Andy Clarke and his Neighbourly News was published in 1949 by the Ryerson Press. The flap copy reads, “Few Canadian books have been so widely heralded or so eagerly awaited by so many as Neighbourly News….Andy Clarke had a genius for friendship, and in the end this group of old friends in his own craft joined hands to raise this living memorial to one they greatly loved.”
This 160-page book is a compilation of Clarke’s articles and broadcasts. Selected by his wife, Violet Clarke, edited by Lorne Pierce, and illustrated by Thoreau MacDonald, this volume represents the best of Andy Clarke’s weekly Sunday morning broadcasts over the CBC during the 1940s.
Andrew D. Clarke was first a newspaperman and then a radio broadcaster. He was born July 13, 1882 in Grimsby, Ontario. Clarke got his start in journalism at the age of 22 following a conversation with Lou Marsh, legendary sports reporter for the Toronto Star (The Lou Marsh award for outstanding Canadian athlete was named in his honour after his untimely death in 1936). Marsh helped land Clarke an interview with one of the seven Toronto dailies of the day, The World. Marsh had told him that, “if he could write as entertainingly as he talked, Andy would have no trouble getting a job as a reporter.”* After nine years at The World, Andy took a job at the London Advertiser. Four years later, Clarke got a call from the Toronto Globe where he remained for 16 years until The Globe was amalgamated with The Mail and Empire to become the Globe and Mail.
While at The Globe, Clarke initiated “The Southeast Corner”, a short two-column feature that appeared in the same spot on The Globe’s front page. This column contained humourous stories from small towns across Ontario and Quebec. Stories about “Barrel-bellied pumpkins, two-headed calves, a dog that could play the piano, raspberries in November, a boy who could sing bass, a pike that had swallowed an alarm clock, a school teacher who crocheted, a parsnip that looked like a person.” There was an endless supply of content for The Southeast Corner which provided a measure of relief during the dark days of the Depression.
When radio arrived in Canada in the early 1920s, Andy Clarke began broadcasting the news every night from the newsroom of The Globe. He had a down-home approach and a friendly neighbourly voice that appealed to a wide audience. Clarke’s love of picking out stories from the local newspaper feeds also filled his nightly broadcasts with stories and anecdotes along with the news of the day.
When The Globe was bought by The Mail and Empire in November 1936, Clarke soon found himself out of a job. But not for long. The CBC had been “thinking about a weekly news broadcast of a different sort, that would deal with the homely happenings of everyday life in Ontario, the things that were never touched on in news bulletins that dealt with the daily grist of disaster, crime and international worries.”* Andy Clarke’s name came to the fore and on Sunday, January 7, 1940, the first broadcast of Andy Clarke and his Neighbourly News hit the airwaves. Clarke also travelled to small towns and would broadcast to live audiences. Andy Clarke was given the title Mayor of Little Places by Enid Donahue of Kahshe Lake, Muskoka in one of her columns in the Gravenhurst Banner. The title stuck throughout Clarke’s broadcast career.
In his tribute to Andy Clarke, well-known humourist Greg Clark says, “But in all the cities of Eastern Canada where his Sunday morning feature was released, there were thousands upon thousands of people, wistful of the country air in which they had been born and raised before coming to the cities, who waited upon that quaint, surprising voice every Sunday morning with something of a religious attitude of mind and heart, to be transported. Transported is exactly the word. Andy Clarke loved what he did; and people on every level of the community, urban, rural and backwoods, were picked up and carried by him into a homely, fanciful, happy mood. He was an artist.”*
Andy Clarke died May 19, 1948.
*Greg Clark, Andy Clarke an Introduction by Greg Clark