In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Posted on April 5 by admin
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A Few Memories of Kildare Dobbs from Tony Hawke

When I first started working in publishing as promotion director of McClelland & Stewart in 1965, I quickly became aware of Kildare Dobbs as a prominent author, editor, and CBC radio personality – someone who was very important in Canadian letters. In fact, I seem to recall that the first large promotion lunch that I had to organize for an M&S title included Kildare as one of the most prominent guests. He seemed then to be a great wit, full of life, with an enchanting Irish accent.

Over the years, Kildare continued to achieve more prominence in writing and broadcasting and became a personality that I would frequently meet at M&S parties. As always, he seemed larger than life, a fascinating raconteur who knew most of Canada’s leading literary figures – authors, publishers, editors, etc.

After leaving M&S, I helped start Books in Canada magazine edited and founded by Val Clery, who knew Kildare very well. Val was Irish, had served in The Second World War, and was a well-known CBC radio producer and editor so he and Kildare had a lot in common. As I recall, we published quite a few of his book reviews, which certainly drove up the profile of the magazine.

A few years later, I started my own small publishing company, Hounslow Press, which I ran for about 20 years before selling it to Dundurn Press and Kirk Howard in 1993. During these years, I lost touch with Kildare, but continued to follow his amazing career.

We didn’t meet up again until 2005 when Dundurn co-published Kildare’s brilliant second memoir: Running the Rapids: A Writer’s Life. When the manuscript of the work first came to the attention of Kirk Howard and me, we both loved the book and really enjoyed meeting the author again. Even though Kildare was then in his early eighties, the text was superb – flawless in fact, so the decision to publish was an easy one. Needless to say, some of the younger members of the firm didn’t really know who Kildare Dobbs was, but they soon became enthusiastic supporters of this marvellous writer. We had an elegant, most successful launch party at Massey College, where all 123 copies available were signed and sold by the author. Kildare gave a wonderful speech filled with humour and humility. Running the Rapids went on to sell well and received enthusiastic, widespread review attention. After this I lost touch with Kildare, and was shocked and very sad to learn of his recent death. Canadian letters has lost an incredible talent and a unique voice.