Les McLaughlin and the CBC:
Featuring sound recordings from the CBC Northern Service
In 2000, the CBC funded a project to assist in the digitization of CBC sound recordings held at the NWT Archives. Prior to the project, the majority of the original master copies at the Archives were in audio reel (reel to reel) format. These recordings, the archival masters, are now stored on CD.
The NWT Archives is pleased to present a portion of these CBC Northern Service recordings. This particular exhibit focuses specifically on sound recordings originally produced by or in association with Les McLaughlin. His work at the CBC’s Chateau Laurier studios in Ottawa was prolific. This is but a taste.
Radio programs featured include interviews and stories of pioneers and newsmakers of the north. Each sound recording is accompanied by images and biographical notes.
About Les McLaughlin
Les McLaughlin began his broadcasting career with CBC Northern Service in Whitehorse, Yukon. He started as summer relief in 1962 and was a full-time announcer operator from 1964-1968. He was the Northern Service producer in Montreal from 1968-1980, moving to Ottawa as the producer/head of the Ottawa production unit from 1980-1995.
The Northern Service production unit was established in 1980 as the result of minor downsizing at the CBC Northern Service short-wave headquarters in Montreal. It was decided that a news and current affairs presence was needed in Ottawa to provide northern listeners with substantive stories about events on Parliament Hill, in government departments and in the many non-governmental agencies with headquarters in Ottawa.
The unit was composed of McLaughlin as producer, a technician, a production assistant and a senior news editor. It was located at the Chateau Laurier Hotel, home to CBC Radio in Ottawa since the 1930s. The studio was on the 8th floor in an unused storage area. The unit provided daily news and current affairs items fed to northern locations via satellite. The team catered to specific requests for story coverage from northern producers and also generated material from their own information and sources.
In addition, the unit produced broadcast recordings (real records) featuring northern singer-songwriters such as Charlie Panigoniak, Susan Aglukark, David Gon, Hank Karr, Itulu Itidlouie and many others. Once recorded, their music was released for non-commercial airplay – first on vinyl LP and later on CD. Eventually, 55 LPs and 11 CDs were produced.
The unit also developed and produced the CBC True North Concert series and was involved with special events coverage like national constitutional conferences, the Arctic Winter Games and other major pan-northern events. The Northern Service production unit was closed after 15 years in 1995.
After a long career in broadcasting, Les passed away in 2011.
About Richard Finnie
Richard Finnie a noted writer, photographer and film-maker, was born in 1906 in Dawson City, Yukon. His early career achievements included five seaborne expeditions to the eastern Arctic and the first flight made over the North Magnetic Pole.
He served as assistant radio operator under Captain J.E. Bernier, on board the Canadian government ship, Arctic. The official record of the Arctic’s expedition in 1928 would be Finnie’s first professional film. His book, Canada Moves North, was described by Vilhjalmur Stefansson as “the best general book about northern Canada”.
In 1939, he produced a film in Fort Rae entitled Dogrib Treaty. In 1942, he produced two films while hired to work on the Canol pipeline Canol and The Alaska Highway, both of which gained much acclaim.
Click for a brief (1:36) clip of an interview with Richard Finnie originally featured on the CBC Northern Service radio program “The Days Before Yesterday”. Les McLaughlin produced. Ray Stone hosted.
Listen to the entire interview (10:49), in which Finnie describes his involvement in the origins of the Canol Project in 1942 (CBC/NWT Archives/N-1998-030: 0203).
About Scotty Gall
Raised near Aberdeen in Scotland, Scotty Gall applied for an apprenticeship with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and made his way to Canada in 1923. Gall has the distinction of having successfully navigated the Northwest Passage in 1937 while piloting the HBC ship, Aklavik. As the trip was completed in the course of delivering goods to HBC posts, it was not publicized at the time.
Amundsen had navigated the passage some four decades earlier, but it wasn’t until 1942 – when the RCMP ship, St. Roch, set out to complete the distance – that national attention was focused on a successful trip through the Northwest Passage.
After the World War II, Scotty Gall lived in Yellowknife, running stores for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1958, he was appointed to the territorial government of the day, the Northwest Territories Council, and served until 1964.
About Lorenz Learmonth
Lorenz Learmonth was born in 1892 in Scotland. He started with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1911 as a clerk and returned in 1919, after World War I to become the Hudson’s Bay Company Post Manager at Port Harrison. He worked at many locations in the north including Lake Harbour (now Kimmirut), Chesterfield Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Fort Ross and Coppermine (now Kugluktuk).
In 1937, Learmonth, fellow trader D.G. Sturrock and carpenter Clem James erected the last new post devoted to the fox trade at Fort Ross. Learmonth stayed behind as Post Manager, leaving in 1947 when Fort Ross was closed due to its remoteness and expense. Its residents were moved to Spence Bay (now Taloyoak).
Later, Learmonth managed to return on a commercial line to Bellot Strait, spending a week reflecting at the ruins of the outpost. Lorenz Learmonth retired in 1957 after 46 years in the north. He died in 1985.
Click for a brief (2:09) clip of an interview with Lorenz Learmonth originally featured on the CBC Northern Service radio program “The Days Before Yesterday” in 1982. Les McLaughlin produced. Shelagh Rogers hosted.
Listen to the entire interview (14:00), in which Learmonth describes his days as a trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company establishing trading posts in Canada’s North (CBC/NWT Archives/N-1998-030: 0152).
About Alexander Stevenson
Alexander Stevenson, best known as the “Administrator of the Arctic”, began his career as a Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) clerk in 1935, working in various locations in the eastern Arctic. In 1940, he joined the RCAF and served overseas. As a member of an Allied Wellington Bomber crew, Stevenson was shot down over Germany, where he spent the remainder of the war in prisoner of war camps.
Upon returning to Canada, Stevenson worked for a year in the Winnipeg office of the HBC. In 1946, he joined the Department of Mines and Resources as Assistant to the Superintendent of the Eastern Arctic. He sailed that year as part of the Eastern Arctic Patrol on the R.M.S. Nascopie. Stevenson’s knowledge of Inuktitut – the language of the Inuit – was invaluable, especially during x-ray clinics held on board the ship.
Upon becoming Administrator of the Arctic in 1960, Stevenson became involved in a variety of activities including fur promotion, DEW-Line coordination, wildlife preservation, salvage archaeology, geographic place names and aboriginal land claims. In addition, he set up the Northwest Territories Historical Advisory Board, which is the committee responsible for the eventual creation of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, located in Yellowknife.
Click for a brief (3:06) clip of an interview with Alexander Stevenson originally featured on the CBC Northern Service radio program “The Days Before Yesterday”. Les McLaughlin produced. Shelagh Rogers hosted.
Listen to the entire interview (14:14), in which Stevenson begins by describing his journey north aboard the Hudson’s Bay Company ship Nascopie from Montreal in July, 1935. What follows are his stories of fur trading and travel in the Arctic (CBC/NWT Archives/N-1998-030: 0152).
About Frederick B. “Ted” Watt
The son of Arthur and Gertrude Balmer Watt, Frederick B. “Ted” Watt was a correspondent for many newspapers and magazines, notably the Edmonton Journal. In 1929, thanks to an invitation from childhood friend and legendary pilot Wop May, Watt covered the first airmail flight to Aklavik. He also covered the manhunt for the Mad Trapper of Rat River in 1932. During the Great Depression, Watt also made his way to Great Bear Lake in the rush to find pitchblende, which was later used as uranium in the World War II.
Watt was a naval intelligence officer in World War II, earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He became a member of the information branch of the Department of Health and Welfare in Ottawa from 1957-1969. In 1980, Watt published the story of his time at Great Bear Lake entitled, Great Bear: A Journey Remembered.
Click for a brief (1:43) clip of an interview with Ted Watt originally produced by the CBC Northern Service in 1983. Les McLaughlin asks Watt about his book Great Bear: A Journey Remembered.
Listen to the entire interview (30:33), in which Watt begins by describing his press coverage of the first mail flight down the Mackenzie River. His story unfolds with the lure of Great Bear Lake with mentions of Jack Hornby and Gilbert Labine. (CBC/NWT Archives/N-1998-030: 0203).
The Story of Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper of Rat River
In the early 1930s, Albert Johnson, who had a cabin on the Rat River was accused of trapping on native traplines. When Constable A.W. (Alfred) King and Special Constable Joseph Bernard attempted to serve Johnson with a search warrant Johnson shot and wounded Constable King and fled into the mountains. Constable Edgar Millen was then killed in another attempt to arrest Albert Johnson. A manhunt was immediately organized by the Commander of the RCMP division at Aklavik A.N. Eames. Johnson was finally tracked down with the help of Wop May a legendary bush pilot and was killed resisting arrest.
The Commander of the RCMP detachment at Aklavik, personally took over the manhunt, bringing in W.R. “Wop” May to pilot the group which eventually tracked down and killed Johnson.
Featured on the recording are:
- John Millen, brother of slain RCMP Constable Edgar Millen.
- Alfred King, a Constable who was shot, later to recover.
- R. Frank Riddell, of the Royal Canadian Signals, stationed at Aklavik. A member of the second group to pursue, and finally kill, Johnson.
- Earl Hersey, another member of the final group who also was shot but later recovered.
- Jack Bowen, a member of the final group.
Click for a brief (1:53) clip of an episode of the CBC Northern Service radio program “Between Ourselves”. In it, host Dave Nichols tells the complete story of the circumstances surrounding the manhunt for Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper of Rat River. Les McLaughlin produced.
Listen to part II of the entire episode (28:29):
CBC/NWT Archives/N-1998-030: 0203
General Term of Use
Please read this carefully. By accessing and using this web site you are agreeing to the terms that appear below. This site is owned and operated by the government of the Northwest Territories and this site and its contents are provided on as “as is” and “as available” basis.
The content of this site is for your general information and use only and is not intended to address your particular requirements. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the content of our web site, we do not warrant or represent that it is accurate, complete or current. The government of the Northwest Territories assumes no responsibility for the correctness of the web site, makes no warranties in respect of such content and disclaims liability to the full extent possible in respect of your use of it.
All copyright and other intellectual property rights in the material on this site belong to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. You may not copy, distribute, sell or publish any of such material without prior written permission from the government of the Northwest Territories.
Any questions on these issues or requests to order copies of material on the web site should be sent to the webmaster.