Conrad Black Creates Controversy in Calgary

Bob Blakey and I raise a glass to the memory of Bob Edwards at his grave in Union Cemetery

My fellow “gangrenous limb” Bob Blakey (left) and I raise a glass to the memory of Bob Edwards at his grave in Union Cemetery

I was one of the “gangrenous limbs.” That’s how Conrad Black characterized my fellow locked-out Calgary Herald employees and me in March 2000 when he came to Calgary for a bank shareholders’ meeting. Black at the time was chairman and chief executive of Hollinger, the company that owned the Herald. My Herald colleagues and I had been walking the picket line for four months. Union leader Andy Marshall asked Black why he was insulting his once-valued employees. Black responded: “We’re not. We’re amputating gangrenous limbs. If they have the grace of conversion and want to function as employees instead of staging an NDP coup d’état in the newsroom, they’ll be welcome.” Later Black told The New York Times he expected the labour dispute to drag on for two more years “and then we won’t have to keep their jobs anymore.”

The dispute continued for another three months, until 30 June 2000, and ended with the decertification of the union. Of the 93 employees left on the picket line, only eight opted to return to the newsroom. The rest, including me, accepted buyouts. We couldn’t see a future for ourselves in a non-unionized newsroom run by anti-union managers.

Since that time, this former media baron, Lord Black, has left the newspaper business, served a three-year jail sentence in the United States for mail fraud and obstruction of justice, and written a few books. I, too, have written a few books. That’s why both of us were invited to attend the Bob Edwards Award Gala in Calgary this past week. It’s the largest literary event held annually in Western Canada; a fund-raising dinner organized by the Calgary Public Library Foundation. The event is named after Calgary’s first media celebrity: Bob Edwards, the early 20th century publisher of the Eye Opener, a scandal sheet that broke all the conventional rules of journalism by running humour, gossip and satirical commentary instead of news. Black was invited to the gala to be recognized for his outspoken views, most recently as a critic of the American justice system. I was there to hold court as one of the 37 table hosts.

Some of my writer friends were appalled when they heard Black would be the recipient of this year’s Edwards award. Why would the Library Foundation want to honour this Montreal-born Anglophile who renounced his Canadian citizenship to qualify for a seat in the British House of Lords? Why would the foundation want to add Black’s name to a list of distinguished Canadian recipients that includes Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton and Mordecai Richler? The gala was sold out so there was no way the foundation could disappoint its paying guests by cancelling the event. But my friends hoped the foundation members would eventually come to their senses and acknowledge that choosing Black was a mistake.

The Herald’s Stephen Hunt had an article in the paper before the gala, documenting the annoyance of those who felt Black was a poor choice for the award. The most vocal and most articulate critic was Drew Anderson, editor of FastForward Weekly, who wrote in a blog that Black was the kind of individual who would have been “squarely in Bob’s crosshairs.”

I did give some thought to declining the foundation’s invitation. As a former Herald staff writer, I felt that a totally avoidable labour dispute in 1999-2000 had caused lasting and irreparable damage to what was once one of Western Canada’s finest dailies. But after further deliberation I decided to attend the event because I’m a huge supporter of the Library, and because I could write about the gala afterwards. And I’m glad I did because at one point in his speech Black was booed. But I’m not putting what I have written on the Internet. Instead I am making it available privately to interested readers for 99 cents. You won’t read about it elsewhere because Black’s 34-minute speech wasn’t reported on in the Calgary newspapers. Mine, which I title “Conrad Black: A Man of Too Many Words,” is the only account you will find anywhere. Just click on the “Buy Now” button below and I will have it securely delivered to your email inbox in PDF format.
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From The Edmonton Bulletin Of 1913




Dashes In Powerful Automobile For Line Where He Will Be Safe


Months and Probably Years Of Litigation Will Be Required To Convict Him Again

  • 1901 – Pittsburgh millionaire playboy Harry K. Thaw met Evelyn Nesbit, New York chorus girl and model.
  • 1905 – Married Miss Nesbit against family’s wishes.
  • 1905 – Started a campaign against architect Stanford White, Miss Nesbit’s former lover.
  • 1906 (June 25) – Shot White to death at a Madison Square Garden vaudeville show.
  • 1907 (January to April) – Tried for murder. Hung jury.
  • 1908 (January to February) – Tried again for murder. Found not guilty by reason of insanity. Sentenced to life in the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
  • 1909 – Thaw’s lawyers attempted to have him released on a writ of habeas corpus. The court dismissed the writ.
  • 1913 (August 17) – Thaw escaped from Matteawan.

Harry K. Thaw, the slayer of Stanford White, has escaped from the hospital for the criminally insane. A dart for liberty through an open gate, a dash in the open door of a powerful automobile that stood on the outside, and a flight like a rocket for the Connecticut state line, 30 miles away, accomplished his escape. Five confederates manned the car in which he escaped. Tonight, he was still at large.

Once beyond the New York state boundary, Thaw is free. Only months, perhaps years of litigation can bring him back to Matteawan, and then only in the event that he is adjudged insane in the state to which he has fled.

(In fact, Thaw had fled to Sherbrooke, Quebec. He was extradited back to New York in December 1914, tried a third time, and found not guilty. He died in Florida in 1947 at age 76.)

From The Calgary Herald Of 1913



Bay opening

The new Hudson’s Bay store will be open for inspection by the general public on Monday after the official opening of the huge emporium. The ceremonies will be concluded shortly after 1 o’clock, and the citizens will have the rest of the afternoon to gaze in wonder and admiration at all the marvels to be seen inside the handsome building. The public will have the full run of the huge establishment, and will be allowed to inspect the wonderful machinery in the basement.

The east door on Seventh Avenue will be opened by Lieutenant-Governor Bulyea with a solid gold key, after a procession through the streets of Calgary escorted by 14 picked men of the Fifteenth Light Horse under Lieutenant Gilroy. The key is a masterpiece of the goldsmith’s craft and bears the coat-of-arms of the honourable company.

The regimental band of 40 pieces of the 103rd Calgary Rifles will render appropriate music. Bandmaster O.D. Joiner has prepared a special programme for the occasion. The first number will be “Land of Hope and Glory,” which will be sung by a number of the musicians.

Over 300 invited guests will be presented to the lieutenant-governor, and all will sit down to a most elaborate luncheon. The toast list will be long and will include the King, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Province of Alberta and the City of Calgary. A special string orchestra will play during the luncheon, and everything has been done to make it one to be remembered.

From The Calgary Herald of 1913




Dr. Mahood Anxious To Inoculate City Hall Reporters

Newspapermen, called by their duties to the office of Dr. Stanley Mahood, medical health officer, have lately acquired the habit of ducking furtively in and out of the office with one eye on the doctor and the other on a medical case labelled “typhoid fever vaccine.”

Dr. Mahood has become obsessed with the idea that the newspapermen of Calgary are daily in danger of contracting typhoid fever, and he uses the most persuasive language to induce the reporters to let him shoot their arms full of this new kind of germ killer.

To listen to the genial doctor talk, he takes a shot of the anti-typhoid fever “dope” every morning before breakfast. But the newspapermen, belonging to a suspicious tribe, are still waiting to see the doctor demonstrate on himself.

Despite the fact that hundreds of Calgary residents have taken the vaccine treatment, that typhoid has been practically stamped out in Calgary, and that various employees around the city hall have had the typhoid vaccine treatment, the newspapermen still refuse to take chances.

From The Calgary Herald Of 1913





One of the most interesting features of the new store, opening Monday next, August 18, will be the superb Elizabethan Rooms in connection with the restaurant service on the sixth floor. The Elizabethan Dining Room proper will accommodate 250 guests, while an adjoining smaller room will afford delightful environment and the requisite seating capacity for exclusive dinner parties and small banquets. These rooms are designed and decorated throughout in the heraldic splendour of the Romanced Elizabethan Period, oak panelled, cathedral leaded-light stained windows, with rich draperies, ceiling and electroliers of a most enhancing design in the Tudor Period. The personally chosen furniture is in exquisite harmony with the entire prodigal scheme of Elizabethan appointment – the sumptuous leather-upholstered chairs bearing the imposing coat-of-arms of the company.

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