A bit of a departure today…
J. Patrick O’Callaghan was the publisher of two newspapers I worked at in my career as a journalist: the Windsor Star and the Calgary Herald. My acquaintance with him deepened when I was a member of the Herald’s editorial board, and we met every morning to hammer out the topics of the following day’s editorials.
A few years later, when we both found ourselves in Toronto and got together for lunch, I told him I had worked under him in Windsor in the ’70s. “I was junior reporter back then,” I hastened to add because I didn’t think he’d remember a neophyte in the newsroom.
“And I was a junior publisher,” he replied.
That was quintessential Pat O’Callaghan. As Catherine Ford, former Herald
columnist and associate editor, notes in her foreword to MAVERICK PUBLISHER: J. Patrick O’Callaghan A Life In Newspapers, “I’m not sure how well Pat understood in what regard his employees, not only in the newsroom, but also throughout the plant, held him. He knew everyone’s name, and he treated everyone with grace and courtesy.” In turn, everyone called him Pat, from the Herald’s maintenance workers to the prime minister of Canada.
MAVERICK PUBLISHER, released this month by Carrick Publishing, is Pat’s account of his nearly half a century in journalism, with a focus on the tumultuous 1970s and 1980s in Canada: the Constitution, the National Energy Program and the newspaper business itself. Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente calls the memoir “opinionated, bracing and refreshingly frank.” Like the man himself, who did not run with the herd.
Born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1925, Pat grew up in England. At the age of 16, he was hired by the Malvern Gazette in Malvern, Worcestershire, and soon after that joined the Royal Air Force. At the end of the Second World War, he worked at the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Liverpool Echo and Evening Express. When the Liverpool newspaper purchased the Red Deer Advocate in 1959, it sent Pat to Red Deer, Alta., to turn the weekly into a daily. In 1965, he was hired by the Southam newspaper chain, and served at the helm of the Windsor Star, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald. He stayed with Southam Inc. until he retired in 1991.
Pat wrote his memoir before his death in 1996. His widow, Joan Abeles O’Callaghan, found working on the manuscript very comforting. “Pat wrote the memoirs with a light touch and a conversational tone,” she says. “When I sat down at the computer to work on the book, it felt like I was having a visit with him, that he was sitting next to me, telling me his stories.”
Check out Joan O’Callaghan’s interview with the Mesdames of Mayhem.