour the engineer), put

in a

creep out of the station, where they

all slept, to


of frontier


in the twentieth century.

Like the party


threw for her on her release from Haileybury where she had been languishing for three months for

Pigeon's girls


professional reasons.

was a splendid party and all the best people best male is of Timmins were invited. Roy Thomson was invited; but felt that perhaps it was not fitting for the head of It

people, that


to attend in person, so

he sent big

fat Bill Davis, the

pianist, to represent the station instead.


don't forget," he warned




no one

acts so

A Stranger in respectable as whores




entertaining socially


behave yourself." Which Bill did, getting rather high admittedly, but playing the piano for hours on end, to the delight of the girls, who normally had little time to enjoy music. It could only have happened in Timmins. There was excitement in those days and maybe Roy Thomson's young employees stayed on, in spite of their "chicken feed" salaries, to be part of

that excitement.

they stayed because in Timmins a man was at work. Elsewhere, little was offered but dole queues. Here in Timmins, gold was mined and gold, in the Depression years, was more valuable than ever. Or perhaps Thomson's "boys" felt a loyalty to the man they called Roy, who moved so tirelessly on the four hundred mile circuit of North Bay, Timmins and Kirkland Lake, all the time figuring, figuring, figuring and not interfering. Let Kanniwan and Miller in North Bay, desperate for a Sunday programme, decide to do a duet of "On the Old Rugged Cross"; let them pester their way up and down Main Street in search of "spots" at a dollar a time so long as Barnaby could keep them on the air; let CKGB in Timmins advertise Colonel Sydney Scobell's marvellous tonic Never Die (even though the authorities disliked the title enormously, on the grounds that they felt certain it could not be true), Thomson did not interfere. Always accessible, he found it as natural to trust those he employed as he found it difficult ever to sack one of them: and anyway, he was preoccupied at that very moment figuring whether or not he should start a newspaper, how yet to become Mayor of North

Or perhaps

least offered

Bay and how and when

to start a third radio station at







Buy a Newspaper

when Penniless


decision to stand again for the Council of North



shows clearly how, though the stream of Thomson's tremendous energies was already beginning to run strongly away from North Bay, Thomson himself did not recognise

interesting only in that


the fact.

On the contrary, the rebuff to his political ambitions of late 1932 continued so to dominate his conscious mind in December of 1933, that he was delighted when he was once again elected

for 1934 and was even to stand successfully again in both 1935 and 1936. Much more relevant than these political gambits, however, were his contemporaneous decisions to enter the newspaper business and to expand his radio enterprises. Though the latter, chronologically, did not in fact precede his first newspaper venture, but rather succeeded it by some months, it falls into this narrative more coherently now than later. This time it was Kirkland Lake's turn to receive a radio Kirkland Lake where gold also was the basis of the town's station economy and where six-dollar shares in the subsequently fabulous mines of the late Sir Harry Oakes could be bought on the streets for a mere twenty cents. Only no one had twenty cents. Thomson knew the town well. For years, as a salesman, he


had travelled to it by Bay was really Lake


amused by

the fact that, just as North

Nipissing, so Kirkland


(the original

lake having been filled in with mining slag) was really Lake Gull.

Whatever the place was called, however, beneath it ran a mile of gold; and some of that mile he hoped now to divert into a radio station, for which he had already acquired the licence 76



Bay a Newspaper when

through a friend in nearby Haileybury,


who had

a friend in


Thomson's friend was O. J. Thorpe, a Haileybury furniture dealer who, as was the custom, was also Haileybury's undertaker; and Thorpe's friend was the Honourable Wesley Gordon. Thomson had persuaded Thorpe to apply for the licence on their joint behalf and to seek all possible assistance in this application from Wesley Gordon. He had approached his target thus tortuously, through the side door of a funeral parlour as it were, because he suspected that the authorities were unenthusiastic about small stations (which might subsequently, having foundered, become their responsibility) and because he was certain that the authorities would be unwilling to issue another licence to him on his own. Thorpe's application on the other hand, backed as it was by Wesley Gordon, had been successful; and Thorpe and Thomson now needed only funds, studio space, equipment and staff to begin broadcasting.

Thomson wasted no time. He booked in at Fat Charlie the Chinaman's hotel (the less agreeable alternative being a hotel known to travellers then as the Ashcan) ignoring the claim of Fat Charlie's brother, Skinny Joe the Chinaman, that there were "no looms." Then he visited old Joe Edwards, who reputedly would take a chance on anything, and asked him to take a chance on leasing out part of his sprawling two-story corner building as a radio station. Edwards agreed at the ridiculous rental of seventy-live dollars a month. What was next needed was lots of money and this from a town where, frankly Thomson's credit was not good so Thomson asked Thorpe to introduce him to such townsfolk as had money to spare, and Thorpe, naturally enough for a local undertaker, introduced him to the local doctors. They were his intimate business contacts and, Depression or no Depression, people still fell ill, just as they grew hungry, and paid something at least for their treatment, just as they did Phil the Greek for their food.

— —

Of this

better-off class, three agreed to provide backing; but

three were not enough.



back him with

Once again Thomson asked everyone he

their desperately

hoarded savings.

He even

asked Thorpe's manager, Ernest Symington, as they sat together in the office of Thorpe's Kirkland Lake Mortuary, and when


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Symington refused, Thomson assured him that it would profit him greatly to invest. Symington asserted that nothing in Kirkland Lake had profited him since he had arrived there two years earlier, and that he saw no reason why Thomson's radio station should do so


"Well, O.K.," Thomson agreed, amiably as always. "But it's gonna make me a lot of money." He gave a banquet at the Curling Club, to which he invited that portion of Kirkland Lake's society which was most affluent, and after the dinner he spoke persuasively to his guests, all of whom were more curious to know how he had managed to finance their meal than they were eager to help him finance his radio station.

the surprise of and —most particularly of —enough money was eventually raised the pur-


Jack Barnaby




chase of entirely

new equipment, from which only antennae

masts were lacking; so Barnaby installed everything, and two enormous spruce trunks were erected as antennae masts in Joe

Edwards's back lane; and CJKL, in much less time than had seemed possible, was on the air. Almost at once Brian Shellon became its manager at a salary of eighteen dollars a week plus a small apartment beside

the studio.

an actor with an actor's careful diction, having been Timmins by the Depression, had asked Thomson for a job a year earlier. Thomson, pointing out that he was fully but had suggested that if staffed in Timmins, had refused: Shellon would work at Timmins for nothing, to learn the ropes, he could have a job in the planned Kirkland Lake station whenShellon,

driven north to

opened. This promise having now been honoured, Shellon, as CJKL's manager, endeared his station to Kirkland Lake almost as soon as he assumed control by hiring the Knights of Columbus Hall,



the services of a local short wave receiving and transmitting and providing a ball by ball description of the entire 1934 World Baseball Series for all who cared either to attend or listen which, in baseball-mad Canada in that vintage to his broadcast year, was almost everyone. To listen had cost the people of Kirkland Lake nothing as



they sat in or around the entertainment that the Ford





Buy a Newspaper when

had been persuaded bought a radio



to sponsor;


for those

who had


these broadcasts alone justified the purchase.

CJKL thus became instantly and enormously popular; and with the recruitment of a young, clean-cut hockey player called Jack Davidson

to sell time,

Thomson now had working

quickly began to


make money.

him, in the persons of Darling, nucleus around whom could executive an Shellon and Davidson, be clustered a larger staff and more diversified holdings, whilst he himself was adventuring into the unknown wilds of journalism as represented by his acquisition of Bartleman's Citizen. Like most things associated with Bartleman's public life, the

Citizen's career


had been stormy. He had



because the

only other English paper in town was anti-Bartleman in politics and would give him no coverage that was not either adverse or

paid for by himself at ordinary advertising rates. The Citizen was to be his answer to the Advance's attacks on him, both papers being weeklies.

Unfortunately, his first editorial appointment had not been a happy one. He had chosen a Baptist minister and not long afterwards as was probably inevitable with a reverend Baptist the Citizen, in a town full of Italians and French Canadeditor

ians, carried

a scathing attack on



Hurriedly, then, Bartlcman sought to shed the embarrass-

ment of owning a newspaper that had outraged at least half of the Timmins electorate by dismissing his editor and allowing the Citizen to

go out of circulation.

Some time

later (after

Thomson had taken

the top floor of

the Spruce Street building in which the Citizen's presses were

housed), a gentleman called Stodgell approached Bartleman and suggested that the Citizen be re-started by him on a profit-sharing

Bartleman agreed and Stodgell, employing an editor called Syd Caesar, put a new Citizen on to the streets of Timmins and called it the Press. It was not exactly a "quality" newspaper, and it did not make a profit; and Thomson knew that Bartleman was not very happy with it. Thomson's only association with the paper, on the other hand, had been that it had bought time from CKGB for a daily newscast and that, early in 1934, this position had been complicated by the local French newspaper, Norde Ontarienne, which basis.


Roy Thomson of Fleet Street had

said that





buy time on

GKGB for a


in French.

Darling, unable to decide on the ethics of this situation, had asked what he should do, and Thomson, arguing that a French newscast for a French newspaper could hardly damage the im-

pact of an English newscast for a newspaper printed in English, had told Darling to give the Norde Ontarienne its time.

At which Stodgell and Caesar were so incensed that they had waylaid Darling as he entered the building shared by their newspaper and his radio station, and threatened him with a press campaign of personal denigration if he did not at once take the French newscast off the air. Aware of the damage a hostile local paper could inflict upon anyone, Darling had gone straight to Thomson and said: "Roy, I want to be transferred": and Thomson had gone straight to Bartleman. "Do you support this kind of intimidation ?" he had demanded and had offered, if Bartleman could first dissolve his partnership with Stodgell, to buy the paper and publish it :


Bartleman thereupon named six thousand dollars as his selling and Thomson agreed the price 60 long as Bartleman could first achieve a position where he could legally sell. At which moment, Stodgell, surrendering unexpectedly, obliged by allowing his profit-sharing agreement to be terminated. Thomson then met Bartleman and his partner Ryan, at their lawyer's office, to draw up a contract for the purchase of the Press. "Where's your money?" the lawyer asked briskly.



haven't got cash,"

"Tell you what



do, though.





give you two hundred dollars

down, and twenty-eight promissory notes of two hundred


each, repayable over twenty-eight months." " That's a hell of a deal," Bartleman protested.



pointed out, "I'm going to


a good

newspaper out of the Press. Now if I go broke, you get the paper back; and if I don't, you get your money. Either way,

you can't



Max Ryan

promptly agreed; two hundred dollars and their twenty-eight promissory notes; and so he became a publisher. 80 Finally


Thomson gave them

their first

How to Buy a Newspaper when Penniless "Why?" he was asked, then and later. "There happened to be a newspaper in the same building as my broadcasting station," he replied, "so I bought it." But this simple answer, expressing only a totally uncomplicated acquisitiveness, ignores the fascination that newspapers had always exerted upon this curiously un-literary man. On his honeymoon in New York he had bought indiscriminso that only ately every daily paper on sale in the Astoria Hotel when he had spread them out on the floor of his bedroom did he observe that some of them were in Yiddish and therefore, to him,


one joy had been those long trips back from Holdfast, lying in the bottom of the grain wagon, reading a carefully and chronologically arranged accumulation of newspapers. As an alderman and tradesman in North Bay, he had spent an inordinate time analysing the contents of The Nugget, and been fascinated by the recent world scoop that The Nugget's owner, Bill Mason, had achieved with his story of the birth, fourteen miles away at Corbeil, of quintuplets called Dionne. In short, although no one could claim that Thomson entered the 1934 journalistic field as a qualified publisher, equally no one could say that he had bought the Press, rather as mountaineers were later to climb Everest, simply because it was there. On the contrary, he bought Bartleman's newspaper because he believed implicitly that advertising space was a commodity the public would always buy; that they bought more of it from newspapers than from anywhere else; and that he, who could sell anything, would most certainly sell them a great deal of advertising space in his newspaper. In his deal with Bartleman, he thus believed that he had nothing but his two hundred dollars deposit to lose; whilst Bartleman, who still owed money to Man ton Brothers of Toronto for the purchase of his printing machinery which debt would now be transferred to Thomson considered that he could only

As a farmer,


gain by the transaction.

Thus each man was pleased with the deal, each thinking that he had got the better of the other but certainly, once the Press :

became his, Thomson must have wished a thousand times that it had never left Bartleman's hands. Since it had, however, and since the Broadcasting Authority r.t.f.s.



Roy Thomson of Fleet Street did not approve of newspapers owning radio stations, he arranged that in fact CKGB owned the Press. This done, he set about

newly acquired paper once a week. arrangements to order his newsprint direct from the Abitibi Paper Mills at nearby Iroquois Falls, rather than Toronto, subject only to Abitibi's condition that it be sent C.O.D.



He made

for Elliott Cottrell, the Abitibi manager, remembering Thomson's outrageous coup in the matter of Abitibi's radio licence, was determined that payment in cash for each reel of newsprint should be made at the time of delivery. Accurate book-keeping having lately become so much greater a necessity, now that there were three radio stations and a newspaper to run on a daily rob-Peter-and-pay-Paul basis, Thomson asked H. E. Johnson, his ledger-keeper in North Bay, to move to Timmins, there to act for the whole group. "I'm as far north as I'm going," Johnson demurred, and made the counter-suggestion that he stay where he was, but buy out Thomson's North Bay branch of Northern Supplies. Thomson happily accepted this offer and Timmins continued without an

accountant for six years. Whilst Madame Pigeon's


in the building across the road,

gave pleasure, and the bootleggery sold instant hangovers, six new Thomson employees, using one linotype machine and an antiquated hand-fed press, turned out a thousand four-page copies an hour, all of which had then to be inserted by hand into a primitive folder to produce an eight-page weekly newspaper. Their

worked with them. "My name's Thomson," he had told each of them. "Call me Roy" which they did. Daily headlines were printed in white paint on the Spruce Street windows, making a popular display, but the paper itself was usually thin to the point of emaciation and its news content was always a trifle eccentric. Thomson could afford neither Canadian Press nor any other press service and news came mainly by telephone and telegram; but at least the newspaper, now renamed The Timmins Press, did not offend, and from the




made an


Although he worked desperately hard, managing the Press, selling time for CKGB, supervising the opening of CJKL and being a controversial North Bay alderman, Thomson still found the time to "figure," and the energy to put his figuring into effect. 82

How to Buy a Newspaper when Penniless He drew a hundred dimes from the bank, looked up the names of a hundred

cities in America that were approximately the Timmins (whose population then was about fifteen thousand) and sent a dime to a newspaper office in each such town asking the publisher to mail him back a copy of his journal. Then, on the floors of his lodging rooms in Timmins, of the Spruce Street "office' and of his North Bay home, he went about the systematic task of measuring, analysing and charting most all his conclusions about the make-up and particularly charting earning power of small rural newspapers.


size as




moment onwards, his researches completed, Thomknew exactly the proportions he wanted in his

son the publisher

newspaper of classified and display advertising, of editorial com-

ment and news and




confident about fighting the Advance for Timmins's

advertising revenues, maintaining that these must come predominantly to whichever newspaper was most often read, and most readable. With irresistible logic, he decided to make the Press more read than the Advance by publishing more often. He




by publishing twice

as often.

sooner, however, did the Press start publishing twice

weekly than the Advance followed son called his editor to

Quite undeterred,


him and announced "We're going


which point George Lake, of the Advance, decided that enough was enough. Let this crazy newcomer bolt as far ahead as he wanted, Lake decided; soon both he and his paper would collapse in physical and financial exhaustion. at

The view of

better to evade the latter fate, his

now much

Thomson asked

Abitibi, in

greater newsprint orders, for fifteen days'

credit rather than strict C.O.D. terms: and Abitibi, who had for some time been urging upon George Lake the idea of a daily newspaper, replied that they would not offer Thomson fifteen days' credit, they would offer him thirty days' credit, which was their usual practice with publishers.

Thus an eight-page daily newspaper suddenly arrived on Timmins scene. Admittedly there was never enough type once the paper ran to more than eight pages, so that the practice of printing the same story twice became almost standard, but somehow, whatever the size of the paper demanded by the day's advertising, all the pages were filled though often only by the the


Roy Thomson of Fleet


use of special "house" advertisements, a regular series of which were repeated time and again. And when, at this time, Lord Rothermere, the distinguished Fleet Street proprietor, and guest

of the Abitibi


he was so


Iroquois Falls, visited the Press

by the

fact that a daily newspaper could come off such archaic machinery that he invited Thomson to dine with him in his private car on the train to North Bay



that night.

The impact of such an invitation upon one who notoriously bought doughnuts and apples at the station, rather than a meal in the restaurant car, and whose concept of a leader of society had previously been the Mayor of North Bay, would normally have been profound and the fact that on this occasion it was not was due entirely to Thomson's preoccupation with the twin problems of staying in business and ensuring that, at the next Timmins election, Jim Bartleman became mayor. As it was, though highly flattered by Rothermere's invitation, Thomson merely noted that all proprietors of newspapers in London seemed automatically to become Lords, and that this, in the words of a current best-seller, was most emphatically "a good thing."


— ;





a Newspaper

CKGB supported Jim Bartleman's 1936 mayor with a vigour and enthusiasm that had to

Both the Press and



bring success.





collected together his staff

and took them to Bartleman's office. "Thought you'd like to say thanks to the boys who got you in," he explained, and asked: "Where's the liquor?" Bartleman confessed that he had not been expecting such a mass visit and that there was no liquor.

all right," Thomson comforted, "we've got a crate of whisky at the office. I knew you'd win so I had it ready!" "Who paid for it?" Bartleman demanded. "You did," Thomson told him, "out of campaign funds" and sent one of his staff back to Spruce Street to collect it. Thus began a three-year relationship of shared enthusiasms and endless battles about who should pay for what. Bartleman and Ryan had been given directorships and shares in Northern Broadcasting and Publishing instead of the five thousand eight hundred dollars' worth of promissory notes they held; and Bartleman had begun protesting that he had not been paid any dividends and that Roy's visits to Toronto were an extravagance and anyway not a legitimate company ex-



Toronto, Thomson explained, was where one got the business Toronto was where he had also just attended his first invaluable meeting of Canadian Press from whom he hoped to extract a proper news service for his radio stations and if Bartleman, a minority holder, was dissatisfied with the majority holder's determination to continue his visits to Toronto, then Thomson suggested he should sell out. ;


— Roy Thomson of Fleet


got the cash to buy me out?" Bartleman flashed. "Yes," Thomson lied. "You want to get out too, Max?"


"No," Ryan said. "I'm sticking with you." "Then I'm staying too," Bartleman growled. Needing another press, if he was to keep ahead of the Advance, Thomson visited Toronto yet again and called on Manton Brothers, to whom he still owed money for the presses he had inherited from Bartleman. "There's a fat fellow outside with a shine to his pants," Frank Manton was told. "Wants to buy a press." The machine that Thomson wanted had been in and out of the show room time after time, always returning because of a default on payments, and Manton now decided to take a chance on the fat fellow he agreed to sell the machine on a promissory :


The deal was typical of those da.ys. Mantons were nearly bankrupt because no one could pay them for the machines already ordered from them; yet always people like Thomson himself nearly bankrupt wanted more machines, but could offer no cash. And always the bank was chasing Mantons for repayment of their overdraft, so that Mantons chased their customers for payments on machinery, and publishers chased Mantons for

new and

better machines,


credit, so that they

could provide

better papers than their rivals and so make more money with which, eventually, to pay off their debts. Thus, when Frank Manton decided to take a chance on the fat fellow

with a shine to his pants,


was a very




deed. It was one that he was never to regret.

In his efforts to raise the money necessary to modernise the machinery, Thomson had sold four thousand dollars' worth of shares to Timmins citizens. His doctor took two hundred dollars' worth. Leo Mascioli (his ice-making machine now working, and his antipathy to radio restrained because Roy now But asked him to help finance a newspaper) also invested. Press

four thousand dollars was not enough, seek a third loan from the




Bank of Nova

and Thomson had



of his credit rating, was refused on the

grounds that the Press could not succeed that therefore a bad debt must ensue. Totally undismayed, Thomson crossed the road to the Dominion Bank. There, the manager's faith in the 86


How to Run a Newspaper man overcoming

his doubts as to the collateral, the loan was Happily, as he returned to Spruce Street, Thomson reflected that he now had two banks, two potential sources of



Meanwhile, labouring under the handicap of inadequate machinery, producing a paper six days a week was an ordeal. Monday's paper (since much of it could be prepared on Sunday) would appear in reasonable time, but Tuesday's would be later; and Wednesday's later still; and Thursday's very late indeed; and Friday's edition, it often seemed, must eventually appear on Saturday. Everyone in Timmins joked that one week soon it would.


that the Press

would go out of business

neither happened. Slowly, from the


But September


daily issue in

of 1935, as the months passed, Thomson's staff learned to overcome the disadvantages of inferior machinery and youthful inexperience,


the people of

Timmins grew

to enjoy their


daily newspaper.

More than that, the Press began to attract talent. The unemployed of Canada even of the United States were flooding north to gold-rich Timmins, and Thomson could take his pick of compositors, journalists, technicians, advertising men and anyone else he needed. Only one thing stopped him from doing so he did not have the money to pay them. Nevertheless, he did employ Nolan Sisson to manage the Press whilst Syd Caesar edited it; and he did add a pianist-

announcer-salesman to CKGB's staff. Also he was responsible for the employment of a young American who had come to Timmins seeking a job and whom Nolan Sisson had told there were no openings but the American was not convinced, so he went out into the town and that day sold more advertising for the Press than the other two salesmen ;


sold jointly;

when Thomson


the next

day he did the same thing; and

arrived at Spruce Street, he introduced himself as


Leslie and showed him these figures. "What's this guy Leslie making?" Thomson asked Sisson. "Nothing," said Sisson. "Then he'd better be real soon," Thomson instructed. "You'll be advertising manager," he told Leslie. "The job's not open yet, but it will be, and then it'll be yours."



another radio station,





— Roy Thomson of Fleet


And became aware

of social distinctions. "You," he observed to Dr. Maclinton, his physician, "can go into any sort of society you like I gotta work my way up." Ontario.

He became

sensitive too

about any of StodgelPs past and

rather lurid journalism being attributed to himself as publisher

of the Press. at a story

that story


did not object to puzzled subscribers looking

on page ten and saying that they felt they had read before about them he would chuckle piratically and

admit "they sure as hell have. On page two!" but he did not like people blaming him for the sex scandal policy that had been Stodgell's.

He wanted to be known as the publisher of a newspaper in which there was nothing salacious and yet was strangely careless, indeed alarmingly frank, about his own occasional and brief affairs with local women. But perhaps there was method in this excessive candour because he talked so naturally and so openly about these infrequent amours that others rarely bothered to do so. Gossip neither touched nor followed him in Timmins. Mainly it was Timmins that occupied his attentions now: Timmins where shrewd men like Sisson and Leslie, and young recruits like Ed Copps, were slowly building the Press into a

popular paper.

Copps had been working week for several years when

in the mines at thirty dollars a

he went to Syd Caesar and asked for a job as a junior reporter, at seven dollars a week first

which was Thomson's rate for that job. He got the job and subsequently toured the police courts and the town hall looking for stories and whenever he learnt to do anything new, or better, he would go to Thomson and ask for a two dollar raise. By the end of a year, he was getting sixteen dollars a week and Emile Brunette, the taxi driver, a man as obsessed with self-education as Copps himself, was cashing his salary cheque for him each week. Each week, also, Copps listened to Sisson and Thomson discussing how they could raise the sixty dollars needed for the

next week's consignment of newsprint.

Each Sunday, Copps watched


and Thomson heading

urgently for their post office box, and returning with mail.

They would



batch of

together at Sisson's desk, slitting open each

envelope, blowing apart pages of



shaking them, looking

How to Run a Newspaper cheques that might,

for the


banked on Monday, cover those

other cheques issued on Saturday for salaries.


entire staff

became accustomed

sixteen or seventeen hours a


everything going

at the


Thomson working

day, figuring ways of keeping

same time paying


bank loans and ex-

for four radio stations, dividends on shares, salaries,


To them


the hell?"

seemed hardly worth while. But, was Thomson's attitude. "I'm being such a

the ordeal

come to me soon for a merger." Then, he maintained, his troubles would be over. He was completely confident of this, even though he had been to see George Lake once already, to suggest such a merger, and Lake, refusing even to listen to him, had sent him away. Constantly preoccupied with the complications caused by too little money being chased by too many demands, Thomson innuisance to the Advance, they'll have to

evitably developed



financial idiosyncrasies.

often borrowed a dollar or two, being chronically short of

ready cash; but he never lent a cent. When he travelled to Toronto by night train, he invariably began the trip by borrowing ten dollars from one of the group of salesmen who used to play poker all night. Hating gambling himself, he would retire to his berth and read a thriller, and then, in the morning, he would return the ten dollars. His reasoning for this weird manoeuvre was that always, at those all-night poker sessions, someone lost more than he could afford. And in the morning that someone would be hunting through the train for someone else from whom to borrow ten or twenty bucks. But not from Thomson. "No use trying Roy," the word always got round, "he's so broke, he already borrowed ten bucks from me." Thomson also made it a principle not just to refuse but actually to beat down those who asked him for a raise Copps being an emphatic exception. Young Jim Horneck, for example, married but still in his teens, was always being talked out of his request for a raise as Thomson each time convinced him that he would learn more than money could buy if only he would stay on; but that he could only stay on at the same salary. At the same time as he preached frugality to his employees, Thomson expected them to take pleasure in his own rare outbreaks of spending. Thus the case of Bruce Mcleod who, having finally succumbed to Thomson's exhortations that he should go


Roy Thomson of Fleet on working without a of the


at a



proudly. "I just bought

And Thomson


was called by Thomson


to look out



At which Mcleod resigned. Bay Council.


"That's mine,"


resigned from the North

and Edna having decided

that their daughters should go to

and Kenneth be given the best education possible, the Thomson family quit North Bay in the fall of 1936 and moved to a house that Edna had chosen on Oakmount Road, Toronto. Before they did, Thomson went on a tour of those in North the University of Toronto,

Bay to whom he owed money. Thus he shambled into Phil the Greek's eating-shop and asked "How much have you got in my cheques, Phil?"



thousand dollars almost."

"You want cash? Or


you take


in stock?"

Gravely, Phil the Greek said he would take



in stock, you'll



in cash.

yourself a lot of money,"

Thomson urged but

Phil the Greek insisted on cash, so Thomson argued no more. Instead he said: "I'll remember what you've done for me, Phil, till the day I die." "So," scoffed the little Greek, "when /am dead, you remember me in your will! It was nothing." But it was not nothing it was credit without which Thomson could not have stayed in business. It was an act of generous confidence. Others in other towns were to do the same thing later; but they were richer than Phil the Greek had been and Thomson's fortunes then were less precarious than in the days of 1 93 1 and 1932 when Phil the Greek had backed him. But now it was 1936 and Thomson was leaving North Bay. He was forty-two years old, twelve years beyond the point at which he had boasted that he would be a millionaire, and still he gave no indication that a millionaire was what he was to become. The Roy Thomson of 1936 was strong and bustling and overweight. His daughters, Irma particularly, had been driven close almost too close to to their mother by North Bay's lack of life their mother, so that they had few friends and were known to the townspeople as "the red-headed one" and "the one with one arm." They had loathed North Bay with its grasshopper-like shad flies swarming in the heat haze of summer, knocking their brains out messily on shop windows and automobile radiators and :



How to Run

who came and went and above all, they had winter. In North Bay only their mother was vital and full of laughter where her daughters were






you its


a Newspaper

They had loathed



to face the winter alone;




Thomson had no

great intimacy with his son,

who Edna and Audrey and Irma. Yet

in his turn could not really share the intimacy between

the son was aware that Edna North hard and often unhappy, especially when her husband's pleasure began to be centred upon Timmins during the week, rather than North Bay at the week-end. At the cost of that gaiety and feckless charm which had been so conspicuous at Lake Simcoe (as he swam with his daughters or lay in his hammock and let Edna do the fixing), Thomson had purchased the determination that enabled him to collect four small radio stations and one small paper: but he had lost a herself found


in the

marked degree of intimacy with his family. He was not, at forty-two, a millionaire but already he had learnt the lesson that makes millionaires that neither leisure :

nor pleasure is as important as doing a deal or as enjoyable as making a buck. He had not saved money and he was not even now beginning to save money. He did not even approve of saving money, which he regarded as a commodity to be used, stretched, augmented and multiplied but not to be locked up. A dollar, to Thomson, was merely the security he could offer for another dollar. With the two dollars he would buy. With what he had bought, he would raise more credit. And buy more. And put it in pawn to more credit. Endlessly. Not his family, of whom he was fondly proud, nor God, in whom he could not at any time quite disbelieve, nor his own future, in which he believed passionately, would ever mean more to him than the cold, clear belief that money must always be risked to make more money. Yet Thomson was a warm man who basically needed the warmth of close human relationships even in business before he could function with absolute efficiency. And here it was that in 1936 he was most fortunate. For into his life, into this middle of his life, at the end of 1936, drifted a young salesman, who was to keep Thomson's middle age at bay for the next ten years.


ij. Friends



was a meeting on 13th November, 1936, that eventually brought Jack Kent Cooke into the orbit of Roy Thomson although on that day he met not Thomson himself but Brian It


Cooke, at the time, was in Kirkland Lake as a traveller for He was a young man, just twenty-four, and good looking in the way that film stars of those days were good looking. Also, in spite of the fact that he was a salesman of almost supernatural persuasiveness, he was completely disenchanted with life as a traveller for Colgate Palmolive and had only one ambition in life, which was somehow to get into radio. Accordingly he had called at the studios of CJKL and asked Shellon for a Colgate Palmolive.


Shellon told


that only

Roy Thomson,


Timmins, could

hire him.


days later, Cooke sought out Thomson in Timmins and found himself confronting a man who slumped over-heavily in his chair and looked untidy in a large cardigan and crumpled

Pebble glasses made the face owlish; a wide grin made it good naturedly owlish. But the hair and jaw were strong. "Well," Thomson asked, "What can I do for you?" "I know radio business," Cooke told him. "It's what I can do. I want a job." Thomson did not haggle or hesitate. His newly leased station at Stratford was presenting him with all sorts of irritating problems let Cooke now go and solve them. In less than an hour it was arranged that Cooke should return to Toronto, resign from slacks.


Colgate Palmolive, prepare his wife for a period of grass-widow1st January of 1937, be ready to drive with his new

hood and, on



Friends and Politics

employer from Toronto to Stratford where he would be installed as manager of CJCS. Cooke left Spruce Street confident that he had made an important decision and a correct one. Certainly it was a decision that was to affect both himself and Thomson more than either could at that time have suspected. Punctually, as arranged, on ist January, Thomson arrived in his car at Cooke's Toronto home and, after a brief meeting with his employee's wife, drove off with Cooke beside him. January in Ontario is usually bitterly cold and that January of 1937 was no exception. The road surface was appalling and Thomson's vision through his thick glasses seemed to Cooke to be something less than adequate. For about a hundred and twenty weaving miles, until they actually arrived at Stratford, Cooke was not happy. But as they finally halted and parked by the kerbside, worse was to come. Thomson said that he thought Cooke ought, as manager of CJCS, to know that a delicate situation had arisen. In fact, had always existed. There was, he explained, already a manager. So he proposed at this time not to introduce Cooke as manager, but rather to let Cooke establish his own managership as he went along

was only as the nastiness of this situation became apparent that Cooke remembered another omission of Thomson's no salary had yet been mentioned. He could not imagine how he had come to resign a perfectly good job, abandon a comfortable home, forsake a beautiful wife, and drive a hundred and twenty terrifying miles in a blizzard with a myopic man to a post that was someone else's anyway, without first even discussing a salary; but he had. So now, otherwise jobless and far from home, he asked how much he would get a week. "Twenty-five," said Thomson to which Cooke, who had earned much more with Colgate Palmolive, agreed. "Though I won't always be able to pay it," Thomson warned, looking very It



unhappy thought. Cooke took up residence at the Y.M.C.A., worked twenty hours a day and gradually as Thomson had suggested so asserted his unofficial managership over the existing manager that two months later the latter decided to leave. Then it was that Cooke discovered why Thomson had been so curiously un-positive in this matter. When the manager left, cheerful at this


Roy Tliomson of Fleet


he announced that he was taking the CJGS transmitter with him, because the transmitter was his. Cooke rang Thomson, who must for some time have been expecting such a development, because, expressing neither surprise nor dismay, he told Cooke to offer three hundred dollars for the transmitter. This done, the transmitter became the undisputed property of CJCS. After which Cooke worked harder than ever until, by the middle of the year, he had transformed the fortunes of this hitherto troublesome Thomson property so greatly that it was even making a profit. Three men then appeared in his office saying that they had discussed purchasing the lease of the station from Thomson and that they wanted to look around. Having looked, they decided and having decided to buy, they offered Jack Kent to buy; Cooke fifty dollars a week to stay on with them. This was exactly twice as much as he was paid by Thomson (disregarding the fact that fourteen times between January and July his twenty-five dollar pay cheque had turned out to be not negotiable) yet

Cooke refused

and when Stratford had

their offer forthrightly,

they argued with him (because his achievement at been exceptional) he not only refused again but, immediately they bought the station, left it and returned to Thomson. "Well, what do you want to do now?" Thomson asked him, pleased with him because his efforts had transformed a moneylosing lease into a property that

made an


just fetched $10,000


overall profit of about $6,000.

"Stay in Toronto," Cooke answered; and Thomson agreed. He appointed Cooke his "National Sales Representative" in Toronto and installed Cooke in his "Toronto office." The title and the address were impressive (Thomson was always to believe in giving his men good, resounding titles, however poor and unresounding their salaries), but in effect Cooke was merely a salesman in a provincial capital seeking national advertising for three small remote radio stations and one small remote newspaper, at first doing his work from a cubicle in the Northern Ontario Building, shortly after that from a tiny room in a building on Adelaide and Shepherd Streets, and then from a single desk in the offices of All Canada Radio Facilities. It was in the second of these offices, after only a few meetings,


— Friends and Politics that

Thomson unexpectedly asked


immaculately groomed what do you think of

National Sales Representative, "Say, Jack



The question was embarrassing from a man Cooke already regarded both as the worst-dressed male in Canada and as a friend, but he did not equivocate. "They're terrible," he said. "Where the hell did you get them?" "Well,

I get

'em wholesale," Thomson admitted.


bucks apiece." "They're just awful," Cooke repeated, not realising that these wholesale twenty-dollar suits were luxuries Thomson had only and, recently allowed himself. "Just awful," he repeated; escorting Thomson firmly to one of Toronto's best tailors, helped him to choose the material for a new suit. "How much'll that be?" Thomson demanded suspiciously and when he was told one hundred dollars, informed Cooke that for that money he could have bought five suits at the whole-

But secretly he was delighted. He liked Cooke and wanted Cooke. He enjoyed being with Cooke, even if it was only at the tailors, even if it cost him one hundred dollars. He returned to Timmins, argued a youthful applicant out of a raise on the grounds that everyone must economise and then said to him: "Say, what do you think of my new suit?" The


to look like

young man surveyed the suit warily, because it looked to him like an old suit that Thomson had slept in, but Thomson did not wait for him to answer. "Cost me a hundred bucks," he said, and thereby publicly confessed the unprecedented influence exerted upon him by Jack Kent Cooke. Meantime, and somewhat differently, J. P. Bartleman continued to exert his influence upon Thomson's activities, for the main editorial function of the Press, faute de mieux, was still to promote the policies of Timmins's articulate and often cantankerous mayor and his latest policy was to stand for election not to the town hall but to Parliament. Dutifully, at first, Thomson merely supported him; and then, because everything he did had to be done with zest and a passionate attention to detail, began

gleefully to


run the entire Bartleman campaign. to overcome the lingering prejudice created by the

Baptist, anti-Catholic blasts of the early Citizen,



hired a

Roy Thomson of Fleet Street Frenchman town.

campaign in the French section of manner was melodramatic and conspiratorial,

called Odette to


and he was incapable of imparting any information except after a and then only by breathing it, spy-like, into his listener's ear. Almost at once he became known to Bartleman's Conservative campaigners as "The Whispering Frenchman." Towards the end of the campaign, as much to get rid of him sharp, admonitory "psst"

Thomson gave the Whispering Frenchhundred dollars and instructed him to rent a shop in the French section of town, turn it into a campaign headquarters and there convert his brethren to Bartlemanas to assist the candidate,




and Timmins voted.

was a day of Thomson as he trotted from one strategic point to another, trying to assess which way the poll was going. Added excitement came when he was advised, over the telephone, that the police had arrested three men for personation at the polls, and asked what line his paper should take on this subElection day arrived


vigorous activity for




"I think that's the dirtiest trick a guy

could pull, to steal another guy's vote.

Soak 'em and



right behind you."

At the Spruce

Street office that night, awaiting the results,

Thomson flinched as a sudden psst Frenchman was with him.


"Hi, Odette," he said cheerfully: cheerful.

On the contrary,



that the Whispering

but Odette did not look

conspiratorially than ever,


very glum, he whispered that he must see Thomson. Thomson pointed out that he was seeing him. Privately, Odette insisted.

So they retreated to a less crowded corner and there Odette whispered that some of his campaign supporters were in gaol. For personating other voters. "But what could' ve made you do a dirty thing like that?"



"In Quebec," replied Odette, who hailed from Quebec, "if you do not know how a man will vote, you get there first and vote for him. It is done all the time." Furiously Thomson pointed out that this was not Quebec. Odette replied that that may have been so, but they were French 96

Roy Thomson and Jack Kent Cooke

Roy Thomson



with Russian soldiers whose medals he tried


front of the old Adlon Hotel



Friends and Politics voters he

had had impersonated, which should have made

it all

All French voters, he implied, either voted early or ex-


pected to be impersonated before the day was out. Even more furiously then, Thomson lashed Odette for coming in person to the office rather than telephoning to advise that his

He, Roy, had personally recomand now Odette, their accomplice, doubtless with a trail of policemen behind him, had idiotically fled straight to Spruce Street and must thus have implicated both the Press and its management. colleagues


had been


that they be soaked ;

Angrily dismissing the Whisperer, with instructions not to

come near the office again, Thomson went back to his lodgings to look up the law relating to personation for the purpose of

and discovered that, as Bartleman's another's vote campaign manager, and having provided Odette with money, almost certainly he could be deemed guilty of abetting the Frenchman's crime. Next morning, early, Odette visited the lock-up with cigar-


ettes for his three frightened friends.

"This the guy that gave you the money?" the police asked. They nodded and Odette, panic-stricken, again fled to the Press office. As he heard this latest development, Thomson himself felt a touch of panic. Gutting the discussion short, he ordered Odette out of his office and told him to get well out of the way and then to telephone. They would decide what to do over the


Too soon

for comfort, the Whispering Frenchman was on the but even so Thomson, faced with what seemed a desperate situation, had already decided upon a desperate solution. Knowing that the police must not discover that he had given Odette



money, however innocently, and aware of Odette's almost immeasurable stupidity, he had made the only decision possible. "Can you get out of town?" he asked. Odette could. "Can you stay out of town?" Odette could. "Where are you now?" Odette told him. "Well, stay there till Syd Caesar brings you some money, then get out of town and don't ever come back." Caesar took Odette the money to pay for his journey to Quebec, where no one would mind his electioneering habits, and Odette vanished for ever from the Timmins scene. Meantime, the election r.t.f.s.



had come through


in spite of


Roy Thomson of Fleet Street Thomson's work, and all the Whispering Frenchman's conBartleman had been defeated. The police released Odette's three accomplices and Thomson, for once surprised by his own luck, decided to get out of Timmins for a few days and do some business in Toronto. all

trived impersonations,


14. Alter


was in the




of 1937 that Edna, true to her nomadic pattern, to Colin Avenue. At the same time, Audrey

moved house

and Irma entered the Faculty of Arts at the University of Toronto, Kenneth went to the best school available and Roy moved his headquarters to a small office offered him by All Canada Radio Facilities.

At their desk he and Jack Kent Cooke sat facing one another, and worked, and laughed. They built up between themselves an impenetrable wall of private jokes. During the day, they were never apart when Thomson was in Toronto. They took meals together. From different parts of the office they would telephone each other, like mischievous brothers, impersonating the Chinese accents of a client called Mr. Lee, or of Kirkland

Lake's Big Fat Charlie, or his brother, Tall Skinny Joe.


mere enunciation of a peculiarly Chinese "Ellol" could reduce both to tears of laughter. David and Jonathan, compared with Roy and Jack, were incompatible and antagonistic, the twentyfive-year-old good-looker and the forty-three-year-old myopic being identical in their ambitions, absorbed in their work and unable to distinguish between the fun they got out of work and the fun they shared after work.

came Thomson

Business contacts soon


did not regard

Thomson as his closest Thomson soon came to

to realise that

Cooke the


just as his boss, he regarded



said so repeatedly:


Cooke, his favourite, sold so brilliantly that he himself could

realise that

everything that needed selling

now virtually abandon selling and

confine his energies to figuring.

Cooke, writing figures on the backs scribbling pads; then he would toss the of old envelopes, or on

So he

sat at the desk, opposite


Roy TJwmson of Fleet results across to the


man and



"What do you


of this?"

Watching Thomson thus, looking at the envelopes and the Cooke learnt the lesson of the older man's life that it was not money that made you rich, but the instinct to acquire it, the willingness to risk it and a miser's awareness as to how each cent of it was being spent. Not that Thomson was rich in 1937 on the contrary, in terms of money in the bank he was as poor as ever (All Canada Radio

scribble pads,


example, frequently did not receive the rent he even as desk space and the services of one stenographer, until weeks after it was due), but nobody who watched him eternally scribbling could doubt that soon he would own more. "But what do we want with more?" Edna protested, adding: "Be careful, Roy." She did not like Cooke and nor did her daughters. They resented, and were to resent even more, the extent to which he monopolised Thomson. But, on the rare occasions when they protested, Thomson just grinned, and explained nothing. And they allowed him simply to grin and say nothing because they had grown accustomed to his lifetime of absences, and because life with him at week-ends was warm Facilities, for

owed them,


for so little

light-hearted anyway.


was with Jack Kent Cooke that life really sparkled. With Cooke he renewed his habit of visiting the burlesque theatre whose bill changed every Thursday. Every Thursday afternoon, punctually, the two men would slip out of the All Canada office and, like excited schoolboys, head for the But




They went to see and laugh at comedians like Jackie Gleason and Red Marshall and Phil Silver. They became connoisseurs of timing and delivery, of gags and sketches; and lines which they had especially enjoyed they slipped into their own private vocabulary

of jokes




— though

Thomson had to be careful at home because Edna was likely to demand explanations of what he meant, and then, if the joke was at all risque, to say "I don't see anything

Cooke found years his senior,

this life exciting

matched him

second existence, just as



funny about that."

and Thomson, eighteen

More, he lived a hard, in Timmins, where Bardeman's in living all of it.




capacity for drama, and Nolan Sisson's scrupulous examination of every item of expenditure, and Bob Leslie's ex-


panding sales, all demanded his time. "You're always in Toronto now," Bartleman would complain. Max Ryan used to attempt mediation. "Roy's made a good newspaper out of nothing, Jim," he would tell Bartleman, "you gotta remember that"; but it did little good. Bartleman and Thomson were on collision course and nothing could stop the collision because Bartleman liked collisions and Thomson, lately, had begun to want one. In the lower echelons of the Timmins Press, life remained carefree if insolvent. When Sisson knew that funds were high, he would instruct Maisie, the secretary, to pay the staff in cash. This did not happen often. When funds were not high, but not really low either, Maisie paid half in cash, half by cheque. This happened frequently. But when there was no money at all in the till, cheques alone were issued and then were cashed by Brunette the taxi driver, Sutherland the druggist, the United Cigar Store and the next door Chinese restaurant owner who was a Christian. The Press itself was popular with its readers because its attitude was young and bloody-minded. It printed what it liked. In a town where "The Mine" was all-powerful, the Press feuded endlessly and fearlessly with the mine management. Thus, when men were killed, and the Mine was reluctant to give used not only to ascertain the

details, the Press

details, it also

printed them.

In civic affairs, especially at election time, Sisson encouraged everyone on the staff to attack everyone on the council, which was good for controversy; and when, because of it, circulation increased, all the councillors felt obliged to put into the Press paid advertisements refuting the Press's editorial attacks and that was


for revenue.

In all of this Thomson actively interested himself. Each day he read every word of the Press; and then would sit with the paper open on his knee darting his fingers, three pronged like a fork, over each column of every page. "What the hell are you doing, Roy?" Bob Leslie asked him, the first time he witnessed this ritual.

"Adding up

for the cash register,"




simultaneously, from a twenty-four page paper which he 101


Roy Thomson of Fleet thus examined for

amount of



of two minutes, told Leslie the exact

the day's advertising revenue.

"You can do that," Leslie muttered, bewildered, "yet you'll spend hours talking to any salesman who wants your ear?" "Sure," Thomson told him. "They all teach me something. There's always something I can learn." "You could learn the day's takings in advertising from me" by asking." way," Thomson grinned

Leslie pointed out, "just

"More fun


years later was




to prefer his three-fingered technique to the

simple one of asking.

GKGB's new manager Bill Wren, and his employer talked Wren preaching at Thomson his duty to be more civic-minded, and Thomson listening; Wren warning of Communism in Timmins's council as well as in Timmins's mines, and Thomson heeding. Wren was a literate man and Thomson together a great deal,

unselfconsciously acknowledged his debt to this literacy.


so to 1938,

when Thomson was

medically examined for

the purpose of buying himself some insurance, and told brutally

would not only diminish premiums as well.

that his excessive avoirdupois

expectancy but increase Either threat on



own he might have

his life

endured, but together

they represented so intolerable an affront that he went at once

and demanded the diet most compatible with and economical insurance. His doctor advised him to

to his doctor


shed forty pounds.

He began his diet that day and within the week was in Toronto ordering a new one hundred dollar suit for a body forty pounds lighter than his own. The tailor protested Thomson said :


"You make

the suit,



the weight."

In this operation he was not greatly assisted by his friend Cooke, who took him to baseball matches each week, along with All Canada's manager, Guy Herbert, and there, under his very nose, ate peanuts and hot dogs (which Thomson loved), with lots of ketchup (which Thomson habitually poured over everything), and told him how beautiful they were (which Thomson knew) But Thomson was not to be tempted from his crash diet, and, exactly to schedule, acquired his new figure and collected his new suit. At one hundred and seventy five pounds, he looked almost as smart as the invariably elegant Cooke. .




Returning to Timmins, he asked

owed him



how much he

for his advice.

"Forty dollars," said the doctor.

"That's a dollar for each

pound you lost." Thomson sat down and wrote a cheque for as he handed it across the desk, he laughed.

"What are you laughing at?" "You robbed yourself," Thomson pounds."


forty dollars

told him.




lost forty-taw

jj. April Fools'


One August morning, Cooke

looked across his desk at Thomson and said: "How about some scones?" There was a cafe downstairs and about four times a day, in the past, the two men had been in the habit of going down for plates full of excellent scones with thick slabs of butter and spoons full of marmalade but now :

Thomson was

and did not want to become fat again. Nevertheless he accompanied Cooke to the cafe and, watching Cooke eat the beautiful buttery scones, said: "How about you going to Timmins?" "What for?" Cooke demanded. "To manage all my stations on the spot." "For how long?" "For good. I'll give you eighty-five dollars a week." "Not even," retorted Cooke emphatically, "for a hundred slim,

dollars a week."

"O.K.," Thomson challenged, "one hundred a week." And seemed to Cooke (who is to-day a multi-millionaire) as much money as anyone could ever hope to earn, he agreed; and by September was in Timmins, actively in charge of Thomson's three northern stations, actively exploiting the monopoly enjoyed by those three stations in Northern Ontario, and personally selling time as few other men could sell anything. More than this, he had been sent to run three radio stations, so he ran them. Though Thomson himself spent more time in Timmins than he did anywhere else, Cooke personally ran Thomson's stations and his employer, neither resenting nor since this

interfering with this transfer of power, discovered with pleasure

that delegation left him free to concentrate on other things. Accordingly he concentrated on his newspaper, predicting any104

April Fools'


that this rather than radio


was the

real source of advertising

wealth. Realising, though, that the farmer and the prospector, the miner and the lumberman, isolated from newspapers, relied for all their news on the radio, he suggested again that Canadian which sugPress should sell radio stations their news service gestion was greeted with outright hostility by almost all his fellowpublishers, to whom radio was a bitter enemy, the embezzler of

advertising revenue exclusively theirs.

Thomson reminded them

that already British United Press, world news service to Canada's broadcasting stations, and also that these stations simply pirated from Canada's newspapers the news items that no publisher would sell them why then did Canadian Press, he argued, deny themselves not only the money already paid to British United Press for foreign news but also the money they could earn for material being stolen at the moment for nothing ? Still suspicious of him, hating him and his logic, Canadian Press succumbed; and were subsequently astonished to realise that, though broadcasting had the opposition, sold



benefited enormously, journalism

deed had begun earning good

suffered no harm and infrom Canada's many radio




Taking advantage of that inevitable relaxation in the pressure of business which accompanies a temperature of thirty below zero,

Thomson decided



was now

his turn to see

Europe and

Some people even said Hitler was a war. Ed Patton, for example, who bought high

what Hider was doing



going to start speed printing machinery for Mantons, had already discontinued all purchases from Heidelberg and Diisseldorf, explaining that a war was coming and that when it did there would be no spare parts available from Germany: but Thomson wanted to

Accompanied by his and a Timmins friend, Harry Scarth,

find out about these things for himself.





in an Italian freighter, the cheapest transport January of 1939. There is no evidence to suggest that this journey influenced either Hitler or Thomson in any way; and only two anecdotes seem to have emerged from it the first of which was the sad tale of Ed Bilton and the Austrian countess who, on learning that Ed

he sailed


available, in

owned a

hotel in Toronto, said:


Roy Thomson of Fleet "But



coming soon

to Toronto.

with a balcony." "I suppose," Ed ruminated


You must





room with



Time, however, was Reich, so


Italian travelled

himself, but as a

represented an


to eat?"




keep her the


run out on all the countesses of Hitler's was never able to visit Toronto to

Bilton's Grafin

which, early in March,


later, "we'll



Thomson back


impatiently set


in the



freighter as

which, to Thomson, time low in travel luxury. "What do they give third-class passenger,

Thomson asked morbidly,

the second anecdote of his


"Whatever you guys leave," came the answer. day, as their old ship lumbered across the Atlantic, they learned from the radio operator that Hitler had invaded the Pre-war Europe, like Thomson's voyage, was Sudetenland.

The next

almost finished.

Back in Canada he found that, under Cooke's overall management, all his stations were booming. They were youthful and adventurous, they had confidence and ambition, and they were

discovering talent and flair much of which is to-day at the top of Canada's broadcasting tree. The end of March saw Thomson and Cooke in Toronto together.


ist April,

Thomson played

several Fools'


on the younger man. Very early on the morning of 2nd Nolan Sisson telephoned Thomson from Timmins. "The Press is on fire," he said. "I guess we're out of business." "How bad is it?" Thomson asked; and Sisson replied, "The



flames are out of control."

Thomson called Cooke, waking him up. "For Christ's sake," Cooke complained. "Yesterday was April Fools' Day!" But he was soon convinced; and he and Thomson caught the train north to Timmins that morning. Leo Mascioli was also in Toronto, with his friend John Carnovale. His son, Dan, telephoned to tell him that the Press was on fire and the two Italians were acutely distressed for Thomson. They remembered him from his first days in the north, they remembered his after his near bankruptcy in Toronto; arduous years of travelling and selling the baggy suit, the light, flapping overcoat and the fedora hat stuck on the back of his



April Fools' head;

and they remembered


his long,

slow apprenticeship to

radio and his patient association with the turbulent Bartleman.

But now,


what Dan Mascioli reported was


Thomson had

lost everything.


house is just along the street from the Press" said Carnovale. "I'll ring my wife and ask her what is happening." "What fire?" muttered his dazed wife when she answered the telephone and then, looking out the window and two blocks along Spruce Street, saw the flames. Jack Marks, the Press junior reporter, was wakened by the telephone. "Get your ass out of bed and come down town," a voice shouted at him. "The Press is burning." Marks recognised the voice. It belonged to a friend of his who loved fires: who was, in fact, fire crazy. "Yeah," he said sourly, "April Fool to you too! You don't catch me" and went to sleep again. Then re-awoke, remembering that it was 2nd April. By the time he reached Spruce Street, the fire brigade had left the front of the building to its fate and was playing all its hoses on the back, in an attempt to save

the machinery at least.

Thomson and Cooke reached Timmins to find only ashes and blackened machinery, and everywhere twisted metal and lumps of molten glass and lead. Almost at once, Bill Mason of the Nugget was on the phone. He had never liked Thomson as a newspaperman (because no good newspaperman could also be a radioman), but that was beside the point at this moment. He rang simply to say that the Nugget works in North Bay were available to print the Timmins Daily Press until Roy could make other arrangements. Cooke borrowed two thousand dollars and gave it to Thom-

who was under-insured. Leo Mascioli consulted with









Dan and

quickly decided

that blackened machinery into the base-

ment of his (Mascioli's) nearby Empire Theatre and print his paper there. All that had to be done was to pump out the flooding caused by the fire brigade's attempt to save the Press, clear away the junk that had accumulated over the years, and put up some

partitions for office space.

Thomson For a month

took advantage of the generosity of his

all his friends.

paper was printed by the Nugget and sent by 107

— Roy Tlwmson of Fleet


two hundred and fifty miles to Timmins each night; the Empire Theatre basement was drained, cleared, partitioned and equipped with machinery salvaged from and repaired after the fire; and Jack Kent Cooke moved CKGB to an apartment he had rented. By May the Press was being printed in Timmins again and the bath in CKGB's studio apartment had begun to fill up with files, ledgers and accounts which indicated that business was train



as usual.

Realising that he could not for ever impose on Mascioli's generosity to house the Press, or for ever rely to contain


decided to build



on an apartment bath

record of its growing revenues,

Thomson then

combined broadcasting station and the north had never seen before, and to

to build a

such as

begin the project now.


eventually, though only with great difficulty, obtained the

money he needed through Jack



the good will of a local

took a considerable pride in

mine owner,

Timmins and

its prestige demanded a daily newspaper. Bickell persuaded the Montreal Trust Company to advance Thomson the money he needed on good terms; a block of land was obtained, plans were drawn up, and soon Thomson's dream began to take

believed that


Mantons, from whom a mass of the finest equipment and machinery was now ordered, congratulated themselves upon having trusted Thomson five years earlier when he had nothing particularly did they congratulate their representative Ed Patton for having convinced them then that Thomson was worth backing. But then Ed Patton was a shrewd man. Only a few months before, at an industrial exhibition, he had met Herbert Sternberg, president of Schnellpress and an ex-colonel of the Prussian Guards, and had said to him bluntly: "Are you people going to start another war? Because if you do, you won't win." Seven days a week now Thomson worked with Cooke and


and their children. The inside jokes and the very personal brand of humour grew. The two men enjoyed each other's company with that sort of abandon and intensity which usually is observed only in small boys and occasionally with the cruelty of small boys to anyone outside the magic of their own laughter. Thus on a business trip to New York (to lure American at night dined with

Cooke and

his wife



April Fools



manufacturers into buying time on their Canadian stations) they invited Bartleman to accompany them. During their stay, each took it in turn to pay for the meals of all three, and Thomson and Cooke worked cunningly throughout to ensure that Bartleman, whom they regarded as a man most cautious with his money, was always caught with the biggest cheque for the most expensive meal of each day. After the richest of all such dinners, as the three men walked towards the pay desk, Thomson mocked the lugubrious Bartleman whose turn, inevitably, it was to foot the bill. It was, he said, real bad luck for Jim to have got stuck with such a big cheque. Geez, he professed, he felt real sorry. Poor Jim, he sympathised, Until, right by the desk, rubbing his last handful it wasn't fair. of salt into Bartleman's wound, he said: "Let me pay," and held out a mocking hand. "O.K.," retorted Bartleman; and slapped the cheque into his


So, before they left New York, Thomson bought a small American radio set and stole a large Manhattan telephone directory and hid them both in Bartleman's baggage. Then they drove to Niagara and the border. "Anything to declare?" Canadian Customs asked. "No, no!" boomed Bartleman. "Would you open this case please?" pointing to Bartleman's




when Bartleman opened

the suitcase, his attention

by the unlikely presence of a Manhattan telephone directory, the customs officer observed a brand new, undeclared, highly taxable American radio. The summer months of 1939 were pleasant, and during them Irma came to Timmins to work on the Press. She had grown into a striking twenty-one-year-old, attractive to and attracted by the local young men, with whom she spent many pleasantly flirtatious hours at the nearby drug-store. At which her father (for the first irresistibly


time in his




directly responsible for the spiritual well-being of

one of his children) became a thorough prude, endlessly checking on what his daughter was doing, and with whom she was doing it, only really relaxing when he was sure that she was back in the lodgings he had organised for her under the watchful eye of the wife of bis new editor, Charles Grafton. He was much happier 109

Roy Thomson of Fleet with reports of his son's






North Bay where Hal Cooke boy led a physical training and drinking

activities in


that the sixteen-year-old

devoted entirely to


World War

who had lived with broke out: but Thomson was forty-five years old, acutely myopic and a military reject even in the insatiable years of World War I it was unthinkable that he would be physically involved. With the outbreak of war, there came rumours that Canadian newsprint would soon be rationed, so that more of it could be sold to the U.S.A. to earn dollars for the Empire, and Thomson realised that this must throw more advertising into the hands of radio whose listening figures had anyway jumped tremendously as people anxiously awaited the latest war communiques. Back, therefore, on the happier and less bellicose plane of Thomson business, an examination of the order books showed clearly that 1940 would be an even better year than 1939 had the threat of



almost to the relief of those

for so long, at last

been. as



Cooke and Bob

Leslie to

as possible of the outstanding stock of


Realising which,

buy up

sent out

Knowing that profits in 1940 Broadcasting and Publishing. would boom, Thomson wanted those profits for Thomson, not for casual investors; and by late 1939 practically all stock was back in his own hands, the exception being that block held by Mayor Bartleman of Timmins and his partner, Max Ryan. Meanwhile, much more exciting for Timmins than any conflict in Europe, war had broken out between Thomson and Bartleman.


i6. Conflict


precipitated the clash

and Expansion


difficult to ascertain.


maintains that Thomson unscrupulously bemused him and then extracted cheques from him; Thomson relates that Bartleman

had become impossible


to deal with ;

outsiders give


as their

considered opinion that each, from the beginning, had intended using the other, but that Thomson, by late 1939, was so clearly out-using Bartleman that the latter

But there were other

had become



Up till 1938, for example, however maddening each found the other, Bartleman was the man who was closest in Timmins to Thomson: then had come Cooke. Up till 1939, Thomson was so hard pressed

financially that

he could spare no time for anything except business and the day to day problem of staying in business. But then Wren, CKGB's manager had begun to lecture him about his duty to the public as a watchdog against Communism; about the existence of communist cells in Timmins; about the way Bartleman was sanctioning the spending of public money on social projects that outraged all the principles of North American Free Enterprise. And Thomson had listened to what Wren told him. Up till 1939, Thomson's richest friend and most powerful patron in Timmins had been Bartleman: but in 1939, when Thomson was burnt out, another and even richer man, Leo Mascioli, had loomed larger on the scene Leo, whose broken English was ludicrous compared with Bartleman's rounded and resonant phrases; Leo who, as a mere Italian migrant, could never rank equal with the doubly Anglo-Saxon Bartleman, both New Zealander and Canadian. Yet now it was precisely this ill-spoken, utterly alien Leo who made the grand gestures, gladly buying Thomson's shares and warmly agreeing to guarantee


Roy Thomson of Fleet


In short, where once Thomson had perhaps been under an obligation to Bartleman, now certainly he was obliged to Leo Mascioli. Worse than that, quite patently credit often thousand dollars.



liked Mascioli.


some appearance of have told himself and others that he had made both the Timmins Daily Press and Roy Thomson. In fact, he had not done so; but he could have been forgiven for thinking that he had. But after 1937 their relationship had begun both so to invert itself and to deteriorate that, in 1939, abruptly and with a quite uncharacteristic savagery, Thomson announced to John Carnonow I'll break him." vale: "I made Bartleman Here were all the ingredients that go to make up an explosive situation; but it was in the week preceding 27th October, 1939, that Mayor Bartleman himself, by proposing that the Timmins Council "take over" CKGB, pressed the plunger that blew his friendship with Roy Thomson to smithereens. The proposal to "take over" CKGB seems an extraordinarily maladroit move on the part of a man whose record may have been one of arrogance but was also one of a degree of political sensitivity. Timmins radio station was owned by an obvious apostle of Free Enterprise, Thomson; and it would inevitably be supported by Timmins's only daily newspaper, because that paper also belonged to Thomson: yet Bartleman made the remarkably unCanadian suggestion that it be municipalised. "Collected in a cozy group The Press retorted briskly. around their samovar early this week, a few members of the Timmins Council hatched the first move in their plan to sovietise commerce and industry in Timmins." The use of the word "sovietise" was skilful and should, at that stage of World War II, have warned Bartleman to modulate his till


could, with


for Russia had just (to the fury of the rest of the world, but particularly of the large Finnish colony of Timmins) invaded Finland. But Bartleman was not to be warned. Instead, he went further and suggested that two of his Tim-


mins councillors be sent to Toronto to seek from the government of Ontario some kind of state reprisals against CKGB. After which suggestion the Press became more conscientious than ever in attending and reporting council meetings, which were then held in the evening. 112



Roy Thomson with Frank Quartermaine, his campaign manager, and 'Lex' Mackenzie m.p.p., in 1952

Roy Thomson



Colonel of the


at leisure




Toronto Scottish


and Expansion


So Bartleman arranged following


thus avoiding the presence

"Undoubtedly," commented the

of reporters.

meet the

secretly that the council

in the afternoon,



Soviet experiment."

Early in

November a

rash of stickers appeared on walls


town saying, "Boycott the Timmins Daily Press" and describing Thomson's paper as "Fascist" and "Hitlerposts all over


The Press retaliated by pointing out that it had revealed the presence of Communists in the Councils of Timmins and of Kirkland Lake, in the C.I.O. Miners Union and in the Citizens League. It then vigorously attacked the new Bartieman technique of council meetings "by surprise." And so to the final and most bitter stage of the battle. In mid-November the mayoral election being due in the first days of December Thomson's hitherto staunchly pro-Bartleman

— —

newspaper came out strongly man who, at his


Bartleman and for Emile rank a little down the road,


Brunette, the


so often cashed the Press's salary cheques.


Press savaged Bartleman and his council for alleged wanton extravagance and maladministration, and accused the mayor, at a time when Communism meant tyranny towards


Finland, of condoning within his council the existence of a


In opposition to him, the Press supported the popular figure of Brunette



whose frequent attempts always to be thwarted.




and passionate






Brunette was half French, half Irish,

—and a vehement an Communist. Carnovale —whose house was then



Timmins, being the




there to be


wonder of


of brick



campaign headquarters. The loudspeaking system from Carnovale's skating rink was rigged up on one of Mascioli's theatres, to fill the town with blasts of Brunettery to Brunette for his

that not even Bartleman's stentorian tones could match.

Finns were rallied to Brunette's cause;

French and





radio station assailed Bartleman; Porcupine Advance.



were the



were the Catholic liberals.

so did the Press;

Red propaganda by

vote," the Press urged, "for a loyal r.t.f.s.




so did the

casting your

Canadian administration next


Roy Thomson of Fleet Street Monday." Poor Bartleman, when the votes were counted, had to acknowledge defeat at the hands of Emile Brunette. Thomson himself wasted no time on personal antipathies. Nineteen forty was upon him with all the good things that wars invariably bring to the businessman, and it was with them that he chose to become entirely preoccupied. North Bay's radio station was running smoothly under Hal Cooke Kirkland Lake was surging ahead under Brian Shellon and Jack Davidson; Timmins under Wren was triumphant and the three together, under the over-lordship of Jack Kent Cooke, were obviously going to prosper tremendously. "Father," Thomson confessed to Father Therriault of Timmins, "I'm going to make a million": and for the first time, people began to believe him. ;


of his reporters,


Kinsey, announced his intention

of volunteering for active service rather than waiting to be drafted


but, fortunately for the

embryo Thomson empire, many

of his employees were excluded from service by the terms of the draft. All that was now needed to channel the combined energies of Cooke and himself into a torrent of profits, Thomson realised, was a man in Timmins who could put on to balance sheets all the figures for each of his possessions so that he could compare them, like with like, and rationalise them, and budget for each separate business as accurately as Nolan Sisson and he had always budgeted for the Press. So he advertised for an accountant; and a young man called Sid Chapman answered from London, Ontario, where he was employed (and well regarded) by Silverwood Dairies.

Chapman knew what

he wanted which was a better job with better prospects than the one he already had and negotiated firmly with Thomson during his interview in Toronto. He demanded forty-five dollars a week and the right to buy stock in

Thomson's business; and when Thomson was indecisive, hating the idea of anyone but himself owning stock in his company, it was Chapman who coolly ended the interview, giving Thomson his telephone number to call if necessary. Several days later, by telephone, he was hired and instructed to make his way to Timmins. The scene on his arrival was discouraging to a mind so 114


and Expansion

mathematically fastidious as his. The Press was dingily accommodated under a movie house, and no one had thought to provide him with so much as a desk, let alone an office; and CKGB was situated almost frivolously in an apartment building, with all its records, which should have been sacred, flung haphazard into a

The manager of the Press obviously resented him; and Jack Kent Cooke looked too athletic and glittering to be any good at anything so prosaic as business. In fact Cooke seemed to Chapman to be more interested in forming a perfectly useless Thomson soft-ball team than in anything of real value to Thomson's radio stations. bath.


himself apparently did not object to this frivolity:

and when Chapman complained of the blasphemy of all CKGB's accounts and files and ledgers being stacked, however necessarily, in a bathroom, and of the indignity of having to keep all his own beautiful books in a suitcase (which, of necessity, he carried with him everywhere) Thomson just chuckled, and doodled, and said, "Yes well, that's why we got you up here to straighten

things out."

So Chapman straightened things





economies into a budget. He drew up two balance sheets for every day of the month one for paying in, and one for paying out. He robbed Peter to pay Paul, and then he robbed Paul to pay someone else, including Thomson's own staff who, as ever, but increasingly less so in the ensuing months, made their own arrangements about cashing the cheques issued to them by the shapely Maisie. But always he knew to a cent how Sisson's tight-fisted




money Thomson


He also, and repeatedly, approached Thomson to find out how much stock he could buy, as agreed when he was hired, and each time Thomson temporised, saying, "Well,




how "To







wait a bit



with that," and went to Wally Jamieson, the

bank manager, and borrowed for himself some ten thousand dollars, all of which he put into Thomson stock. He soon realised, too, that Cooke was more than a glittering youth and athlete who, attending a board meeting, would pace the room, never once halting or sitting down. Cooke, outside of meetings, Chapman discovered, could sell where no one else could sell and whenever Wally Jamieson grew restless about his :


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Northern Broadcasting and Publishing, which was Chapman knew that he had only to say: "Jack, we gotta get some more money in," and Jack would somehow loans



money. Jack also knew where to invest money. After a trip into Quebec Province, he suggested that the radio

get the

Rouyn be





to the east,

station at

the licence for

the station at Val d'Or, and a second French-speaking station seemed sound policy. "O.K.," said Thomson, "we'll go in as partners; you raise a third, I'll raise two-thirds, and we'll go in as partners." For twenty-one thousand dollars the station became theirs. Another Quebec station, at Amos, soon followed Val d'Or and Rouyn into the



But Thomson's three newest stations, situated as they were in the heart of a French and alien-minded province, were bound to lead a bedevilled life. They were to be the cause of ceaseless anxiety because they fought endlessly, which was bad, and in French, which was impossible and Thomson retained them only because they would soon, he knew, make a profit. What he could not possibly have known in 1940, when he bought them, nor suspected even in 1943, when he agreed to sell them so that Jack Kent Cooke acquired a third of the proceeds, was that he had set in motion a chain of events that was to split him from Cooke, turn his feeling of friendship into one of cold rivalry, and


incredibly rich



For the moment, Cooke,

them both.

golden boy of Northern Broadand Thomson, somehow wrangling the required credit, contentedly disposed. Cooke repeatedly assured Chapman that Thomson was a friend whom he loved; and Thomson, proudly chuckling, said simply, "What a guy." Cooke learnt all that he could of Thomson's philosophy that money must be used that the man who can't make money make more money shouldn't be allowed even to have, let alone borrowmoney. Thomson always remembered Cooke's birthday; Cooke, on Thomson's birthday, always gave something made of silver; and Thomson's wife and daughters closed their ranks in their new Toronto house on Hillholme Road and resented more than ever the endless conferences with Cooke that kept Roy from them. this

casting, proposed,



and Expansion

But on 24th May, 1940, all resentments and personalities were forgotten in the excitement of the opening of the most magnificent

Timmins and the North had ever seen. Beside it, John Carno vale's once awe-inspiring brick bungalow became just a brick bungalow, and Leo Mascioli's Empire Hotel became downright old-fashioned. It housed Thomson's CKGB and Thomson's Timmins Daily Press', and above both was an office and a penthouse flat. At the suggestion of young Dan Mascioli, the building was named the Thomson Building; and at Roy's invitation the public of Timmins trooped in and out of the building all day. They thought it magnificent. So (although to-day it looks rather like a small movie house) did the Thomsons and the Cookes. Thomson's pleasure in this latest acquisition, however, was soon disturbed, for early in June, just after the building was opened, whilst he himself was out of town, all the construction bills arrived and all his creditors appeared, demanding to see him. As Chapman fobbed them off, explaining that they could not see Mr. Thomson because he had gone away for six weeks, many in Timmins rather sourly renamed the Thomson Building "Thomson's Folly." building


Tear One, World


Chapman, at the

Thomson intended

realising at last that

fight this battle,

bank and,

War II

that he should

He went to Wally Jamieson arguing desperately, won an unprecedented loan moved


of seventy-five thousand dollars, and with this he paid off every

baying creditor.


crisis past,

Thomson blandly returned


Timmins. "Either," his

young accountant raged

at him,


snapping, light voice taut with anger, "you're a genius or a




"Why?" "Leaving




all these

accounts coming in for a brand


"No," demurred Thomson, "I knew you could handle it." Now, more than ever, with a seventy-five thousand dollar loan to repay, they handled their affairs with a scrupulous eye to Chapman's two sheets of paper, each divided into separate columns for every day of the month, one page for moneys coming in, the other for moneys due to go out. Working literally day by day, either they paid their accounts for that day, or they sent notes redeemable in thirty, accompanied by nice letters, or in sixty days, accompanied by very nice letters. And lest it be thought that this was merely a temporary crisis, that system persisted unrelieved for the next three years, during

which Thomson walked a deliberate tightrope across the abyss of bankruptcy, his eye set unwaveringly on expansion, his balancing pole Chapman's skill with books. "I don't care how it works," he would pronounce of some purchase which he had figured was feasible, "but this is what we're gonna do and Sid will put it through the books!"



Tear One, World

War II

Only occasionally did Sid Chapman

when he argued


refuse to conform, as

Thomson and Cooke had


suddenly decided that Northern Broadcasting and Publishing should buy a laundry Though they cheerfully dropped his assertion,



this project, in

don't even have the



obedience to

for the business

was constantly nagged by the frightening conviction that Roy and Jack would take up got,"



Sometimes the strain was too much particularly when they happened to be in Toronto and his meetings to discuss finance would be adjourned so that Thomson and Cooke could go to a ball game. Then he would scream: "This is more like a Barnum show than a company." "Well, hell," Thomson would shout back, "that's why we all

hired you."

"You want your cake and eat it," Chapman was always "You think things are deductible three ways. Well,


they're noti"

Thomson would then placate want you to do." Chapman grew fond of Thomson, and Thomson of him but "You

straighten things out,"

him. "That's what



warmth of proximity in any way compared with the charmed and mutual devotion that existed between Thomson and Cooke. Chapman the accountant never deluded himself that this faint

might earn Thomson's gratitude

company work smoothly, but pects



making the machinery of the was Cooke, with his sales pros-


his soaring imagination,



Thomson with


So that Chapman would complain, but without malice: "Anyone can say things are wonderful at a sales meeting: but when you go to face Wally Jamieson at the bank, things are different."

Thomson Chapman would

"Wally's O.K.,"


always comforted him then. " He's a nice guy.



Though, in fact, Chapman, whose dealings with Jamieson had so often been stormy, regarded him as a courageous friend to their company. Outside Timmins, away from his old friends and his young executives, life was less enchanted for Thomson. At the 1940 wouldn't




Roy Thomson of Fleet


Quebec meeting of the Canadian Broadcasting Association, for example, other owners of private radio stations found him curiously shy and unassertive. He attended the meeting dutifullv: but already he had made up his mind that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would soon deny him any further rights of expansion and he was constitutionally incapable of enthusing at so confined a prospect. In Toronto, at meetings of the Canadian Press, he encountered the cold hostility of the heads of conservative journalistic families like the Siftons and the Southams. Victor Sifton, never easy to know, was a distinguished military man who rode to hounds in his spare time as resplendent in his pink and cap as any English M.F.H. He had little time for socialising with Thomson the barber's son, the military reject who had never ridden a horse in his life. Still less could he find any affinity with a man who not only owned radio stations but also claimed that he ran his one miserable newspaper as a business and only for its profits. In Canada, in those days, one bought newspapers for political or prestige reasons, not for their profits, which were negligible and anyone who claimed that he published for profit alone was immediately suspect. The Siftons, the Southams and most of the rest of Canada's publishers at that time were deeply suspicious of


Roy Thomson. But he had his uses. As when Senator Rupert Davies, anxious open a radio station in south-eastern Ontario, was advised by Victor Sifton at least to join forces with someone who knew something about the operation of such stations. From his recent days as President of Canadian Press, Davies remembered an application for a wire service made by an unpopular but apparently successful radio man called Roy Thomson, after which he had said to Thomson: "So you're the man who's making money out of radio?", he commented and revealed his own ambitions. To which Thomson replied: "Would you like me to run it for you? I could make you an offer." Remembering this, Davies now sent for Thomson, and met him, with Cooke, at the Ontario Club in Toronto, where a partnership was agreed on a 51-49 per cent basis in his own favour. Davies was to make available his radio station; Thomson's organisation would run, maintain and promote it. Subsequently, as this operation in Peterborough, under to


War II

Tear One, World

Cooke's supervision, flourished, Senator Davies and


opened a second station at Kingston. grew suddenly bleak for Roy Thomson. First his mother died, and he and Carl sold that link with their youth, and with each other, that the house in Isabella Street had been; then Audrey, his eldest child, worried him by becoming engaged to a young man from North Bay who was a Roman Catholic. Thomson could like Roman Catholics as he did Father Therriault and Emile Brunette and he could help them warmheartedly (with, for example, free time on his radio programmes to promote their appeals) but he still disapproved whole-heartedly of mixed marriages. Next, since Senator Davies' two radio stations had become 49 per cent his, and the responsibility for running them ioo per cent his, he had decided that Jack Kent Cooke should move from Timmins back to Toronto, where he would be centrally placed for the operation of all their radio interests; but this had left him feeling very alone in Timmins. Then France fell, and suddenly the war became real and terrible. A complete non church-goer, Thomson even went to church and prayed: and when Bill Wren, ever his mentor, suggested that they should try to form a local regiment, he agreed enthusiastically. He would be its quartermaster and wear an officer's uniform, they decided. As he learnt off by heart all the letters on the eye charts that otherwise would instantly disqualify him, he very nearly ordered his officer's uniform. But he was fortysix years old and physically unfit for active service, even apart from his eyes and anyway officialdom decreed that a Timmins Regiment could not be formed so the idea was soon abandoned and Thomson then, and finally, re-channelled all his energies back into his business. He complained to his doctor that the thyroid treatment he was receiving stimulated him whilst the diet he had to follow left him so hungry at night that the only way he could refrain from consuming hundreds of forbidden calories was to go to bed immediately after dinner. His doctor agreed that the two complaints were an unfortunate combination and reduced the thyroid treatment which he might not have done had he known that Thomson had already abandoned his diet. Thus life was not going smoothly, and early in July of 1940 it



this point, life





Roy Thomson of Fleet went


smoothly than ever.

His friend Leo Mascioli, and

Mascioli's brother, were arrested as

Thomson, moving




swiftly in the organisation of Mascioli's

found that the old Italian's alleged offences were he had consistently sent money home to his family in Italy, which was now a hostile power, and that the Duce had recently awarded him one of Italy's more lowly defence,



honours. Enlisting the support of the local Member of Parliament, A. Bradette, of Father Therriault, of the President of the Red J. Cross, the officer in charge of recruiting, the town clerk, the town auditor and a local merchant, among others, Thomson put forward a spirited defence of the Italian. He reminded the Court that Mascioli was one of the original pioneers of a Timmins which, in 191 1, was just a hill-side of stunted pine and spruce under which lay a nation's fortune in gold. Mascioli and his brother had not come to Timmins and exploited it; they had come and helped



"I'd stake everything I own," he then asserted, "that these two


are innocent."

At the same

time, Bartleman

was circulating a privately

printed pamphlet, headed:





paragraph, in Bartleman's most resonant, if tautologous, ran thus under no circumstances would I align or associate myself with the above or any other group that had for its object the release of any inmate of an internment camp, for I would deem it as extremely nauseating if, at any time in the future, I had to give an accounting of my actions during the darkest hours of our Empire's greatest trial, and had to admit that the hour was spent in endeavouring to secure the release of anyone from internment. Quite differently from Bartleman, Thomson was only too glad to spend the darkest hour of the Empire's greatest trial endeavouring to secure the release of someone from internment. Its last

style, .




— Tear One, World

War II

He did not deem it nauseating to do so and committed the Press to it


Towards the end of 1940, the Mascioli brothers were released, which the Press claimed all the credit (a claim supported by most of Timmins) and Bill Wren told Thomson that he was leaving Timmins to enlist. Wren departed and young Jack Marks took his place, until he himself was drafted: likewise, at Kirkland Lake, Shellon departed and was succeeded by the athletic and brilliant Jack Davidson who from that moment onwards was to march from one executive for

success to another in the



Back in Toronto, the Thomson family one day picked up a newspaper which announced that three officers of the R.C.A.F. had been killed in training at Trenton. One of them was Audrey's universally popular but


Catholic fiance.

Kenneth, Audrey, Irma and Mrs. Thomson were driven to Almost at once,

the funeral by Irma's fiance, Douglas Elliot.

down over Crete, Elliot himself was declared missing, and was subsequently presumed dead. Closer than ever then, the Thomson women drew together. As if realising that Timmins was too small for him now that he could depose its most powerful politician, or disintern its richest shot


Thomson returned

to Toronto, leaving the north in the

hands of Davidson and Chapman. His was not to be a spectacular war: but nothing any longer could stop it becoming a lucrative one.




Out of



years 1941 to 1944 were to be a period of enforced Thomson "Enforced" because rationing of newsprint made


him to start new papers, and because a governon the number of radio stations any one man might own prevented him from buying any more of those:


impossible for









politan advertisers to seek space in provincial newspapers like the

Observing which, Thomson decided that someprovincial papers but was frustrated to discover that there were no sellers. He even made frequent trips to New York, once America had entered the war, in the hopes of buying some newspapers in that country; but again with no success. Unable, therefore, to invest the profits of the eight radio stations in which he had either a controlling or substantial interest, he ploughed them back into his business. His radio stations were all furnished with the best equipment available; his loans from the bank were steadily paid off; Chapman having raised yet another bank loan, stock in his companies held by anyone other than Bartleman, Ryan, Cooke, Chapman or himself was steadily bought back; and his economic future began to look secure. But still it did not occur to him either to save his money or Admittedly he was to allow Edna to to spend it on luxuries. move house three times between 1942 and 1944, each time to something more approaching their ideal of a house out of the city and close to the water, but it was not to be until 1947 that eventually he would buy his dream house. In 1940 he had told Jack Kent Cooke: "Jack, we make Timmins


how he must buy more



— Out of the Red a good team.



stick together, there's



can't do.

go into partnership. Two-thirds to me, one-third to you on everything we get," and it had been typical of the relationship that existed between them that he made the offer only when his financial crises were virtually past, that he had made it without preamble or haggling and that he did not regard a written contract as necessary or even as being more binding than an Let's


in 1941, each began to figure out whatever which they would agree them together, Chapman would help make them work and Roy would somehow find the money. As profits began to flow to each as a result of this agreement, Cooke delighted in showing his friends the fruits of those profits a new cigarette lighter, a chandelier in his home, his new Cadillac, his superb clothes. But Thomson (looking rumpled as ever, his hair now sandy and flecked with the grey of forty-seven years) delighted only in showing his friends his balance sheets. "Lookit," he would say proudly, "isn't that something?" However much of a something his balance sheets may at last have become, the hard learned habits of poverty and economy did not die. When he was talked into providing backing (briefly) for a baseball team, he used to watch in anguish as balls hit out of the ground were promptly replaced, each at the cost of one

oral agreement.

deals he could, after

dollar twenty cents.

"Geez," he would invariably mutter,


anybody going

to look for that ball?"




Copps and Marks and all his young from banks on draft notes




to extract credit

only the absolute duty to keep faith with the bank. Keep faith, he pointed out, and your credit will always be good. He did not pay high salaries, because the Depression years

had him




impossible to do so

and then had conditioned

budgeted salary for every job. He compelled no one to stay with him at that salary (and indeed admired the man who would leave him, if it were "to better himself"), but no one who did stay with him could persuade him to pay more than that salary. "Ken," he said to a reporter, Ken McTaggart, at that time, "my philosophy is this. If any of my radio chaps wants more than to the idea of a


— Roy Thomson of Fleet Street thirty-five dollars a week, he'd better quit, because there's plenty of high school kids want to be announcer." Not that Thomson liked sacking people on the contrary, he was rather bad at it and usually tried to outwit employees into :


them haggle themselves out of a Thus one persistent applicant for a weekly raise was offered an amount for the month which he accepted as an increase until he found that Thomson, scribbling earnestly on his pad, had merely offered him per thirty days what he had been getting all along, at his old salary, for four weeks and two days. "The way Roy put it," he reported ruefully, "it seemed real staying with

rather than let



Another asked for a raise because without it he could never repay the money he had borrowed and he had borrowed it from Thomson. Again Thomson's pencil jotted incomprehensible figures all over his pad and again a compromise offer was made. The reporter emerged from his employer's office somewhat dazed, his debts having been cancelled and his salary cut. Christmas presents to the female staff (and as the war rolled on, females came to predominate on the staff) were always an item whose potential cost caused Thomson pain. He solved the problem by giving free time to cosmetic firms and wrist-watch manufacturers in exchange for cosmetics and wrist-watches. On the other hand, his Christmas presents to his family were always carefully chosen and he never gave them anything that had not already appealed to his own eye. This led to gifts whose value fluctuated severely (because Thomson's eye could be caught by the gimcrack just as easily as by the luxurious), but at least he


was always the one on Christmas Day who was first awake and most impatient for the opening of all the presents except his own, which his family would frequently find in his sock drawer, still unopened, six months later. Nowadays he was prouder than ever of his family. His two daughters had now graduated from the University and Audrey was doing war work. (Both girls had applied for the same job. When told there was only one such job, each had said to the other, "You take it," and Audrey was the unlucky one who took it, doing tedious clerical work for years afterwards. Irma compensated by getting up early each morning to make her war-winning sister's breakfast.) His son, Kenneth, had begun his university



Out of the Red career and had the fine build of a middle-weight boxer. His dogs were devoted to him and he to them. His wife and the girls went each winter to Florida to escape the cold and he was pleased to be able to afford such a luxury for them. All this time Thomson and Chapman in Timmins had been bringing more and more meticulously tabulated order into the Thomson books, so that it had become possible to compare all the various costs of one radio station with all the same costs of each of seven others, and to make every one of the eight conform to whichever cost for each item had been lowest in the balance sheets of them all. The system was competitive and business-like and however much station managers and employees were to hate it, it was incontrovertible, because it worked. But it was still Cooke whose golden influence upon Thomson was most marked. Cooke who, by selling so superbly, bred in his friend and partner the conviction that there was no economic difficulty on any radio station or newspaper that a good salesman could not resolve Cooke who, by breeding this conviction, bred also a suspicion (which would have shocked him profoundly had he realised it) that editorial matter and editorial talent were of secondary importance in the make-up of a newspaper. "What is editorial content?" Thomson once demanded, with deliberate intent both to shock and to state a semi-business truth. "The stuff you separate the ads with." By which his staid and more gentlemanly colleagues in the Canadian Press were convinced that their first assessment of him as a radio outsider and a journalistic upstart had been correct. Thomson ignored this coolness from his better bred peers to such an extent that some maintain he failed even to perceive it. He was amiable to people who snubbed him, addressing them always by their Christian names; he joined the best Toronto clubs and gave them further opportunities both to snub him and to criticise his eating habits, which were frankly more practical than elegant he even outraged them by proclaiming that his latest ambition was to be knighted; and yet he began to win their admiration by a candour that was as devastating as it was habitual. He showed his business rivals his balance sheets, told everyone his plans, offered everyone his advice, at the Canadian Press meetings worked hard (and, as it turned out, altruistically) and was unfailingly cheerful. :



Roy Thomson of Fleet Street

He flung his paper and all of his radio stations behind the government's lagging drive for War Bonds on the one hand, and never pretended to be anything that he was not on the other. Once again Thomson decided to try to buy out Bartleman and Ryan, and for this purpose sent the sweet-tongued Cooke up to Timmins to assist Sid Chapman in attempting what seemed the impossible.

Cooke and Chapman visited Ryan first, at St. Mary's Hospital, and suddenly Ryan yielded. He would sell. On then to Bartleman, whose determination to remain a director of the Press weakened when he learnt that his old colleague, Ryan, was selling.

Finally a price

was agreed and

so, as

Bartleman and Ryan

ceased being shareholders and directors and their stock was


between Thomson and Cooke, the last of Thomson's financial worries in Timmins was gone. Indeed, with a war economy booming, all of Thomson's properties everywhere were healthy. Yet when Jack Davidson (transferred from Kirkland Lake to the Kingston station run in partnership with Senator Davies) threw a party to raise staff morale, Thomson, instantly perceiving this costly item on the Kingston balance sheet, could still shout irritably, "What about my morale?" With the result that, since then, such irritating expenses have more than once been entered on balance sheets, more from a desire to spare the boss's feelings than to deceive him, under the heading of "building extensions' 9

or "repairs

And enriched

to elevators."

so the all

end of 1943 approached. It was a year that had Thomson assets and seen the flowering of

of the

Jack Kent Cooke's talent for programme planning as well as selling. But it was also the year in which, his expansionist tendencies blocked in the realm of broadcasting, Thomson at last saw the way to expand as a publisher. Like others in the world of Canadian journalism, he had heard whispers from Sarnia, in the south, that a group of three publishers, whose four papers formed a loose syndicate, wished to separate. He did not hesitate: intending to buy them, he ordered Sid Chapman to look at all four newspapers and to report back to him.

The newspapers, Chapman

reported, were certainly worth

buying, but the price they could 128

command was

at least seven

Out of the Red hundred and


thousand dollars



did not




Chapman's assessment was correct, it would become who previously had never asked for credit of

the task of Thomson,


to raise three-

quarters of a million, which was the value of

all his existing

more than

seventy-five thousand dollars,

properties put together.




Embryo Monopolist

Thomson approached

the three partners, Holmes, Hueston and McKenzie, and persuaded them to quote a price. This price, as it happened, was ready for quoting because Southams had similarly and very recently asked for a price, been given it and turned it down. Thomson decided to consider it.


he confronted the original trio plus three and Shore and an audience of shareholders, his round face beaming so amiably that an old lady in the audience protested: "Mr. Thomson, you're such a nice man that it's a positive shame to unload all these old newspapers and their broken-down equipment on you." At which Thomson continued to beam, even if the six executives of the four newspapers, convinced that their asking price of eight hundred and eighty thousand dollars was too high, did not. After this meeting, Thomson telephoned to Chapman in Timmins and ordered him, with the help of George Morrison, another accountant, to prepare a financial brief on the Thomson finances which would satisfy with his lawyer's assistance the suspicious eye of the Ontario Securities Commission. Night and day for the next thirty-six hours, Chapman and Morrison worked. Then Chapman hired a small plane to fly south, got lost in heavy stormcloud, made an emergency landing, chartered a only to find that their taxi and eventually arrived in Toronto lawyer had left town for the week-end. As Thomson raged at the stupidity of anyone taking week-ends off, it was decided that there was nothing they could do till Monday. But then he moved very fast. He persuaded his bank to give him credit he ordered his lawyers to draw up an agreement that would satisfy not one but six vendors selling not one but four 130 others

a second





Embryo Monopolist and he

offered to pay the vendors almost their full hundred and eighty-eight thousand dollars by means of a loan of some $375,000 from his bank and a mortgage from the vendors for the balance. "Henry," he then said to one of the partners, "you can take your money or you can take stock." Henry Foster agreed to



asking price of eight




A second partner,

Harry Shore, dithered.

the idea of stock, then he said no;







he said yes to he sided with

said yes.

third partner, however,

He would

was adamant.


he said, own paper through stock he wanted cash. But then, suddenly, they all wanted more than Thomson was offering and it looked as if the deal was off. At which point, Allen Holmes, of the Gait Evening Reporter, intervened, telling his partners that they had been asked to set a price and, having set it, must stand by it. He also reminded them that they had originally a peanut stand outright than a fraction of a news:



foolish to agree to

hundred and eighty thousand


dollars they




as the eight

apparently found


Eventually a massive document one and a half inches thick was prepared for signature by each of the interested parties. "You know," Thomson commented to Chapman as they sat side by side on a park bench, "I could go broke here. If this deal goes sour,



could finish us."


here in the sun.


encouraged, "at least


nice, sitting out

can't lose everything."


hour later, Roy Thomson owned The Canadian Observer of Sarnia, The Evening Tribune of Welland, The Evening Reporter of Gait and the Daily Sentinel- Review of Woodstock: and the balance of his small empire had changed dramatically from eight radio stations and one newspaper to eight radio stations and five newspapers.

At once the Toronto

ran an editorial commenting tartly on man owned so many newspapers and in doing so revealed the covert antagonism of Canada's entrenched Press towards Thomson the intruder, for both the Sifton family and the Southam family had long owned more than five newspapers without any criticism at all. Star

the fact that one


Roy Thomson of Fleet Probably what provoked years




this early

to fury)

Thomson intended doing with

was a


anger (which over the


doubt as to what

newspapers, having acquired them. Tories feared he would use them to help the Liberals; Liberals feared he would use them to help the Tories; neither


him when he

said all his papers could carry right on was they had been doing; and both distrusted assertion that he was in the publishing business for

doing whatever utterly his profit,



not for propagandising,


still less

for prestige at a loss.

himself, cheerfully indifferent to jealous criticisms,

that at last he had reached an unimaginable goal. It was as if he had just eaten so huge and delectable a meal that he would never need to eat again that he would be happy for ever simply to sit in the new and rather lavish offices to which he and Cooke and a staff of ten had recently moved and there, like a python in hibernation, digest what he had swallowed. But if he was at last content to rest, Jack Kent Cooke was not. In fact, he was about to make the move of his life a typical Thomson move by buying a Toronto radio station. CKCL, he had ascertained, could become his for five hundred thousand dollars. Although it was being sold because it was not doing well, Cooke was positive that he could reverse this trend; and then he would have purchased a gold mine. There was only one difficulty he did not have five hundred thousand dollars. Not for nothing, though, had he watched Thomson buying when he had nothing for all of the past six years. Nor was it for nothing that he had been so close to Thomson, always aware of what pleased or displeased the older man; so that for more than a year he had known that what most displeased Thomson was the impossibility because everything was argued, broadcast, plotted and fought over in French ever of knowing what was really happening at any of his three radio stations in Quebec. Thomson, Cooke knew, had for a year been anxious to sell his stations at Val d'Or, Rouyn and Amos. And if he sold, Cooke, under the terms of their partnership agreement, would get a third share of the proceeds which would be enough to buy backing for the balance of the half million he needed. All Cooke had to do, then, was to help find a suitable buyer. Eventually a deal was concluded with French Canadian felt


buyers. 132

Embryo Monopolist The


amount which Cooke received

as his share of this

not so important as the fact that, having received

it, he Toronto station CKCL. Straight away he told Thomson that he could buy the station for half a million and asked him whether he wanted to come in on the deal. Thomson declined on the twin grounds that the property was too costly and that anyway he was more interested either in acquiring newspapers or in improving those he already owned. In a remarkably short time, thanks largely to the efforts of Zimmerman the lawyer, who introduced Cooke to such wealthy men as J. H. Gundy, E. W. Bickle and Peter Scott, Cooke raised his five hundred thousand dollars, bought CKCL, changed its name to CKEY and began to transform it, as he had planned, into a gold mine and Thomson was delighted for him, not realising that thereby their friendship had had pronounced upon it a three-




at last in a position to negotiate for the purchase of


year sentence of death.


failing to perceive this,

however, he can be excused be-

own new

cause at this

moment he was wholly


Already this year he had launched his Radio



engrossed in his


its affiliate St.

in Toronto, in partnership with Cooke, Laurence Advertising in Montreal, in partner-

Cooke and Leslie. He had hired a young salesman, Don Lawrie, to take Bob Leslie's place. He was planning (although

ship with

he had only just bought Tribune,



to transform the

Welland Evening

new machinery which would

capacity from eight to twenty-four pages.

He had

increase to




appointments in each of his four newly acquired papers and this meant long consultations with Allen Holmes, whose intervention had revived the seemingly doomed Sarnia negotiations, and whom he had asked to stay on at Gait in charge of what had once been his




therefore, was somewhat preoccupied, learning a of strange names and meeting a lot of strange people like young StClair McCabe, who was Allen Holmes's advertising


salesman on the Gait


whom Holmes now

recommanager. As well as meeting all his new employees, he had to learn to know them. "My name's Thomson," he told all of them. "Call me Roy." And they did. People like the young salesman who



for the position of advertising


Roy Thomson of Fleet had found



necessary to entertain and drink rather heavily with

and then, to his horror, had been meet the new proprietor. Because he had drunk only vodka, Thomson could smell no liquor on his breath, but he performed very badly and Thomson, after his initial amiable self-introduction, grew increasingly testy. Realising which, the young man finally said: "Mr. Thomson, I'm very sorry, but I'm tight." a client one lunch-time






greatly relieved, "well, that's all right.

/ thought you were stupid!" Also occupying Thomson's mind was the allocation to Cooke of a block of shares in the newly acquired Sarnia group which would fulfil the terms of their partnership agreement.


the fact that his son Kenneth had joined the

was now






that Senator Rupert Davies, obliged to travel to Britain

a U.K. Government purchase of some of his Canadian timber, wanted Thomson to accompany him. And that Edna, who had just had an invitation to Florida for the coming winter, wanted to know what he thought about it. "Why sure, honey," he told her. "You go and have a nice to


time," because he

time cold

routed a

knew how much

she hated Toronto's winter-

—and anyway was delighted with the way she had just


called in to fix her taps.

"Your husband could' ve done this," the man had grumbled. "If I'd wanted a plumber for a husband," Edna had snorted, "I'd have married one."

"You and

and drive down," her non"and have a nice time." Then he himself boarded an old French freighter with Senator Davies and had a most disagreeable war-time crossing of the Atlantic. The food particularly so appalled him that on several occasions he refused his meals and spent the whole day in bed, reading an oppressive looking book from the ship's library. Davies, who preferred his literature light, and was not to know that normally his companion read only whodunnits, which were not available, was most impressed. They landed at Liverpool, from which war-time wasteland Davies went to Wales and Thomson to London. There, confronted with the devastation of bombing for the first time in his the girls take the car

plumbing husband

told her,


— Embryo Monopolist he was morbidly fascinated: but not so fascinated that he could not, at the same time, wonder about the possibility of acquiring post-war radio stations on the French coast from which he might bust wide open the BBC's broadcasting monopoly in




revisit Britain and Europe, as soon as and the Nazis would permit, to investigate this

determined to

official restrictions

splendid possibility.

He returned to Toronto to find all his papers booming. National and metropolitan advertising, which newsprint rationing had deflected from city newspapers to small country newspapers,

had been a

particular factor in their development;


already the apparently over-generous price he had paid for the

Sarnia group had become a bargain. Delighted by which, he began, at meetings of the Canadian Press, to ask every publisher he met, "Do you want to sell?" Not unnaturally they disliked the question; but they could not forget Particularly since he repeated it endlessly. He was still not Canada's idea of a good, solid publisher. Cooke, on the other hand, had become everyone's idea of a good radio station proprietor, having transformed CKEY, in four astonishing months from a money loser into a money spinner; it.

did not escape the notice of the Southam family would be wondering what to do about a moneylosing radio station of their own. As from which moment, the friendship that Thomson had for Cooke, and that Cooke had for Thomson, was doomed but neither of them sensed that this was


this fact






20. Public Figure



but Quotable



year of the war was also the

him made good


year of Thomson's


The Press found that interviews with and Thomson delighted in the publicity

as a public personality.


Edna, on the contrary, loathed it and retreated further from the limelight than ever. She even complained "You only like successful people now," which her husband did not dispute, asking cynically what virtue there was in failure: and it was almost with nostalgia that she asked why he had to work so hard nowadays, when already he had achieved so much. "We don't need any more money," she offered.


but Thomson, who owed three-quarters of a million dollars to the bank, and whose properties were slow to earn the repayments due, did not agree. He needed plenty more money; otherwise, as he had said to Chapman, he could lose the lot. But at this moment business everywhere began to improve and the earnings of his radio stations kept him safely ahead of the demands of his bank, so that, economically secure for once, he could concentrate on organisational details. He appointed the objected;

Jack Davidson general manager of all his radio stations; and he sent Ed Gopps, just released from military service, to the Columbia School of Journalism in New York on (This he did at Copps's own suggestion. In return full salary. Copps would work at Timmins for a further year at the same salary once he had completed his course.) Jack Kent Cooke, preoccupied with building up CKEY, moved out of Thomson's office and into one of his own. Though the relationship was still close, and the mutual admiration as athletic


Public Figure:


now went

intense as ever, each


but Quotable


business way,


Thus Thomson bought the News and Cooke took over management

sharing in the profits of the other.

Kirkland Lake Northern

of a radio station in Ottawa.

Although his staff was expanding constantly, Thomson remained democratic, as a beautiful but not very perceptive switchboard girl discovered. Everyone leaving the office during working hours was supposed, on Thomson's own orders, to tell her where he was going. Observing the unannounced departure of a heavily built man with grizzling hair and pebble glasses, she shouted: "Hey, you, who are you and where do you think you're going?" Patiently Mr. Thomson came back to her and told her.

Thomson decided

go to Britain, but this time as an this time in a Dutch freighter, which, after his previous sad experience of Italian and French freighters, he found most luxurious. Thomson first visited his son, Kenneth, now transferred to the RCAF publication Wings Abroad and sharing a London flat with Jack Marks, also of Wings Abroad, lately of the Timmins Press; and then, in a borrowed uniform, flew by American bomber to accredited



war correspondent, and

where a

taxi driver infuriatingly

— He made extensive —

London and Coventry and complained, "La


him who had just


guerre\" if secretive


pointed to bullet marks on stone walls

of buying Radio

—inquiries about the possib-

Luxembourg and, achieving nothing,

returned to Canada determined to try yet again. Describing war-time Europe, he told the Rotarians of Oshawa:


Canada must frankly admit that we have not done anywar that hurt us much. We have made no real sacrifices, as compared with these other peoples. We are living in in

thing in this

the best country in the world."

He had hated the rationing and the bomb damage in Britain, and the humiliation of Europe, and was frankly delighted that Canada had endured none of these but his reference to Canada's lack of sacrifice was a subjective assessment (stemming perhaps from the immunity that the draft rules had afforded almost every young man in his own employ) rather than an objective comparison of Canadian casualties with those of the Maquis or the :

British or the

Americans. 137

Roy Thomson of Fleet


American magazines became anxious to interview this new whom an Ottawa M.P. had gloomily and recently forecast that he would become Canada's Randolph Hearst. Beaming, Thomson received them all. Received them first in his new, luxurious office on the twentythird floor of the Bank of Commerce Building, sitting behind a big, uncluttered oval desk, with his back to the light that came from even bigger windows; and later in his even newer and more luxurious offices on the twenty-fourth floor of the Nova Scotia Bank Building where, opposite him was a large mural a map on which were marked all thirteen of his holdings and symbolic moose, reindeer, huskies and fishermen. Clearly visible below press monopolist, of

him, through the windows, lay much of the city of Toronto. Thus framed, and with a complete lack of inhibition, he talked. "There is," he said, "nothing sinful about being rich. Every man in Canada has a chance to amass a fortune, and I see no reason why I shouldn't get my share of it. I agree that money isn't everything. It may not buy you immunity from death, but having the funds to buy topnotch doctors certainly helps delay it."


fortune," he replied to the inevitable journalist's ques-

tion, "is as large as


credit rating






credit rating



At for





on the defensive about money and

Thomson soon swung

his liking

into the attack, saying exactly


he felt, disconcerting his critics and amusing his public. As when a reporter, in an attempt to pin him down to an admission of a lack of aesthetic qualities, had asked him what was his favourite music, and he had retorted: "the sound of the radio commercials

whack!" Having proved that frankness on one

at ten bucks a

quotes, he extended the principle to cover


made good

all subjects.

Sarcastically cross-examined about his claim that each of his

could follow whatever policy that editor liked, he responded with equal sarcasm: "If any of our editors were to come out against either God or the Monarchy, I guess we'd have to do something, but failing that ..." and shrugged. five editors

Had his inquisitors on this subject known of the personal campaigns he had waged in the Timmins Press against J. P. Bartleman in 1939 and on behalf of Leo Mascioli in 1940, he 138

Public Figure :

might not so


Minor but Quotable

have turned aside their questions:

but he

never has been asked to reconcile his editorial intervention then with his non-intervention since then. The explanation of this

probably that he was a publisher until 1 940 after 1 940 he became a businessman purchasing and running newspapers for reversal




Thomson's various interviews,

as published in late



Canadian Press. In ordinary like said things "Lookit" and "I done" and "real conversation he good" and referred to people he did not like, using a short "a" in 1945, surprised his colleagues at

each word, as "nasty bastards."




same man, confronted by a

hostile journalist obviously

than himself, could express himself in words that were well chosen and often amusing. literate

Previously it had been easy to place Thomson in a society composed only of patricians like Vincent Massey (of whom an English peer remarked: "Vincent makes us all feel like savages"), and of plebeians like those immigrants who were Canada's small farmers and unsuccessful prospectors. Previously, just as the Siftons and the Southams belonged indisputably to the former class, Thomson had clearly belonged to the latter: but now he had begun talking with the fluency of a Massey. It was very mysterious. Equally mysterious was his habit of offering gratuitous advice to everyone, including his competitors. A reporter from Liberty magazine heard him hold telephone conversations with four rival owners of radio stations, provide each one with a clear-cut solution to his problem, and then add the injunction not to worry. He was, in fact, one of Business's missionaries and like any good missionary, even if there was no profit in it, he would always spread the Word. In June of 1945, Irma married Tom Elliot, the brother of her fiance who had been lost over Crete. The marriage was popular, for they were both young and good-looking, and Thomson was happy because his daughter was happy.


the other side of the Atlantic, however, his son was not


The European War having ended, Canadian Command

in Britain

was demobilising those with the longest



preparing to send most of the rest into battle against the Japanese. 139


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Kenneth was thus faced with long months awaiting repatriation Canada. To both himself and his father it seemed much more sensible that he spend the rest of the time he owed the RGAF at Cambridge University. So Thomson again sailed for Britain. Interviewed there about the impact of the war on his own profession, he admitted "Canadian newspapers have made tremendous advances in circulation during the war years and Canadians are themselves to


better readers than they ever were as a result of the habit of

keeping up with the war news."

As usual he had been candid

to the point almost of recklessadmitting to the British that the war that had nearly destroyed them had fattened Canadian publishing and been, to ness,

most of

his compatriots,

mainly something to read about; but,

no one seemed to take exception. Meeting Kenneth in London, and learning that his son hoped to go to St. John's College, but that entry was not easy, Thomson took a train to Cambridge and there, at the college, carried on a difficult conversation with a man who was sympathetic but had very few places available. Finally he was told that he would be given a decision as soon as usual,

as possible; but instead of accepting this polite formula,

replied that he




the answer that day


—and grandilo-

quently explained that Kenneth, as heir to a publishing empire, needed a British education, just as Britain herself

need Kenneth.

That same afternoon


might one day

son was admitted to

John's College to complete the studies the war had interrupted in Toronto. St.

Back in Canada,


at the war's end,

Thomson placed with

the largest order for broadcasting equipment that that

firm had ever received and stations

be re-equipped.


Money, he

that all of his radio

clearly ordained,

must not

be wasted; but, equally, quality must never be sacrificed. Over the next eighteen months, examining all the balance sheets, his thumb flashing to the vital figure in each as if it too could read statistics,


followed the work of a chief engineer and

eight assistants as they carried fitted five

out these instructions and re-

radio stations.

Towards the end of

the year, a Jesuit priest arrived at his


Public Figure: office


but Quotable

with a card of introduction from a Senator Nicol which said "The bearer has just won you in a poker game."



about?" Thomson demanded, grinning. Walsh explained. Some time ago he had administer a Sacred Heart broadcast pro-

all this

Laboriously, Father

been appointed


gramme, and had

successfully asked Senator Nicol for time


each of his four radio stations. Later that year, meeting him on a train, Nicol had invited him into the club car and introduced him to his friends. "Do you play cards, Father?" they asked. "Only poker," he said: so they began a poker game at stakes that horrified him because he had on him only two dollars. But he prayed and dealt; and starting with three aces and two

deuces, he went




win a

lot of


that night.

angels won," he disclaimed any personal credit at

the end of the game, thus reminding the senator of his vocation.

"Say, how's the radio work going?" Nicol asked him then. "No good," he admitted, "I don't know radio, that's the trouble."


fix that,"

the senator promised.






and wrote on the back of a card, addressed to Mr. Roy Thomson, the words: "The bearer has just won you in a poker game." Thomson was as delighted with Father Walsh's story as he was with the senator's card, and straight away arranged that the priest should have time on each of his stations. Then he sent him to Jack Kent Cooke, who also promised him time on his stations, ?" but asked: "Who do I bill it to "But we don't pay," Father Walsh objected. "You don't?" Cooke was appalled. "Say, did Roy Thomson give you time free?" help you"


"Yes." "Well, I won't ; but I'll tell you what I will do. You needn't pay, /will!" Father Walsh, overwhelmed by this marvellous outcome to the poker game that the angels had won for him, could hardly wait to tell Thomson of Cooke's generosity. "He did that?" Thomson laughed. "Geez, he's smart. He'll get


off his personal taxes.

Now why 141

didn't I think of that?"

Roy Thomson of Fleet


That night Edna gave him a letter from Kenneth. The food was terrible. At college it was worse: one night they had even had cold spaghetti served as in post-war Britain, he wrote,


Cold spaghetti

for Britain, limitless credit for

had been a long and extraordinary war.







with Limitless Credit

Wherever he went from now on, or whichever publisher he met, Thomson always asked the same blunt question, "Do you want to sell?" He asked it at meetings of the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers Association (known as CDNPA) he asked it on he asked it, and was to continue all his life asking it, his travels of the most unlikely people; and when he asked it, he grinned his exceptionally wide grin, so that those around him thought he was joking but he was not joking. A rumour sprang up that he contemplated buying the Toronto Evening Telegram, In fact, he did not so contemplate, because it was not for sale, but he was delighted by the rumours and almost smugly commented to an accusing journalist: "Every time somebody is reported trying to buy something, I get blamed ;


for it."

Equally pleasing to him was his nomination to and acceptance by the Albany Club, Toronto's oldest and most conservative. He did not enjoy drinking and he had no desire at all to spend long, restful afternoons in the quiet of a reading room; but he and many of Toronto's did like meeting successful people successful people were to be found at the Albany.

Also pleasing was the fact that he was selected as one of Canada's seventeen delegates to attend the 6th Imperial Press Conference, to be held in Britain. At the conference itself, Francis Williams, as he then was, spoke on "Freedom of the Press." He was well qualified to do so, having been Controller of the Press and Censorship Division of the British Ministry of Information during the war, but Thomson, irked by the restrictions imposed on privately owned broadcasting in Canada, and displaying surprising subtlety in one normally


Roy Thomson of Fleet


no time in joining the discussion along lines that Williams had probably not foreseen. "I would like," he said, "to mention another subject which I believe is very closely allied to the freedom of the press. I refer to the freedom of speech by radio. In great areas of the world, radio broadcasting is controlled by Governments, or commissions appointed by Governments. There is then an absolute monopoly of speech and programmes on the air. This," he pointed out to an audience not unmindful of the very recent use made by Nazi Germany of its absolute monopoly of speech and programmes on the air, "is entirely wrong and we should do something about it." Continuing and elaborating on the potential of broadcasting, he said: "Where people are illiterate or do not read easily, radio is a terrific force; it is their only means of getting news and ideas, yet it is commonly a State monopoly." And he concluded by exhorting: "I think every newspaper will be fighting its own battle, and the battle of the people, if it supports free and comso blunt, lost

petitive broadcasting."

Other functions followed, not son, for example,



of them in London.


to propose the vote of thanks for a dinner

given to delegates in Manchester by the Kemsley newspapers. He did so amusingly and impertinently asked his hosts, one of Britain's major publishing groups, whether they wanted to sell.

They did

not, of course, reply to a question so irreverent.

On his return

Canada, Thomson did not forget the significown words at the Imperial Conference as to the imto

ance of his He sent Ed portance of radio in semi-literate communities. Copps (who had served only six months of the twelve he had promised the Timmins Press in return for his year at the Columbia School of Journalism) to Jamaica, ostensibly to advise a small about North American journalistic techniques, but in fact to put out feelers for the island's broadcasting rights. The rest of 1946 he passed in discussions on a flurry of business projects that were batted about like shuttlecocks between the offices of himself and Jack Kent Cooke. His accountants, fearful that he was succumbing to the disease of infallibility, which strikes down so many newly rich men, were relieved when he good-naturedly allowed himself to be talked out of almost all of them but he and Cooke still went into partnership in a chain of local publisher


outdoor movie theatres, and in the purchase, for four hundred 144

The thousand


with Limitless Credit

a five-cent magazine which venture into magazines and Cooke's first

dollars, of Canadian Liberty,

was Thomson's


into publishing.

For a long while this joint venture was to be a disaster. For over a year, every month without fail, it lost them money. Maddeningly, liquor advertising, the one source of revenue which could have made New Liberty, as Cooke re-named it, viable, was illegal under the laws of Ontario. Though Thomson remained in partnership with Cooke out of friendship, every

nagged him to cut his losses and get out. Back in the safer and more familiar world of newspapers, he was much happier. His Sarnia group was progressing well, and to those who criticised him for unorthodox methods he retorted abrasively: "What are orthodox methods? They're rules adopted by old-established outfits to prevent young new outfits from making money. Well, I couldn't afford to be orthodox when I was young I had to make money Now, of course, it's different, I can afford to follow the rules. Now I've made a lot of money and I'm hell bent on convention!" Hell bent on convention he may have been in his own mind, but in the minds of those who watched his existing empire, and suspected that it would grow, the question still lurked: "What will he do with it?" Once again, therefore, in March of 1947, he was asked by the Press what was his personal philosophy. "I'm a private instinct



And then, in exasperation at the who doubted him: "Why the hell wouldn't I

enterpriser," he explained.

obtuseness of those

be?" Naturally so articulate a free enterpriser succeeded in committee work, even though he

had never

liked committees.


was already a director of the Canadian Press; and a VicePresident of Press News, the radio subsidiary of Canadian Press formed at his own instigation; and in April he was not only elected to the executive committee of Canadian Press but was also appointed Honorary Treasurer of the Committee of Arrangements for the 7th Imperial Press Conference which was to be held in Canada in 1950. Each job, each appointment, was one higher rung on the social ladder grasped because Thomson still knew that socially he had to work for that acceptance which to

other people r.t.f.s.





— Roy Thomson of Fleet


Climbing Toronto's social ladder, however, never looked like exhausting him. He remained mentally restless and continued, in the absence of newspapers available for purchase, to flirt frighteningly (so at least his accountants considered) with other

wild projects, like buying a steel mill, as an outlet for his impatient energies. Daily he could be found devouring the balance sheets of this company or that, his head close to the figures, his

thumb jabbing and tracing and leaping to the figure that signified. Almost daily he had to be urged "Roy, stick to what you know." :



Chapman there are

figures, as well as the







attached to these balance sheet


advantages you read in them."

At the height of this restlessness, a Stuart Playfair telephoned. In the past Thomson had pestered him to sell his two papers, the Guelph Mercury and the Chatham Daily Mews: now Playfair asked, "Still interested?" and Thomson replied, "Sure am," and Playfair said, "Come on over." Thomson literally ran out of his office. He met Playfair they ;

then they agreed to price asked and that offered. haggled;

went directly, and Arthur Merrick.

He more


the difference between the Playfair's office,


confidently, to see the director of his bank,


the Bank of Nova Scotia five hundred but that did not deter him from asking for Merrick seven hundred and fifty thousand more.






agreed and referred the application to the president and chair-


for their final approval.




only recently had told

henceforth his credit would be unlimited istically,


Thomson had

Thomson fact,



number of journalists Thomson was over-exthat he querulously pointed out four papers had been





blurted out to a

implied that perhaps

bought at the time of the Sarnia deal with a loan half the size now being sought for the purchase of only two ; and he refused to approve the loan.

Thomson had given

thus found himself in a frightening position.



a deal and so was committed to providing almost eight hundred thousand dollars quickly: but he did not have almost eight hundred thousand dollars and his bank apparently were not going to lend it to him. his





with Limitless Credit

So, following the precedent he had set years ago in Timmins, he simply crossed the road to another bank to the Royal Bank

Canada and asked urgently to see Burnham Mitchell, who had more than once expressed interest in his business and deals. Without preamble he asked Mitchell: "Do you want my of

account?" "I do," replied Mitchell.

"Then lend me

three-quarters of a million dollars."

he would need to see Thomson's statements and other relevant documents. Thomson agreed and returned to Merrick at the Bank of Nova Scotia. "You'd better pack up all my papers and things," he ordered. "You moving your account?" Merrick asked. "Yes." "That's a damn' shame. It need never have happened." But it had happened; and the Royal Bank of Canada did Mitchell said that




three-quarters of a million dollars as well as

take over the existing

Bank of Nova

Scotia loan of half a million.

One and a quarter million dollars was a colossal piece of credit for a new customer; and its very size ensured that credit in the which meant deals in the future, would remain colossal. Guelph Mercury and the Chatham Daily Mews became Thomson's. Acting on the advice of Zimmerman, his lawyer, Thomson now amalgamated his Northern Broadcasting and Publishing Company of Timmins, his Thomson Publishing Company (embracing the four newspapers of the Sarnia group) and the company he had formed to control his Northern News so that they all future,



became simply the Thomson Company Ltd. Then, on the advice of his new bank, he asked Zimmerman to arrange for him a business meeting with Peter Scott of Wood Gundy, in the hope of persuading Wood Gundy, a leading public financing organisation, to float a large public bond issue on his behalf. At the meeting that followed he was primarily aware of a sense of pride that so eminent an organisation, so respectable

a top firm, would even discuss underwriting his deals. He was impressed by the aura of rich propriety that clung even to Wood





himself completely outclassed by the

financial sophistication of the


he talked; but almost

solemn and successful


as quickly as they suggested to




Roy Thomson of Fleet


such esoteric notions as "interest-bearing, fixed dividend securities," his mind reached hungrily out, drank them in and digested them. So that by the time it was his turn to talk, he did so with the confidence of a

man who

understands fully that his theme

the gearing of securities to the profits they will yield


Wood man with



Gundy' s executives, listening to him, classed him as a "an accountant's mind and the flair of a showman." Carefully and logically, he presented Peter Scott with the facts of Canadian publishing as he saw them, and the background supporting those facts. The background, he pointed out, was historical and sociological. Canada had developed, especially in Ontario, along the routes of her railway lines. About every twenty miles along these lines an initial distributing centre had grown into a township of fifteen thousand or more people. Each township, very early, had developed its own small, weekly newspapers. As the town grew, so did its economy, until, in most of these towns, these weekly papers had prospered sufficiently to become dailies one of which, in time, had usually ousted the rest. Most of these daily papers had for decades been in the hands of the one family, passed down from father to son, and had continued in existence more out of habit than conviction and often, because they were run on uneconomic and old-fashioned lines, they nowadays made little or no money. Yet they were subject to succession duties each time the current publisher died, and these death duties were steadily whittling away what litde incentive still existed for a family to


continue the business. Therefore,


concluded, there should, throughout

Canada, be a great number of old family newspapers which, sooner or later, to the advantage both of the family and himself, he could buy. And they were properties worth buying because, in a company like his, it could be ensured that they would never be sub-

and because every community in Canada was a growing one, becoming daily more prosperous and because a single paper in such a growing, increasingly prosperous community represented an ineradicable monopoly a cul-de-sac, as it were into which must flow all of its advertising revenue and

ject to death duties;




efficient, business-like

publishing methods, such as he,




with Limitless Credit

almost alone in Canada, had perfected, must enormously increase the earnings and profits of any newspaper he acquired.

wanted a debenture

Finally, he

issue because that entitled

money and At the end of that time, having paid them property which had been the subject of the issue

the public to recover, over a stated period, only their the interest due off,

the entire

would be




Peter Scott, on behalf of

Wood Gundy,

agreed to


to the

Roy Thomson one million dollars, observing that this would require Thomson to repay one hundred thousand dollars per annum principal and fifty thousand dollars per annum interest a total of one hundred and fifty

public the idea of their lending

thousand dollars but, with earnings from his various companies running currently at four hundred and seventy-one thousand dollars per annum, it was, Scott concluded: "a pretty good risk." The debenture issue was floated; one million one hundred thousand dollars of public money was subscribed; and Thomson thus reached a position from which enjoying almost limitless credit from the Royal Bank of Canada and the confidence of the money-lending public as well he could rampage through the weary and death-duty depleted ranks of his country's small-town, :

small publishing families.




Once again many istic fury,

Partnership Dissolved

of Canada's leading newspapers, in cannibal-

turned on a fellow publisher to accuse him of monopol-


"The trouble with me," Thomson defended himself, "is I was born twenty years too late. I still think it's all right to make money. But now, with state socialism practically upon us, that's a sin."


so sinful, however, that he felt inhibited against issuing

open commercial radio stations in Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana or that he refrained from evolving formulae for deciding how much he was prepared to pay for any newspaper that came up for sale and for improving that newspaper once he had purchased it. Quite openly he confessed that what he required, if he was to buy a newspaper, was that it be the only newspaper (preferably a daily, although a weekly would do) in a town with a population of fifteen thousand (or more) in which at least one store was prepared to run a daily advertisement for which it would pay not less than one hundred dollars. These factors, plus Canadian

notice to the British Colonial Office of his intention to


Press's wire service, at a price reasonably related to cash flow,

would induce him to buy. Having bought, he would, as quickly as was economically feasible, install the best equipment (whilst leaving the staff intact), turn weeklies into dailies (which brought the community more prestige, which brought more trade, which brought more classified advertisements for the converted newspaper) and rationalise. About this rationalising process, he admitted, there were invariably complaints.


newly purchased paper ever wanted, 150

A Partnership Dissolved after years of

for every

muddling along,


have imposed upon


a budget

job and every item.

"We're different here," he found his latest acquisitions always pleading: to which invariably he retorted: "Everyone's until you've figured 'em out." different In the budget which he imposed on each of his papers, there was a salary for every job, and this salary could not be exceeded. If a man in such a job could get a better salary else-

He would

be bettering himself, and that was good reason for him to leave: but to offer him more than the budgeted figure as an inducement to stay would be to unbalance the entire system and that was not, in Thomson's mind, where,




good business. But his budgets did not stop thing.



at salaries;

among many

they covered every-

other things,

how much

metal (which frequently had been stolen in days past) should be used in the printing of an average page; how much in dollars and cents, per page per month, might be spent on the repairing and maintenance of composing machines; how much per hundred pages was available for the purchase of such unlikely items as glue, tape and string; how many man-hours production per page were permissible; how much could justifiably be put





tape, oil

and grease;

per mile that reporters could claim for their

and the amount


cars, in the

absence of a staff car. This was the economic blue print to which every newly acquired Thomson newspaper had to adhere. Not only that but, immediately it was purchased, it had to record the facts of its own economic existence in a standardised manner so that the expense incurred for any item could, at a glance, be compared (at the

same place on the same page of the next account) with that of any Thomson newspaper. If it was lower than the norm, then the norm might need adjusting; but if it was higher, then the publisher must explain.


Sitting in his office, close-peering through his thick glasses, tracing, jaw twitching, Thomson could tell in seconds, by the examination in meticulous detail of like with like, exactly how each of his properties was progressing. Editorially the properties could print what they liked, attack whom they chose (short, as he had stipulated, of God and the Monarchy) and



— ;

Roy Thomson of Fleet


support whichever party politically the community most favoured but if they spent a dollar a month more on lead or typewriter ribbons or notebooks for reporters than the budget prescribed,

they must answer to him for he was the man, whatever happened at Chatham or Sarnia or Timmins, who had to repay loans

and a quarter million continued and calamitous losses his joint venture with Cooke, was a prospect to

in Toronto amounting, at this time, to one





that, allied to the


daunt anyone. Yet the prospect never so daunted him that he was unable to relax. He worked furiously five and a half days a week and then, on Saturday afternoon, drove out to his new big white house that sat low and tree-shaded in its own generous grounds at Port Credit. Half a mile away from the front gate he invariably began peering looking for the rabbits that habitually scampered. "Where are they?" he would ask. "Can you see 'em those little white rabbits?": and it was as if business had never


Beyond those

gates his week-end


was casual and relaxed.


Scotch terriers followed him everywhere until he changed into one of his favourite old shirts (which Cooke swore he bought for 98 cents apiece), disreputable slacks and a pair of battered slippers. Thus attired, he would, in the summer, rest by the swimming pool, reading and feeding himself and his dogs pieces of carefully peeled apple and lumps of ice; in the winter he would slump indoors on a sofa, dogs all over him, the inevitable whodunnit in his hand, sometimes reading, sometimes sleeping. It was the hammock at Lake Simcoe, of thirty years ago, all over again.

For a man who so loved his food, he was ludicrously easy to was a family joke that all one had to do was slap on to the table a plate, a knife, a fork, an onion, a piece of cheese and a lump of bread and Father would exclaim delightedly: "Ah feed. It


Edna, her once red hair now darker, was happy in her new at Mississauga Road. Physically she was slighter than ever, her vitality in family affairs was as great even as her rebut luctance to enter high society, and nowadays she was seeing more of her husband than she had done at any time since the days of


their prairie farm,


this also she



—a A Partnership Dissolved Living in the house with her were Irma and Irma's infant for Irma and her husband, Tom Elliot, had

daughter, Sherry separated.


Thomson, who


liked his son-in-law,


was nobody's fault, had kept silent about the couple living apart but eventually he had said, "Irma, if you don't intend living with Tom any more, you'd better get a divorce." Which Irma did and so brought grandfather and granddaughter together under the same roof


that the failure of this marriage


not unimportant factor in his enjoyment of his week-ends in the latest


and still


of his


many Canadian homes.

loved her bridge;

her husband


played reluct-

and according to his own convention of "horse sense". Nor was bridge the only symptom of a liking for gambling shown by Edna at this time. In Florida that year she and Audrey and Irma saw an advertisement in a local newspaper offering infallible betting advice on horse racing. They telephoned and were informed that they must bet at least fifty dollars, and that half their subsequent winnings would go to the gentleman on the other end of the antly,

and then only

enfamille> for




Gaily they bet fifty dollars and won at odds of fifty to one which they took as a clear indication that, on this particular economic subject, even though he was a genius on every other, Father was a prejudiced ignoramus. Thereafter they bet on horses with a regularity that should have shocked Thomson. Strangely, it did not. The mere thought of risking hard cash on anything so unpredictable as a horse filled him with revulsion; but if his wife and daughters wanted to spend their money that way, that was their business. He made only one objection. "Lookit," he said, "you're not going at this business right. No sense going at it at all less you win; and to win, you gotta double

up on your


Neither his wife nor Irma nor Audrey (now Mrs. Campbell, having married in April) disputed the logic of this, but its

implementation worried them. As they left for their next race meeting, they told him. "Well, we're off now. But you'll have to give us a couple of hundred dollars or we don't have enough for your system." Unhesitatingly,

Thomson, who would have raged at the much as a dime at a race track,

suggestion that he himself risk so


Roy Thomson of Fleet


handed over two hundred

dollars. "Enjoy yourselves," he shouted them, feeding his dogs bits of apple. They bet as he had told them to, doubling up whenever they lost, and they won on the day, as he had said they would: but it was no fun, so they went back to their old system. And this, Thomson, though he remained uncritical and amiable, could not understand at all. Amiable he certainly was, as even Canadian newspapers were beginning to admit. "This amiable genius," the Vancouver News Herald called him in October of 1947, delighting Thomson, who could hardly decide whether he preferred the adjective or the noun. As he relished both, he gave it as his opinion that it was probably his candour that had won over his critics. "I'm frank," he explained, "brutally frank. And even when I'm not frank, I


look frank."

On the other hand, Newsweek decided that he was neither amiable nor frank, but rather, "shrewd and hard bitten," especially when compared with his thirty-five-year-old partner Jack Kent Cooke, who was, it alleged, "bustling and boyish." But then yet another reporter described Cooke as "a restless, nervous, chain-smoking man who paces the room, doesn't worry sleeping and is a sharp dresser"; whilst a third, damning both with faint praise, said that it was in Timmins that Cooke and Thomson had perfected their promotion-operator technique whereby "Jack gave them the full talk and Roy made them feel they were being done a favour." In short, though Thomson's friendship with Cooke now worried his family less, because each man was so busy that he hardly had time to meet the other, it was beginning to perplex his critics more than ever. But they could have spared themselves this perplexity time for Roy and Jack was running out. Their group of radio stations having been so thoroughly reequipped that Thomson could see no purpose in retaining the engineering department formed for this purpose, which therefore was sold, he turned his mind from the distraction of superfluous engineering departments to the more important business of :

attempting once again to acquire broadcasting rights in France. To this end, he and Cooke decided to visit Paris early in 1948. But it was then that mounted police came marching into Cooke's office

with a search warrant and a writ, issued by the provincial



Partnership Dissolved

government of Alberta, charging Cooke and one of his contributors with "conspiring to commit a defamatory libel." The facts were that, early in 1947, a civic-minded and quite fearless woman called Charlotte Whitton (whom Readers' Digest were later, most aptly, to describe as "hell on wheels") had uncovered an Alberta racket whereby orphaned babies were sold, without proper investigation, to couples in the U.S.A. An author, Harold Dingman, had written up her findings in an article he entitled "Babies for Export"; and Liberty had printed it.

The Alberta Government reacted swiftly and violently to this expose and Charlotte Whitton whose house was searched as she,

Dingman and Cooke were handed

retaliated by announcShe had already survived


ing her intention of fighting the case.

the bullying of a Royal Commission's inquiry into her allegations,

and she was

perfectly prepared to survive the Alberta


ment's writ, which she regarded as an attempt to suppress

freedom of speech. Whilst

Thomson agreed and sympathised with her, and Zimmerman that he and Cooke should engage three

agreed with

of Canada's leading K.C.'s to defend, messages of support flooded

from all quarters from John Diefenbaker, from the British Empire Service Legion, from the redoubtable Daughters of


Empire. Alberta's Government, far from being discouraged



then became more venomous than ever homes of Daughters of Empire should be

solid front of disapproval,

and ordered that many

raided and even that Miss Whitton's solicitor should be charged.

At the

magistrate's hearing, the three accused were


for trial.

At the

trial in


Supreme Court of Alberta


Edmonton, a

gaggle of outraged Daughters of Empire, a throng of journalists from every province, an immaculate Jack Kent Cooke and a rather crumpled but paternal Roy Thomson, packed the court.

The Daughters were prepared Charlotte Whitton be convicted;



to great lengths should

Thomson was prepared

to fight

Cooke through every court in Canada; and the gallery of pressmen were prepared to extract every ounce of drama out of Alberta's bizarre accusations and the even more bizarre personfor




— Roy Thomson of Fleet Street For bizarre they certainly were, as witness Charlotte Whitton, always bellicose and fearless, but doubly so now, because the Royal Commission had kept her under a merciless examination during the very days when her life-long friend had lain alone, dying of cancer. Charlotte Whitton, whose language could be as tough towards those she disliked as her heart was warm towards those she loved which did not include the Government of Alberta was a journalist's joy.

And Jack Kent Cooke

of the dazzling smile



eyed, white-toothed, superbly tailored, wearing a red carnation

and suede shoes and a pork-pie hat was the epitome of sophisticated masculinity in a town that was unpolished, to put it at its kindest.

And Roy Thomson Cooke, the star of the



twenty-five years older than

looking loyal and fond and a


uncertain in his double-breasted blue suit that needed pressing

was known


be an amiable genius, vulnerable only



could be hurt.


and a charge so splendidly archaic, the had to be a sensation; but what followed

casting like this,

"Babies for Sale"


was anti-climactic in the extreme. After the briefest examination of the Government's evidence, the judge ordered Charlotte Whitton and Harold Dingman to stand and told them that the case was dismissed. Dazed, Dingman looked at Miss Whitton and asked: "What's it


"I don't know," she replied suspiciously and then her them from the dock. They celebrated that night

counsel led

and during the

celebration, Cooke, the sophisticated extravert,

the super-salesman with the dazzling smile, vanished.


found him eventually at a piano, moodily playing the ballads of



afterwards, pressures exerted by a unanimous Canadian Press ensured that the Alberta criminal code was so amended as to make impossible any future charge of "conspiring to commit a defamatory libel": and some time later, Charlotte Whitton, having meantime become Mayor of Ottawa, found her-



formally presenting the key of her city to the Premier of "It is very fitting," she told him then, "on the part of


the city of Ottawa, that this key should be offered to the Province


A of the Plains


Partnership Dissolved

—but very


on the part of the Mayor,


the Premier of the State of Alberta has offered only the

key to a state prison, that she should present it!" For Thomson this "hell on wheels" of a woman had only respect and affection. He reminded her, she said, of the big, black country bear that comes from Lake Nipissing always padding around, courageous, shaggy and curiously indifferent to others, unless provoked. Thomson, though, had had enough of magazines. Throughout the many weeks of disastrous Liberty losses he had often, he relates, thought: "We should never have gone into this goddam business. It'll ruin us" and once Cooke was safe from the fury of the Alberta Government, he saw less and less reason why he should any longer remain a partner in an enterprise he so disliked. Eventually he volunteered to sell Cooke his fifty per cent interest at a considerable discount, and Cooke accepted


the offer.

Not long afterwards Paris




—from which

departed for Britain and

They had

to share a



the combination of Britain's drearily un-

palatable rationed food



their first holiday together in eleven years of the closest



the two

and Thomson's

in flight, after only four days

ferocious snoring drove

—but in Paris they planned

Canadians in Paris should, at the same time possibility of purchasing French television material for a Canadian industry still only in its infancy. For Thomson and Cooke this was the ideal combination of business to celebrate as


and pleasure




somehow, suddenly,

for the first time in all of

their eleven years together, the magic, the intimacy

jokes were missing;

and not even

their return to


the in-

Toronto was

able to revive them.

Nineteen forty-eight passed into 1949, each

man consolidating

what he had acquired already, each planning boldly to acquire more, the only business link between them now their joint company, National Broadcasting Sales. Then one day Cooke invited Thomson to lunch at the National Club. As they met in the foyer, he took his friend by the arm, led him to the reading room, sat him down and told him that he had just acquired a massive contract from Southams, the publishers, to manage their Ottawa radio station, CKCO. 157

— Roy Thomson of Fleet


Thomson was delighted until Cooke hurriedly added that it was "a personal deal." "You mean," Thomson asked, "I'm not in on it?" "No," said Cooke and related that it had been a stipulation in the offer that Thomson should have no part of this one hundred thousand dollar a year deal. And he, Cooke, had accepted that stipulation even though their long-standing agreement was

that they split everything



enthusiasm for so exciting a


Thomson did not remonstrate. "All right, Jack," he said, way you want it" and accepted, from that moment

"if that's the

onwards, that Jack Kent Cooke was no longer "his boy"; that he was not even, in fact, any longer his friend. That Thomson was shocked by the break with Cooke is indisputable. Some even say that, for as long as eighteen months after it, he became indecisive and seemed often vague as he shrank from appointing anybody to take Cooke's place in his

company. Cooke had been his friend, who made work enjoyable and amusing; Cooke had been his pupil his bright, smart boy who had learnt so well that he had succeeded brilliantly in business himself; Cooke had been the colleague-son that Kenneth was too young to be the colleague-son Thomson had needed. Yet Cooke had cut him out of a deal. Certainly Thomson was shocked and reacted with the inconsistency of those who suffer shock. Thus to some who asked why he and Cooke were nowadays so seldom together at the National Club, he replied that he did not like the way Cooke did business: to others he said, "Cooke and myself, we don't talk the same language any longer" to others still, he explained that Cooke had been the victim of bad advice from Bill Zimmerman; but to Zimmerman himself he raged, "Say, what kind of a deal is this? He gets shares from my deals and I get nothing from his." Zimmerman then observed that Cooke had promised, during their National Club confrontation, to return all the Sarnia shares he had received from Thomson: but this was irrelevant to Thomson's distress. Thomson suffered simply because Cooke had accepted a deal which explicitly excluded himself. "That deal," Cooke subsequently confessed, "was one of the


great mistakes of




A Partnership Dissolved Thomson was to chide him ten "we could have conquered the world. Together there was nothing we couldn't have done." "But I don't want to conquer the world," Cooke objected then. "I want to do what I'm doing. If it makes me millions more than I'm worth, that's fine but most important is doing what I'm doing." "If you'd stayed with me,"

years later,

Yet still, if he could, but only because it so hurt the man who was his friend, he would undo the deal he made for CKCO. True, Zimmerman and others advised him to go his own way; true too that those with whom he negotiated were distinguished men whose blandishments flattered him, just as their big offer enticed him: but still, he claims now, he should have told them all, "Keep your hundred thousand dollars a year and go kiss my ass," because that, he is certain, is what Thomson would have done for him. For another year the embarrassing remnants of a relationship persisted. They still had National Broadcasting Sales bringing

them into regular contact; they still, politely, gave birthday and Christmas presents; they still held shares in each other's properties.

But now, in Thomson's

friends, they

had become

eyes, instead of inseparable

irreconcilable rivals.

They met, therefore, at the National Club and, in words they both remember, Thomson finally, tersely, dissolved their partnership. "Look," he said, "our deal hasn't worked. I reckon we should split." Each then divested himself of all shares that he held in any property belonging to the other, and headed off, alone, on his


Thomson, thenceforwards, there were to be companionable visits to the Casino's burlesque, or ball games and hot dogs and bags of peanuts, or telephone conversations in Chinese, or in-jokes, or being young like his boy Jack. Thomson was now fifty-five years old, the solitary head of a growing empire. With ferocious energy he course.

no more




practical jokes or

about being just






I Love Big Figures

Thomson and Cooke had




New Liberty, then Thomson family and

struggled with

finally separated, life in the

had proceeded more calmly. Kenneth, back with a degree from Cambridge, had been sent to Timmins for a year which he considered more than enough and thence to Gait, to learn the business from wise old Allen Holmes. Ed Copps, having piloted the Kirkland Lake Northern News satisfactorily on to its new Thomson course, had been brought down to Toronto as editorial supervisor of the group's then eight newspapers but, finding that Thomson did not really want his editors supervised, had resigned and taken a job in New York with Time magazine. Brian Shellon went to Timmins, as editor of the Timmins' Press St. Clair McCabe was doing well at Gait, as was young Ed Mannion and the even younger Margaret Hamilton; Sid Chapman had married in Timmins, where he had at last brought complete order to the previously disorganised Thomson possessions; and Cooke's successor was alternately rumoured to be either George McCurdy of the engineering unit or Jack Davidson but as to which, Thomson still would not commit himself. At home, Scotty the terrier got lost and no amount of frantic searching could find him. Thomson paid for a series of spot announcements on a Toronto radio station and blanketed all organisation



holiday resorts with a description of his dog. At Kingston, more than two hundred miles away, some Americans in a holiday

motel hurriedly checked out, abandoning a dog they had picked the highway. The manager of the motel telephoned and straight away Irma, accompanied by her mother, drove two 1 60

up on

"I Love Big Figures" hundred miles to collect her father's terrier. This reunion was unemotional on the terrier's part he simply acknowledged her with a slight but perfunctory wag of the tail and therefore irritable on Irma's. "Those blasted Scotties," she complained to her mother, and, putting the dog on the seat between them, started off on the two hundred mile trip back to Toronto. Early in 1949, during the hard months of the winter, Edna developed a cough and it was decided that, instead of the usual flight to Florida, she and Irma and Sherry would holiday in the

warmth of Phoenix, Arizona. Thomson joined them at the Gamelback Inn



them quickly grew to hate life in a desert resort. womenfolk and made Thomson insatiably thirsty to Toronto and the others flew off to Hawaii. :


four of

bored the so he returned It

Back in Toronto, Thomson still found himself thirsty. "Can't get enough to drink," he complained to Bill Zimmerman. "You ever been checked for diabetes?" Zimmerman asked, who was himself a diabetic. "No." "Then get yourself checked now." As Zimmerman had suspected, recognising the symptom of thirst, Thomson had in fact become diabetic. Too much weight, too much eating, an overloaded pancreas it had been, his doctor told him, almost inevitable. Fortunately, his was a case Insulin would not be needed; just a more easy to control. reasonable diet and some pills and since he was still unable to swallow pills, it was these that worried Thomson more than his



who had first promembership of the Albany Club, became its president in 1949, and put Thomson on its board which was the first step to Thomson's own presidency in 1953, and a step that Thomson himself regarded as socially important; for nowadays he felt that he must meet everyone and become president of a


domestic plane, David Walker,

posed Thomson



United Kingdom and in Glasgow, at a whose host was one He asked Coltart Coltart. what work he did, and James M. Coltart replied that he was a Beaverbrook man. Thomson 161 r.t.f.s. l

Again he

visited the


Press Dinner, sat at a table

Roy Thomson of Fleet offered the information that he Britain

and Coltart asked what







buy newspapers


sort of newspapers.




you hear of some,


me know." His return to Canada he celebrated by buying the Moose Jaw Times Herald, by which time he also



owned White Heather Food when asked why, "got

cupidity," he confessed,

the better of me"), several ladies' hair-styling interests, an ice-

cream cone


and a firm that made modern-plan

All were the eccentric dabblings of a





much energy when Sid Chap-

with too

occupied by too few newspapers; yet later, urged him to join him in a proposed

man, some years

Thomson replied: "No, I don't think I'd care go in on that: I don't have time for it." "You put up some money; I'll put up some and run the business," Chapman urged, until Thomson agreed and by 1963 Chapman's operation, (which Thomson, by then, had bought out), included eight separate companies which owned trucking business, to

four hundred trailers and three hundred and fifty tractors and were worth ten million dollars which proves that Thomson had become both extraordinarily lucky in money matters and extraordinarily adept at picking clever men to work under him (a quality he underlined by finally appointing Davidson as Cooke's successor in charge of his combined radio operations early in


Even though his fellow-publishers still tended to regard him as an upstart, and continued to judge him by his ten-yearago attitudes of Timmins days (failing either to perceive or to allow that the man might now possess some understanding of newspapers and some appreciation of public responsibility), CDNPA appointed Thomson its president in 1950. In addition, he was re-elected to the Executive Committee of the Canadian Section of the Empire Press Union (of which he remained a




In June, 1950 he personally met the main body of overseas delegates to the 7th Imperial Press Conference and escorted

them throughout

their entire




convinced," he declared at that conference, "that the of newspaper production may be affected by standard whole facsimile newspapers. I know that this idea has not caught on, "I


"I Love Big Figures" and

facsimile newspapers at present published in the

States are


the newspaper



some extent an experiment, but by

broadcast by wireless





received by radio receivers in

we should have some way

of keeping track of such developments as this, which might threaten the continued existence of newspaper publishing in its present form." Whether or not they believed him, as he warned that newspapers might in future be received and reproduced in the home by radio, Thomson's Canadian colleagues could hardly, in the face of such a contribution, maintain any longer that he was merely a money-grabbing hillbilly. In 1939 he might have shocked them by announcing, "If something makes me a buck, I do it; if it but in 1950 his sheer technical awareness of don't, I don't"; what might soon happen to the newspaper industry began to the home,


I believe


Which he promptly ended by

asking everybody present at the conference, "Got any newspapers to sell ?" Asked everybody, that is,

except one,

who was

Colin McKinnon, a visiting minority

share-holder and executive of the Scotsman, delegate from Edinburgh,

and was

Thomson met


cordial but not, for once,

importunate. It was summer time and Irma had taken her daughter, Sherry, Lake Simcoe, where she herself had spent so many happy months as a child. Edna visited them and then, complaining of a small lump in her stomach, drove home to Mississauga Road, where later she saw her doctor. It was to be the first of many inconclusive visits, during which both her health and her zest for life noticeably diminished, until it became her main pleasure simply to sit and watch television a distressing symptom in a woman who had once so loved to dance and attend race meetings and play cards. As her vitality dimmed, her husband's blazed. In July, 1950, he bought the Daily Herald of Prince Albert; in August he bought and in November he bought Port Orillia's Packet and Times Arthur's News Chronicle,



Occasionally, in the negotiations for these purchases, he encountered the director who equivocated or the publisher who wanted to add, to terms already agreed, fresh provisos or qualifications, and for them he developed a devastatingly blunt technique.


Roy Thomson of Fleet "Look," he would

say, putting his


the story simply, as

is it


if I

was a


hands on


Is it

his chest, "Tell

a firm deal, or

He made it clear that oral arrangements arrived at by them, by him, were binding; that he did not need contracts; but that he was only interested in a firm deal. Occasionally this rebounded on him, and many instances are cited in his head office where he has been told that verbally he had agreed to something, usually on the telephone, which was no longer to his advantage. Each time he has replied, "Did I really say that ? You know my trouble ? I talk too much. Well,

if I said



gotta do it."

Yet equally

—perhaps out of some instinctive desire —

to please,

almost to ingratiate a deal was not a real deal in Thomson's mind unless the other man was happy. He may have had no real cause to be happy, that was not the point:

Thomson regarded

himself as having

the point was that



the point of rendering his contract unenforceable,


almost to

the vendor

did not feel pleased.

Thus, agreed to


the publisher of the Colonist in Victoria B.C.


newspaper to Thomson and later flew emissaries explain that he no longer wished to do so, Thomson

sell his

to Toronto to heard their pleas and then said: "Well, a deal's a deal: but if he's not happy, I guess we'd better call it off." At CDNPA and CP meetings his mental agility continued to Still there were those who sussurprise, but not to convince. pected his every suggestion about the newspaper industry because

he was a radio man. "Listen," he protested tartly, "lemme tell you this. You say there are two kinds of people in CP press people and radio people. Well, I say there are two kinds oppress people those who

want to be radio people as well, and those who can't because they can't get a licence." It was not a comment likely to endear

him to CP's non-radio owning President, Victor Sifton (though amused Sifton's brother, Clifford) and it convinced the antiThomson element in CP that Thomson would never give up


"rocking the boat."

The few in CP who were

neutral in their attitude to


by the rugged doggedness with which hauteur, and by the slowly developing Sifton's Victor he countered

were fascinated nevertheless


— "I Love Big Figures" and control of syntax with which he was beginning to parry the logic and subtlety of Southam's Philip Fisher. To Thomson himself, the battle seemed entirely one of forcing those He frankly he regarded as "stuffed shirts" to accept him. admitted that he was brash ; he even conceded, though he did not fluency



work either in CP or CDNPA, that him uncouth; but still he fought to shirts to accept him as their publishing

was relevant

to his

the well-bred might find

compel the stuffed peer.

Conversely, those

members of CP and

CDNPA who considered

themselves persons of breeding were convinced that no constantly



showed you

his latest

man who

balance sheet

whilst those who considered themselves was a gentleman; cultured were certain that any man who stated openly that what mattered most in journalism was the advertising revenue editorial matter being "strictly for the birds" must be a barAnd Thomson, determined to shock those " stuffed barian. shirts " who opposed him, was joyously guilty of both offences; but he was not guilty of half-hearted work on committees, or of

when he held office. Nor was he ever guilty of lack of foresight and enterprise. Advised by the much younger Richard Malone, of Winnipeg, that there were some marvellous new machines, called telepartisanship

typesetters, at the

Chicago Exposition of Graphic Arts, he at once

and bought all the teletypesetting equipment available. In future, news stories for his group could be written in Toronto, punched on to the teletypesetter tape and flashed to each of his newspapers, where the other half of the equipment would automatically decode them, and even set them up in type, ready for printing. For small country newspapers this was a flew to Chicago

wonderful source of quality editorial matter. At this same Chicago Exposition he met Ed Patton, and on a German stand they encountered Herbert Sternberg whom Patton had not seen since that May in 1939 when he had asked Sternberg bluntly, "Are you people going to start a war?" Now Sternberg shook hands and smiled. "So you were right, Ed," he said. "We didn't win!" At home again in Toronto, Edna having gone on holiday with

Irma and Sherry, Thomson was alone at Mississauga Road. Malone visited him for lunch, to discuss teletypesetters, and was 165

Roy Thomson of Fleet Street appalled to have a bad meal served by a boy in a stained jacket, and jam deposited on the table in a tin.

"Roy," he protested,




"I know," Thomson replied. "I hate it here on my own. I only ever come here to settle rows among the staff." Usually he ate at the National Club. Ate quickly and meth-

on a great deal of food, and then adjourned to the reading room to pore over newspapers. Any newspapers. Fellow members would ask him didn't he ever Couldn't he read Playboy for a get enough of newspapers? odically, using a great deal of sauce

change ?

But he would just laugh, and return

business of adding


to the absorbing



Comet machines

in a

the inches of advertising in



installed his ten teletypesetting

special office

in Adelaide Street, but finding




for his

Toronto staff to edit and write the stories for them, he asked Canadian Press to do it for him. Canadian Press was reluctant; and then found out how tough the amiable Thomson could be. "O.K.," he said, "if you won't do it for me, I'll take my business" which was a large share of all CP's business "to UP and they'll do it for me." United Press being Canadian Press's most feared rivals, CP

hurriedly agreed to help


Thomson with

his teletypesetters, or

as the equipment was called. As President of CDNPA aware of the fact that labour encroachments, already an irritation to publishers, were going to become progressively worse Thomson suggested a collective analysis of all aspects of the problem and then the appointment of a lawyer to negotiate with the unions on the Association's The Association's General Manager, Ian collective behalf. knowing that a similar proposal in America however, Macdonald, had incurred a brusque threat by the unions themselves to reciprocate by negotiating collectively, strongly opposed the


— —


all thirty

when Thomson asked


a seconder to his motion,

of the directors sitting in front of him remained


As usual when people disagreed with him, Thomson accepted defeat gracefully enough there was always another task to begin, another project to examine. Yet once the Association's work was done, he wasted no time on conviviality he either went home, or returned to his office. Likewise, at annual meetings of CP, ;



"I Love Big Figures" held at the Royal York Hotel, where each day's conferences were followed each night by bull sessions in private suites and bedrooms, Thomson was almost always conspicuously present at the

He did not drink, he did not smoke, he begrudged the time wasted and anyway he was not usually invited. Equally, he did not invite publishers to his home, eminently suitable though it was for entertaining; and at Canadian Press dinners, for whose resurrection after the war he had himself been primarily responsible, he sounded a solitary note of apparently conference and absent from the bull sessions.

by ignoring the practice of attending That Edna was reluctant either to have her home invaded or to accompany her husband to big social dinners was something none of the members of CP suspected; and not suspecting it, they came to regard Thomson as perverse


accompanied by



one's wife.

interested only in work.

Indeed, asked to explain his success,


and no pleasure

Thomson always used


work," the statement smacking of a Puritanism that his dislike of alcohol and tobacco did not dispute. Thus, talking one day with Father Walsh, he listened aggressively to the Jesuit's claim that contraception was say:


I just

against the laws of nature.

"But," he protested, "you're sitting right there committing an offence against the laws of nature by smoking. You're killing yourself!"

"That's suicide," Father Walsh explained, "the other's murder." But he was in no doubt as to which of the two was the

more sinful to Thomson. "I'm no saint," Thomson would smile, thereby implying that sex was enjoyable and that he enjoyed it; but when he said, "I don't smoke," he tacitly condemned an indulgence of the flesh. He did the same thing whenever he pronounced his "no leisure, no pleasure" formula for success: but there are colleagues of his, of those days, who believe that Thomson, the apparently brash extravert, was in fact too shy to seek the leisure and pleasure of, for example, bull sessions in private suites in the Royal York Hotel that he was lonely and that he compensated for his loneliness by working. Whatever the explanation, he worked to considerable effect. In December of 1950 the Kingston Whig Standard, breaking with


Roy Thomson of Fleet


the general Canadian tradition of nagging criticism, wrote:


Thomson Company is concerned it has, as we have stated, won the confidence of the investing public. Within the last three years this company has put out two debenture issues far as the

of over three million dollars, with interest at four per cent and four

and a half per


and they have proved a


These debentures are very widely held, fine

investment for




two years, over one million dollars in new buildings, thus giving work to Canadian workmen, and another million dollars in new presses to improve dailies


also spent, within the last

the quality of the product they are turning out."

Not only the Whig Standard noticed Thomson's relentless pyramiding and ploughing back of profits into his properties. Ken McTaggart, distinguished Canadian journalist, passing through Gait at the very end of 1950, suddenly remembered his old friend Allen Holmes, who, in pre-Thomson days, had published the Reporter from a box-like and ill-furnished office. Deciding to call on him, he found Holmes in a new building, occupying a lavishly furnished office which was carpeted wall-to-wall. "My God," he gasped, "what happened to you?" it," Holmes admitted. McTaggart asked suspiciously. "None," Holmes told him. "We do what we like." Time magazine summed it up on nth December. "Some




haven't got over



commercial methods would ruin his individual newspapers. In practice, it has not worked out that way. All of his papers have improved under Thomson's ownership; profits have gone up and Thomson has ploughed all of them back into business." publishers attitude,





freely predicted that his chain store

Only the trade unions could really resent such a use of profits, and their tireless representative, Harry Finch, wrangled endlessly with Thomson to get more money for his men. Thomson fought him every cent of the way and yet liked the man he


Being particularly proud of his orchard at Mississauga Road, he handpicked a case of apples, his favourite fruit, and sent them to Finch as a Christmas present. Deeply suspicious of any attempt to bribe him, Finch telephoned St. Clair McCabe and snorted, "I'm going to send your 168


"I Love Big Figures" damn' apples back" and when persuaded that Thomson had not meant to bribe him, sent them to a convent instead. Thus the Thomson- Finch love-hate relationship was preserved, even at this ;

time of seasonal goodwill. The tempo of Thomson's activity, acquisitiveness and ambition in no way diminished as 1951 succeeded 1950. He was asked to join the Association of Christians and Jews and, having agreed, was elected to the board and became co-chairman. It



become a

of personal


feature of his life— an aspect perhaps of his lack

—that he would accept any invitation

to join the

was respectable. If such boards board were those of charitable organisations, he would give money but his time and his energies either not at all or only reluctantly he would donate freely. He was always, in fact, suspicious of philanthropy, which he seemed to confuse with socialism, but generous with advice, which he regarded as a form of free of anything so long as


He has not changed. In Thomson's head office, St. Clair McCabe, having recently transferred from Gait to Toronto, was already developing the enterprise.

symptoms of a man whose passion it would become to know all the statistics of every newspaper in Canada. Very soon McCabe was to become the master-mind behind the choice of each newspaper that Thomson sought to purchase. A little later he was to be made responsible for the actual negotiations of each purchase, whereupon Chapman, now transferred from Timmins to Toronto, would work out how much credit had to be raised, and Thomson would either arrange a bond issue or talk the bank into providing it. They were to become a formidable Finally


McCabe was


become Executive Vice-President and

General Manager of Thomson Newspapers in Canada solemn, dark-haired, dark-moustached, patient young man whom Thomson could hound as, long ago, Pollitt of De Forest Crosley had hounded him.


Mac," Thomson would nag, "chase it up." And patiently, relentlessly, McCabe would chase. For one newspaper to weaken, and finally succumb, he even waited eleven years. In on,

the midst of a stalemated negotiation for another, he suddenly said: let's




we're not getting anywhere with

go out and get drunk."

Two 169


shots of whisky later, the

Roy Thomson of Fleet stalemate was broken:


soon after that an acceptable offer was


A room full ing tempers


of stubborn men, blue cigarette smoke

a perfect

foil to

the talents of St. Clair

and frayMcCabe.

"We breed 'em patient in Gait," Allen Holmes explained: but even Gait never bred one more stolidly patient than McCabe. It

was when Thomson moved he





in his early thirties,

advantage over every other publishing group in Canada: having no one with McCabe's encyclopaedic knowledge of every English speaking newspaper in a land twenty-five times the size of Great Britain, they simply could not compete in the race to expand. In May of 1951, Thomson bought the Oshawa Daily Times Gazette, and at once the London Free Press commented irascibly that chain newspapers were undesirable in Canada but far from being perturbed, when he was asked how many papers he wanted one for altogether, Thomson provocatively replied, "Fifty- two each week of the year," and so precipitated further attacks on his "chain" for the rest of that year. His relationship with the Royal Bank of Canada had become almost intimate by now. He dealt always with "Wes" Walker, spreading all his balance sheets out on the desk for Walker to examine and explaining his outrageous demands with the frankto Toronto, that

his biggest


and ingenuousness of a





big figures," he used to say


contradiction of his other financial obsession,


a curious

which was a

comparison of mere cents spent on paper clips in Timmins with mere cents spent on paper clips in Guelph, of like with like throughout his whole growing domain. Walker found his requests extremely difficult to deny, and even though the bank often considered his proposed deals, to use their own word, cock-eyed, he was usually granted his credit. Thomson did not like trade unionists or trade unionism and the principle of fringe benefits but he did not fight loathed he With two representatives of the International futile battles. Typographical Union particularly, Allen Histed and Harry Finch, he haggled tirelessly, like the incorrigible horse trader he was and from them he extracted the grudging acknowledgment that he was tough, a good bargainer, and utterly reliable once he had made a promise. Until 1953 he was to fight every inch of the pitiless






1 Love Big Figures"

way, on every possible issue, with both Histed and Finch yet he door was always open to either of them and that they must allow him the chance to negotiate personally if ever a local dispute looked like causing trouble for one or all of his papers simply because locally it had not been settled. In September 1951, suddenly irritated by the incessant :

insisted that his

on his own group, Thomson published his " Creed," as an advertisement in the Toronto Globe and Mail. It was a long statement of which the most relevant portion was part attacks of other papers

of a paragraph reading "I can state with the utmost emphasis that no person or group can buy or influence editorial support from any newspaper in the Thomson group. It has often been asked 'Why does the Thomson Company buy newspapers ?' My answer to that is to say that the business I know best is the publishing of newspapers." In conclusion he made it clear that: "I can state, with the utmost sincerity, that each and every one of the newspapers

Thomson Company has the interests of its and equally that of Canada too. Each paper may perceive this interest in its own way, and will do this without advice, counsel or guidance from the central office of the Thomson associated with the


at heart,

organization. This


The words were

will continue to be,

my policy."

enough then, in 1951. They remain to-day: and no amount of research has yet unearthed





proof, or even a single assertion, that either

his organisation,


between now and then, has defected from

or his


In everything, by this time, Thomson saw Cooke as his rival, left both rather vulnerable. Hence the taunt to Cooke,



made by Zimmerman

think Roy's pool's a

the lawyer:

"Y'know, Jack,

than yours." Hence also, a little later, the sad fact that because Jack Kent Cooke had bought a converted, war-time Fairmile, Roy Thomson had to acquire one too. Blindly he bought a cumbersome onehundred-and-seventeen-foot vessel, easily the longest in the basin, papered in pseudo snake-skin throughout, which had only the year before carried the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on a Caribbean cruise. He never enjoyed owning it; it was seldom seaworthy; it cost a fortune (which he found most painful) to maintain and to crew; and he came frequently to say of it that I

little bigger



Roy Thomson of Fleet


he wished he could get rid of the goddam thing, only he doubted he could find anyone stupid enough to take it off his hands. On one occasion he was persuaded to travel in it by inland water routes from Toronto all the way to New York. The voyage took six days, throughout every hour of which he had fumed with and just as the journey ended, a TCA passenger impatience plane swept overhead, over Long Island Sound, to land. "Goddam," raged Admiral Thomson, "six days it's taken me to get here and that plane left Toronto only two hours ago." But still his rivalry with Cooke, and his sense of prestige, obliged him to keep his monstrous boat. In his various years of office as President of CDNPA, and second and first vice-president of CP, Thomson had met everyone from the Lieutenant-Governor to the head of Reuters, Sir Christopher Chancellor, and the late Lord Beaverbrook, whom Jack Bickell (Thomson's guarantor at the time of the rebuilding of the Timmins Press) had brought across the road from his own house and down the long lawn towards the swimming pool for a brief conversation. All of them, the renowned Beaverbrook especially, Thomson was delighted to know. He called them all by their first names from the moment he was introduced. He was confident, affable, beaming and somehow lonely; and once functions were over he would soon pick up his hat and coat and scuttle squatly off to his car, back to Mississauga Road, to the ;



warmth of



family and the dogs that ate apple


"Look," Edna protested,

he talked with her of what he why do you need any was indicative that nowadays she said "you", not

planned, "you've got

more?" And







Thomson invariably replied to the unvarying com"you like to go to Florida for the winter to have the best doctors and things. That takes money." "You'll put a burden on poor Ken," she would then switch her "You'd live anywhere for money"; to which he attack. Or would snap, less tolerantly than usual, "Sure. For enough money, "Well,"





I'd live in hell."

But though they bickered on this subject, it was not her apparent lack of confidence in him that worried him (on the contrary, he believed she had implicit faith in everything he did) 172

"I Love Big Figures" what worried him


about Edna was her almost chronic


Late that summer of 1951 she visited her doctor yet again, at last he suspected that she might be seriously ill. A visit to a Toronto specialist and a subsequent operation confirmed the Edna had cancer. family's worst fears She was not told that she had cancer and Thomson was prepared to lie if ever she asked him whether she did have it. But she did not ask and seemed either because she knew or because she was too weary not even to care. Irma and Sherry accompanied her to Florida after Christmas. "You let me know any time you think I should come," Thomson ordered: and in January Irma telephoned him to fly south. Kenneth also flew to Florida; but Audrey, who had to care for her two-year-old daughter and was pregnant as well, was persuaded by Irma to stay home with her husband at Mississauga



Edna was moved

to hospital,

but soon indicated that she

preferred to return to their rented house in Fort Lauderdale

where her family could be with her and where nurses attended her and Irma was close to her twenty-four hours a day. A second telephone call brought Thomson from a meeting with Senator Davies in icy Toronto to the warmth of Fort Lauderdale and his wife's bedside. And when, soon, in the middle of the morning, in a rented house, she died, he looked at his children and told them flatly: "There doesn't seem anything

left to live for."


24- Keeping


The body was flown

to Toronto and the family assembled at Father Walsh (whom Thomson had helped with free radio time for the Sacred Heart Programme) called in to offer his condolences and, whilst conscious of the effort Thomson

Mississauga Road.

was making


grateful, was surprised both by the dumb man himself and his solicitude for his daughters.


stupefaction of the

and working, Thomson had away from Edna yet always she had run his home so flexibly and informally that his comings and goings and his lateness for meals and his refusal to fix things had seemed, and been, part of a family pattern. Always her confidence in him had been greater than her desire to caution him, so that his only remorse, when she was dead, was for the fact that he had not taken her dancing often enough and that usually, when she had asked him to play bridge, he had refused, ludicrously All his married



spent a great deal of time


claiming, he of all people, that he was "tired."

But she was gone now; and now, there being no one left in to confide, no one to urge him to be careful, he felt bereft. The early months of 1952 were bleak ones. Irma, determined to live somewhere that offered year round warmth for herself and schooling for Sherry, moved to Los Angeles in California; Audrey and her two infant daughters, Linda and Gaye, moved back to their own home; and Kenneth was in Gait. Alone in his large house, with four servants and two dogs, Thomson disconsolately faced widowhood. Work now became everything to him and in this respect he was fortunate that 1952 was the year of his presidency of Canadian


Press, the then pinnacle of his professional

except for a knighthood. 174


social ambitions

Keeping Busy

As President of Canadian Press, he immersed himself in its work, always in the closest co-operation with its general manager

and permanent secretary, Gil Purcell, and constantly trying to remember the advice of F. I. Ker who had urged him to go softly and to respect CP's lares a.n& penates\ Ker was given to Latin quotations, and although Thomson understood them not at all, he appreciated the fact that this director of Southams, so long critical of him, should kindly,


unintelligible, advice.



They had worked


gether promoting the Government's various drives for bonds,

blood donations and food parcels during the war, and overcome their initial antipathy then; but the warmth of Ker's support, now that he had at last achieved his great ambition to

some of

become President of Canadian

Press, surprised


In spite of Ker's kindly admonitions, the new president found himself incapable of going softly for long and soon lares and penates were lying battered all round him. In his two years of office he was to fight and win long drawn out battles to provide a CP news service to radio and television stations; to overcome CP's long established habit of obtaining its news pictures from a few of the largest papers rather than providing its own news service; to persuade, cajole and even blackmail CP into providing a teletypesetter service with pre-packaged news stories punched on to tape in Toronto and flashed by wire to all subscribing newspapers. To this last suggestion, long a hobby horse of his, CP's resistance had been particularly stout; and in support of it he had shown just how ruggedly he himself could fight. First he declared that, from experience, he knew that every CP member needed teletypesetter services: next he averred that it was CP's duty to provide such a service. His own equipment, purchased for two hundred thousand dollars and installed in some of CP's office space, had been an instant success with his group of small papers; and this eventually persuaded Canada's other small newspaper publishers that they needed the same service. Un-

able, as

Thomson was able, to instal the equipment themselves, him in his demand that CP should instal it for

they supported

their corporate benefit.

Thomson's contribution to Canadian journalism at this time was undoubtedly that he convinced his fellow publishers of the 175

— Roy Thomson of Fleet


he had himself learnt from experience that broadcasting does not sound the death knell of newspapers that the best and most modern equipment, though costly, is in the long run an economy; that the competition of television need be feared no more than that of radio; that both could in fact become valuable customers buying news from CP, if only CP had the confidence to sell its news to media it mistakenly regarded as mortal competitors; and that if the consequences of progress could not accurately be predicted, one must nevertheless seek progress as to whose consequences, "time," he always averred, in a philosophic manner worthy of the classically minded F. I. Ker lessons


himself, "will tell."

None of these was a quick victory gained simply because he was president; rather each was the culmination of a long, slow campaign (his quest for a radio news service, for example, originated in 1 941) and of the gradual elimination of the bitterest pockets of resistance. In this war of attrition, the moment of his greatest advance was, without doubt, the day Victor Sifton ceased to hold office as GP's president; and the moments of his greatest reverses, again without doubt, were those when either he invited people to examine his swollen and swelling balance sheets, or when, having behaved for days on end with all the impassivity of a toad, he suddenly snapped up yet another newspaper. Thus he acquired the Vancouver Herald in February, 1952, just after his wife's death and shortly before he assumed the presidency of CP and seven more North American newspapers during that presidency. And each purchase was to trigger off a barrage of editorials about monopolism and chain journalism that completely negated the CP image he was otherwise slowly build-



of himself as a publishing visionary.

free discussions, which he himself had initiated, on the last afternoon of a CP conference, a publisher stood up TV is killing us and lamented, "Circulation is down labour demands are endless Radio newscasts steal our stories

At one of the






costs are rising











advertising revenue







of this for some ten minutes before, amid a profound gloom, he At once Thomson, the dignified, hardfell back on to his seat. working, far-sighted and impartial president, was on his feet, eyes shining behind his bottle-bottom glasses, a sweet smile of

sympathy on

his lips.


Keeping Busy


he asked:

to sell?"

that followed,





acquisitive mercenary,

in this



and, as well as the belly-laughs

for himself a renaissance of suspicion. altruistic



Thomson had

his lighter



moments, even

year of loneliness.

David Walker and Ken Andras, and him and Kenneth on a yachting cruise to

invited two friends,

their wives, to join

Nassau, where,


was proposed, they would


on Lord Beaver-

brook. in New York, Andras changed into yachting and looked resplendent, whilst Thomson changed into Surveying the relaxing clothes and looked like a deck hand.

Once aboard,


magnificent Andras,


be skipper


—and you and

said to Walker: I'll

"Dave, we'll let bums."

just be a couple of

Before the words were out of his mouth, and before the real deck hands had even cast off, the real skipper approached and presented Thomson with a bill for five thousand eight hundred and ninety-four dollars' worth of varying and typical Fairmile expenses.

"I was enjoying this yacht,"

Thomson sighed, "now I'm gonna

sell it."

Wickedly, Andras reminded him of J. Pierpont Morgan's aphorism that any body worried about whether he could afford a yacht should not own one; and from that moment onwards, nothing went right for their party. First the vessel crashed into its jetty; then, at three in the morning, it went on fire; and then they sailed into such rough seas that only Thomson could enjoy his meals. Finally they abandoned the idea of Nassau and tied up in

Miami instead. The hired skipper

protested that there was no need to do so, worry about the angry seas between Florida and Nassau, because the Fairmile was ocean-going in any weather. "Sure it is," said its owner, "but in this weather, only without me. Anxious to entertain their host, Walker and Andras consulted the local paper and Walker noticed that an artist called Zorina was dancing locally. He said she was very good and that they should all visit the night club where she starred, so the four men and the two wives took a cab and drove deeper and deeper

no need


into the hinterland of Florida, until finally they reached a far r.t.f.s.



— Roy Thomson of Fleet from reputable looking night club



which Zorina, Walker's who was something

talented ballerina, turned out to be Zorita,

rather different


for Zorita danced a very sexy routine called the of the Snake, at the end of which she was naked and

Walker was far from happy. Others, however, applauded and Zorita, naked to the waist, re-appeared to take her bows, standing immediately behind Thomson whom, between bows, she slapped playfully on either cheek with her bare but tremendous breasts. "How'd it feel?" Andras asked afterwards.

"Like backing into a cow,"





and then, turning to the waiter, asked, "Say, where can a fellow make a quick buck in this town? What's a good deal?" Several days later, bored with life aboard his luxury yacht with its pseudo snake-skin walls, he decided that he would buy a newspaper. He vanished for the day and returned owning the St. Petersburg Independent (which was a great mistake because it lost him money steadily and he was only really happy about it when eventually he sold it again. It had, for example, in sunny Florida, long been the Independent's boast that on dull days the paper would be free. On two successive days after Thomson purchased it, there was no sun and T died," Thomson relates, "a


thousand deaths.") Meanwhile, every day of this vacation, his Toronto office and sent him a copy of each of his twenty-three newspapers dishis morning he the his hated yacht, in sat on deck of every reputable clothes, and solemnly read them all. He persuaded his guests to join him one night at an auction a form of entertainment vastly superior, in his opinion, to any movie, or play, or even to Zorita. On this occasion, however, it was not Thomson but Andras who found himself bidding for a Benruss watch and mischievously Thomson urged Andras on, telling him what a wonderful watch the Benruss was, how good a Benruss this watch was, :

how he should bid up and buy it. The bidding went slowly, up to thirty-five in the excitement that Thomson himself had


— and then,

provoked, Andras

shouted not thirty-six dollars but sixty-five dollars. He got the watch, but also, for the rest of the night, he received a pitiless ragging from his host about bidding sixty-five dollars not thirty-six, so that in sheer self-defence he claimed that i 78

Keeping Busy purchase was worth at least one hundred and fifty dollars anyway. Upon this claim the agile Thomson mind fastened itself, and around it spun a swift and malicious plot. Early next morning, as Andras bought himself a shirt, Thomson took Walker into a jeweller's shop, warned the jeweller that a friend of theirs would shortly arrive to have a Benruss his

watch valued, and gave the jeweller a dollar to say that it was worth only ten dollars. Out on the street they were soon rejoined by Andras. "Kenny," said Thomson, "we've been talking all night about this Benruss of yours. You say it's worth a lot; I reckon you've been taken. Here's a jeweller's shop why don't you go in and get it valued?" Into the shop marched Andras and, presenting his watch, demanded: "How much would you think this one hundred and fifty dollar watch is worth?" "Ten bucks," said the jeweller promptly, "but I wouldn't buy



Had Thomson managed

to acquire

two newspapers

price of one that day, he could not have been


for the



Morgan gibe, he felt, had been avenged. Thomson's guests returned to Toronto as delighted by his somewhat eccentric hospitality as they had been touched by his son's serious and devoted attempts, throughout their brief holiday, to look after and cheer up "Dad." The following 5th June, Thomson's fifty-eighth birthday, Kenneth gave a party at Mississauga Road, to which he invited Walker and Andras and their wives and at which he presented his father with an oil painting of a nude woman. "To remind you of Zorita," he explained: and Thomson took it at once and hung it above his bed, where it remains to this day. "Davy," he said to Walker, returning to his drawing-room, "how'd you like to see my collection of jewellery ?" And bringing in three cloth cash bags, he lay on the floor and threw the contents of each wide across the carpet. There were rings, bracelets, brooches and trinkets of every kind, ranging from the valuable to the valueless, each of them the by-product of a contented evening spent at an auction, or of an hour's haggling in a native bazaar, or of a deal done at an antique shop. Surveying them with pride and affection, he said, " Isn't Pierpont


Roy Thomson of Fleet


and then put them all back in their bags. continued to hate his life alone at Mississauga Road, but not so much that he could accept the urgings of friends that he occupy his spare time with good works to all of these he replied that something?"



welcome to their Rotary Clubs, their YMCAs, their Church Committees and their Golf Clubs, but please, unless something was going to make him money, would they that they were


him out of it.

Yet he was not without compassion.



Scythes had to leave his crippled wife alone in their

two weeks, he remarked that





had been Edna's great

and when Scythes returned from he found his wife contentedly watching television in her bedroom. As he repaid Thomson, Scythes thanked him for giving up the time to buy and instal the set. Thomson brushed his thanks aside. It was nothing, he said. It had given him a kick and kept him busy. Such acts of generosity to the sick are not rare in his life, yet Begging letters sent to Thomson are acts of formal charity are. a waste of effort and postage. Except to his family, Thomson was always tight-fisted out of a passionate belief that charity is an economic heresy but with his time and his knowledge he was profligate. To be so gave him a kick and kept him busy. consolation during her illness


his travels

— —



and Snubs a Defeat and an Invitation 25. Peers

Keeping busy was scarcely something of which he was in need as President of CP, head of a large group of radio stations and newspapers, speculator in a diversity of enterprises (ranging from a

owned insurance company

to his ice-cream cone factory), schemer for the future. Boldly he ploughed back one hundred thousand dollars of his profits into his Kirkland Lake radio station, transforming it to a five-thousand-watt output matched in Canada only by CBC itself and this at a time when the fortunes of mining towns were beginning to fade and confidence in their future was notice-




ably dwindling. Flat in the face of share prices and public opinion,

he made

asserted his



investment in Kirkland Lake's future and

conviction that soon these mining areas would

prosper again.

Though he would have

to wait


the sixties for

be justified, he was far-sighted. Kirkland Lake, greed for gold, was to find that it had dug heedlessly straight through rich deposits of iron ore ; and both Kirkland Lake and his confidence to



Timmins were,





to find vast

seams of


What interested Thomson in 1952, however, was not minerals but newspapers, and not Canadian newspapers so much as English newspapers: for although any owners in Canada who wanted to sell at once thought of Roy Thomson, they did not, any longer, want to sell soon enough and could not want to often enough to satisfy him. Needing new territory in which to prospect, his mind turned to Britain; and needing advice on the subject, his mind turned to Lord Beaverbrook. Taking Irma and some 181

Roy Thomson of Fleet


— —

he set sail in his hated yacht after a thorough examination of all the available weather charts for Nassau. Arrived there, he telephoned Beaverbrook, who invited him

friends with him,

Thomson protested that he had no dinner jacket, but Beaverbrook overruled him, saying that this did not matter. to dinner.


so, for



sophisticated dinner

command, and


Thomson experienced

the sort of

and company that a Beaverbrook could

the brilliance of conversation that he could evoke.

and Lady Sassoon were there; and all the men except Thomson, who was pink and lounge-suited, wore heavy tans and white dinner jackets. Beaverbrook was completely the host, impeccably hospitable, even (which fascinated Thomson) Sir Victor


his guests a special

rum cocktail in a special electric shaker.

As Thomson left, his host said, "Come to dinner to-morrow," and again insisted, even when his compatriot demurred that he did not expect to be asked to dinner every night.

Again both the company and the conversation were brilliant, and during the night Beaverbrook told Thomson that next day he proposed visiting his house farther up the islands at Spanish Wells.




suggested that the


and that Thomson, with

Fairmile should follow his

his party,

should dine with

him on arrival. They did so, and the day after that Beaverbrook lunched with Thomson on board the Fairmile and then, alone, the two men went for a swim. Insatiably Beaverbrook questioned Thomson about newspapers and business in Canada and equally insatiably Thomson questioned him about newspapers and business in Britain. Next morning Beaverbrook returned to Nassau and Thomson returned, via Miami, to Toronto, a parting phrase of




Beaverbrook had

ringing agreeably in his ears.

"I like you,"

"You're three-quarters of a Jack Bickell": and since Jack Bickell had been not just his own vastly wealthy supporter at Timmins, after the fire, but also Beaverbrook's close and valued collaborator during the war, Thomson was flattered. Beaverbrook had in no way urged Thomson to go paperchasing in Britain, but equally he had said nothing which dis-




and quite

shortly after their meeting,



a press conference in Claridge's Hotel, London, admitted that he hoped one day to buy some British provincial newspapers. One that he hoped to purchase was in Aberdeen and belonged 182

Peers and Snubs: a Defeat and an Invitation to

Lord Kemsley's group. Accordingly, he arranged that he was home, Dropmore, in Buckingham-

invited to Kemsley's country shire.

The house and

company, that week-end, aloof, Lord Kemsley having particularly deputed his young Chief Assistant, Denis Hamilton, to look after what was anticipated to be a hillbilly, and Thomson having done nothing to improve either Lord or Lady Kemsley's opinion of himself by admitting, over luncheon, that when he bought newspapers he left their politics and their policy entirely alone. After lunch, as instructed, Hamilton showed Thomson round the grounds, during which tour the Canadian ignored the magnificence that surrounded him and instead broached the subject of his buying Kemsley's Aberdeen newspaper. Hamilton told Kemsley; briefly Kemsley discussed the matter with Thomson, and then, with no warmth at all, but only the assurance that any Kemsley paper could be bought at the right price, Thomson was dismissed. Hamilton, he was advised, would give him the verdict about the Aberdeen newspaper later. Duly Thomson attended upon Hamilton to receive the verdict Hamilton, dark-haired, twenty-five years his junior, an officer of World War II with an impressive military record (which was the main reason why the patriotic Kemsley had had him transferred from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to head office in London) and a capacity for looking enigmatic which made the Mona Lisa appear garrulous. The two men could not have been more different. The one, reserved, formal, making no effort to exert any warmth; the other, extra vert, informal to a degree, and incapable like a shaggy dog of behaving anything but warmly. "Did he fix a price?" Thomson asked excitedly. the grounds were magnificent;



"How much?" "Two million pounds," Hamilton expressionless, although the figure

told him, his face quite

was ludicrous

to the point of

being insulting.

"What you mean,


Thomson then

said slowly, "is


not for sale."

"A fair

inference," Hamilton observed. "But Kemsley said any of his papers was for sale." "At a price!" Hamilton murmured upon which second-


— Roy Thomson of Fleet


hand but

calculated snub the discussion ended, and Thomson returned to Toronto. For the rest of the year he worked conscientiously with Gil Purcell on CP affairs, supervised a few changes in the make-up of his staff (as a result of which Margaret Hamilton became one

of the first women ever to achieve the position of manager to a newspaper), arranged for a Federal Minister to open the new building and plant he had provided for the Guelph Mercury, and, using the bluntest means at his disposal, persuaded Canada's Progressive Conservative Party to consider





newly created Toronto Riding of York Centre. Thus Cabinet Minister Paul Martin formally opened the Guelph Mercury's new building, and, in his speech, remarked that whenever he entered a strange town he always bought a paper at which Thomson, grinning broadly, interjected: "Me too

for the





week later, on 7th February, 1953, it was announced that Thomson would stand as the Progressive Conservative Candidate for the Riding of York Centre in the coming late summer elections. He had lobbied industriously for this acceptance, and if he had been unsubtle in his eagerness to win it, he had probably overcome whatever handicaps this brought him by declaring that he would finance his own campaign and ask for no support from party funds.

In the course of the next seven months, he first planned and then put into effect an extremely thorough and expensive electioneering campaign, but refused to harness the power of his nineteen Canadian newspapers to his political ambitions. They, to the surprise of his opponents, remained autonomous throughout.


also established what he clearly hoped would be a journalbridgehead in Britain by publishing a new tabloid weekly, the Canadian Review, designed for Canadians living in Britain, or for Britons who had business interests in Canada, with a planned circulation of thirty-five thousand. Shrewdly the Manchester Guardian looked at this latest venture and, observing that there was "more in the wind than just a Canadian weekly," added,


"Roy Thomson

is armed with a potent cheque book and is some very big game." To this, Thomson, seeming to endorse the Guardian's suspicions,



Peers and Snubs: a Defeat and an Invitation

why we shouldn't do business in Canada": and, on an impulse, telephoned Colin McKinnon of the Scotsman, whom last he had met in Tor-


"There's no reason

Britain as well as in

onto at the 1950 Press Conference. "Colin," he said, "do you know of any newspapers for sale?" McKinnon did not. "Don't suppose there are any Scotsman shares for sale ?" McKinnon thought not. "Well, if ever there are, but added, as he hung let me know." McKinnon said, all right

up, that Thomson would never get any of the Scotsman. In May, Wood Gundy launched yet another bond issue on his

hundred thousand dollars, buy the Brampton Conservator, to convert the Orillia Weekly into a daily and to make the Weston Times and Guide his own. In between times, with the behalf, this time for

so that subsequently

one million


Thomson was

able to

utmost industry, he canvassed his constituency. He commissioned a "rags to riches" biography as part of his electioneering literature, and was indignant when party experts advised



not to distribute



he observed morosely





the best



distribute his booklet, even though, as a national director of

Gallup Poll, he knew that his party would command only thirty per cent of the nation's votes in the coming election and that his own prospects were hopeless. Ignoring the evidence of polls, he flung himself into his campaign as


he was certain he would


Using best quality building board (much coveted by local amateur carpenters, who could hardly wait for the election to pass so that they could remove it) he plastered the entire Riding with slogans and pictures of himself exuding amiable if myopic ,


As he canvassed, he refused not to be seen by those ladies who simply opened the door an inch, said "not to-day" and shut it again.

"I'm only

"Come and have The Toronto and


selling myself,"

he shouted through



a look."

him as a "strong candidate," him as an exhausting one, who

Telegram described

party workers described

on waddling down every street, knocking on every door and personally talking, they estimated, to more than twenty thousand householders. He distributed badges and hats and placards; he used techniques that seemed to his party pure



Roy Thomson of Fleet


honky-tonk; he said things that made colleagues supporting him on his platform cringe with embarrassment but all the waythrough his Riding, from York Centre's commercial front, to its slums and the new immigrant area behind, and then to the older immigrant district behind that, leading successively to small factories, workers' housing estates, white collar neighbourhoods


finally to the exclusively rich Forest Hill village,

he spoke

to everyone.

he would not order the local paper, which he owned, to support him. To the surprise of all his opponents, the Weston Times and Guide reported with scrupulous objectivity and the Socialist candidate, Bill Newcombe, a limping RCAF veteran of World War II, was almost unnerved to find his meetings covered on page one whilst Thomson's appeared on page two. This is not, of course, to say that Thomson denied himself any inspired press coverage. Unwilling to order his own newspapers to support him, he printed a special newspaper for the election only. It was propaganda he offered it simply as propaganda. He had done




same thing in the previous election of 1 948 for his friend Don Fleming and Fleming had been sent to the House of Commons now he hoped it would help his own campaign. in Ottawa At a CP luncheon, Thomson, as president, had to announce that an honorary degree was being conferred on Herve Major, the

— —

a predecessor in his


Thomson remarked


for all ex-presidents of



his vice-president,

seemed a good idea

Robert Rankin,

— a good precedent

CP — that they should be awarded honorary



even urged

—half flippantly,

half seriously

— that Rankin

return to his native Maritime Province and suggest to

all its

shower honorary degrees on Roy Thomson. Rankin protested that he would do so happily if only he could think of any reasonable ground for such an honour, which he could not. And then suddenly he changed his mind and declared that he knew one reason he could put forward.

universities that they

"What?" Thomson

"My in,"





the only one

told him.



"They should

bought a newspaper you a degree in


gratitude for that."

As the


election date

closer, Thomson, having set up his Newcombe, the Socialist, "You know,


poll of the Riding, told


Peers and Snubs: a Defeat and an Invitation I haven't got a chance. We're going to get beat by about per cent." But still he fought.

you and fifty

Advised by his experts that bow ties lost votes, Thomson avoided bow ties which he never wore anyway. Advised that big cars antagonised working-class constituents, he toured in a small car. And all the time the Liberal candidate, by Thomson's analysis a certain winner, cruised lazily around the Riding in a huge Chrysler wearing a bow tie. Thomson waylaid week-end shoppers as they streamed in and out of the big stores and supermarkets. "I'm Roy Thomson, your Conservative candidate," he would say and then, unable to suppress his good nature, would add, "And this is another

candidate, Mr.


He walked down

the hallways of apartment buildings, knock-

ing simultaneously on opposing doors and talking to

opened up


or to both



they opened together.



package-deal tea parties, where he provided everything from the tea service to the dainty sandwiches

and asked only


a co-

who would fill cups and have all the neighhome to meet him. The tea drunk, the sand-

operative housewife

bours into her

wiches eaten, the hands shaken, he had the crockery washed and the plates replenished, and then moved the lot on to yet another house for yet another party. Realising that there was an advantage to be won by living in the Riding, he moved out of Mississauga Road and took up

residence at the



of his good-natured in-laws,

Ed and


He worked

increasingly hard as July

heat of an unusually fine summer.

wore on, ignoring the


that constituents

hated having their dinner hour interrupted, he gave up canvassing at 5.30 p.m., slept for several hours and then, returning to the fray at about eight o'clock, scurried from door to door until he found that he was getting people out of bed, which they disliked even more than being dragged from their dinner table. He tried, as he has since admitted, "terribly hard." He told York Centre that he would be a splendid M.P. and a not inconspicuous one at that. "When I get to Ottawa," he promised, "I won't be a back bencher with nothing to say: I'll be right up in front with plenty to say." He implied that the Ministry of Finance was wide open to a candidate of his experience. But he 187

Roy Thomson of Fleet


he did not convince the voters and he lost the election to the bow-tied, Chrysler-driving Liberal, Al Hollingworth though only by two thousand four hundred votes in a Riding of thirtyone thousand, which beat the confident Socialist into third place. Though he hurried over to congratulate Hollingworth, his taller, younger opponent, as soon as the decision was known; though he had predicted to Newcombe that he would lose by fifty per cent of the votes though the results had confirmed what everyone said at the time, which was that Canada was not voting for anyone but rather against George Drew, the Conservative Party leader, nevertheless, now that he had been beaten, he felt humiliated because he had failed. A little later, he gave a dinner at the Albany Club to the retiring president, David Walker, who had also been defeated. George Drew sat on Thomson's right. "George," Thomson told him in ringing tones, "as far as I'm concerned, you're a wonderful leader; but the public certainly doesn't think so so I think you'll have to go." The rest of the dinner, for those at the top table, was not a success a fact which Thomson could not understand. He had merely said that George Drew lost his party votes, which was an honest opinion candidly stated; and, anyway, it was only about his own defeat that he felt bitter. To him it was a failure as unmistakable and as displeasing as had been his farming venture, his automotive supplies venture, his De Forest Crosley crisis, and his mayoral defeat. But, like all the other failures, this one merely blocked and then diverted the swirling waters of his ambition and energy. Meanwhile, in Prince Edward Island, one of Canada's Maritime Provinces, St. Clair McCabe was attempting to buy another paper, the Guardian of Charlottetown. But for once not even McCabe could influence a recalcitrant vendor, and he telephoned Thomson in Toronto to complain: "I can't get any sense into these people. The proposition I made, they should be jumping at it."


"O.K. Mac, come home," Thomson ordered.

McCabe telephoned again. your Charlottetown office calling!" Chuckling with delight, Thomson dictated a telegram to Robert Rankin a reply to his quip about honorary degrees made 1 88 The

following morning, early,

"Roy," he

said, "this



Peers and Snubs: a Defeat and an Invitation at their recent



"Regret can no longer qualify for

Maritime's degree on terms specified," he wired.

Back came

Rankin's reply, based not least on the fear that it might be his own paper that was involved; "Congratulations. Which one is it?" A light-hearted exchange in the life of a man dedicated to business: but it indicates a little of that man's insatiable appetite for detail. Political defeat in the Riding of York Centre in mid- 195 2, denied him what he most wanted at that time a step up from the presidency of CP, a step into Federal rather than provincial spheres of prestige but it denied him these steps upward at a



when not only had

his wife's

death abruptly severed


Canada, but also a registered letter had reached him from Edinburgh. It had come from the Scotsman and it had told him that a majority shareholding in that newspaper might be available if he cared to negotiate. His wish to go to Ottawa denied, checked in the course that he had set for himself, aged strongest tie with

Thomson decided




again in Great Britain.


quite alone,


to leave




Stranger in Edinburgh

The Scotsman letter had arrived during the middle of the election campaign and, although he could not then leave Canada himself, Thomson had successively dispatched Sid Chapman and St. Clair McCabe to Edinburgh to examine the prize. Chapman's arrival caused renewed speculation, among Scotsman employees, that the newspaper must be up for sale that perhaps this little-known Canadian, Roy Thomson, was going to buy. They asked Chapman what sort of man Thomson was, and whether the rumour that he was a financial genius was true. "He's got a hell of a good average," Chapman replied and ;

made out his report. Thomson was defeated

at York Centre on Tuesday and by Friday morning was ready to leave for Scotland. He telephoned Kris Mapp, an accountant, and, explaining that he had to leave

an hour, asked could Mapp come over to him. Map agreed and took a taxi to Thomson's Thomson tossed him a bundle of Scotsman financial state-

for the airport in

"I always do," office.

ments and let him read them. "What's it worth?" he asked then. Mapp told him, and he said, "That's what I thought but I reckon I'll have to pay a little more." About seven hours later, he landed at Edinburgh's Turnhouse Airport, accompanied by Kenneth. He was met by the Scotsman's financial adviser, James Whitton, and by that same minority shareholder, Colin McKinnon, who, a year earlier, had rejected his suggestion that the Scotsman, or even any part of it, would ever be up for sale. Refusing to discuss anything at that stage, Thomson asked that he and Kenneth be left alone in Edinburgh to look around.


— A Stranger in Edinburgh They "looked around" by tramcar, and the next morning, at Thomson met James Whitton at his office to discuss the purchase of Scotland's oldest and most esteemed newspaper and the state of its health. During and immediately after World War II, the Scotsman had so flourished that its board had decided to dispense with the ten o'clock,


Later, however,

of a financial adviser.

the paper's

had a bank overdraft of five hundred thousand pounds, and was losing heavily each year. At this stage the chairman, Sir Edmund Findlay, had recalled Whitton as financial adviser: and Whitton's advice had been Because of current losses and the possibility of unpleasant. crushing death duties if and whenever Sir Edmund died, he had fortunes

had declined



soon as possible. and their Australian-born colleague, Colin McKinnon, had eventually accepted this distasteful solution, insisting only that their newspaper, Scotland's newspaper, must not be sold to an Englishman that it must not even be sold to anyone who then himself would sell it to an

advocated Sir

selling the Scotsman as

Edmund and

his brother, Peter,


Englishman. This had complicated the situation somewhat because the Scotsman's finances were so unhealthy that it was almost unbelievable that any non-Englishman, least of all a Scot, would

buy it. At which

stage, Colin

McKinnon had remembered

grey-haired, ruddy-faced, myopic

the stout,

and insulting Canadian who, on

Commonwealth Press Conference meeting Toronto three years before, had had the temerity last year to telephone him and ask whether the Scotsman was for sale. Snatching at this non-English straw, the board had authorised that a vaguely couched letter be sent to Thomson and, upon receiving his very explicit reply, had invited him to visit Edinburgh. Meantime, Thomson had warned the Royal Bank of Canada that he would probably be needing dollars to buy a newspaper and had named it as the Scotsman, which news in Britain was passed on to the bank's president, James Muir, who had emigrated to Canada as a bank apprentice from Peebles in the strength merely of a



"Nonsense," Muir had exploded, "it can't be bought. It's an and explained how every day of his life in Peebles




Roy Thomson of Fleet Street the Scotsman

Holy Writ

had come

into his family

—and sometimes more.

"If he thinks he can buy

home with

he's crazy,"



the force of

Muir had added.

moment being prepared by Thomson, he observed that asking how much its board wanted for the Scotsman was like asking a gentleman how much he wanted for his Told that an



at that


"He's crazy," he had repeated.

Such were the background facts of the negotiations between Whitton and Thomson. There followed three hours of hard bargaining across Whitton's

mahogany table, large like a dining table, photographs of past and distinguished accountants looking down at it from the wall and over the fireplace, honourably sited, a picture of the late Mr. Geoghegan, one-time head of the firm, himself. "You know, Roy," Whitton said, "whenever I'm doing anything important, I always turn to look at Mr. Geoghegan and hope I'm doing it right."

"Why?" "Because he inspires me."



Thomson commanded, "and


me have a



only twenty-five thousand pounds separated Whitton's

price from





"Let's toss."

"If you can afford to toss," the Scot remarked unsportingly,

"you can

afford to pay."

And when

the deal was



Mr. Geoghegan, your

Thomson had agreed

Thomson looked commented grimly: "Don't

but concluded,

up, above Whitton's head, and


doing fine!"


to purchase seventy-five per cent of the

and had pledged himself to become a resident publisher and to keep the paper and all his shares in it intact, and never to sell to any of the wicked Sassenach barons of Scotsman's ordinary shares ;

Fleet Street.

Virtually agreed, but not actually. At the last instant, for the

only time in his

when a deal was ready for signing, he faltered. long mahogany table, he said that he would be


Rising from that back in an hour.

During that hour, he walked Edinburgh's making his decision, knowing that if he

granite streets alone,



J I,






CTTJ'/l 2=

B'O'A'C Roy Thomson





take over the 'Scotsman'

U.K., January igj4


live in the

Roy Thomson

Roy Thomson






Mississauga Road, Toronto

— A Stranger in Edinburgh Canada and live in Scotland, must exchange empire for a sickly Scottish company, Canadian his flourishing and hand over to Kenneth a burden of management which Edna had always urged him not to make so heavy. At the end of the hour, he returned to Whitton's office and signed the contract that sealed both his and his son's future. "If my name had been spelt with a 'p'," he observed later, "I'd never have got it" for the English spell Thompson with a "p" but having got it, he and Kenneth at once inspected the entire Scotsman building, meeting everyone employed by the Scotsman, and by its two sister papers, the Evening Dispatch and the Weekly Scotsman which had been sold with it. They went through everywhere offices, press rooms, board rooms, the cafeteria escorted and introduced by Albert Mackie, editor of the Dispatch. Thomson insisted on meeting everybody. "My name's Thomson," he said. "Call me Roy." "Yes, sir," they said. "My name's Roy," he said to everyone, "what's yours?" and then, "This is my son, Ken." "How do you do, Mr. Thomson," they said. Thomson and Mackie passed a student on part-time work at the pneumatic tube between the editorial and linotype rooms. Mackie ignored him. "Who's this guy?" Thomson demanded. "He's only part time," Mackie explained. "Don't matter. Who is he ?" "You'd better tell him," Mackie advised dourly, so the student gave his name. "I'm Roy," beamed Thomson and shook the boy's bemused

signed he must quit



had committed himself, the Canadian was At last he owned a great national paper; and the fact was running at a colossal loss worried him not at all. He that he




knew how

to fix that.

"You'd have to be crazy not to make money on this deal," he explained back in Toronto. "The real estate and buildings alone are worth a million pounds" which was a quarter of a million more than he had laid out "My God, you'd wonder how they could run a business like that. They wouldn't last six months in Canada. Well we're playing for keeps now." Transferring all control of his North American and Caribbean businesses to his son and his top executives, he made his swift r.t.f.s. n 193





Roy Thomson of Fleet


abandon the easy-going atmosphere of Toronto and to embrace instead the clannish society of Edinburgh. He proposed, he explained, to spend his remaining years quietly running a In the past, he admitted, he had bought and prestige paper. plans to


fought for profit. as there

was no actual

in Edinburgh, with the Scotsman, so long


he would, he declared, be happy with


"He's flipped

Irma declared, hearing this: and none Irma had acquired a great sitting and observing not so much relaxed

his lid,"

of the family contradicted her.

capacity of late for

under control, her judgments sharp but good natured. Her temperament was darker than Audrey's, more confident than Kenneth's, more like her father's than that of either her sister or her brother although she shared with both of them their unquestioning faith that whatever Dad did was right and that there was nothing Dad could not do. But now, as she heard how her father proposed to live in Edinburgh, she repeated simply, "He's flipped his lid." Nor was it only his family who felt anxious. John Tory, a as restrained, her energies suppressed,

become his legal repreCanada) almost pleaded with him, asking was he sure, with his background and disposition, and at his age, that he wanted to take on the dourness of Scotland plus its hideous

close friend for over a year (later to

sentative in

climate and a




Thomson by leaving Canada he would allow his son to if he stayed in Canada he would only repeat

explained that he had three reasons for going. develop;



what he had already done often enough, so that the challenge of it would vanish; and third ... "I want to find out if I'm as good as I think I am." To another, Thomson explained, "What I want more than anything in the world is a knighthood. Like Bennett. With the endlessly

Scotsman I should get it."

"Don't expect me to call you Sir Roy," his friend retorted. But in spite of all the advice and the arguments, Thomson left Canada and flew to Scotland, to run his new prestige paper quietly and for only a reasonable profit, as he told himself. Uncharacteristically, for once, he had lied, if only to himself, because no sooner had he stepped inside the doors of the Scotsman's offices than his energies exploded as noisily as ever. 194


A Stranger in Edinburgh Advised that a green marble staircase, which ran from the floor where he had his chairman's office, to the floor below, where his editor and executives reigned, was never used because its Sicilian marble was so valuable, he made a point of using it as often as possible and throwing it open to everyone. Uncomfortably aware that there were no elevators in a building that sank six floors below the street level of his office and six above it, he determined that an elevator would be installed as soon as possible and demanded to know why an elevator had not been installed in the first place in 1905 when the building




The answer only confirmed his worst suspicions about the Scots. The then Spartan chairman and proprietor had considered twelve flights of steps a trifling source of exercise for his employees



and even


he grew older

—and developed the habit

of doing his day's business at a steadily declining level until, his

job done, he would emerge from the door of the bottom and go home he had stubbornly refused to admit that they were inconvenient. He would not admit them inconvenient even if he had to return to his office. Then, with typical Scots cunning, and far from climbing six flights of stairs, he would simply catch a bus all the way round to Princes Street, back across the bridge and so to his own office on a level with North Bridge. Such had been the stern way of life within the Scotsman last







in the three portraits,

hanging in

the marble hallway outside the chairman's office, of the great

men from whom of



Scotsman tradition

had descended. The


Ritchie (18 17- 1870), looked like a "hanging" judge

whose sentence had just been disputed; the second, ofJames (1857- 1 922), resembled nothing so

Robertson Justice




a dyspeptic James and the third, of Sir James Findlay (1901as

93°)> was a study in icy contempt which later visitors identified as Sir Alec Douglas-Home listening to a particularly bad joke by Harold Wilson. I


This then

staircases, stern traditions, slipping circula-

and all was the prestige business that Thomson, the fat, cheerful Canadian with spectacles of binocular thickness, had assumed as his own. Aware of Muir's astonishment, back in the offices of the Royal Bank of Canada, that the Scotsman, with all its force of the tion, ferocious portraits


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Holy Writ, had at last passed into infidel hands, Thomson him a directorship. Muir, delighted, accepted.






by changing

entire population

Scotsman's style, format or policies,




alienate as




of the

he nevertheless arrived regul-

morning and appalled the locals by American style blue double breasted suits with no waistcoat and calling everyone by their Christian names. "I'm gonna make any number of mistakes," he warned his new employees, "I want you guys to tell me. My door's always arly at his desk at 8.45 each




At lunch time he rushed down for his meal, ate


to the canteen, stood in line

alone at a table by the door and, within

was back at his desk. With disconcerting speed he grew to know all his employees' Christian names. "Ah, Bob," he would say or Jimmie or Willie "are they treating you all right?" And even though Bob and Jimmie and Willie knew that it was quite pointless to say no, they were treating him all wrong, still there was something irresistibly warm, as well as irritating, in being asked. Within a week of his arrival everyone knew him better than they had known the previous chairman, Sir Edmund Findlay, after seven years; and had seen that his door was in fact always open to fifteen minutes,

any one of them.







department and

addressed them, speaking confidently of their future together, his impact, as one of them subsequently admitted, being "electrifying."

For years they had watched their newspaper skidding

almost hopelessly towards extinction. For years they had suspected that the Findlays would sell out, although the Findlays had

always denied it. For years there had been no dynamism generated in the chairman's office because, as all of Edinburgh knew,

Here now was Thomson, aggressive, dynamic, teetotal and utterly confident. There was not much about him that his staff, as good Scots, could like, for he was wholly Canadian which, in Edinburgh, is as bad as being Bulgarian but they did begin to suspect that he would save the Scotsman and their jobs on it. Of them all, probably only Murray Watson, the editor, remained unmoved; and a wordless, bloodless but implacable the chairman

was an



A Stranger in Edinburgh battle between him and Thomson was joined as of that moment, each convinced that before the Scotsman could be saved the other



Thomson and the Canada soon realised

steady stream of experts he imported from that there



be economies.

For one

too many employed as secretaries Thomson allowed them to be dismissed, even though Christmas was less than a month away; and Edinburgh buzzed with disapproval but made no allowances, thing, there


were thirty




girl was given three months' salary and instructed that if, at the end of that time, she had not found another job, she was to return and obtain a further three months' salary. Not even the fact that he allowed all of them to continue eating in the subsidised office canteen each day made any difference. Edinburgh was of the opinion that the girls should not have been dismissed not just before

granted no credit, for the fact that each


But Thomson's problem was not only that an excess of staff had to be pruned, it was also that unco-operative or incompatible members of the staff had to be fired. Gradually heads began to roll. At his first board meeting he opened proceedings punctually at 10 a.m. and at 2.30 p.m. was still hard at it. "Doesn't this fellow have any sense of time?" a hungry director asked Chap-



"Not when there's work to be done," Chapman told him. Between them, Chapman and Thomson made clear that budgeting and rationalising were to be imposed on the wellestablished chaos of the Scotsman's finances.

Thomson prowled endlessly from room watching and asking questions.

know," he









anything you the ideas you got. I'm a sponge for "Tell


mon," the word went round to those who "or it's Moose Jaw for you!" The editor of the Evening Dispatch, noticing on the ticker tape that James Muir's appointment to the Scotsman board had been announced in Canada, went to Thomson's office to ask whether "Better take care,

slacked, or


had no


item should be included in that evening's edition.

sat in shirt sleeves

and was

Hanging up, he



on the telephone. "I've been wanting to meet you again, talking


Roy Thomson of Fleet


you about the Dispatch. It's a lousy paper." "I'd not heard that before," Mackie protested.

Albert, to talk to

"Your friends say it," Thomson "They don't tell me." "Well, they do







had been exchanged, he intended pouring money into

as if nothing but pleasantries

Thomson went on

to explain that

and driving the opposition News

the Dispatch

off the streets of

Edinburgh. "In a city like this," he explained, "there just isn't room for two evening papers." Thereafter the two men, except for the occasional conference about strip cartoons, whose use Thomson warmly advocated, saw little of one another though Thomson did warn Mackie that he was bringing from Vancouver a Canadian expert, Ray


who would

so revolutionise the advertising lay-out of the

would double work. Mackie, had already publicly chided Edinburgh's

Scotsman that Edinburgh's commercial interests their advertising allocations as soon as they

who knew that Thomson commercial

who knew



and community had Barford would do

interests for their lack of advertising enterprise,


how much

that section of the

resented his words of wisdom, doubted that

any such thing, but he said nothing. He simply returned to his and did his best to translate into Scottish terms the ideas he considered closest to Thomson's heart. As he sent out his Christmas cards, Thomson could reflect that 1953 was ending well, and he was careful to remember all his new executives in Edinburgh. Thus Albert Mackie received a A letter from Peter friendly card which warmed his heart. Findlay and Colin McKinnon, as directors, added to the warmth. And his heart was still warm when, on 1st January, 1954, just after he had put his first edition of the Dispatch on the streets, "Come up to the board room right away, his telephone rang. Albert," a Canadian voice instructed, "it's Roy." Full of Hogmanay good cheer, Mackie made his way up to the board room where Thomson, McKinnon and Peter Findlay office

awaited him. "I've got bad news for you, Albert," Thomson stated without preamble, "I've appointed a new editor to the Evening Dispatch'' "Oh," said Mackie, "who's that?"


A Stranger in Edinburgh Thomson





was a famous Fleet

Street journalist

me?" Mackie asked, and Thomson, explaining that the board considered him more of a Scotsman man than a Dispatch man, offered him any job on the but reminded him, "Of course the Scotsman that he might like Scotsman can't pay the same kind of money as the Dispatch did." called Jack

"Well, where's that put



would accept no cut

stated that he

the board, expressing

which would have to

in salary; at

sadness, decided that he


go, with three months' salary in lieu of notice. "It's the

custom in


country," Mackie remonstrated "to

give a retiring editor at least nine months' salary."

"Then I don't intend following local customs," Thomson told him blandly and reminded him that he could still have any job

he liked on the Scotsman,


editor's then,"

Mackie demanded.

"That's taken."

"Why "The


you doing this?"

Dispatch has a

damned poor


and you're



Thomson had always disliked the format of the Dispatch as much as he had its poor circulation figures (indeed, he linked the two), but Mackie, claiming with considerable justification that Scots hate changes in their newspapers,

chairman and had

Thomson had


had chosen

the newspaper's format as

also protested that the rabid


to ignore his


Toryism of the

and Communist miners of Midlothian to which Mackie, unconvincingly to his chairman's ears, had replied that the miners of Midlothian liked to read a Tory paper it gave them something to get Dispatch could hardly be expected to


to the Socialist


their teeth into.

For these reasons, and

for the Dispatch's failure to


with the Mews, Mackie was now being eased out of his job. "I think you're barking up the wrong tree," Mackie defended himself.

"That may

made your

plenty in

be, Albert.


may make

But right now,

mistakes. I

I guess I've

think the Dispatch




so Albert Mackie,

burgh's readers as that




MacNib left



affectionately to all of Edin-

(from a daily


published under

Evening Dispatch—having sacrificed



Roy Thomson of Fleet


two-thirds of an editor's customary retiring salary by his rejection

of the offer of any job he liked on the Scotsman, because, as everyone knew, the only job his sense of prestige would allow him

was the editorship, which was not available. He was at once snapped up by Thomson's rivals, the Evening News, who forthwith blanketed Edinburgh with placards shouting "macnib joins the news." to accept

"Say, this


the hell,"

demanded Thomson next morning,


guy MacNib?"

"Albert Mackie," came the answer. "Well, he never told me\" Thomson objected: but he wasted no time lamenting the loss of the poet MacNib. Mackie had done well for himself, that was good: even better was the imminent prospect of what Ray Barford, from Vancouver, would achieve with the Scotsman, and of how Jack Miller, from Fleet Street, would transform the Evening Dispatch. Unfortunately, in both respects, Thomson was to be most dis-

agreeably surprised.




Edinburgh Displeased

and the Scotsman never achieved even a It was no one's fault. Barford was a clever publisher, the Scotsman was a good newspaper, and the Scots like clever men and good newspapers; but the meeting of all three provided only a head-on clash. St. Clair McCabe, who had recommended the appointment, felt acutely responsible when it became obvious that it would have to be terminated and hurried across to Scotland to interview a possible successor, James Coltart, of the Beaverbrook Newspapers in Glasgow. But not before Thomson, with a characteristic regard for proven efficiency, particularly of the Canadian variety, and with Barford, Edinburgh

degree of compatibility.

a curiously nostalgic optimism that over-rode all his past bitterness, invited Jack Kent Cooke to lunch in Toronto's National Club

and there offered him 25 per cent of the Scotsman free if he would go to Edinburgh and run the paper. Though touched by the offer,

now spectacularly The problem of finding a








successor to Barford therefore


Where Barford and Edinburgh had been merely incompatible, Thomson's appointment of Jack Miller calamitous. to the staid


A use

and Tory

Dispatch the sensational journalism of Fleet

—and Edinburgh loathed city



was London, brought

to edit the Dispatch

Miller, late of the Daily Mirror in


Tron Square gave him




his opportunity to he photographed the

daughter a father had stabbed, but not killed, standing at the and brother, both of whom had died knife. It father's was tabloid journalism at London's under her most tasteless and irresistible best. Edinburgh loathed it and grave-side of her mother


plummeted. 201

Roy Thomson of Fleet Then

to identify himself with the

and promise to help her seek a Thomson's prestige sank as fast





Miller persuaded



fresh as







Thus, at an evening party given to the Scotsman's editor, Murray Watson, when everyone was making speeches, and Albert

Mackie was asked to speak also, Mackie stood up, determined not to mention his own dismissal, but equally determined not to flatter his Canadian ex-employer. Desperately searching for the right words, his editor's mind remembered an account of a Holyrood garden party to which a disenchanted reporter, sick of listing the names of all the nonentities present, had added that of a


guest of his



Reversing the spelling of

name, he had reported the unlikely presence at Holyrood of a Mr. Eloh Esra. Maliciously now, as he spoke his few words of tribute to Murray Watson, Mackie turned to his exemployer and declared: "Mr. Thomson, you have made an Eloh Esra of the Dispatch'' Responding generally to all the speeches, Thomson could hardly avoid the reference to himself. Nor did he try to. Grinning broadly, he replied: "Mr. Mackie has made the best speech of this fictitious guest's

the night."


the other hand, this undoubtedly was the nadir of his


was the moment when, had he chosen to think about it (and there is no evidence that he did), he would have realised that Edinburgh's exclusive West End homes had closed their doors to him. Yet he had started off so

and career

in Edinburgh.




the night of his taking over of the Scotsman there

a cocktail party for him at the BBC's Edinburgh

Thomson and Kenneth had

had been At it,


stood, almost shyly, glasses of orange-

ade in their hands, whilst Edinburgh's elite

examined them; and

more than one distinguished local, looking at that orangeade, and remembering the sad alcoholism of the Scotsman's last proprietor, had then remarked to Albert Mackie, "I like your



Not only


but Sir


Findlay had done

abdicate graciously, even going so far as to lend


his best to



Canadian had had time to buy one. Findlay and Colin McKinnon had Peter Likewise,


until the



Edinburgh Displeased tained

him and introduced him had accepted him.

to their



—who ap-


At an evening function given by the Lord Provost, Sir James Thomson arrived, the cream of Scotland's avid to meet him. As proprietor of the Scotsman society had been he was, ipso facto, an important member of their circle. The Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch were there, and Sir Compton Mackenzie and Moray McLaren. Everybody who mattered in Edinburgh was there; and Thomson had met them all, and all of them had greeted him warmly, trusting him not to change their beloved national newspaper in any way and knowing that only he, a dollar-rich Canadian, could afford to keep it, uneconomic as Millar, soon after


was, unchanged.

Compton Mackenzie and Moray McLaren, as the city's leading literary figures, had offered to help in any way they could and later, alone with McLaren, Thomson had asked what Sir

Mackenzie had got the "Sir" for. "For writing a hell of a lot of good books," McLaren told him. "Guess I'll have to do it some other way then," Thomson grinned, and McLaren had liked him for his candour. In those first few weeks, indeed, it had been his candour that had helped him most. He had not pretended. Not knowing how to address people with curious Scottish or aristocratic titles, he had simply asked: "Say, what do I call him? " Not knowing what were the best whiskies, he had asked before he bought the bottles he himself would never touch. Not knowing about distribution techniques or railroad systems, or even all the rules of Scottish accountancy (where entries are side

from Canada's)




he had simply asked

made on :

the opposite

and Edinburgh had


But not enough to dispel all its native suspicions of him. Christmas came, he had carefully sent miniature jars of Canadian jam to all his new-found Scottish acquaintances, and they, ungraciously, had gossiped among themselves that he must own a Canadian jam factory. Miniature skean dhus, or bottles of Scotch, or tins of shortbread yes, a very desirable present but miniature jars of jam, Canadian jam no! His presents did not win him much good will. And after Christmas had come the Tron Square murders, and the loss of all good will. He was told by Whitton, the accountant, that Sir Edward




Roy Thomson of Fleet


Stevenson, Queen's Keeper of the Purse in Scotland, would be

him to Edinburgh. Sir Edward not only had the entree to everything but knew everyone. Indeed, Sir Edward, introducing hundreds of guests to Her Majesty's High Commissioner each year in the Throne Room of Holyrood House Palace, each name coming to his lips without effort or hesitation or prompting, was one of the wonders of contemporary

useful in introducing


So Whitton, who acted considered that advice as


and who doubtless

for Stevenson,

Thomson could

help Stevenson with financial

as Stevenson could help

him with

social intro-

Thomson's office. The two men liked each other at once and became friends but the city's selfstyled cafe society were suspicious of the friendship and compared Thomson in the hands of Teddy Stevenson with a debutante in the hands of a dowager duchess. Each, Edinburgh sneered, aimed only at a Court presentation. Thomson, having already bought up Sir Edmund Findlay's shares in the Scotsman, now made it plain that he wanted Peter Findlay's and Colin McKinnon's too, so that he could sweep the board clean of all its old members; and Edinburgh, though it had ductions, arranged a meeting at


not greatly respected the old board, perversely resented its displacement. Then Thomson announced that he was going to sell that part of the property block he owned which was not related to his publications. Mr. Noble, his company secretary, led the pro-

and Thomson, asserting blandly, "I didn't come over to country to go into real estate business, I came to go into the newspaper business," ignored their protests and sold the block. Even within his own office he made himself unpopular. His canteen meals ruined everyone else's canteen meals. His habit, on car journeys, of asking drivers questions about others who worked in the building caused suspicion. His flood of memos about economies to be effected no private telephone calls particularly irritated the allegedly economy-minded race he employed. He formed the opinion that Murray Watson was determined either to get his own way or to achieve the martyrdom of dismissal, and a great coolness grew up between them. The tests;



— quite


— that

him Uncle Roy appalled a




Canadian colleagues called whose attitude towards rank

Edinburgh Displeased

and titles is positively feudal. They called him Mister Thomson and thereby put him firmly in his place if only he had had the

which he did not. Nor was he especially tactful about the British as salesmen and businessmen. He bought a house in Braid Avenue and converted it for his own comfort to a Canadian-style seventy-degree temperature with plenty of hot water and a good bathroom. Discussing fabrics for the curtains with a lady decorator, he argued that those she proffered were too expensive. At once she showed him something cheaper. "There," he said, "that's you English" a disastrous choice of words in Scotland "She should have sold me the more expensive stuff. I had no trouble beating her down. She should have argued back. But you people don't!" "There must be something wrong in this country," he was quoted as announcing, "when a fellow like me can make so much sensitivity to notice



so quick."

"Why do you stay here ?" he asked his chauvinistic labourers. "Why don't you go to Canada and improve yourselves?" When it was suggested to him that he should go salmon fishing,

he asked was he certain to catch a salmon? No, he was


my friends," he replied. "It wouldn't interest me"; and the gentry of Scotland found a man who would fish only to catch fish not very desirable. Meeting both the proprietor and editor of the rival Evening News, as he frequently did at public functions, Thomson alternately asked them to sell and threatened that if they did not he would run them off the streets. They, who alleged that they had picked up fifteen thousand subscribers because of the drop in sales of the new-style Dispatch, did not sell and were not impressed in which respect they under-estimated him, for nine years later "Then

I guess I'll leave it to


News became


But, between times, this alternating tech-

and "take care" did not endear him to them. He was advised against using an American car and was told of the availability of an old Daimler of the type favoured by Queen Mary. It was, he was advised, a bargain at three hundred and seventy-five pounds and exactly the sort of vehicle royalty themselves would use. nique of "please




look like?"

Thomson 205


— Roy Thomson of Fleet


"Like a thousand pounds," he was told and that, for a three hundred and seventy-five pounds car, was all he needed to be which was perfect for Edinburgh told. He bought it at once but then he ruined it by hiring for himself a German chauffeur. The drivers' pool was hostile to poor Gunther Hirsch at first, disliking his broken English, irritated by his skill with his hands, affronted by his apparent arrogance and infuriated that such a plum job, in a city where unemployment was not rare, should go to a foreigner, and a German at that. Thomson, if he was aware of the indignation he had caused, did not show it. He made it clear that he admired Gunther Hirsch and that Gunther's wife, Hanni, whom he at once renamed Honey, was the best of housekeepers. At no level in that first year of his ownership of the Scotsman was he reticent. With Peter, a staff car driver, who met him occasionally at the airport, or off the sleeper train from London,

he talked as freely of his instinctive distrust of trade unionism as he would have done to a fellow tycoon. With his circulation manager he toured the whole of Scotland, examining every detail of transport and paper deliveries. He travelled from Dumfries to Carlisle to Aberdeen to the Shetlands. Everywhere he talked shop. Wherever there was a local paper, he offered to buy it. When he was shown a national landmark like the Firth of Forth bridge, he was bored when he could examine comparative costs of newspaper distribution by rail or by road he :

was engrossed.

He owned

a car



an elderly monarch, and he had a

chauffeur of incomparable demeanour, so he offended the


concept of how the owner of the Scotsman should behave by queuing up outside his own office each night to catch the bus to his home. Similarly, most mornings, he came by bus: had even been known, on the bus, to ask his secretary: "Say, Miss Gladstone- Miller, have you got threepence you can lend me? I've got

no money



He was make


not anti-social but even of this his critics began to capital because, with total lack of discrimination, Thomson



all invitations.

accepted the


parties, Police Club balls was all the same to him. He them all and behaved identically

Boys Brigade

or Holyrood House receptions

turned up at


at each.


— Edinburgh Displeased


at almost all of them he

would be advised

—with what, in

retrospect, appears presumptuousness to the point of insolence

not to change the Scotsman. At this he would smile. Sometimes the presumptuous would go further and even ask whether he did

plan changes, and then he would devastate them by saying: "Maybe maybe I'll put in a full page of comics." He had to wait till he visited Canada to speak quite frankly;

but once there he did




"Edinburgh's idea of stop-

press news," he lashed out, "is a picture of some

with a description of what


mouldy old ruin

two centuries ago!" And so, as 1954 grew older, Thomson's reputation in Edinburgh sank which was unfair because he had not hesitated to The unfortunate Barford was back in admit his mistakes. Canada; the misguided Miller was not going to have his yearly Thomson himself had contract renewed in January of 1955; moved with the utmost caution before making any changes to the Scotsman, whose fortunes were already improving; he had been not ungenerous to his Scots hosts and he had even, though it was virtually against his principles to do so, given money to charity. Yet Edinburgh found no virtue in its Canadian intruder. He was unmistakably kindly, lively and lonely; he quite evidently wanted friendliness; but the houses of the West End did not open their doors to him. He had ruined their Dispatch and stolen their Scotsman. They had not particularly minded when he first took it, because then it was losing so much money but lately it was not indeed, Thomson himself boasted, soon it would losing so much make a profit and this they resented. The profit, like the Scotsman, should have been theirs. To add insult to injury, having robbed them of a source of profit in the Scotsman, he began, in October, to attempt to implicate them in an obvious future source of loss an Independent Television Station for Scotland. He wanted to start one and proposed, so he wrote to many of them, applying to the Independent Television Authority in London for a charter. In support of his application he wanted the cream of Scotland's nobility and intelligentsia to lend their names. And this at a time when England's year-old independent television stations were losing a fortune and had even begged for a seven hundred and fifty thousand pound grant from the Government to help them through. Naturally the Government, in the person of Postmasterit




— —


Roy Thomson of Fleet General Charles


had refused them



and naturally the cream

of Scotland's nobility and intelligentsia refused Thomson.


main occupation reading whodunits and music of Guy Lombardo or Victor Silvester on his radiogram, breaking the routine with occasional visits to an auction, to buy jewellery, or to the Palladium, to see music hall (the closest thing he could find to burlesque), Thomson lived in his warm house, with his terrier dog, Whitey, and the loyal Gunther and the devoted Honey. As against this lack of hospitality in his few leisure hours, he enjoyed work more than ever and was delighted when his Canadian office acquired the Nanaimo Daily Free Press in February, thus proving how efficient was the machine he had built up in Toronto. Before the year ended this machine was to add to his possessions four more Florida newspapers and another business in Timmins but since such acquisitions were henceforth to occur with a frequency that could read monotonously, they will not, as a rule, be dealt with in detail. Instead, relevant chapters will be headed with the names of new purchases in each succeeding year and the reader may judge from them the manner in which the Thomson Organisation sustained the momentum of its drive towards an empire. Returning to Toronto in April, to hand over his Presidency of Canadian Press to Robert Rankin, Thomson did so, confident that his one-time reputation as an owner of mere hinterland newspapers, whose total impact was negligible, had vanished. On that occasion, Gil Purcell had brought out to Mississauga Road the speech he had written for Thomson's last presidential "This sounds like I wrote it address. Thomson commented: myself" which was a reasonable compliment to a man of whose skill with words the redoubtable Victor Sifton himself had once declared: "I assure you, gentlemen, my presidential address will be as brief as Mr. Purcell has been able to make it." It was not only in the Canadian newspaper field that 1954 saw Thomson advance: in December, in partnership with Senator Davies, he acquired a television station at Kingston, and in the following March, they acquired another station at Peterborough. His awareness of television thus stimulated, he grew even more determined to win that Scottish charter to televise which no one else wanted and towards the acquisition of which, 208 alone, his

listening to the


T v. 3


Roy Thomson face


face with John Freeman

Roy Thomson

in the tube












J*K >) Roy Thomson and right

Roy Thomson,

his family : extreme left Mrs. Irma Brydson, extreme Mrs. Audrey Campbell, centre Ken Thomson

his daughter-in-law

Marilyn and

his son

Ken Thomson

Edinburgh Displeased apparently, only a handful were even prepared to lend their names. Returning to Edinburgh, he concentrated on his work during the day and the warmth of his home at night and did not miss the entertainment that was not offered to him. Let Gunther drive him home from work to the red stone house where he lived, and he was happy. He could open his front door, knowing that once Sir James Learmouth, surgeon to King George IV, had lived there, which gave it an aura of distinction and in front of him, in the hallway, was a painting by Morland. Morlands were good, he knew, because Kenneth had told him, ;

he had also told him that it was a good Morland and on the stairway wall was a Gainsborough, which was even better; and on the landing outside his bedroom, a Raeburn that was very good indeed. His sitting-room was comfortable crowded with magazines and huge overstuffed armchairs. His bedroom was large and bright. Honey cooked him wonderful meals. Gunther as




Whitey was devoted.

door, he forgot Edinburgh.




inside that front

28. Letters to the Nobility

Returning to Toronto for Christmas with his family, Thomson decided to buy his son a gift appropriate to his new status as head of the Thomson Company in Canada. He entered a quality

and asked how much an Atmus clock would cost. eighty dollars," he was told. "Take a hundred and fifty?" "No, sir." "O.K.," said Thomson, and walked out. He was pursued by an incredulous manager who eventually persuaded him to return which the manager must soon have regretted because by the time Thomson left the shop again he had obtained Kenneth's Atmus clock for one hundred and fifty dollars. "To heck with it," he confessed as the gift was opened on Christmas Day, "you gotta try."


"A hundred and


the rest of the family, including his four granddaughters,

he gave equally carefully chosen gifts, but characteristically made no attempt to have any dealings with Audrey's two youngest girls. He habitually ignored all children until they were old enough to be talked to and teased and then he habitually talked to and teased them as he had his own children in the early


Nineteen fifty-five was to be as busy a year as any Thomson had ever known. In Scotland his policy gradually transformed the Scotsman into a profitable paper; he met everyone to whom Sir

Edward Stevenson could

possibly introduce him; he hired a


upon his life was almost to equal that of Jack Kent Cooke); and through Lord Beaverbrook he renewed his acquaintance with Lord Kemsley. In Canada he arranged, with James Muir, endless credit for managing

director (whose subsequent impact


Letters to the Nobility

which included the purchase of three new Canadian newspapers, the rebuilding of the plants of two newspapers already owned by him and an unsuccessful bid of nine million dollars for the Toronto Globe and Mail. And in Australia, accompanied by Kenneth, he attended the x 955 Commonwealth Press Conference, attending as a United endless deals,



Chronology being, in narrative,


this case, indifferent to the

demands of

with Thomson's Canadian


easiest to deal first


them concerned the Toronto Globe and Mail, come on to the market, and for which many, baron Lord Rothermere and brewery tycoon




which had


including press

E. P. Taylor, were proposing to bid.

Obviously, in this battle, be important; so Thomson called on his lawyer, Bill Zimmerman, to plan a campaign. Only then did Zimmerman confess that he was in "a hell of a state" because Jack Kent Cooke also wanted to bid and had in fact, with Zimmerman, been planning his own coup against the Globe and Mail for months. "How can I act for both of you?" Zimmerman asked; and Thomson, answering that he could not, took his business elsewhere. Subsequently, and at the proper moment, a bid of nine tactics

were going


hundred and five thousand dollars for the Globe and Mail was entered on his behalf: but it was not enough, and he lost the newspaper which he later admitted was a blunder. Certainly his was a strange bid, because earlier he had told Clifford Sifton that he intended getting the Globe and Mail, and when Sifton had asked how much he was prepared to offer, had replied: "More than ten million dollars." Nor was that all. When Sifton had protested that this was an uneconomic price, Thomson had countered by pointing out that it was the Canadian paper most worth owning and the paper that commanded most respect and that these two factors outweighed mere economics. Sifton had been surprised to hear words like "respect" quoted by Thomson, in preference to "cash flow" or "profit," but he was convinced of Thomson's sincerity. He was also accustomed to million one


paying, for small newspapers, prices considerably higher than any other publisher was prepared to offer, and 211

Roy Thomson of Fleet therefore expected


the Globe and Mail

to outbid


everyone in the battle for

certainly to top ten million dollars, as he

had threatened. Yet Thomson stopped at nine million one hundred and five thousand dollars which is difficult to understand until it is appreciated that Jack Kent Cooke stopped short even of that! Thomson did not head the bidding for the Globe and Mail, and therefore did not win it but neither did Cooke, and Thomson outbid Cooke. That was what was most important. For the Sudbury Daily Star he paid one and a half million dollars and for the first time actually wrote a cheque for that amount. This gave him such undiluted pleasure, as did talking about it, that not even the ungallant rejoinder, "Sure, Roy, but one and a half million dollars aren't what they used to be," could subdue him. He still loved big figures, and always would. In April, his newspaper at Welland was re-housed and re-equipped. In May, his Port Arthur newspaper was similarly installed in a new building. In August he bought the Oakville Trafalgar Journal. And at this time, also, he had the pleasure (in reply to those who said his chain store methods destroyed the quality of the newspapers he bought) of seeing his Brampton Conservator named the best weekly in Canada. All of this, however, required financing and finance was something that Thomson still believed should come only from banks. His requests to the Royal Bank of Canada for credit, on a massive scale, were therefore endless, and being massive usually reached the desk of the president, James Muir himself. Muir was cautious and Thomson was convincing and their dialogue after each encounter had become a set piece. "That's the last, Jim," Thomson would promise. "Not another goddam cent, Roy," Muir would pronounce.

"No, Jim,

And no

that's the


Thomson would

sooner was the ink dry on


this the last credit


than he would telephone Muir and assert, "Say, Jim I got another deal on here this is something big!" For Thomson's final deal was never final and the battle for credit between himself and Muir never ended. He is remembered in the offices of the Royal Bank of Canada, both at Toronto and Montreal, as a man constantly working out figures with a

was ever

to solicit

stubby pencil on the back of an envelope, making 212

his decisions

Letters to the Mobility

on the evidence of figures, not bothering to visit and inhoped to buy. "You're greedy," Muir used to rebuke him: and when Thom-


spect the property he

son told

him how

great a proportion of the stock in

all his


own, he amended his judgment to: "You're not just greedy, Roy, you're very greedy." "Sure, I'm greedy," Thomson concurred. No one, he maintained, should ever have to do business through a board of directors (all those conflicting opinions were a waste of time) and this meant that an efficient businessman was obliged to buy up perties




the shares in his




As to his demands for credit, that was not greed, that was commonsense. Borrow the money at five per cent, buy with that, and in a year make a profit of at least ten per cent that was what men with common sense did. Asked what might happen to the man who did not make a ten per cent profit on money he borrowed at five per cent, Thomson's reply was simple. The bank had no right to lend anything to anyone so half-witted. Early in the year, in Scotland, Thomson had investigated the possibilities of another kind of contest, namely national politics. He had gone so far as to arrange that a safe Scottish seat could apparently be his for the asking, and had even seriously pon-

dered the advantages of asking (liking a


getting a baronetcy as,


lot the vision

of himself

years earlier, another Canadian,

he admitted to himself, and him as a prospective Tory candidate, that he would always be deserting Westminster, dashing back to the Scotsman "to mend the fences," so he abandoned the idea of entering the House of Commons and gradually, thereafter, the remote but alternative prospect of the House of Lords began to haunt him. Beaverbrook spurred this ambition by aiding and abetting Thomson in his continued efforts to buy one of Lord Kemsley's papers, even bringing them together over his own dinner table, and encouraging Thomson to discuss the possibility of buying Kemsley's chain of papers. Unfortunately Kemsley demanded sixty shillings each for shares currently quoted at twenty-seven shillings, so Thomson, regarding the demand as absurd, abanAitken,

to those

had done)



who were prepared


to sponsor

doned the



Roy Thomson of Fleet



relieve the ensuing tensions,

Beaverbrook told the story once after a visit to the Western Front, with the notoriously abstemious Lady Astor a clash on behalf cf his comrade in arms, the notoriously non-abstemious F. E. Smith, and at the expense of Lady Astor's husband, Waldorf, who, as an M.P., notoriously did not go to World War I. During a dinner given by the actress Dorothy Ward, Lady Astor, Beaverbrook related, had announced loudly that F. E. Smith was no good, always drunk and a disgrace both to the army and to Britain. She had announced it in Beaverbrook's hearing. "You're quite right," Beaverbrook had agreed. "I was with him in France and we were a roistering disgraceful pair. The other day, for example, when we were up at the front, we were both so drunk we thought we saw Waldorf Astor!" From that night onwards, Beaverbrook explained, the feud between himself and this branch of the Astors, between his newspapers and their Observer, had been unrelenting. Thomson was fascinated. As, equally, a little later, he was fascinated to hear two ennobled gentlemen carefully and loudly articulating a four letter word which drunken lumbermen in Canada would have choked over rather than utter it in such a distinguished setting. The peerage, Thomson was beginning to realise, was decidedly human: and if all that one needed to attain this rank of his




was to be human and own newspapers, then he, Roy Thomson, was due for an earldom any day. Remaining for the moment a mere commoner, he left himself in the hands of Sir Edward Stevenson, continued to meet everybody who was anybody and to write letters inviting them to join


in his application for the franchise to operate Scotland's

independent television station. To all the dukes and all the lords, to the heads of clans and the Lord Provost, to financiers, clergymen, titled wives and widows, to the Scottish Labour Party and to anybody whose name in Scotland carried any weight at all, he wrote. In his letters he explained that already he had the support of James Whitton, Sir Compton Mackenzie and Sir Edward Stevenson: but everyone knew that Whitton was on his own board, that he himself proposed financing Teddy Stevenson's application for shares, and first


"Monty" Mackenzie was not


greatly involved.

after the other, therefore, the great


names wrote back,

Letters to the Mobility

pleading other commitments, a dislike of television, a dislike even pleading, in fact, of owning a television set, a shortage of time anything but a horror of the sort of losses already incurred by ;


television in

illustrious family

England, or a reluctance to link their

names with that of Roy Thomson, the barber's

son from Toronto. In the event, apart from show business personalities, who are notoriously feckless anyway, and his own employees and nominees,


received Scottish support only from Lord

Compton Mackenzie, Lady Mathers, Ian Stewart, Charles McQueen, and through him, the firm of Howard & Wyndham, and small contributions from perhaps Balfour of Inchrye, Sir

a dozen other commoners; so that, in the end, of the £400,000 deemed necessary to build, open and sustain Scotland's



Thomson was

commit himself to provide no less than £320,000 from his own pocket. As he did so, however, he realised that if almost all the risk was to be his so television station,

obliged to

be most of the profits. This worried nobody. Everythere would be no profits. Everybody, that is, except Thomson, who plodded persistently on, bandying round the names of "Teddy" Stevenson and his few titled supporters with blithe confidence in his own and comalso should

body knew

mercial television's ultimate success.

Having been most generously entertained by Sir Edward and home, Seaton House (built by Adam on the site of the house to which Mary Queen of Scots had ridden with Bothwell the day Darnley was murdered), he decided to invite them to Canada as his guests when Irma married again in April. In Canada, he took them everywhere, from Timmins in the north to Niagara Falls on the border, showing them his Timmins Daily Press building with the glee of a child and entertaining them to dinner during a cloud burst at Niagara explaining, as he did so, that, in spite of the plushness of their surroundings, he was still careful with money. "I don't like spending money," he told them, "I've been his wife at their

hungry." His chauffeur, Gunther, also noticed how little he enjoyed spending money. "When I first came to look after Mr. Thomson," Gunther reported, "I think he is not a very rich man. Not enough shirts, not enough underpants, and only one pair of pyjamas. No, 215

Roy Thomson of Fleet Street I

do not think he can be a very rich man. But when

I find



buy him these things myself." Only at auctions or antique shops would Thomson spend joyously and then always to buy antique silver (the antiquity of much of which the Stevensons distrusted) and jewellery (which, rich, I

next day, he always tried out on his secretary). "Isn't that something, Miss Gladstone-Miller?" he would say, with curious formality though later he asked could he call her simply Miss Miller and she would look at the incongruous collection of rings on all her fingers and agree that indeed they

were something. Then they would put the jewellery away and he would dictate letters with an unpretentious lucidity that never ceased to astound her.



A New

Thomson purchases Canada; The Sudbury

Managing Director



Daily Journal Record,




Undoubtedly the most important event for Thomson in 1955, rather than his purchase of more newspapers, or his failure to purchase the Globe and Mail, or his dealings with James Muir, or with the people of Edinburgh, was his employment of James Coltart.



was who,


a Beaverbrook man, had been his

Glasgow in Thomson, in

table host at the press conference in their paths

had not crossed


1949, since


had begun

1953, loudly to proclaim the improvements about to be seen in his

Edinburgh Evening


Edinburgh's Evening Dispatch had always provided strong opposition to Glasgow's Evening Mews the Beaverbrook paper managed by Coltart an improved Dispatch would be Since

dangerous and Beaverbrook therefore had ordered Coltart to use every weapon in the considerable Beaverbrook armoury to crush the revitalised Edinburgh paper as soon as it appeared. But when Coltart actually saw the new version of the Dispatch he relaxed. "Call off the boys," he instructed and, deciding that magnanimity behove an employee of Beaverbrook better than glee, telephoned Thomson in Edinburgh to exchange pleasantries. Thomson said, "Let's have dinner." They met at the North British Hotel where the Canadian, as host, having hastened to point out that the table d'hote at nine shillings and sixpence was just as good as anything a la carte, asked: "How'm I doing?"


the Dispatch?" Coltart inquired;


and when Thomson

Roy Thomson of Fleet


nodded, told him of the Beaverbrook campaign that had been both planned and abandoned. "What about you coming to join my newspaper?" Thomson asked. Coltart replied that he was perfectly happy with Beaverbrook, but Thomson was not to be so easily deterred. He had had good reports of this man Coltart, McCabe having visited him in Glasgow falling down the long flight of snow-covered steps at Waverley Station en route—and found his knowledge of newspaper administration and economics impressive. "Roy," McCabe had said, on his return to Edinburgh, knowing that someone would soon have to replace Barford, "There's your man." At the end of their table d'hote meal, Thomson walked Coltart across the bridge from the hotel to his office, and there, with McCabe, showed him balance sheets and bank statements, and preached to him the desirability of his joining the Scotsman. Finally Thomson asked bluntly, "How'd you like to be

general manager of this business?" Coltart



was astounded


the offer

— an

accolade for any

not so astounded that he was unable to haggle. He title of General Manager, but wanted

did not like the Canadian

title of Managing Director; and above all he wanted be clear about the policy he was to enforce— that it would not

the British to

be just to make money



"What do you mean?" Thomson asked and Coltart, explaining how the Scotsman had deteriorated from a great national paper into a lesser nationalist paper, said he wanted to its former glory. "That's what





ten million bucks to help you do


this point, all his


to restore



I've got


demands met,




to decide

whether or not to leave Beaverbrook: and at this point what swayed him most was not the money Thomson offered, nor the prestige afforded by the Scotsman, but the fact that his dying wife's greatest ambition was to live in Edinburgh. So he returned to Glasgow and told her of Thomson's offer, and carried her from the bed, in which she had lain for six months, down to his Jaguar, put her on the back seat well-cushioned and wrapped in blankets and drove to Edinburgh just to look at the Scotsman offices. For years he had not known her so happy or excited as she was then, as she begged him to accept Thomson's 218

A New Managing Director

and in the face of her excitement even though he realised by the time he was actually installed she would either be too ill to move, or dead he knew that he had to agree. He stayed three months more with the Beaverbrook office in Glasgow and then, a farewell cheque in his pocket, assumed the post of Managing Director of the Scotsman, under the chairmanship of Thomson. His wife died in February of 1955, of cancer, without seeing Edinburgh again; but long after her death she was to exert an influence on both Coltart and Thomson. On Coltart, by the impact of her death upon his religious susceptibilities: on Thomson, too long alone in his business adventures, by precipitating the bereaved Coltart into that void caused by his break with Jack Kent Cooke. Probably bereavement itself was the initial link between them, for Coltart' s wife, like Thomson's, had died of cancer; and Thomson had not only a great horror of cancer, but a great sympathy (such as little else evoked in him) for cancer sufferers, among whom he included those bereft by it. But bereavement by cancer was not the only link between them Coltart was the sort offer;



man Roy Thomson liked. He was genial, as Thomson was but confident and aggressive too though he judged himself warm and friendly. He was of


frank as

Thomson had

offered a prize job, he

discovered at their last meeting when,


hesitated so long that

Thomson had


so reluctant?" and Coltart had replied: "Because you are to Roy Thomson, the nearer you are to the door or that's what they say." "Infamous!" Thomson had protested a new word he must have acquired from his own rather literate editorial columns. "Not at all," Coltart had told him coolly. "You sacked fortyone people from the Scotsman in your first week." Temperamentally much the same, they were endowed with an


the nearer

equal aptitude for figures, Coltart having acquired this at school, where each day thirty minutes of mental arithmetic was followed

by ten minutes on the Bible (of which proportions sociologists may make what they like) and where, during the thirty-minute session, his teacher had been in the habit of saying, "Now, Coltart, we don't want any reply from you give the others a chance." Both the Scot and the Canadian liked to work out complicated percentages, depreciations, profits and losses in their head. :


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Sharing this aptitude, they quickly arrived at a state of mutual mathematical self esteem than which nothing draws two men

more swiftly together. Nor did they lack other points of contact. Each man sought prestige and both expected to find it in the Scotsman, to join which Coltart even accepted a slight drop in salary.

Each man liked power but disliked pomp so that both loathed the three portraits of past directors in the Scotsman's hallway, and the sacredness of its rather ridiculous marble staircase,


the atavistic aura of "class" that permeated the entire


Each was


To which

latter condition,

however, they reacted differently, ever, relaxing only in the company of his dog and his servants Coltart more than ever seeking the solace and exaltation of that active crusade to root out all evil everywhere which is known as Moral Rearmament.

Thomson working harder than


Of this, in 1955, Thomson was tolerant so long as his managing director left his rooting out practices at home. He himself was too uncertain about religion to leave himself nakedly uninsured as an agnostic, and too aware of religion's lack of profit to be able to embrace it; but Coltart could be a believer in Moral Rearmament, Christian Science or anything else he chose, so long as he remained a shrewd, aggressive, hard-working




at all times, he did initial


Which was exactly what, he had re-married and his


that, after

and tendency to proselytise had vanished, come to regard him as his closest colleague and


Thomson was


friend in Britain.

The second half of 1955 was marked first by Thomson's purchase of the Sudbury Star and last by his departure (as a United Kingdom delegate, to the surprise of many) for Australia, accompanied by Kenneth, to attend the Commonwealth Press Conference. There, at a discussion on television's future in relation to the Press, he listened with growing impatience to those who found television a harmless irrelevancy. Finally he rose, at the back of the hall, and, declaring that he


like to speak,

ambled up

to the rostrum.

"Mr. Chairman," he

said, "for the last


hour or so I've had

A New



and then the feeling I've been with Alice in Wonderland" warned urgently that the Press must neither ignore nor fight television, but embrace it. In fact, "get a piece of it." He went further. He publicly declared his own intention of bidding for the charter for an independent Scottish television station, and he publicly advised his United Kingdom colleagues to bid against him, because, "it's going to be a money-maker." Promising which, he sat down. .



of the conference, United Kingdom delegates Thomson with any Canadians they happened to meet. What did they know about him ? Was he off his head ? Why was he so obsessed with commercial television when it was losing a fortune in England ? And what made him think he

For the


constantly discussed

would get the Scottish charter anyway, when, as a Canadian, it was quite obvious that he would not ? But it was not only the United Kingdom delegates who were puzzled. Each night groups of delegates were assigned to an Australian host, and each morning the Australian concerned would ask: "Hey, is your bloke Thomson always like this?" "Like what?" the dialogue ran. "Well, last night he asked me if I wanted to sell my paper." Soon the dialogue changed. The moment an Australian said to a Canadian: "Hey, is your bloke Thomson. ." the Canadian would interrupt, asking, "Bet he tried to buy your paper," and the Australian, much perplexed, would reply: "Yes how'd you .

know?" In



Thomson made

his routine queries


out of habit, or a desire to "kid", than with the intention of buying, because it was his belief that "Australia is no place to go into the field. They're rough and nasty customers. Carry guns and things, y'know" and added, having read certain of the country's Sunday newspapers, "Their main occupation is rape!" The conference was an arduous one, Australians being not only rough and nasty characters given to rape but also energetic hosts who like their guests to see their country. Unfortunately the country is vast, Thomson was myopic, and Kenneth was in love. Thomson did not want to travel by bus all over the Snowy Mountain Scheme and Kenneth wanted only to wait at the nearest hotel mail desk for letters from Canada. Dear Teddie [Thomson wrote to Sir Edward Stevenson, from




Roy Thomson of Fleet Menzies Hotel


to you oftener


I am

Melbourne] but this

I have

a very strenuous


us a minute off and everyone



is terribly tired.

not been able to

They never give

trip. .


The Independent



Television Authority seem to be very pleased with

which I sent from London before I

3 persons



I understand you and Coltart and Whitton I told Whitton to pay my income tax before

our group and

are working on them



They suggest we add 2 or

left in case




one of the Authority's checks {on




I am on the British Income Tax list or not. Is there anything else I should do to cover any other checks they might make? Ifeel something will develop as long as there is no complication about be whether





Scottish residence.


you understand



in connection with the



down if they question my Scottish residence and rate me a Canadian. Ifyou should be talking to anyone concerned, perhaps you could mention the fact that I am a British delegate to the Commonwealth Press Conference and not Canadian. Kind regards to yourself and Ella. application.

They might turn



Roy p.s.

When might I



expect to hear from


Will it complicate things if I am not in Scotland then? I would come back if necessary any time. letter reveals some of the subtlety Thomson had acquired

since his

North Bay days

— the

Press Conference as a United



cunning of attending a and the shrewd


anticipation of possible pitfalls in his application to the Television


almost as




also reveals that Australia

must have been


his love-sick son.

of a torment to

Both had so much, so Eventually,




away, either to

and they hoped

was to win or


to lose.

they slipped


from the rigours of being entertained, Kenneth back to Toronto and his ravishing Marilyn Lavis, whom he married as quickly as possible, and Thomson back to his red stone house on Edinburgh's Braid Avenue, to continue the apparently endless and fruitless quest for names in support of his television application. In pursuit of these, he had begun to entertain, with dinner but for all parties which Gunther and Honey handled superbly his geniality and the excellence of his table, his guests never really He felt that they had penetrated into the heart of his home. :


A New



but he was not making might even show his male guests the paintings of two large female nudes that he had in his bedroom paintings by the Austrian Pal, which Kenneth had given him but still he was making no one at home. The house only became home to him when it was empty and he could sit in his slippers and dressing-gown in front of a peat fire, the radiogram and the television set functioning simultaneously, and either a thriller or a wad of balance sheets on his lap. He liked using his home for entertaining no more in Edinburgh than had his wife at Mississauga Road. Back in his office it was as if he had never been to Australia. He sent his secretary to collect auction catalogues, so that he could decide how much and for what he would bid. He wasted many minutes of his valuable time paring down cables to Canada, so that a shilling was saved here and two shillings there. He expressed constant surprise to his secretary, that Scots could be so stubbornly foolish as each new letter refusing to join him in his television enterprise landed on his desk. And time after time, he

might show them




his trays of old rings,

—not at




— —

dictated the


letter in reply:

Dear ., / have your favour of the instant. I quite understand why you are unable to take part in our new television venture here, although I am sure we will have your best wishes. I feel we can do a great .


service to the country



and I am proceeding with

the venture on that




R. H. Thomson

Elsewhere he was not so amiable. He countermanded an agreement Coltart had made with their rival, the Evening News, that the Dispatch would put its price up to twopence halfpenny when the News did. Determined to embarrass the News, he kept the Dispatch at twopence and kept its advertising rates low too. "One day they'll either have to merge with us or sell to us," he vowed. "There's still not room for two evening papers in a

city of only half a million people."

And until

they merged or sold,

he was prepared to lose money heavily to cut into the profits of the News. He was fighting a war of attrition, but one in which he never doubted that the victory would be his; and eight years later, he proved himself right. 223

Roy Thomson of Fleet Meanwhile,


began to grow, so and young housewives were beginning to read

as the Scotsman's circulation

that even students

Thomson and Goltart planned radical changes a new editor, a new front page, new articles. Simultaneously they redoubled their efforts to secure from the Authority in London the charter to set up and run Independent Television in Scotland, so that, with the year's end, it,

Edinburgh saw the last of Thomson in his "prestige-rather-thanmood. From 1956 onwards he was to be hell bent on both and was to acquire both to a degree that not even he had dared to anticipate.






Thomson purchases The Daily





The Pembroke Observer, Canada; 1 956 Kelowna, Canada; Penticton Herald, Canada. 1

managerial responsibilities was to find a replacement for the implacable Murray Watson, whose illness of Coltart's

had forced him resolving


to retire as editor at the


between him and





of personalities

end of July, 1955, thus had always existed




Thomson had



view, favour-

ing a brilliant Manchester Guardian candidate, whilst


wanted and proposed Alastair Dunnett, who worked on a Kempaper in Glasgow.





Thomson approved, but pointed out


Dunnett had been approached once already, and had refused. Nevertheless Coltart met Dunnett and offered him the editorship of the Scotsman', and Dunnett, dark-haired with brown

and the wild look of a man who is both Scot and poet, reminded him that he had already refused the post. "I know," said Coltart and then told Dunnett how Margaret, his late wife, had often recalled the way Dunnett had confessed to her that all he could do to help his shy but artistic wife was to keep her company in the country whilst she painted. Since that confession, Mrs. Dunnett had become a distinguished artist and a well-known author; and Margaret Coltart, just before she died, had said to her husband: "You know, I always picture you and Alastair working together." So Dunnett joined the Scotsman, and under his editorship, which began in January of 1956, the paper prospered increaseyes

ingly year after year. c.t.f.s.



Roy Thomson of Fleet


The post of editor filled, the problem that most preoccupied both Thomson and Coltart was how to ensure that they acquired Scotland's television charter.

In response to a questionnaire

by the Authority, Thomson listed his twenty-five years' experience of radio and his acquaintance with television as represented by his shared ownership of stations at Kings f on and Peterborough. In addition, he gave details of his intended programming policy, and of the finances with which he was prepared to support the station until it would begin to sent to all applicants

make a


This latter guarantee, in view of the staggering five million losses incurred in the past year by commercial television


was very necessary: and Thomson made much of it would be provided

interests in the south, it

in the confident expectation that


his backers.


early 1956, however, beginning to realise

much backing, and that almost the was going to devolve upon himself, he was reconsidering the project from every possible angle except that of abandoning it. Ignoring the early and disastrous results of commercial television in England, he told himself that what was profitable in America must become profitable in Scotland, and accordingly renewed his efforts to involve others in the initial costs and losses of such an enterprise. Sir Alex King rebuffed him, saying: "It will be a failure, and I will not be associated with a failure." Brendan Bracken, who had earlier advised him, "Roy, the Scotsman must have monumental dignity," now begged him to and when have nothing to do with television in Scotland; Thomson told him that he had even offered shares in his proposed company to the Scottish Co-operative Movement, Bracken expressed himself horrified both economically and politically. The Canadian suggested to Hugh Fraser that he invest £20,000 and he refused, largely because of Brendan Bracken's advice, which Fraser accepted as confidently as Thomson had that he

was not going

to get

entire risk of the operation



Thomson sent Coltart to Glasgow to enlist the George Outram & Co., proprietors of the Glasgow spite of Coltart's

any investment up

persuasiveness, to

support of Herald.


and Thomson's guarantee of

£1000, they refused.

Seizing the opportunity of a dinner party which Beaver-


A brook had arranged host to join



to Televise

for himself

and Irma, Thomson asked


in Scottish television.

"No, Roy," Beaverbrook said, "I'm a newspaperman and I'm not interested and nor should you be." "Well, I am," Thomson told him, "and I'm going to get it if I can," and for once was suspicious of Beaver brook's reasoning. The Express was daily proclaiming that commercial television lost £5,000 every twenty-four hours, and it was this, rather than ethics, Thomson considered, that deterred the Beaver from participating. This and the fact that Beaverbrook used all his papers for personal propaganda which would be impossible with any television company whose franchise stemmed from the Independent Television Authority. Turning to those closest to him, Thomson tested Coltarfs confidence in the future of commercial television in Scotland. "Jim," he said, "take it from me, you've got a big stake in



I haven't,"

Coltart contradicted, "because I haven't

got the money." "I'll lend it to you; I'll lend you £30,000," Thomson urged: but Coltart, knowing that he could never repay £30,000 if things went badly, refused and invested only £1,000 of his own.






—an invitation Whitton preferred come in," and

to take shares in the to refuse.

But Thomson

him into putting his name down for a modest allocation. Sir Edward Stevenson's £6,000 contribution, on the other hand, was in fact made by Thomson to be repaid only if the company flourished.

shouted: "Well, you got to


Almost no one, in short, shared Thomson's confidence in the viability of commercial television sufficiently to put up money in support of it, and it continued to look as if most of the estimated £400,000 necessary to launch such a project would have to come from Thomson himself, which was not a very heart-warming

to his own benefactions in Scotland twenty-five thousand pounds to the University of Edinburgh; £5000 each year to the Edinburgh Festival; an annual bound volume of the year's best photographs of Royalty in Edinburgh presented to the Lord Provost; prompt support for such schemes as the construction in Edinburgh of a Grace and Favour Apartment; the restoration of Adam Smith's old house on the Royal Mile. 227


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Lord Clyde, a distinguished President of the Scottish Courts, had come to him to beg a contribution to a fund for the erection of a statue to Bruce of Bannockburn.

Clyde did not enjoy


was not precise. After some minutes of his fumblings, Thomson had interrupted: "Look, I haven't got all day. How much do you want?" "Er three thousand?" Clyde had suggested tentatively. "You should've asked for more," Thomson had told him. "If you'd asked for five I'd have given it to you," and had the cheque drawn up. All of these had been donations made in the pursuit not of charity but of good will. Yet now that he needed good will, Edinburgh offered him only excuses and refusals. To a genuine philanthropist it would have been most disheartening: to Thomson it was merely one more proof of the lack of vision and flexibility of the Scots, and a clear indication that Fate meant Scottish Television to be mainly his and Canada's. So he wrote to All Canada Radio, his Toronto colleagues of the early Jack Kent Cooke days, and offered them a piece of this tempting dish which they refused. He made a similar offer to Clifford Sifton who, having read with horror the terms and conditions likely to be imposed on any successful applicant for a charter by the Television Authority, also refused, writing, "Roy, we've got problems enough here. God bless you, but under these circumstances I wouldn't care to task


for once,

be involved." But he was not to be deterred. Already, acting on Whitton's advice, he had met a stockbroker, Charles McQueen, who had introduced him to the owners of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. Already he had been in touch with a top executive of American television, Rai Purdy, and agreed that, if a station was to be created, Purdy should become its director of programmes. Already he had sent Coltart on a whirlwind tour of Canadian

and American television studios, to examine their techniques and budgets and bring home ideas that would prevent, in Scotland, the disastrous financial losses that had befallen England. Already he had prepared estimates of the advertising rates his station would charge; of the spending power per capita of Scotland compared with England; of the cost of G.P.O. land lines, canned American programmes, and of English programmes "beamed" north from Manchester. 228


Charter to Televise

Already he was assessing the advertising allocation that Scotland might grant to its own Scottish, rather than English, TV or the National Press.

As each detail was settled, so he made it known to the AuthoLondon. Occasionally the Authority objected mainly over who should be allowed to hold shares and at once Thomson met their objection, even though this denied him most of what little capital had already been offered. Thus Val Parnell, Prince Littler and Lew Grade because of their shareholdings in English commercial television were declared ineligible for holdings in Scottish Television, and Thomson had to write telling them so, thereby denying himself access to the thousands of pounds each was willing to contribute. Between January and May of 1956, Thomson's absorption in Endlessly he television was complete and the tensions great. "figured" in his Scotsman office, his back to the window, Coltart sitting across the desk from him, watching that rightwards twitch of the jaw and (a new idiosyncrasy) the way he licked his lips. It was not an ordinary upwards licking of the lips but rather the tongue came out, licked first the top lip and then, curving downward, passed over the bottom lip and back into the mouth. Like a lizard. And repeated two or three times. Or, in moments of extreme tension, four or five times every few minutes. Not just like a lizard, like a lizard staring hard at a fly then flicking out its tongue to devour it. It was a strange habit, of which Thomson was oblivious. On 19th April, the Authority wrote, warning that there was still one other applicant in the field and asking, somewhat grimly, for an assurance that those "many other obligations" in the contract, apart from the financial ones, "which the Authority and the contractor accept" were appreciated. It was these many other obligations which had so horrified Clifford Sifton in Toronto; but Thomson accepted them all. Later to give an indication of the detailed work involved in an application that could still fail the Authority advised Thomson that the annual rental he would have to pay it, for the right to televise, would be based on a radiated power of 100 kw (covering a population of rather less than 3.7 million) and on adjustments to the rental as and when operational cover, and an effective rate per million, were established. rity in

— —


Roy Thomson of Fleet


All of this purely in the hypothetical event of a successful application.


as complicated, at this time,

was a



Thomson had organised for General Alfred Gruenther, Supreme NATO Commander in Europe. Thomson, who had visited


Headquarters at the end of 1954 as head of an economic delegation, had secured the General's presence in Edinburgh simply by asking him; but then officialdom found out what was afoot and a glittering but private dinner became, by official request, almost a State occasion.

had to be lengthened to include all those whom Supreme Commander should meet on a public an allied country, and everyone from Lord John Hope,




protocol says a visit to

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign John Banks, the Lord Provost, had to be invited. But eventually Gruenther arrived at Turnhouse Airport, was met by Thomson, whirled round Edinburgh by Officialdom, much photographed by the Press and then installed at one of the most brilliant dinners Scotland had ever known. It was an occasion that did neither the Scotsman nor Thomson


Affairs, to Sir

any harm

and one which relieved some of the tension of waiting hear the Television Authority's verdict on his application. But finally, on 24th May, came the letter for which Thomson had been hoping ever since he had written to Sir Edward Stevenson from Menzies Hotel in Melbourne. It advised him to

that on the following Wednesday a press conference would be held in the North British Hotel to announce that he had been awarded the Authority's contract to set up a Scottish Television

Company, and urged him to mention the fact of his successful nobody in the meantime an exhortation he found

application to it


difficult to



following Wednesday, the Press were issued with a hand-

out which stated that the Authority's contract had been awarded to Scottish Television Limited, a new company whose chairman

would be Mr. Roy Thomson. It went on to give details of the transmitting station and in return for Mr. Thomson s aerials which the Authority were making available to the new company, this transrental mitting station to be ready for service in August, 1957, which

gave Thomson the one date he needed. 230

By August

of 1957 his

A company—which

Charter to Televise

at the

moment had no





announcers, no producers, no technicians, no musicians and no programmes must be prepared to go on the air and stay


Licking his


about ensuring that

both physically and metaphorically, he it




ji. Inauguration of an Empire

was not unfamiliar. He had opened his Bay and Timmins in circumstances just as barren of everything but ideas and at least now he was not, as then he had been, penniless (which was as well, since he was liable for contributions of up to £320,000 as and when his board might decree). The first thing to do, of course, was to settle the matter of studio space. In North Bay it had been the Capitol Theatre; in Timmins it had been Bartleman's old office on Spruce Street; in Scotland it must be the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. In a


the situation

radio stations at North




Howard and Wyndham,

who acted for Thomson found that their


the vendors,

bottom price was £1 10,000 whilst his top offer was £100,000. He took out a penny and said to the scandalised Cruickshank, "We're good friends, Stewart, let's toss for it." Cruickshank at once settled for £105,000 and, as Coltart and Thomson left for Edinburgh, the Canadian showed the Scot his penny and said: "See, Jim that's worth £5000." Howard and Wyndham agreed that, after the last of their

contracted performances, the theatre should be



and for conversion into studios and offices. The curtain would come down on their last show in mid-February. Between then and August 31st everything necessary to equip, staff, finance and programme a television station must be done. On a visit to the Royal, Thomson met two Scottish comedians, Jack Radcliffe and Jimmy Logan. Typically he urged them to take stock in his new company, saying, "If you've got any money, you fellers, you should come in on this, it's going to be really something" and they, showing far more sense than any of their for Scottish Television auditions



Inauguration of an Empire


illustrious compatriots,

except Lord Balfour, agreed to do

sum of £1,000. Meantime, Thomson had been doing one

so at once, each to the

of the jobs at which to an idea a bank. In this case it was the he excelled National Commercial Bank of Scotland and the idea was that they should lend most of the money needed to float Scottish Television's £400,000 company. Surprisingly only to Thomson himself, the bank lent £240,000, which meant that each subscriber for stock in the £400,000 company was called upon only to pay two fifths of his stipulated share of the total remaining stock (which was to be made up of £40,000 in ordinary shares, and £120,000 in debentures). As usual it was Thomson's policy that, at the earliest possible moment, the bank would be repaid and the debentures redeemed, which then would leave in the company only forty thousand ordinary £1 shares (of which he himself would own thirty-two thousand) to which would accrue all, if any, of the


profits of his venture.

That nobody except Thomson really expected there to be any is made clear by the manner in which both Scotland and Canada avoided any participation in the project: but what is


most sobering about the entire, long-planned, much derided, frankly expounded scheme is that those forty thousand ordinary £1 shares within two years became so valuable that they made possible the purchase of Lord Kemsley's entire chain of British newspapers, in consequence of which the Thomson empire in Britain alone, at the beginning of 1964, was worth £48,000,000, and Thomson himself was elevated to the House of Lords. Among those hundreds who were offered the chance to participate in this gold mine and who refused were Lord Bilsland, Lord Rosebery, Sir Ivor Colquhoun, George Outram and Company, Hector McNeil, M.P., the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Co-operative movement, Sir Hugh Fraser, Sir A. B. King, Lord Elgin, the Duke of Hamilton, the Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Sir Harold Yarrow, Admiral Dalrymple Hamilton, Sir Will. Y. Darling, the Earl of Crawford, the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Sir Robert Maclean, Lord Weir, Brendan Bracken, and Lord Beaverbrook. Two music hall artists showed more financial courage and prescience than all of this glittering galaxy of cautious authority put together which is a charming but


Roy Thomson of Fleet disconcerting

commentary on





only Lord Balfour, John Profumo, and prepared to subscribe and lend their names. elite

of Scotland's

Lady Mathers were

In the middle of 1957, however, all of this rich bounty lay well hidden behind the mass of work that would be necessary


before so



yet even in the middle of

from being



as a single advertisement could flicker

single Scottish screen

all this

of the consequences of his


present charter, was so confident of success that he for another, in Wales.

And was

to a work,

had applied when, in

bitterly disappointed

October, the secretary of the Authority wrote: "The Authority has now carefully considered the policy it should adopt in the light of all the applications it has received, and has decided that should aim at appointing a completely


new and independent

for Wales. I am it be considering your company's application any fur-


sorry to have to say, therefore, that

will not



Thus divested of any


Thomson concentrated on

He instructed Rai Purdy to fly own radio and television executive,

New York


over from


Davidson, to




Toronto. Purdy was met at the airport by Gunther in the Daimler whose regal British proportions failed to enchant the North

American, particularly when, in a typical British downpour, he found that the roof leaked. He arrived at Thomson's house drenched and was greeted by Thomson himself who, escorting him up the winding staircase, pointed successively to his three oil paintings very



"That's nice




That's expensive






by Purdy what he wanted out of his latest venture, "Fun and a title," and gave every indicaThomson to and from Glasgow, of having found tion, as he drove endlessly Asked









In Edinburgh he met again George Morrison, who in Canada had been one of his outside auditing accountants and who now was studying theology. He at once embarked on a theological discussion in the course of which he remarked: "Of one thing I







of Judgment."

Morrison asked was he afraid of the prospect. "George," Thomson replied, "when that day comes, I'll talk my way through. I've never been in a spot yet where I couldn't."


Inauguration of an Empire


discussed the


Scottish Television

company and

Morrison commented that Thomson was like a small boy playing Monopoly charming, but ruthlessly determined to sweep the board from Old Kent Road to Mayfair. Thomson was not


By now,

always once he was embarked on a project, he


gave the appearance of utter confidence, a Scottish



others that he did, after


that his

by reminding themselves and

own two

—about which explanation




television stations in






that he only shared two television stations with Senator

Rupert Davies, and knew nothing about either of them, remained silent.

As the conversion of the Theatre Royal proceeded, a suite of rooms was created out of the dress circle bar, and into this Coltart moved, now appointed Managing Director of Scottish Television as well as of the Scotsman,

He returned there each night,


and found himself watching

after his day's

in Edinburgh,

the slow birth of a studio.

Then began the recruiting of staff almost all of whom, of had had no prior experience of television. Press photographers became cameramen, radio mechanics became technicians, a theatrical stage manager became a producer, repertory actors became announcers and occasionally Thomson even course,

suspected that innocent bystanders must be being shanghaied off the streets to


his studios.

up studios and run them along North American lines were quickly foiled by a combination of Trade Union pressures and BBC precedents, and the result, in his opinion, was wanton waste. Furiously he pointed out that by the time he got on the air he would have a staff of four hundred and fifty for an operation smaller than that of WTTG in Washington, whose staff was only eighty-five. "Goddam unions," he raged. "They want three of everyand urgently reconsidered his budgeting. thing" His plans to


Fortunately, the unions being adamant, business flowed in, in advance of the opening date, to a degree that not even he

dared anticipate.

had As conversions and technical recruiting con-

tinued, auditions for television talent began,

the darkness of

what had been a 235



sitting in

theatre, listening to

Roy Thomson of Fleet


and an endless outpourOutside was the bleakness of Glasgow in February, but within was live theatre and music hall, and he revelled in it. Slowly, greatly helped by experts from Associated Television, a repertoire of programmes and the technical skills with which to transmit them were built up, ready

torrents of fiercely declaimed Macbeth

ing of the songs of Harry Lauder.

opening date, 31st August, 1957. in Edinburgh, all went well. Dunnett, as editor, was everything that Coltart had said he would be, combining that passion for journalism which had forced him to quit banking in the 30s, with the readiness to take risks that he had shown when, as a young man, he had travelled by canoe all the way from Glasgow to the Western Isles and he and Thomson were about to take a calculated but pronounced risk with the Scotsman, They were going to change its traditionally newsless page one. Thomson hired London's Festival Hall, invited to it every well-known Scot in the metropolis, and then told them: "It is not fitting that the Scotsman, which carries the voice and the thought of Scotland to the far reaches of the world, should introduce itself with advertisements, which are, after all, of only Thus he fired his first shot, patiently withheld local interest." for over three years, in his battle to improve the allegedly

for the



immutable perfection of the Scotsman. If Brendan Bracken had said that what the Scotsman needed was monumental dignity, Thomson, on these occasions, knew how to dispense it; and he later repeated his Festival Hall performance, for the benefit this time of Scottish M.P.s, at the Savoy Grill. And then, on 16th April, in the Edinburgh offices of the Scotsman itself, he gave a buffet supper, attended by Edinburgh's most distinguished citizenry, at which, as the first transformed edition came off the presses, he presented a copy to each guest. On page one, his guests observed, were not the traditional advertisements, but news stories. They said little that was not polite but the next day a succession of infuriated readers telephoned to complain: "I've cancelled my subscription you've changed the Scotsman?' In June, he learnt that he had become a grandfather for the sixth time, and that at last he had a grandson, born to Kenneth and Marilyn. Buzzing for his secretary, he dictated a letter of congratulation which would follow his cable. ;


Inauguration of an Empire

Even on an occasion like this, he could not bring himself to write a letter by hand. No matter how personal the occasion, Thomson dictated, his daughters in Canada sometimes receiving chatty

epistles, beautifully

typed, absentmindedly signed


H. Thomson." But at least he expected nothing very intimate in reply, the most eagerly awaited correspondence from Canada undoubtedly being the monthly dispatch of his Toronto head office balance sheets. Then his nights at home were doubly enjoyable as he sat in his braces and shirt sleeves, a long playing record of South Pacific providing an unlikely accompaniment, devouring the details they contained.

Canadian journalists came occasionally to interview him in and sent back across the Atlantic erroneous reports that his Scots staff invariably referred to him as "Uncle Roy" or In fact on the rare occasions when they "Mister Magoo." his exile,

him anything but Mister Thomson his Scots staff had dubbed him either "the giant panda," affectionately, or, sarcastically, for his ambitions were not unknown, "Viscount North Bridge"; but neither was an office commonRather, Thomson's staff had grown to accept him, place. accustomed to his passion for work and no longer perplexed by his condescended to


open office door which begun to veer towards that isolationism more proper for chairmen in Britain. Not that Thomson had lately become less informal or democratic, it was just that nowadays he was too busy to notice whether his door was open or not so his advisers shut it. Amiable as ever, he had lately reverted to his passion for "figuring," delegating the hack work of administration more and more as he concentrated his own energies on the big deals. Predictably confident and equable, nowadays only stupidity or labour disputes could fray his nerves and temper and provoke peculiar, democratic idea of the ever

anyway had



strong language. After which, remembering that his secretary sat only the

other side of a glass partition, he would poke his head around the corner and say, "Gee, Miss Miller, I'm sorry!"

He was invited




names and still him "Roy": and explained, "Someone

persistent in his use of Christian

who worked



to call

when asked was he not afraid of familiarity, being cheeky, you mean? Hell, no; I pay 'em! 237


anyone was

Roy Thomson of Fleet cheeky to me,


wouldn't think they were being familiar, I'd


think they must be sick in the head."

Along with

this confident tolerance there

remained a lack

of social discrimination, so that he continued to accept speaking invitations to Boys' Clubs, Police Clubs, Overseas Clubs,



Chambers of Commerce, Junior Chambers of Commerce

and anyone



cared to ask for his services, provided only

that, at the relevant time,

he was not already engaged.


1953 to 1957 his diaries reveal a profusion of entries that read "Dinner jacket speak 20 minutes" a profusion which is matched only by the scarcity of his private or informal engage-


In August, just before Scottish Television was due to open, David Walker arrived in London with his wife to meet and accompany home to Canada their daughter. He had recently been appointed Parliamentary Assistant to Ottawa's new Minister of Justice under Diefenbaker and, as the first representative of this Canadian Tory Government to reach London, he was widely entertained at Westminster. Thomson telephoned and insisted that Walker, his wife and his daughter come to Edinburgh where he would give them a dinner. Walker accepted and they agreed on a date a month ahead. Hearing no more from Thomson after that, Walker eventually telephoned from his suite in the Dorchester and asked: "Are you still

expecting us,


"Hell," said Roy, "all the flower of the Scottish nobility will

be at dinner to meet you folk. You fly right up." "What're we wearing?" "Evening dress for the girls dinner jacket for you." Having sent all their evening clothes home already, the Walkers hurriedly hired clothes suitable for a dinner with the flower of Scotland's nobility, and flew to Edinburgh. That night, at the Adam Room, Walker surveyed the guest



the seating plan.

"Say, Roy," he asked,

"is there

anyone here who's just plain


"Only you'n me," Thomson told him happily. He was going through a period when the mere presence of aristocracy made him feel happy and to-night, at this private dinner party, he had landed one duke, five earls and a veritable mob of knights.


— Inauguration of an Empire "They're real nice people," he explained to



"They just live for their evenings." The next day Thomson drove Walker to Glasgow and, pointing out the desolation that had been made of the old Theatre Royal, boasted, "That's where I'm going to make millions." In the following three weeks rather quiet weeks for him guest.

he attended








dinners, six receptions, one concert, seven meetings with journalists

or overseas visitors

and one horse show.

His engagements

in this three-week period were of necessity kept to a


because Scottish Television was about to take to the air and there was much that he had to do, but they were typical of his life in



26th August, he departed for Glasgow to watch the



the preparations for Scottish Television's inauguration. Kenneth,

Marilyn, Irma and Sherry flew in from Toronto. The Independent Television Authority gave a banquet. And then, on the night of 31st August, with the words, "This is Scotland," STV

was launched;

and, with


the years of Thomson's greatest



j2. Distinguished Guests

Thomson purchases Kamloops Daily




The Barrie Examiner, Canada;



The Evening



town, Canada.

STV's opening programmes were not unanimprogrammes were no worse than those elsewhere in Britain, and Scotland's advertisers were so delighted to be able to buy time on a medium that reached so many households that their orders flowed fast into Thomson's ever open books. "You know," he then informed his neighbours in Edinburgh, "it's just like having a licence to print your own money!" Anxiously they and his advisers begged him not to repeat this If the critics of

ously eulogistic, at least these

observation elsewhere son,


was a


sidered he talked too





neighbours because, even for


his advisers


because they con-

much anyway.

do," he admitted, "but


reckon I've talked

my way

more deals than ever I've talked my way out of," and flew to Canada where, in an interview with Time magazine, he

into off

repeated his bon mot verbatim.

STV may

have been a licence to print its own money, but that Thomson was prepared to waste a penny. Programmes had to be bought, and programmes cost a lot unless you could find someone who had to sell cheap, like the Having lost hard-pressed commercial stations in the south. none of his old skill in negotiating, he haggled hard with these struggling English companies and bought, at bargain prices, the use of much of their material. He was now running STV with the logistical precision of a quartermaster-general planning an


did not




Distinguished Guests

he practised the economies he preached. He sat was to be hung in his STV studio foyer wearing an old blue suit with turned cuffs; and he replied to the more aesthetic critics of his programmes with arguments of cold



for a portrait that


"Are the educated and cultured few," he demanded, "to demand by the many?": and went on

dictate the entertainment to state

—not to

explain or to justify, but simply to state

the "culture" his critics

demanded appealed and

cent of the potential viewing public:


to barely ten per if



programmes watched by only ten per cent of the maximum audience, "no advertiser would place advertisements with us." At this, the old Canadian-style rumours of his meanness sprang up afresh but this time were promulgated in the precise

accents of Edinburgh.

"You can

see the lights flash off

and on behind

his glasses as

the computer goes into action," they told one another.

"I always expect to hear a bell and see a cash drawer shoot out of his waistcoat."


—and then he'd

stuff in



of fivers and snap




the recent restoration of Adam Smith's house, a derelict

building in the Scotsman's possession,

Reverend Selby Wright


anecdote (perfectly accurate) of builders' progress,

plained to Sir




presentation to the

a boys' club, had brought the gleeful

how Thomson,

inspecting the

the estimates they submitted,

Edward Stevenson: "Now, Teddy,

had com-

this is costing


a lot more than you said it would." Again, just before the building was officially opened, Thomson had called on Selby Wright to ask was there anything else he

wanted for his boys' club, and Selby Wright had said that they needed a television set. A television set arrived that afternoon but all subsequent appeals for funds for this house and this club fell on deaf Thomson ears. His contract of charity with the Church had been terminated by the installation of that telestill

vision set.


Thomson's "bull moose" tactics, and him two stories. The first, relating to the Queen Mother, alleged that, when she met him at Holyrood, and remarked that she had heard that he was Canadian, he refined referred to

particularly quoted against




Roy Thomson of Fleet had

characteristically responded,

Ma'am; I'm

a Scot now."



Street let


accent fool you,

the second alleged that, sitting

next to Princess Margaret at a Scotsman fashion show, he had " the lame gown of one of the models.


commented upon

favourite colour," he


"Gold!" Indeed it was generally agreed that Thomson was revoltingly candid and immodestly unpretentious. Asked, for example, was it true that once he had farmed, and if so what had happened, he replied: "It cost me money and that convinced me it was not my forte." At a banquet where he made a speech, rumour had it that Lord Rosebery had positively blanched at some of his humorous stories. In conversation once with the Duke of Edinburgh, he had said: "I'd like to have you as a director of my business. There's no law against that, is there?" But when Prince Philip had replied that, no, there was no law against it, but that for him there could be no money in it either, then, told the Princess.

according to the outraged, takes all the fun out of


Thomson had





doesn't it?"

So the gossip rattled round: but its subject never heard it, Engrossed in the Scotsman, whose circulation was well up, in spite of its changed front page. Engrossed in STV which, after a first quarter's profit of only £10,000, gave every indication of earning a million pounds in its first year. Engrossed in approving and digesting details of deals done by his fast-growing Canadian group all over the North American continent and throughout the Caribbean. Busy consolidating his identity as a Scot. To this end he put his researchers to work to trace the activities of his family from its earliest border raiding days through to those of his father in Toronto and applied for a Thomson tartan and a Thomson coat of arms which Edinburgh declared should include a cash register rampant on a field of fifty pound notes. Thomson, though amused, chose a more conventional device which included a beaver and the motto "Never a backward step." The Lord Lyon King of Arms approved the newly designed Thomson tartan, and let it be known that this tartan, having been issued for "Thomsons of that ilk," was to take the place of the Mactavish tartan with which previous Thomsons of that ilk being too busy.


had somehow made do. But it was not only

locally that he


was beginning

to assert

Distinguished Guests In June he entertained NATO's General Norstadt; in Adam Smith house restored for the Reverend Selby Wright, he met the Duke of Edinburgh; in August the Scotsman provided Scotland's only exhibit at the Brussels World Fair; and having dined in October Canada's Prime Minister Diefenbaker with Harold Macmillan in London, and then headed north to accepted Thomson's invitation to a visit his mother's tomb himself.

July, at the

small, private dinner.

This small, private dinner so surprised John Diefenbaker his wife when they arrived at it that Diefenbaker declared it


be the largest and most public small private dinner he had ever He was probably justified, for as well as two earls and a life peeress, everyone else was there, including STV's cameras, George Drew (whom Diefenbaker had succeeded as leader of their party) and Lord Clyde (who was astonished, his invitation card having clearly stated "no speeches," when Thomson spoke, and Drew spoke and Diefenbaker spoke, their non-speeches to


lasting all of ninety minutes).

Thomson read his non-speech from sheets of paper on which words were typed extra large and at which he peered from a distance of about nine inches but it was not his words or their delivery which were significant. What was significant was that he could now secure the presence at his table of a tremendously busy Canadian Prime Minister and a Canadian High Commissioner whom, five years earlier, at the Albany Club in Toronto, he had :

publicly insulted.

Nor was he

satisfied simply to entertain the Canadian Prime Quite bluntly he mentioned to Diefenbaker his desire for a British title: and when Diefenbaker pointed out that it would be constitutionally wrong for a British Premier to offer him a title, Thomson declared shamelessly that no British Premier had better offer him one then, because, if ever one did, he would accept it! By the end of the function Diefenbaker entertained no doubts at all about his compatriot's desire to be ennobled. Both knew the constitutional difficulties involved in this


by convention no Canadian Government may ask the any of its citizens. Yet Thomson had asked that a way round these difficulties be found. He had not said that he deserved a peerage; nor had he been so stupid as to think desire, for


for a title for


Roy Thomson of Fleet Street he could buy one; he had simply stated in unmistakable terms that he wanted one. In this same month, October, Thomson sold his Canada

Kenneth was too busy in Toronto to be anything but by its continued existence, and the foothold it had been designed to win in Britain now looked insignificant compared with the vast domains of the Scotsman, the Dispatch and STV so






once reversed

with newspapers and, in-

his habit

stead of buying, sold.

For some time

had been urging him to West coast. "No," he said, "it's too cold"; but they explained that the West coast was warm, so warm that palm trees grew at Ullapool where there was an ideal estate for sale. They begged him to go to Ullapool and see for himself. lease a fishing

his Scottish friends

and shooting lodge on


Deeply suspicious, but agreeable after a high-spirited dinner Thomson (accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. McQueen, Sir Edward Stevenson and Mr. and Mrs. Ian Macdonald), boarded the sleeper train that travelled overnight to Inverness. "You're my guests till nine o'clock Sunday night," he promised as they all crowded on to Mrs. McQueen's sleeping berth and drank Mr. Mac Queen's whisky. Gunther met them at Inverness in Thomson's new Cadillac dance,

and drove them towards the western isles Thomson complainall the time that it was a cold, nasty country and that nothing would induce him to buy a house in these arctic wastes. Eventually Mrs. McQueen decided to retaliate. At one stop, unseen by Thomson, she bought two huge stalks of bananas. Before lunch she laboriously removed the Fyfe label from each banana and then asked Gunther, whilst the rest of the party ate, to drive ahead and hang bananas from palm trees that grew at


the roadside five or six miles out of town.

"Where's Gunther?" Thomson asked at lunch. "Buying films for the cine camera," they lied. The meal over, they all climbed back into the Cadillac and drove off quietly until suddenly, registering great excitement, Gunther shouted: "Mr. Thomson look! Bananas!" "Stop!" said Thomson, now convinced that he had indeed arrived in a warm and sunny land. "Stop the car." They stopped.

— —


Distinguished Guests

"Gunther, get the cine and film Mrs. Macdonald and me picking bananas." As Gunther opened up the cine camera, Thomson noticed a crofter's cottage in the distance. "Say," he asked anxiously, "do you think that crofter'll mind if we take his produce?" Everyone assured him that no Scottish crofter would miss a

few hands of bananas from among his produce so Gunther Thomson watched Mrs. Macdonald 'pick'. That night they stayed with the agent whose plan it was "Say, you grow some to sell an estate to this rich Canadian. fine bananas here," Thomson remarked; and only then, as the agent gave him a very searching look, did he realise that he had been hoaxed. But he said nothing. They stayed till Sunday afternoon and even then though they had discussed everything else, including not buying the agent's undesirable estate Thomson said nothing about bananas. filmed and, exultantly,

As they got into the Cadillac to start the return trip, Charles McQueen remembered Thomson's promise that they were all his guests until nine o'clock on Sunday night. "Step on it, Gunther," he whispered. "Get us to Gleneagles before nine so we can have a last slapup meal on the boss." Perceptibly Gunther stepped on it. Too perceptibly. Thomson sensed the change in speed, looked at his watch and demanded: "What's the hurry?" Everybody insisted that there was no hurry and Gunther con-

tinued to accelerate.

Thomson then

offered casually, "I've got a Canadian round here some place. Let's call him up" and ordered Gunther to stop in the next town. This done, he spent a long time in a call box, and eventually, using McQueen's pennies, located Joe Hobbs, who at once invited him along for a drink and a pot-luck meal. Thomson said he would be delighted to call in at Hobbs's place for a drink and a pot-luck meal only he had five guests. Joe Hobbs said to bring them along too. So five disconsolate guests found themselves heading away from any chance of their last slapup meal on the boss at Gleneagles, whilst the boss smiled his most cherubic



Joe Hobbs,



As well he might

—he had saved himself a 245



money and

Roy Thomson of Fleet


Joe Hobbs was a multi-millionaire living in a castle whose idea of pot luck made anything that could have been bought at Gleneagles seem like cattle fodder. Also Hobbs spent the entire meal trying to sell Thomson his castle; and nothing could have been pleasanter to these two Canadians than good food accompanied by some long, hard horse trading in front of a captive audience of five. By the time Thomson's party had returned to Edinburgh, though bananas had still not been mentioned, all felt that honours for the trip were equal. November saw a meeting with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the London offices of the Independent Television Authority, at one stage of which the Duke expressed a vehement dislike of several television programmes, which he named. Deferentially, but not at all sadly, Sir Robert Fraser, Director-General of the Authority, pointed out that


of these

were B.B.G. programmes. At which Thomson was heard to muse that perhaps Buckingham Palace had not yet had its television sets converted to a second channel.

Otherwise November was almost as disagreeable as October had been pleasant. Jack Davidson left the Toronto organisation to take up an equity interest in a large Winnipeg television station. Carl, the younger brother whose brilliance Roy had always so much proclaimed and admired, who was his strongest tie with the Canada of old, suddenly died, taking with him Thomson's with his youth, the last of his nostalgia for the days of Bowmanville, Monteith Street and Isabella Street the last of his memories of anything earlier than North Bay and that long cold road which, beginning there, had led him so logically to Edinburgh. Roy grieved for Carl, as he had for his father first and then for his mother but he grieved privately. Outwardly he engrossed himself more deeply than ever in work and the problems of his final link


business. Like the fact that the Evening Dispatch

was losing heavily,

cheaper price and lower advertising rates forced the News off the street or into a merger. Fortunately he had already so altered the structure of his Scottish companies that STV now incorporated both his newspapers and could support the Dispatch losses: but losses nowadays outraged

and must continue

to lose, until


him more than ever. When, he asked tion News give in ? 246


would the opposi-

Distinguished Guests Also in November,

made abruptly aware of human frailty by Thomson finally acknowledged that

the shock of Carl's death,

he himself was again too describe




as the "ebullient



right for the Press to

Roy Thomson"

or the "blue-

moose Roy Thomson," but the truth was that he was fat. He weighed two hundred and fifteen pounds and it was too much. So he betook himself to Tring, where he was treated very severely indeed, and then much lightened flew off home, on suited, bull


diet, for


But the news continued to be bad. He had no sooner arrived than he was advised that, in the early hours of 15th December, Teddy Stevenson had died. In a cable to Lady Stevenson, Thomson lamented, quite truthfully: "I have lost the best friend I ever


in Scotland."


jj. Reverse Bid

Thomson purchases


Glade's County Democrat,


A rumour sprang up in Edinburgh that Vincent Massey, Canada's super-cultured Governor-General, was to be succeeded in office

by Roy Thomson.

In fact, the rumour preceded Diefenbaker's Governor-Generalship by several years: but it was enough at that time to provoke another series of Canadian interviews, in the course of which, surveying the British scene and its prospects, Thomson lamented: "If only I was twenty years younger." But his sixty-fifth year was not to be either unenterprising or unrewarding. His Canadian company planned to buy several newspapers; he himself hoped to join John Bassett in the opening of a new Toronto television station; and his Scottish company actual




of the

buy out

the powerful Glasgow Herald,

owned by George

Outram & Company. Actually his application, with Bassett of the Toronto Telegram, to

open another Canadian

television station looked unlikely to

succeed because of recent Federal legislation against "multiple ownership, monopoly, pluralism and lack of diversity." None of

by the relevant Act, and the interleft entirely to a board which been in had set up November; but the words alone had Thomson shaking his now sleek head of silver hair in quiet despair at their monstrous intrusion upon the realm of Free Enterprise. Of this board, Doctor Andrew Stewart was head, and it so happened that he had decided, early in 1958, to visit his family in Scotland. Aware of this, Thomson had extracted his promise that he would inspect the STV studios and then drive with these

had been

clearly defined

pretation of each or



of them was

to his destination.




Thomson asked



bluntly, of his application with

"Have I a chance?"; and Stewart told him he thought not that of all things that were anathema to his board, nothing was quite so unacceptable as any element of chain ownership, and that no one in Canada was better known as a chain owner than Thomson. In London, subsequently, both Stewart and Thomson attended a cocktail party at Television House, and each, unknown to the other, slipped away early, Stewart to go to the theatre, Bassett for another television station,

Thomson because he

They met in the elevator: floor, Thomson moved so uncertainly that Stewart, suspecting that he had nowhere to go and nothing to do, suddenly wished that he could at least take him to dinner. He even said so; but explained that he had to go to and

did not drink.

as they stepped out at the


the theatre.

"Sure, Andy," said Thomson, and then, standing on the

pavement, "I don't know what I'll do." and, Such moments of uncertainty, though, were rare; once back in the safety of his Edinburgh home, non-existent. There he was always content, reading his statements and planning his plans.



took equal pleasure in a prize

and a prize won by the

won by

Cornwall Standard Freeholder excited

attempts to persuade Outrams of Glasgow to




The purchase of Canada's him as much as his own vain


sell their


prospects of his weekly Barrie Examiner, in Ontario, becom-

ing a daily newspaper delighted

of his




Guide in Scotland.

much as And the


the appearance paper foraging

McCabe (ever since 1954 brilliantly aided Stephenson and the lawyer John A. Tory, J. J. jun.) frankly entranced him. These three, a superb team, then purchased one American newspaper after another. "Go to it," Thomson would urge them, "you get the paper, I'll get the activities


St. Clair

and abetted by

money. Did




you down?"

In the course of a business discussion, Charles McQueen, who had had dealings with S. G. Warburgs, the famous City of London bankers, remarked, "You should know Henry Grunfeld,"


later, in London, introduced them: than which no introduction could have been more timely. Thwarted in his negotia-

tions with Sir John Muirhead of Outrams, Thomson had begun both to plan a take-over bid for The Glasgow Herald and a


— Roy Thomson of Fleet renewed attempt




buy Lord Kemsley's Aberdeen newspaper.

London luncheon appointment with Kemsley himself. Kemsley did not wait for Thomson to start fishing, but remarked at once: "I know what you want; you want my Aberdeen paper." the latter end, he engineered an early a

"Amongst others!" Thomson agreed optimistically. Whereupon Kemsley declared himself willing to sell for £2,500,000 a figure no more realistic than his price, years earlier, delivered by Denis Hamilton, of £2,000,000. Thomson pointed out that the Aberdeen paper earned only £100,000 a year. "That's right," said Kemsley.

"And you want two and

a half million ?"


"Then you don't want to sell that paper at all," Thomson concluded and moved on to discuss the price of other Kemsley newspapers, with similarly depressing results. Discouraged, he returned to Edinburgh and there, over the next seven weeks, more determinedly than ever, prepared his take-over campaign against Outrams, their Glasgow Herald being, it seemed, the one major and viable British newspaper susceptible to a bid. He determined to make an offer to shareholders so big that Outrams' board could not advise against it and so to win control of their

Glasgow paper. On the morning of 1st July, he sat at his desk, examining a copy of the printed offer that would soon be posted to every Outram shareholder his offer to buy their shares. As he read, the lizard tongue reached out repeatedly, past the top lip, down and back across the bottom lip. The offer looked good. At that moment, the telephone rang and his secretary told him that Lord Kemsley was on the line. Kemsley said, "I'd like to see you, Roy."


come down next week," Thomson

"No— before



"Friday then." "Can't you come down to-night?" "Is



Thomson probed. "when I

"I think," said Kemsley, consider



you what


"All right, Gomer,


come down 250


it is,





twenty-five here then, to-morrow morning,"


told him.

Thomson ran into London," he urged,

They caught

Coltart's office. "Jim, let's both

go down to

"there's something doing."

that night's sleeper train and, arriving early in

London, checked in

at the

Savoy Hotel. Coltart suggested break-



and took his managing director to a Covent Garden where, for three and sixpence, they had orange juice and eggs and coffee and where Thomson was obviously a regular customer. This lavish meal disposed of, they walked the short distance to Kingsway and STV's office in Television House. There they sat, excitedly speculating for an hour and a half. Which paper was it Kemsley wanted to sell ? Or did he want to sell any ? But he must he had said Thomson would consider the point of the summons serious. What else but the offer of a paper could it be? Finally, Thomson left Coltart at Television House and took a taxi to Kemsley House, about three-quarters of a mile away in Gray's Inn Road. Kemsley received him formally, a tall stooped man who had acquired patrician ways, who wasted no time. In words now seared into Thomson's memory, he declared: "Roy, I'm going to say something to you I never thought I'd say to anybody. I'm going to offer you the Kemsley newspapers. "Sure," said

lorry drivers' cafe in


I've got forty per cent of the ordinary shares" (a bare controlling

but enough) "and I want £6 a share for myself and for any of my minority shareholders who might also want to sell." Thomson listened to the incredible words and got ready to start trading. Remembered facts and figures fed themselves into his brain. The Kemsley papers numbered eighteen, all of them important, the Sunday Times and the Empire News heading the list. Six pounds a share, Kemsley said, for shares currently priced at forty-two shillings on the Stock Exchange and he had interest,

£3 a share when they And there were two and a

rejected Kemsley's 1956 request for only

had stood

at only twenty-one shillings.

That meant that he might have to pay out pounds. "I'm sorry," he said, almost the instant Kemsley stopped talking, "but that's beyond my capacity." half million shares. fifteen million


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Beyond his capacity to borrow; beyond his capacity, even if he sold most of what else he owned. "Look," said Kemsley, "you go and see your financial advisers and I'll go and see mine, and we'll see what we can work out." Even as Kemsley spoke, mentioning that Helbert Wagg were his advisers and shaking hands, Thomson felt himself being imperceptibly impelled towards the door, and recalled that it had always been thus, this lordly technique of dismissal. But never so urgent as now. Now, Thomson sensed, Kemsley was anxious to get a deal moving which made two of them only Kemsley wanted him out before he started haggling over that impossible demand for £6 a share. Thomson sped to Television House and, eyes gleaming behind his thick round glasses, motioned Coltart outside, away from the

others in the office, saying "Let's go get

some lunch."



the lift they could not talk, because three others shared it with them. Coltart noticed that Thomson was rigid with excitement, his tongue flickering. "How about the Bush House Restaurant?" he suggested casually. "It's just across the road." "Sure," the Canadian agreed, but he sounded strangled.

At the pedestrian crossing he halted and said: "It's everything, Jim, everything. The Sunday Times as well." "Where's that put the Outram deal then?" Coltart asked. Their offers were to be posted next morning. "Off!" Thomson told him and telephoned

secretary in


to say,

"You know


that deal

company we were


"Yes." "Well, drop it." So thousands of take-over offers, addressed and stamped, were locked in an Edinburgh safe whilst in London, making use of McQueen's introduction, Thomson and Coltart went to see Henry Grunfeld, of S. G. Warburgs, whilst Kemsley called in Lionel Fraser, of Helbert Wagg, and discussions began. There followed nine days of the most complex negotiations ever

known in

the City


that time, beginning with a plain state-

by the square, bespectacled and apparently ingenuous Thomson to the lean, bespectacled and immensely sophisticated Grunfeld. Coltart, as a spectator, was fascinated by the contrast. Thomson, eager, excited, thrusting, his phrases

ment of

the facts



Reverse colloquial


his accent


unmistakably Canadian:


cool, precise, incisive, his phrases pedantically correct



accent identifiably German. There, however, the contrast ended when it came to finance their minds were similar, well-attuned swift. Goltart had never admired his chairman more than in those early days when, concentrating, but without apparent effort, he followed Grunfeld, swift pace by swift pace, through the maze of an apparently insoluble financial problem. For prestige reasons, Thomson and Coltart returned each

and equally

night, after a

was £6


cheap meal, to the Savoy Hotel, for which the tariff per day without breakfast. The first night, as they

parted in the hotel corridor, Coltart said: "See you in the diningroom for breakfast then?" "No," said Thomson, "in the vestibule" and next morning took Coltart again to the lorry drivers' cafe where the waitress asked, "The usual, Mr. Thomson?" and, on Thomson's nod,

again served them orange juice, bacon and eggs and coffee. Thomson then returned to the Savoy to clean his teeth, after

which they resumed their discussions with Grunfeld. Kemsley dropped his price to £5 a share, which, though still impossible, added fuel to the flames of Thomson's excitement. That evening he bought a bagful of plums and apples and, retiring to his room, ate them for dinner, which was cheaper than anything the Savoy could offer. Then he washed his drip-dry shirt and went peacefully to sleep for his customary seven and a half hours.

Throughout all this time, and all the weeks that followed, had to be maintained and this being a condition entirely alien to the sunny disposition of Roy Thomson caused

total secrecy

him almost as much discomfort



caused his watchdog, Coltart,


The apparently insoluble problem confronting Grunfeld and Thomson, on the one side, and Kemsley and Fraser on the other, was still how to produce £12,500,000 out of air which, though by no means thin, was not nearly substantial enough for that. Everything was suggested and examined and nothing worked. All that emerged was a vast mutual respect between Grunfeld and Thomson. To Coltart they seemed perfectly matched.


then Grunfeld devised a formula which, whether it would work or not, staggered Thomson with its superb simplicity 253

Roy Thomson oj Fleet


and seeming feasibility. Since Thomson's STV Company could not buy Kemsley Press, the Kemsley Press should buy STV, paying Thomson with Kemsley shares of such voting power that he, in fact, would then control the combined Kemsley and STV forces, be £5,000,000 needed to buy Lord Kemsley's and be faced (in view of the greatly increased wealth of the STV-swollen Kemsley Company) with a demand by very few of the minority shareholders that he should also buy their shares as he had just bought Lord Kemsley's. In other words, the lesser wanting but unable to buy the larger, the larger should buy the lesser, with shares whose power then allowed the purchased to control the purchaser. "What you might call," said Grunfeld in his precise but foreign English, coining a phrase new to high finance, "a reverse bid." The snags that remained to be solved were still, inevitably, numerous and varied. For example, much as Thomson might want STV to be acquired by the Kemsley group (so that he could then control that group) what was the position of the other STV shareholders, and how to manage the transfer without incurring the wrath of the Television Authority? Since a straight purchase of STV by Kemsley would deprive its shareholders of their legal control and abrogate the contract awarded to them by the Independent Television Authority, it was agreed that Thomson would persuade all his shareholders to surrender the earning power of their STV stock and to accept instead an equivalent interest in a new company entirely, which would be entitled Scottish Thomson Associates Limited. This company would control STV, but would not draw directly upon its earnings. easily able to raise the

forty per cent of the ordinary shares,

Instead, it would draw upon the earnings of the entire and augmented group, STV's total earnings having been purchased by that group. Thus the Kemsley group would be offered a rich asset, and the original STV shareholders, whilst surrendering their STV earnings, would keep control of STV's management and would receive complete compensation. The next problem was so to increase the value of the existing two and a half million Kemsley shares that they became worth approximately the £5 each that Lord Kemsley demanded for them, whilst simultaneously allocating to Thomson about two million entirely new shares as his price for STV, the dilemma

being that to double the value of the existing shares required the




absorption of STV, and that to give

Thomson two million newly STV.

created shares also required the absorption of

In other words, much of STV's value of £5,500,000 to the Kemsley Group had somehow to be made available twice, once for the benefit of existing Kemsley shareholders, and a second time, to give substance to Thomson's share allocation an

apparently insoluble problem. Not, however, to Grunfeld,


eventually suggested that the

Kemsley shares, in the company about to absorb STV, be renamed preferred ordinary shares, and as such made much more valuable than their present stock exchange rating of forty-two shillings by the promise of a dividend of thirty per cent, which would be twice the fifteen per cent dividend to be paid on the new shares that poor Mister Thomson would get. Later though, if there remained any profits to be distributed after they had received their thirty per cent dividend, and poor Mister Thomson had received his puny fifteen per cent dividend existing ordinary

— —then


Thomson could have

profits whilst they

would be


of those

one quarter. Such an offer of a quick, high dividend in an STV-enriched Kemsley company would, Grunfeld believed, lift the value of these re-named old shares to about £5, whilst Thomson's less certainly profitable two million shares could be assessed at a value of £2 each. In terms of voting power, then, the existing shareholders would wield two and a half million votes and Thomson only two million. But included in this re-arrangement of the share structure would be the whole purpose of the exercise a promise that, for five million pounds, Thomson would buy from Lord Kemsley his million of those re-named two and a half million shares. Thus Kemsley would obtain most of the money he wanted and Thomson would obtain an extra million votes against those of the old stockholders who, of course, would have become the weaker by a entitled to only



clear cut control of the entire

new Kemsley-STV


"Henry," muttered Thomson, in awe, "I couldn't have dreamed that up in a million years." In this admirable scheme there was only one flaw how was Thomson to find five million pounds to pay for Lord Kesmley's shares? The solution came as their discussion turned to what


Roy Thomson of Fleet


would become Kemsley's own initial payment of five and a half million pounds for the purchase of STV. This would consist of one million pounds in cash, half a million pounds in three per cent debentures and those two million new deferred ordinary shares, valued at two pounds each, that were to be Thomson's holding in the Kemsley group. It was agreed then that the one million pounds in cash would go straight back to Lord Kemsley, that another one million pounds would be accepted in promissory ten year notes, and (somewhat presumptuously, perhaps) that the balance of three million pounds, in cash, would be raised by Mister Thomson from his bank. Thus far in this strategy, then, STV had been absorbed, in exchange for cash and shares, by Kemsley Newspapers, and Thomson, having paid Lord Kemsley five million pounds, had won a controlling interest in the new, combined group. What now remained was the unlikely but alarming possibility of his having to pay thousands of shareholders, who might want to get out of this new company as much for each of their one and a half million shares as Lord Kemsley had been paid for each of his. On the other hand, their company enriched by the absorption of STV's massive annual profits, and their shares guaranteed an enticing dividend of thirty per cent, surely most stockholders

would be more anxious




their stock

those forty-two shilling shares should at least

when news

At which

of the


than to

bound up

deal broke

sell ?


to ninety shillings


Helbert Wagg, Lord Kemsley's financial and Lionel Fraser indicated that they were prepared to arrange the underwriting of such a sale. Lord Kemsley himself would pay the whole of the costs involved, amounting in all to half a million pounds. And since half a million pounds off his five million pounds from Thomson which repleft him with four and a half million pounds resented £4 1 os. per share this four pounds ten shillings would now become the price per share to be underwritten. These negotiations had now been raging in utmost secrecy for so long, between so many, that Thomson grew suddenly terrified lest the Press got wind of the deal and sent the stock market berserk with its speculations. Most especially did he fear stage,

advisers, intervened




the high-pressure columns of the Beaverbrook newspapers

— and

one of those newspapers, only the day before had carried an article about himself. A very flattering article admittedly. But why? Why

none the



because, a propos of nothing at



He had moved the


out of the Savoy Hotel into the anonymity of

Hotel in Norfolk Street and, with heroic self control,

he had talked to no one; yet



felt fearful

of being tracked

down of being followed by a reporter he himself might not see. Of being followed all the way to Warburg's office and of Fraser being seen there




of the story being pieced

together sufficiently at least for journalistic speculation to wreck

Grunfeld had woven for him. Deciding that candour was still his best weapon, he telephoned Beaverbrook and, telling him exactly what was planned, pleaded: "Max, for God's sake don't bugger up this deal." "Roy," Beaverbrook assured, "I'm with you all the way." "I thought I recognised your fine Italian hand in that nice piece about me yesterday," Thomson hazarded. "I wrote it myself," Beaverbrook admitted; but did not explain why. Thomson no longer cared, though; he had Beaverbrook's word and at last he felt safe. "Now all we've got to do," he told Goltart cheerfully, "is find three million pounds' cash for Kemsley!" He telephoned through to Ian Macdonald of the National Commercial Bank of Scotland he who had so courageously (though, as it had turned out, soundly) backed STV and said: "Ian, the deal's through and I need three million." Macdonald promised to take the matter to his directors at this fantastic plot that

lunch time: at half-past two Thomson had his three million and provided that contracts and agreements could be drawn up which would adequately define the subtlety and sophistication of Grunfeld's solution to all the problems that had confronted him, there was now nothing but the most remote possibility of a bigger bid than his own to stop him becoming the owner in Britain of three national Sunday newspapers, two provincial Sunday newspapers, thirteen provincial dailies


several weeklies.


from nothing but an electoral defeat in 1952, Thomson, in seven short years, was about to make himself one of the great Press barons of the United Kingdom. r.t.f.s. r 257

34- Successor

Thomson purchases Canada; Canada; Call,



95 9:

Georgetown Herald,

Lord Kemsley

The Orangeville Banner,

The Progress Index, Petersburg, U.S.A.;





Kemsley Newspapers


Laurel Leader-


Allen and Overy were Thomson's London lawyers, and from that distinguished firm Vivian Jennings now came to Warburg's City office to vet the whole proposed deal. It was a hot July day and Jennings found Warburg's office muggy. Worse, as he examined the plans that both Thomson and Grunfeld seemed to

he realised that he could understand none of them. "do you mind if I go through into the next and departed. Some hours to work this out?" having mastered the complexities of the agreement, he gave

grasp so


"Roy," he office and try later, it

his blessing

were then able had "begun"!


and the Kemsley group, somewhat misleadingly, to announce that negotiations with Roy Thomson

Interviewed a week

—which he was




"Golly, I'm tired"

entitled to be after negotiations that

raging for sixteen days

— "but I'm happy


I'm glad

had been it's

in the

bag." In actual

fact, he was acutely apprehensive that it might not be in the bag at all, that others might intervene and outbid him, as both Charles Clore and Lord Cowdray were rumoured to be about to do; but he chose to sound confident. As he himself had remarked, years earlier; "Even when I'm not being frank, I look frank": so, now, he was believed. Asked by a Canadian reporter what valuation he set upon his

purchase, he replied, "Seventy-five million dollars!


Say, that's

— Successor to

Lord Kemsley

an awful lot of money. I think this is maybe the biggest newspaper deal ever in Britain. Maybe in the world." Certainly, by quoting figures of this type, he did his best both to disguise the true price he had paid in effect, only three million pounds of the National Commercial Bank's money and to discourage


by the



of Clore and Cowdray.

Thomson was about

the Press

become, with Lord Beaverbrook, Cecil King and Lord Rothermere, one of the United Kingdom's Big Four, as if the deal were already helped, declaring publicly that


a fait accompli.





of sophisticated triumph,


could not suppress either his candour or his willingness to explain.

He was asked at what stage in his career his talents had progressed from big business to high finance. "I'm not convinced there's any such thing as high finance," "Except you're adding a couple of he replied comfortingly. which makes most people's knees shake zeros to the figure


their brains seize up. I used to be like that. I used to think

Gees, what've I done

now ?' But


don't any longer.


Those early

days in Northern Ontario, where business was simple and a dollar

was what ten thousand I am now."

dollars are to-day

—they're what

made me what

On 22 nd July, Thomson lunched at Kemsley House and was introduced by Lord Kemsley's son, Lionel Berry, to each of the directors in turn. They were almost all shaken men, this being the first positive intimation they had had from the autocratic Kemsley family that all Kemsley's papers, along with themselves, were being sold. Thomson had been to some pains, before these introductions, to find out the name and status of each director. Thus he greeted A. M. Burnett-Stuart, General Manager of what had been Kemsley's Manchester office with the words, "Hallo, Angus" which impressed Burnett-Stuart, who had not thought that Thomson could possibly know his Christian name "How d'you

see Manchester,


Burnett-Stuart was aware that the solidly built



despite his silver hair




in the

warm, wide

and his slightly helpless air as he peered through thick was weighing him up. Weighing them all up. "How do you see Manchester, Angus?" Thomson had asked:





Roy Thomson of Fleet so Burnett-Stuart told


money and

do about



him it


frankly that the Evening Chronicle was


difficult really to see

and Thomson nodded

what one could

at each point, sometimes

indicating that this he already knew, sometimes that this he

would went on, with all the directors, all of them weighing up and being weighed up. Then the board served Kemsley's shareholders with notice of the deal that was proposed the purchase of STV, the im-

make a


point of remembering.



proved old shares, the proposed new shares, the price of £4 10s. per share that was available to any who preferred to sell: and Thomson, implored by Coltart to button up his mouth, flew off to Canada to tell his family and his colleagues what he had achieved.

He obeyed Coltart's injunction admirably, in spite of a barrage of speculation from the Canadian press, until he reached Montreal. Then discretion was vanquished as he casually gave the impression that many British newspapers were most ineptly run, and was even quoted as saying that he looked forward to his return to London so that he could start clearing up the mess Lord Kemsley, hearing of this, sent Thomson an angry cable Thomson apologised. Coltart demanding an explanation. Thomson persuaded the offending Canadian newsgroaned. paper to withdraw the remark imputed to himself. And the crisis passed.

In Toronto, lying by his swimming pool, he talked of other John Bassett, who had come to ask him what conclusions he had drawn about their joint television application from his Glasgow meeting with Doctor Stewart. "I don't think we're going to get anywhere," Thomson adthings with


holdings will possibly weigh be better for you if I pull out." This he then did in spite of a valid agreement with Bassett to seek a licence for a joint operation and ever since, when he has heard Thomson declare himself only interested in money, Bassett, a tall, fair man with a loud voice and a good war record, has thundered: "He's a fraud. It's not true at all. He says that only for the effect." But this is a point of view not widely shared. Not even, on the evidence, shared by Thomson. Asked mitted.




against our application. So


whether he thought it difficult to make one's fortune in Canada, he replied that he thought it easy. Reminded that he had built 260

— Successor to

Lord Kemsley

a second empire in Britain between his fifty-ninth and sixty-fifth birthdays, he commented wistfully: "If only I was twenty-five years younger!" And asked what next he wanted, now that he had reached his target of one newspaper for each week of the year,

he responded with

terrible flippancy:

"I want one for each day

of the year."

Then he returned to London and, on 14th August, attended an Extraordinary General Meeting at Kemsley House, when at last it was announced that the Kemsley Press was his, and that he would assume control on Monday, 23rd August. "In all humility," Thomson shortly afterwards confessed, "I really wanted to succeed. Everybody wants to make money but how many want it enough to work for it?"

now ennobled, commented power had prompted Thomson's

Francis Williams, the columnist, sourly that prestige rather than

purchase of the Kemsley newspapers. A fellow Canadian, Sir Beverley Baxter, even more sourly implied that Thomson would need to acquire "polish and grace" before he could operate the high class Sunday Times. David Low cartooned Thomson as a noticeably myopic lion,

and appended the caption: "A new roar over Fleet Street." An executive of The Observer was quoted as saying, "He's a vulgar North American whose only virtue seems to be that he knows it." Lord Kemsley himself reputedly told Lionel Fraser, his financial adviser, that he chose to sell to



Thomson, who wanted a


Thomson because he

would pay a high price

for such a stepping stone to the peerage.

Everyone had a judgment

on Thomson, or a personal no one seemed to ask or to speculate upon what actually had impelled Lord Kemsley to sell. It was known that he had loved his Sunday Times, and that his great ambition had always been to see its circulation rise to the million mark. Mysteriously, though, just as it approached 900,000, he had sold. But then everything Lord Kemsley did was mysterious, he and his sons liking the outside world to be no more familiar with their business lives than it was with their private lives; and everything Lord Kemsley did was autocratic, explanations being offered in advance no more frequently than they were offered question to ask:

to pass

yet, strangely,


Roy Thomson of Fleet


Each day Lord Kemsley had come to his office and been received with pomp; each night Lord Kemsley had descended alone in a lift to the ground floor, and commissionaires had ushered him into his Rolls-Royce. Kemsley House had been his kingdom; but now, abruptly and inexplicably, he had chosen after the event.

to abdicate. his sons wanted more money than and because, to provide it, he could not mere forty per cent share-holding, which

Probably he sold because their dividends yielded;

any of his was tenuous enough as a controlling interest anyway. Or because his wife, whom he was known to adore, had fallen seriously ill and he needed more time to visit her in Switzerland. Or because three of his great newspapers were in serious financial difficulties and he did not want to be their executioner. Or because there were printing difficulties. Or because the recent prolonged newspaper strike had depressed him, as it had depressed the risk selling

entire industry.

All of these factors may have existed and co-existed, but Lord Kemsley did not explain whether any or all of them had influenced him; he just sold to Roy Thomson whom he had first snubbed

as long ago as ten years.


Thursday, 20th August, Thomson paid

his last visit to

Lord Kemsley as head of Kemsley House and the Kemsley newspapers, and for once was overawed by a sense of his own achievement. In the past, he had been accustomed to say that he wanted one for each week of the year now he had fifty-two newspapers them. In the past, when he was forty, he had been penniless; now, at sixty-five, he was a tycoon, self-made in two lands. In that banks will always lend the past he had learnt two lessons money and that people will always buy advertising; now he wondered whether he need ever bother to borrow money or sell space again. At this moment, very briefly, he was almost convinced that all his ambitions had been satisfied. It was Thursday, and on Monday he would take possession of Lord Kemsley's desk and of Lord Kemsley's Press. What more could any man ask? Solemnly, therefore, Thomson assured Lord Kemsley that he would occupy the latter's desk with the greatest possible


"Oh, but you won't," Kemsley with me." 262


"I'm taking


Successor to

Lord Kemsley

On the Friday (his last day behind that big ugly desk in the sombre, panelled office that for so long had been the throne room

of his empire), Kemsley instructed his personal assistant,

Thomson on Monday, explaining would be away on holiday!

Ivor Charles, to receive Mr. that


the directors

"Mr. Thomson," his lordship added, "will be in at nine a.m." "At when?" Charles asked, accustomed to Kemsley 's dignified arrival at ten.

"At nine," Kemsley repeated, and seemed amused. Charles escorted Lord Kemsley down the corridor for the last time, and shook hands. The commissionaire offered the tall, stooped man his hat and coat, and then he too shook hands. Kemsley nodded, entered the lift alone, and left. And it was finished.

Excitedly, Thomson and Coltart took Sunday's night train from Edinburgh to London and booked into the Savoy Hotel on their arrival. Quickly they ate their three and sixpenny breakfast at the lorry drivers' cafe and then caught a taxi to Kemsley House, where they arrived at 8.55 a.m.

Commissionaires, as in Kemsley's time, saluted;



doors were held elaborately open;


at the third

stopped and more commissionaires saluted; and Thomson's brief case, his hat and his overcoat were reverently taken from him. Then Ivor Charles led the way and Thomson plodded after him and Coltart, almost incredulously, followed into what had been Lord Kemsley's office. As the door closed behind them, the two men roared with floor the



"One more

salute," Coltart gasped,



have burst a

blood vessel." "Isn't this something?" let's


have a look at the accounts !"



And so




new regime began.


Looking of a


"It Pays

at the accounts during his



be Honest


first five

as typical of the



minutes in command as were his reactions

to the accounts themselves.

Each of Kemsley's four

Thomson observed with



a director, and each son, was provided by the firm


gritted teeth,

with a Rolls-Royce, or a Bentley, and a chauffeur. At this moment, Ivor Charles, neat and self-effacing, knocked on the door and entered to say: "Lord Kemsley asked me to

you these, sir" and handed Thomson lists of the senior "Good," said Thomson, and was he now employed. immersed in them before Charles had turned to leave. He was not pleased by what he read. Secretaries even had secretaries. He recalled Charles to make certain that this was so, and then advised him: "Well, in future, if one person can do the work of two, not two the work of one, that's the way we'll opergive



Richard Malone (whose words had first brought teletypeThomson's notice when he owned only eleven small Canadian newspapers), visited him and noticed that already Kemsley House had been re-named Thomson House. "How soon did you do that?" he asked. "The chips were coming down off that wall the day I moved in," Thomson assured him, one foot hitched up over his knee. "Your shoe's got a hole in it. You can afford new shoes setting to

now," Malone told him. "Yeah, I know; but I can't spare the time to buy 'em. I've got a villa in the South of France right next to Beaverbrook's matter of fact, he put me on to it and I haven't even seen that I've got no time." yet


"It Pays


to be


don't you just put a bed here in your office?"


asked, mildly sarcastic. that's a good idea," Thomson agreed. Malone the use of the villa, explaining that the staff there would be glad of someone to look after; and when asked whether he had a house yet in London said no, that it was

"You know,



cheaper to stay in small hotels. In his first weeks as chairman, Thomson's main anxiety was not so much the cutting off of the old regime's lavish supply of Rolls-Royces, chauffeurs and secretaries as the position of James



wanted Coltart as his managing director;

but he

name him such

over the heads of a board that included not only Lord Kemsley's four Berry sons, but also powerful and established administrators like Denis Hamilton, E. W. hesitated to

M. Burnett-Stuart and Michael Renshaw, whose and transparent good breeding oppressed him to a point where he was, for the moment at least, anxious lest he offend any Cheadle, A.


of them.

Therefore he did with Coltart what twenty-one years earlier, at Stratford, Ontario,

he had done with Jack Kent Cooke

refrained from publicly defining his role.


who were





awe of his power




director of the group.



in the




he was of their accepted the Scot as as

Immediately Coltart asked Thomson official

for permission to hold meetings of those executive directors (like and regular

Hamilton, Renshaw, Cheadle and Burnett-Stuart)



Kemsley family had rarely consulted at all. He wanted to meet with them weekly, to discuss broadly with them all the plans and decisions it would be their task one day to implement, and to make them a team. Such a board meant a reversal of the previous Kemsley attitude, and, for this reason at least, Thomson was embarrassed by the idea. Lord Kemsley's sons were still directors.

"What about Lionel?" he


"He's only deputy chairman," Coltart observed.

"Well?" "Well,


don't ask you to our meetings, and you're chair-

man." "Well,jv0tt tell


then, will



Roy Thomson of Fleet


"Certainly," said Coltart.


why he should be excluded from the meetings of an executive board. Coltart Coltart did so, Lionel Berry asked

explained that the presence of Berrys at meetings that might well

be overruling past policy decisions made by Berrys was undesirable all round.

he and as

Lionel Berry agreed

—and two months


his brothers resigned.

The fact that Thomson then consulted the remaining directors to who should replace these four gave the directors confidence

in their^chairman


and the

out to be good, gave


fact that the directors' advice



confidence in his executive board.

and purpose began to blow through the adminbut no one, least of all Thomson, felt this that alone would solve their problems. These were not numerous, but they were acute. The first of them was the Manchester Evening Chronicle. It was losing heavily and, as second-standing evening paper in Manchester, had no hope at all of reversing that trend. The second was that the Sunday Empire News was also far from healthy. The third was that the Sunday Graphic was operating at a heavy loss. air of vitality

istration of the entire group;



of these problems

Thomson gave

his instant attention,

knowing that they would be slow to solve, but nevertheless determined to solve them. In all three cases, the illness was easy enough to diagnose like cancer but, as with cancer, no one had


yet discovered a cure.

Thomson's fourth worry was with the Sunday Times



the cause of this worry was easy neither to diagnose nor to cure,



newspaper's health was magnificent.

tinued to outstrip




The Observer

had condue to the



Montgomery's Memoirs and Alanbrooke's War and its circulation was steadily approaching the million Diaries mark. Yet Thomson, not knowing how he could get it, wanted

serialisations of

more. Just as he wanted the losses of the Manchester Evening Chronicle and the Empire News cut by any means possible, short of alienating permanently a labour force that, even then, was not conspicuously docile. But this was a cure that had to be effected; for unlike Edinburgh's Evening Dispatch, neither of his Manchester-

printed newspapers offered a real enough threat to any other


"// Pays to be Honest"

newspaper to force a profitable merger, however long they might be sustained at a loss. All these problems he at once assumed as his own and upon them began the long established procedure of figuring; making it clear at the same time that everyone else was to get on with his own job, and revealing a relaxed capacity for delegating authority.

"Do you want




ing director, asked at their tall



and given

"Hell, no,"



the details ?"



wearing blue



his advertis-

Renshaw was extremely shirts.

"I've got plenty to do on


who had


own." Likewise with the more homely Eric Cheadle,

disagreeable task of striking a balance between a volatile chair-

man and

a volatile labour force.

Thomson's famous "licence


money" observation was already known to the union gentlemen, and their reply to it, to Cheadle, had been, "Well, when do we get some of the gravy?" a reply he very properly print


But when they pressed Cheadle with a claim he found he never hesitated to concede their point. And whatever the agreement was that Cheadle had made, Thomson would honour it. But clearly he hated the mere mention of fringe legitimate,



"is people who'll do a decent and provide their own fringes." His employees judged Thomson by comparing him with Lord Kemsley. Kemsley had been almost incapable of delegating Thomson did it easily and, having delegated, had a marvellous capacity for worrying no more. Kemsley had acted the part of the omniscient autocrat; Thomson endlessly asked questions and sought advice. At con.?" or "Am ferences he did not say: "Would you agree that I right in thinking ... ?" He asked simply, "Jim, what do you think about this?" or, "Micky, will this be O.K.?" or, "Harry, how does this work?" Kemsley was a man whose career had been influenced by his wife and brother Thomson was a man who had succeeded alone an essentially solitary man.




want," he confessed,

for a decent day's pay,






Roy Thomson of Fleet


Both were superb public relations men, yet Kemsley had been Thomson with the gentry, whilst Thomson was better than Kemsley with his labour force (whom he would happily tu-toi at any chapel function and for whom, next morning, if Cheadle would let him, he would refuse point blank to buy so much as a wash-room plug). Kemsley had been an active editor-in-chief, maintaining a tight control over his beloved Sunday Times and governing his entire group with the help of an inner family cabinet; Thomson proclaimed editorial and executive independence and concentrated all his energies not upon directing but upon expanding better than

his vast organisation.

Kemsley lived aristocratically in an Adam house in London and a mansion in the country; Thomson lived economically,


one small hotel after another, changing his address almost weekly, complaining bitterly about having to tip, driving Ivor Charles and Hotel Bookings Service mad. Though he was said to be worth, in England alone, some thirty-two million pounds, Thomson still hated to spend money. "I am not," he admitted handsomely, "open-handed." But, however much he owned, however rich he had become, he relearning his









ambitious (according to himself). He aimed now at a target of a hundred newspapers and admitted frankly that, when he had attained a hundred, he would

what he himself

criticised as

two hundred

in London, was seldom habitually he had been in both Toronto and Edin-

at once switch his sights to



but for


called "the Big League," he


Accepted by London's Big League, suddenly he was accepted everywhere,

— and









half of 1959 revealing daily engagements of a brilliance that He met Dame Edinburgh seldom bothered to afford him.

Margot Fonteyn and the Prime Minister; he made an appearance on Welsh television in Success Story; he visited the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, dined with Lord Beaverbrook and subsequently with Lord and Lady Rosebery. He attended Hannen Swaffer's eightieth birthday party, took part in BBC's Panorama, attended a reception at 10 Downing Street and debated at the 268

"It Pays

to be


Oxford Union Society. He was Cecil King's guest at a luncheon honour of the President of Guinea, and the German Ambassador's guest at a luncheon in honour of Chancellor Adenauer. He was entertained by the Gaitskells, Lord Poole and the Archbishop of Canterbury; and he was fed by Lord Brecon, Sir Eric Bowater, the Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and Mr. and Mrs. John Profumo. All of this in the last fourteen in

weeks of 1959.

wonder then that when he returned to Canada for Christmas, and Senator Rupert Davies asked him, "How's the Thomson could grin and say: "Oh, we're title going, Roy?" working on it." He visited the Canadian Prime Minister, told him again how much he wanted a peerage and thought Diefenbaker told him in Little

"I'll get it for


you." Subsequently, even though



versation bore no fruit, he refused to believe that his last ambition

would not be achieved. Not now that he owned Kemsley's newspapers and had Diefenbaker's good will. But he worried about



the other hand, in a televised interview with



not unskilled in the art of provocation, he revealed his habitual capacity for remaining unflurried. Having defined what Thomson meant by the terms "a publisher's duty," "editorial policy" and a "good newspaper," Churchill, a

"Are you proud to own the Empire News? I fault; your you took it over with the livestock on the not mean, premises, but do you intend to comb its hair make it a rather better paper?" And added, before Thomson could reply, "PerChurchill asked: it's

be news about the Empire in it!" laughed. "Well," he confessed, "I'm not specially proud of owning the Empire News. It's a good paper of its kind, I haps




." .




making money?" Churchill demanded.

"No, not very much." "Then it can't be a good newspaper in your eyes." "Well," Thomson admitted, "that class of newspaper must be more along the lines of some of the other papers you've criticised, really to


be successful and make money."

don't think


sexy enough?" suggested Churchill



— Roy Thomson of Fleet Street "I think perhaps that's the answer."

"You ought


have bought the Diana Dors series." I wouldn't have if I could've got them

"Well, I'm not saying at the right price."



was too high?"

"I think the price was too high."

"What was

the price?" Churchill asked.

"Thirty-five thousand pounds, I understand."

"Really?" commented Churchill, "Well, I wouldn't know. I'm not on the staff I'm only a regular contributor." "Randolph, if you wrote your memoirs, would you get thirtyfive thousand pounds?" "No," said Churchill, "but I am writing them" in response to which admission, Thomson at once indicated that he would like them for his Sunday Times but not at thirty-five thousand pounds. And, indeed, late in 1964, Randolph Churchill's early memoirs did appear in Thomson's newspaper, though at what price Thomson never bothered to ask. ("It hurts me to find out," he explained. "These writers get paid so damned much, I'd rather not know.") Churchill then moved on to pornography in newspapers, allegedly reminded of it by the mention of Thomson's Empire

News. "I was afraid of that,"

"Do you

like this

demanded. "No," Thomson like if



one of




told him, "I



pornography in the papers?" Churchill

easy in

might say very frankly,

my mind — I'd



be rather ashamed,

newspapers purveyed pornography.


what you ought to say; you ought to say some other word. Pornography, you know, is only on one particular subject. Did you ever look up the definition of pornography?" "Yes," said Mr. Churchill tersely, "Writing for or about I

don't think 'pornography'



"That's right. But then, some of these "It has a wider



meaning now," Churchill




eral obscenity."

"Well, not by dictionary standards,"





"It Pays to be Honest"

him point blank how he about the possible use of pornography in a Sunday paper of

Churchill, ignoring the quibble, asked felt


"Well, Randolph, let me put it this way. Supposing it comes to the issue that the Empire News has to put these sort of things in, or fail go out of business, and its employees be out of employ-


— — then


to think that I

might say, very frankly, that I would be inclined would go along with the spicier news, the spicier


"Even though you're a very rich man?" "But I'm not doing it for profit!" "I could understand a poor man doing


Churchill com-




"I'd be doing










"Pornography not


the public but for the employees." 305, 356 Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 286





Blantyre, 286

Blendallbush, 13

Bourasa sisters, 60 Bowater, Sir Eric, 269 Bowmanville, 15, 18, 26, 31



Index Bracken, Brendan, 226, 233, 236 Bradette, J. A., 122


Brampton, 185 Branxholme, 14

Carnovale, John, 106/) 112/, 117

Brecon, Lord, 269 British Empire Service Legion, 155 British Guiana, 150 British Institute of Management, 318

Carol, Prince, of


British United Press, 105 Brockington, Leonard, 10, 358

Brunette, Emile, 73, 88, 10 1,

29 1# 298/, 360 Chapleau, 61 Chaplin, Charlie, 362

Charles, Ivor, 263, 264, 268, 294, 299,

13/, 121

3^7, 333. 334 Charlie, Fat, 77, 99 of,


Charlottetown, 188, 240 Cheadle, Eric, 265, 267, 276, 301,

Moral Rearmament

Buckovetsky, Sam, 72 Burdlands, 14 Burke,

Sid, 114, 116/, 118/, 123/,

273 1

Fair, 243


Rumania, 318

128/, 130/, 160, 162, 169, 190, 197,

Buccleuch, 14 Buccleuch, Duke and Duchess


North Bay

Don, 343


Brunton, Gordon, 304, 319



Chancellor, Sir Christopher, 172, 275,

Brown, 54 Brown, George, 299


d'Ail, 3 1

Capitol Theatre,

302, 308, 309, 318, 326, 333

Chicago, 165 Christmas presents, 126, 210

Edmund, 339

Churchill, Randolph, 269^*, 358

The (Timmins), 79, 95

Burnett, Stan, 58, 64 Burnett-Stuart, Angus M., 259/, 265,


279> 304 Bushnell, Ernest,

Clyde, Lord, 228, 243 coat of arms, Thomson's, 242 Cobalt, 46


Clore, Charles, 258, 259

Cochrane, 46

Caesar, Syd, 79/, 87, 97, 289 Cambridge, St. John's College, 140

Colgate Palmolive, 92 Colonial Cordage Co., 23, 25 Colonist (Victoria, D.C.), 164


Borden, 34 Campbell, Gaye, 174 Campbell, Linda, 174 Canada Review, 244

Colquhoun, Coltart,

Canadian Broadcasting Association,


273. 277. 293, 299, 304, 315,

lishers Association, 143,

Commonwealth Correspondents' sociation,







347. 349 Coltart, Margaret, 218/, 225

162, 164/,

Canadian Liberty, 145, 157 Canadian National Carbon Co., 55,


161/, 201,

225/, 235, 251/, 260, 263, 265.,


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 120,354 Canadian Daily Newspaper Pub-



(1955), 211, 220 Conservator

(Brampton), 185, 212 Crown Prince of Greece,


Canadian Observer (Sarnia), 131


Sir Ivor,

James M.,

Press, 105, 135, 145, 164/,

166, 174/", 208

343 Cooke, Hal, no, 114 Cooke, Jack Kent, 92/, 99J;

Canadian Review, 184


cancer, 219




in, 114/,


102, 121,

127/, 132/, 136, 141, 144/,


Index Depression (1929/), 52 Devonshire, Duke of, 306

154m, 156/, 171,201,211,212,273 Coombs, Alice, see Thomson, Alice Copenhagen, 305

Dickens, Charles, 308, 309 Diefenbaker, John, 155, 238,

Copps, Ed, 88, 89, 125, 136, 144, 160,

248, 269, 306,


Thomson's experience, 102/ Dingman, Harold, 155/ Dionne quintuplets, 81 dieting,

Cornwall, 249 Cottrell, Elliott,


Cousins, Arthur G., 308 Covent Garden, cafe" at, 251, 253 Cowdray, Lord, 258, 259

(New Zealand), 360 Dominion Bank, 86


Dorando, 26 Douglas-Home, Sir Alec, 344, 352, 354 Drayton (Canada), 32 Drayton (of Provincial Newspapers

Crawford, Earl of, 233 Cromer, Lord, 318 Cruickshank, Stewart, 232

Cuba, 327 Cudlipp, Hugh, 294, 299, 300

Ltd.), 348 Drew, George, Dropmore, 183

Daily Advertiser (Lafayette), 311

Daily Citizen-News (Dalton), 311

Daily Express (London), 227, 340 Daily Free Press (Nanaimo), 208

Daily Herald (London), 275, 293, 295 Daily Herald (Prince Albert), 163

Eaton, Cyrus, 276 Eccleston, Walter, 69

Edinburgh, 190/, 201/ Edinburgh Festival, 227 Edinburgh, Philip, Duke

Daily Mirror (London), 295, 298, 300 Daily News (Chatham), 146/

Daily Sentinel-Review (Woodstock), 131 Daily Service (Lagos), 284

Edinburgh, University torship, 282


Daily Times Gazette (Oshawa), 170 Daily Times-Journal (Fort William),


Dalton, 3 1 Darling, Tommy, 64/, 66, 71m, 72, Darling, Sir William, 233 Daughters of Empire, 155



Elgin, Lord, 233

Elizabeth Elliot,

Queen, 246, 276, 332 241, 333


Queen Mother,

Douglas, 123

Elliot, Sherry, 153, 161, 173, 174,


136, 160, 162, 234, 246 Davies, Mary, 274 Davies, Senator Rupert,






139, 153

Lake, 286

26 Empire News, 251, 266, 269, 278/ Empire Press Union, 162 Elliot's Business College, 22,



173, 208, 235, 269 Bill, 72,

242, 243,

227; Rec-


Edward, Prince of Wales Edward VII), 308 Edwards, Joe, 77



Englehart, 46


De Forest Crosley, Radio, 59# 6 5> 69


246, 276, 309

Daily Star (Sudbury), 212



East Antrim Times, 286

Daily Journal-Record (Oakville), 217

Davidson, Jack, 79,

188, 243,

Dunnett, Alastair, 225, 236 Dunnett, Sydney, 51, 65 Dunville Chronicle, 286

Daily Courier (Kelowna), 225 Daily Express (Lagos), 277, 284

Daily Telegraph,



42, 45, 46^",

Enton Hall, 322 "Esra, Eloh", 202





Index Frenchman, Whispering,

Ethiopian Herald, 283

Evening Chronicle



266, 278/, 341 Evening Dispatch




197, 193/, 217, 223, 246, 331, 341/,

348, 350/ 362 Evening News (Edinburgh), 200, 205, 217, 223, 246, 342, 350/ Evening News (Manchester), 278/, 341 Evening News (Trinidad), 286

Evening Patriot (Charlottetown), 240 Evening Reporter (Gait), 131, 133, 168 Evening Telegram (Toronto), 143 Evening Tribune (Welland), 131, 133






269, 276, 299


Gait, 131, 160, 168, 174

Geoghegan, Mr., 192 Georgetown Herald, 258 Germany, 327 Gibson, Maurice, 288, 290 Giles, Kay and Eileen, 60 Glade* s County Democrat, 248 Gladstone-Miller, Miss L., 206, 216 Glasgow, 161, 285; Theatre Royal,

Fairmile, see yacht

228, 232, 235, 239 Glasgow Herald, 226, 248, 249/ Glass's Guide Services Ltd., 311 Gleason, Jackie, 100

Fairmont Times, The, 337 Thomson and, 35jf

Gleneagles, 245 Globe and Mail (Toronto), 171, 211/

Fastheughe, 14 "figuring, just", 73, 82, 212/, 237 Financial Times, 275

Glyndebourne, 320 Gordon, Hon. Wesley, 77 Grade, Lew, 229

Finch, Harry, 168, 170, 320

Grafton, Charles, 109

Fairbanks, Douglas, jnr., 321


Findlay, Sir


191, 202,



Findlay, Sir James, 195 Findlay, Peter, 191, 198, 202, 204, 289 Finland, Russia and, 1 1 Fisher, Douglas, 355 Fisher, Philip, 165

Fishman, Fleetway Fleming, Fleming,

Sam, 72 magazines, 291 Don, 186

Television, 275 Grange, 13 Grant, Ghriam, 325, 330 Gregg, 56 Grimond, Jo, 282 Grout, Arthur, 61 Gruenther, Gen. Alfred, 230 Grunfeld, Henry, 249, 252/, 275, 304, 343, 348

Guardian (Charlottetown), 188

Ian, 276

Florida, 127, 134, 153, 173, 208

Dame Margot, 268 Ford Company, 78 Forte, Charles, 318

Guchiru, J., 308 Guild of Newspaper Editors, 276 Gull, Lake, 76 Gulland, Alison, 318, 320, 349, 356

Fort Lauderdale,





J. H., 133

Fort William, 3 1 Foster,


Henry, 130/ fall of,


Fraser, Lord, Fraser, Sir

305/ Hugh, 226,

233, 261, 360

Fraser, Lionel, 252, 256, 292 Fraser, Sir Robert, 246 Freeman, John, 3 1 2jf Free Press (London, Ont.), 170

Haile Selassie, Emperor, 283 Haileybury (Ont.), 46, 77 Hamilton, Duke of, 233 Hamilton, Admiral Dalrymple, 233 Hamilton, C. Denis, 183, 250, 265, 294, 302, 304, 305, 306, 310, 334/, 344, 363 Hamilton, Margaret, 160, 184




Index Harding, Gilbert, 312 Hearst (Ont.), 46 Helbert Wagg, 252, 256, 292 Henry, Harry, 302, 304, 318, 325m, 326, 362 Herald (Vancouver), 176, 351 Herbert, Guy, 102 Hill, Charles (Lord Hill), 208 Hill (Philip), Higginson and Er-



see also

(later Thomson), 31^; Thomson, Edna

Irvine, Florence (later Dunnett), 34,

51,65 Irvine, Fred, 51, 55, 65 Irvine, May, 29, 30 Irvine, Olive, 52 Israel,

303 326


langers, 293

Hirsch, Gunther, 206, 215, 222, 234,

244/, 342 Hirsch, Hanni ("Honey"), 206, 222,


Jamaica, 144, 150 Jamieson, Wally, 115, 118, 119 Jarvis Street Collegiate, 21/ Jennings, Vivian, 258

Joe, Skinny, 77, 99

Hislop, Sarah, 15, 17, 21, 24/, 29 Histed, Allen, 170

John XXIII, Pope,

331, 361

Johnson, H. E., 50, 65, 82 Johnson, Lyndon B., 354

Hitler, Adolf, 105

Hobbs, Joe, 245/ Hodson, H. V., 305 Hohn, Major, 45

Joint North

News Company, 279

Journal (Oakville), 249

Junior Carlton Club, 318

Holdfast, 36/

Hollingworth, Al, 188

Holmes, Allen, 130, 131, 133, 160, 170, 289 Home, Lord, see Douglas-Home, Sir Alec Hope, Lord John, 230 Horaeck, Jim, 89

Howard and Wyndham,

Kamloops Daily

215, 232

Newspapers Ltd., 286




143; Seventh, 145, 162 (St. Petersburg),


Kennedy, President John, 352 Kenya, 285


* Ker, F. L, 175 Kilmuir, Lord, 324 King, Sir Alex., 226, 233 King, Cecil, 10, 259, 269, 284, 291/,






207, 229, 239, 246 Institute of Directors, 346 International Press Institute, 303 International Typographical Union,

294, 297/, 308/, 356, 360, 363 Kingston (Ont.), 121, 128, 160, 167, 208

Kinsey, Gwyn, 11 Kip, 34 Kirkland Lake, 45, 69, y6ff, 123, 181, 361 Krushchev, Nikita, 326$"

170 Intourist Ltd., 325 Inverness, 244 Ireland's Saturday

Night 286 y

Iroquois Falls, 54, 82 Irvine,


29, 30,


Kapuskasing, 46 Karachi, 308 Keith, Kenneth, 293/, 298 Kelowna, 225 Kemsley, Lord, 183, 210, 213, 233, 250/, 260/, 267/, 305, 308 Kemsley Newspapers Ltd., 253^"

Hueston, 130 Illustrated

Sentinel, 240,

Kanniwan, 75

Lafayette, 3 1




Index Lagos, 277 Lake, George, 83, 89


Laurel Leader-Call, 258, 339/ Lavis, Marilyn (later Thomson), 222,

236, 239, 356


Law, James,

1 95 Lawrence, T. E., 13 Lawrie, Don, 133 Learmouth, Sir James, 209

Lee, Mrs.,

Macmillan, Harold, 243, 268, 276, 29 3 332, 337, 339, 344 MacMillan, Viola, 70 McNeil, Hector, 233 MacNib, see Mackie, Albert Charles,



McTaggart, Ken, 125, 168 McVeigh, Mr. Justice, 288 Maidenhead Young Conservatives,


Bob, 87, 10 1, no, 133 Littler, Prince, 229

321 Maisie, 101, 115

Liverpool Echo, 281, 287, 289,

Major, Herve, 186 Malone, Richard, 165, 264/ Manchester, 144, 259/, 266



Lloyd, Selwyn, 305 Logan, Jimmy, 232


(Ont.), 170

London: Howard Hotel, 257; Royal Festival Hall, 236, 36 1 Savoy Hotel and Grill, 236, 251, 253 ;




160, 168/,

McDevitt, Christy, 355 Macdonald, Ian, 257, 307 Macdonald, Ian H., 166, 244, 307/ Mackay, 352

in/, 117, 122/ 332


McKenzie, 130 215,331/

198, 202,

204 of





233 Mackintosh, family, 19 McLaren, Moray, 203 Maclean, Sir Robert, 233



Massey, Vincent, 139, 248 Mathers, Lady, 215, 234 Mavroleon, Stavros, 343, 344 mayoral contest, Thomson's, 67/

Mboya, Tom, 308

Mackie, Albert, 193, 197$ 202



Marks, Jack, 123, 125, 137 Marshall, Red, 100 Martin, Paul, 184 Martin, Tony, 325/ Mascioli, Dan, 1 06/, 1 1 Mascioli, Leo, 69, 71, 72, 86, 106JJ,

Mackenzie, Sir Compton, 203, 214,


Kris, 190


McCurdy, George, 160


Bros. (Toronto), 81, 86, 105,

Margaret, Princess, 242

188, 190, 201, 218, 249


Manson, 54 Manton, Frank, 86 108

Lyon King of Arms, 242 St.

Manchester Guardian, 277, 279, 362 Mannion, Ed, 160


Longboat, Tom, 26, 27 Longford, Lord, 356 Lord, Cyril, 279, 281 Los Angeles, 1 74 Low, David, 261



245, 249

Mercier, Frank, 303 Mercury (Guelph), 146/ 184 Merrick, Arthur, 146/

Mesta, Perle, 361

Miami, 177 militia,

Thomson joins,


Millar, Sir James, 203

McLeod, Bruce, 89

Miller, 75

Macleod, Jack, 50, 62, 68 Maclinton, Dr., 88

Miller, Jack, 198, 200, 201, 207

Mingay Publishing Co.


Pty. Ltd., 286



Montgomery, Lord, 305, 356

Nolan, Sidney, 335 Norde Ontarienne, 79/ Norstadt, Gen., 243

Montreal Trust Co., 108

North Bay, 45/, 54/,

Mooney, 71, 74 Moose Jaw, 162 Moral Rearmament, 220, 315 Morgan, J. Pierpont, 1 77




Burnham, 147

Electric, 51, 63,


82, 90, 272, 361 Capitol Theatre, 55, 57ff Northern Broadcasting and Publish-

Morland, George, 209 Morris, Claud, 286 Morrison of Lambeth, Lord, 276



Muir, James,


355 Northern Supplies,



71, 82



Ltd., 311





42, 44/, 60, 71,

86, 146/

as salesman of,




Morrison, George, 130, 234/ Moscow, 326$", 361 Mosshouse, 14


no, 116, 119, 147 News (Kirkland Lake),

ing, 85,

Nugget, The (North Bay), 50, 59, 62, 63, 67, 81, 107


Oakes, Sir Harry, 76

212/, 272

Muirhead, Sir John, 249 Muliro, Mr., 318

Oakville, 212, 217, 355 Observer, The, 261, 266m, 304

Odette, 96/

Nanaimo, 208


Nassau, 177, 182 National Broadcasting Sales, 157, 159 National Commercial Bank of Scot-

Orangeville Banner,


230 Nelson (Thomas) and Sons Ltd., 311,


137, 170

Outram (George) and

Co., 226, 233,

248/, 360

Oxford Union, 269 Oxford University Liberal Club, 321

3*9 Bill,


Orillia, 163, 185

Ottawa, 42, 45, 137

land, 233, 257, 259


Press, 275, 291$"


Newfoundland, 306



Liberty, 145, 152,


Liskeard, 46

Packet and Times (Orillia), 163 Pal, 223

News Chronicle (London), 278, 296 News Chronicle (Port Arthur), 163 News Herald (Vancouver), 155 News of the World, 278/

Palmer, Derek, 293 Palmer, T. M., 59

Newsweek, 155 New York, 15, 33, 81, 108/, 124 New Zealand, 352

Patton, 288

Ngala, Ronald, 318 Niagara, 19, 109, 215 Nicol, Senator, 141 Nipissing, Lake, 45, 51

Paris, 154, 157

Parnell, Val, 229

Patton, Ed, 105, 108, 165 I, King of the Hellenes, 323 Pearson, Lester, 337, 352, 354


Peebles, 191

Pembroke Observer, 225 Penticton, 355

Nkumbula, Mr., 340

Penticton Herald,

Noble, 204 Noel Baker, Philip, 282

People, The, 293,


299 Perry Press Productions Ltd., 337




Index Peter (car driver), 206

Renshaw, Michael, 265, 267, 302, 304, 326

Peterborough (Ont.), 120, 208 Petersburg (USA), 258 Pethick, Mrs. ("Grandma"), 18 Pethick, Hugh, 22 Pethick, William, 15 Phil the Greek, 66, 90 Phoenix (Ariz.), 161




Reuters Ltd., 321 Reynolds, Quentin, 365 Rhodesia, Northern, 340/ Richardson, Mayor, 67/ Ritchie, John, 195

Robarts, John, 354

69, 70, 74

Playfair, Stuart, 146

poker game; three year, 70; Thomson




Political Quarterly, 3 Pollitt,



47, 49, 169

Poole, Lord, 269

Rouyn, 116, 132 Royal Bank of Canada,

Porcupine Advance, The, 72

Port Arthur, 163, 212 Port Credit, 152, 337 Press ,

The (Timmins),

Robinson, Kenneth, 285 Rogers, 46 Roosevelt, Mrs. Eleanor, 306 Rosebery, Lord, 233, 242, 268 Rothermere, Lord, 84, 211, 259, 291, 305, 365 Rothschilds, 292




112/, 117, 138, 160

Royal Photographic Society, 318 Russell,


Printers' Pension Corporation,

and, 26

Lord John, 308 Leonard, 358

Ryan, Max,


Profumo, John, 234, 269


70, 80, 85, 86, 101,


Progress Index (Petersburg),




Press News, 145 Prince Albert, 163


147, 170, 191,




348 208 Purdy, Rai, 228, 234, 272 Purcell, Gil, 175, 184,


St. Johns

(Newfoundland) University,

306 St. Laurence Advertising, 133 St.

Petersburg (Fla.), 178

Salford City Reporter, 3 1


province, 116




Sarnia, 128, 131, 145, RadclifTe, Jack, 232 radio, selling, 42!!

Radio Luxembourg, 137 Radio Representation Co., 133 radio stations,

54^ CFCH,55/,6 4i;36i CJCS,



Saskatchewan, 35 Sassoon, Sir Victor and Lady, 182 Saule, Sainte Marie, 46 Scarth, Harry, 105 Scobell, Col. Sydney, 75 Scotsman,






78/, 92, 361


Scott, Jack,



Scott, Peter, 133,

133, 135

Scottish Co-operative


72, 108, 112, 117

235 Rankin, Mr., 282, 287 Rankin, Robert, 186, 188/, 208


219, 224, 225, 236, 242, 332, 350,




269, 332

331m, 355

Scottish Scottish


147/ Movement, 233

Labour Party, 233



254 Scotty the terrier, 160/



1 1

Index Scythes and Co. Ltd., 2§ff Scythes, Ardagh, 25, 27/, 30/, 36, 38,

Stratford (Ont.), 88,

180, 324 Seaton House, 215

Sudbury Scene, 311

Service Supplies Ltd., 42, Sheffield,





Sudetenland, 106




Sunday Advertiser (Lafayette), 311 Sunday Express, 301


Sunday Graphic, 266, 278, 283/ Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 286

160 Shore, Harry, 130/ Shrewsbury, Earl of, 14


Alf, 26,

Sunday Telegraph, 304 Sunday Times, 251, 252, 261, 266, 270,


Sifton, Clifford, 164, 211, 228, Sifton,






283/, 301, 304, 310, 319, 351, 362,




Sutch, 335/ Sutherland, Bert, 73, 101 Swaffer, Hannen, 268

Silver, Phil, 100

Silverwood Dairies, 114 Simcoe, Lake, 34, 40, 91 Sisson, Nolan, 87, 88, 101, 106, 115 Smallwood, Joseph, 306 Smith, Adam, 227, 230 Smith, F. E. (later Lord Birkenhead),

214 Smith and Chappie, 61

Snowdon, Earl



Sturgeon Falls, 60 Sudbury, 46, 59, 212

310, 332,

Symington, Ernest, 77 Tait Publishing Co. Ltd., 337 Tanganyika, 285

Tatham, 130 Taylor (J. and J.) Safework, 26 Taylor, E. P., 211 Telegram (Toronto), 185


Sonnenburg, Gus, 27

teletypesetting, 165, 175

Mabel (later Thomson), see Thomson, Mabel Southam family, 120, 130, 131, 135,



Therriault, Fr., 69, 114, 121, 122

Spanish Wells, 182 Sporting

News of St.


Tom, 326/ The

214/, 220/, 226/

Thomson, Alice

157, 165



Temiskaming Rouyn, 46


Lake), 286 (Cornwall),

34, 67, 99, 121, 123, 126, 153, 173,


258 Star (London), 296 Star (Sudbury), 217, 220


Star (Toronto), 131

Thomson, David (18th




246 cent.),



Thomson, David (Lord Thomson's grandson), 356 210,

Thomson, Edna, 34/,

214/, 221/, 227, 241, 244, 247 Stewart, Dr. Andrew, 248/, 160 Stewart, Ian, 215 Stockholm, 334 Stodgell, 79/, 88

Carl, 17, 19/, 26, 29/, 34,

38/, 44, 65, 121,

of Wales, 32

Stephenson, J. J., 249 Sternberg, Herbert, 108, 165 Stevenson, Sir Edward, 204,



Thomson, Andrew, 15 Thomson, Archibald, 15 Thomson, Audrey (later Campbell),

Louis, 2


Standard Freeholder



7/i 29, 32, 34, 5i,

136, 152/, 160, 163, see also

39, 51, 66/, 91, 1


Thomson, George, 15, 16 Thomson, Herbert, 15, 17, Thomson, Hugh, 15, 16


et passim-,


igff, 34,



Index Thomson, Irma




Brydson), 35, 39/, 90, 99, 109, 123, 126, 139, 153, 160/, 173/, 181, 194,

215, 239

361 Empire Theatre, 107/; Thomson Building, 1 1 Timmins Daily Press, see Press, The ;


Thomson, John, ofBonese, 13 Thomson, Kenneth, 41, 52, 91,

Thomson's, as peer, 353/

Toronto, passim',





174, 179, 202, 211, 221, 236, 239,

cess Theatre, 25

244, 277, 316, 324, 326, 343, 356 Lavis),



Thomson, Mary, 15 Thomson, Roy Herbert: J







121, 161; his "Creed", 171; Parliamentary candidature and defeat, 184^; leaves Canada, 189^"; excess

Ullapool, 244





322/, 343; receives of Phoenix, 323;

naturalised in United


Trinidad Guardian, 286

Uganda, 285 Press, 166


46, 116, 132

339; peerage, 353 Thomson Co. Ltd., 147, 168

Vancouver, 176 vaudeville, Thomson's

Thomson Foundation,

Victoria (D.C.), 164 Virginia State Chamber

309, 316/, 331,


Thomson Newspapers Canada, 308 Thomson Newspapers Rhodesia (PVT)

merce, 318 Voice 0/ British


interest in,





Ltd., 286

Thomson Newspapers South (Pty.) Ltd.,



Thomson-Odhams Ltd., 293 Thomson Organisation Ltd.,



Thomson Thomson


Tring, 247 Trinidad, 150, 286

Trout Creek, 48 TV Guide, 249



Toronto Scottish Regiment, 306/ Tory, John A., 194, 249 Trafalgar Journal (Oakville), 212 transmitter, radio, purchasing, 55/ Trentonian and Tri-Country News, 337

working career, 23; as salesman, 30$"; marriage, 33; buys first newspaper, 80; health, 102, begins


143, 161, 243;

20; Ontario Club, 120; Prin-

123, 126, 134, 137, 139/, 160, 173,

Thomson, Mabel, 44 Thomson, Marilyn (nee


Albany Club,

Publishing Co., 147 Scottish



348, 349

Thorpe, O.



Time, 168 Times, The (Blantyre), 28b Times, The (London), 364 Times and Guide (Weston), 185, 186



Anthony, 353/

Waiser, Sol, 57, 59 Wales, television in, 234 Walker, David, 161, 177/, 188, 238,

239 Walker, "Wes," 170 Walsh, Father, 141, 167, 174 Warburg's (S. C), 249, 252, 258, 292 Ward, Dorothy, 214 Waterhouse, Keith, 272 Watson, Murray, 196, 202, 204, 225 Wavell, Lady, 305 Weekly (Orillia), 185

Times Herald (Moose Jaw), 162 Times-West Virginian, Fairmont, 337 Timmins, 38, 45, 46, 69/, 104, 106/,

Weekly, The (Port Credit), 337 Weekly Scotsman, 193

Weir, Lord, 233



Index Winnipeg, 36, 246

Welensky, Sir Roy, 303 Welland, 131, 212 Welsh Readership Survey, 32 Weston, 185 West Virginia, The, 337 Wharton, Lord, 13/, 16

Woodcock, George, 299, 340 Wood, Gundy, 147/, 185 Woodstock, 131

Whig Standard (Kingston), 167 White Heather Food Products, 162 White River, 47 Whitehorn Press Ltd., 337 Whitton, Charlotte, i55jf, 344 Whitton, James, 190/, 203, 214, 227 Wilkinson, Mrs., 280/ Williams, Francis (Lord Francis- Wil-

World War I, 31/ World War II, uojf Wren, Bill, 102, III,

114, 121, 123

Wright, Selby, 241, 243


Greville, 325,


yacht, Thomson's, 171/, 177, 182


Sir Harold, 233

York Centre, 184/ York Rangers Militia Regiment, 34 Yorkton Enterprise, The, 337

liams), 143/, 261

Williamson, Lord, 324 Wilson, Harold, 344, 363 Windsor, Duke and Duchess



158, 161, 171, 211 of,


Zorina/Zorita, 177/




looked to his Canadian competitors a powerful and threatening force. As the business advanced, so its owner's appetite and ambitions grew. He wanted to own fifty newspapers and soon was looking beyond Canada to the United

Kingdom for new



so his

biography enters that period when he acquired first Edinburgh's Scotsman, then Scottish Television and then Lord KemSunday Times and all his regional newspapers. It covers Thomson's defeats and his triumphs whilst, his target having been raised to a hundred then two hundred newspapers, he acquired a publishing house in Edinburgh, radio interests in the West Indies, and newspapers and magazines wherever they were available from Mississippi to Lagos. Thomson thus became engaged in bus-


where the stakes were millions and grew steadily. The "little guy" who once had owned only "a lot of little newspapers" had entered the big league, iness

his influence

not just as a financial wizard, but as a publishing baron whose impact on the press in

both Canada and Britain was almost


THE AUTHOR Russell Braddon hails from Sydney. He was born there in 1921, joined the Australian Army at the outbreak of war, and was taken prisoner by the Japanese. From his experiences of three and a half years as a prisoner-of-war, came that great war book The Naked Island. He came to England in 1949 and has published a number of books including biographies of Leonard Cheshire, V.C., Nancy Wake, the French Resistance heroine, and Joan Sutherland. This biography has been written with the co-operation of Lord Thomson.


Joan Sutherland RUSSELL BRADDON 'Exciting as an adventure story.'


'Here is a very well constructed book that will fascinate absolutely everyone. . .' fancy Spain '.


an admirable


subJ ect

biography on an admirable

•' -


The Wild Swan The Life and Times of Hans Christian Andersen


definitive biography of the author of the immortal Fairy Tales told with rare skill and charm. superb


an age in which Andersen is placed firmly in his wider European setting as a man of letters, inveterate traveller and friend of kings. Illustrated portrait of


and the Rose


ARTHUR BRYANT The finest of English chroniclers has picked out of the pattern of timeless moments which make up a nation's history, nine key episodes. As Sir Arthur Bryant retells these stories of crisis, nerve

them back


and perseverance, he brings


'Belongs to the tradition launched by

Gibbon and

Hume, maintained by Macaulay, Carlyle and Froude, and in our day by G. M. Trevelyan.' History Today