The history of The Acadian Recorder and Charles C. Blackadar is almost the history of Nova Scotia
THERE are three occasions when the Haligonian looks at his timepiece with a critical eye, whether the watch be a dollar one or an ancient and trusted importation of his great-grandfather. One is when the citadel gun booms forth at noon. Another is when the same gun booms His Majesty’s curfewatnine-thirty. The third is when Charles C. Blackadar passes on his way to his office, to a public meeting, to church, to any place that should be reached on schedule.
Such is the tribute paid to a long record for punctuality. And punctuality is but one of the many traits that have endeared to Nova Scotia the man who for half a century has presided over the destinies of the Acadian Recorder.
The history of the Acadian Recorder is almost the history of Nova Scotia, and the two are so inextricably woven into the life of C. C. Blackadar that to mention one of this Bluenose trinity without the other two is next to impossible. In the year 1364, at the age of fourteen, the embryo editor became a part of the Acadian Recorder. Then he was a printer’s devil. A dozen years later found him in the editor’3 chair. The reputation of the Acadian Recorder always has been that it can be relied on to publish a true story without any imaginative reportorial trimmings, and an untrue story not at all. Which fact gives an insight into the character of Mr. Blackadar as well as his paper.
The story of the paper alone would fill an interesting book. It was first presented to the public on January 16,1313, by its founder, Anthony H. Holland, and during the 114 years that have since elapsed it has been issued regularly without a single interruption and its policy controlled by only two families—a «ecord perhaps unequalled in the overseas Dominions. The early columns of the Recorder smack of the romance of the French Wars and the days when seditious speeches were prohibited but hardly anything else, when it was a custom for the punch-bowl to be passed around at church-choir practices, when banquets frequently lasted ‘for ten or twelve hours' and it was customary to send a boy around to loosen the neckbands of those wrho reclined under the
It may be accepted that columns of the Recorder have faithfully recorded the events of history and drawn an accurate picture of the passing years. They have been contributed to by many famous and eloquent pens, Sam Slick’s and Joe Howe’s amongst them, and so painstaking has been the search for fact that Nova Scotians have learned to say: “If it’s in the Recorder it’s true.”
The original proprietor, Mr. Holland, was an able writer and, from 1813 to 1320, a stormy petrel in pro-
vincial politics. His ready pen frequently splashed the sort of ink that annoys politicians, and as frequently led to such records of the House of Assembly as this: ‘Saturday, 28th,
February, 1818, A. H. Holland was brought to the bar of the House in custody, apologized, was reprimanded and dismissed.’ However, the culprit seems to have remained irrepressible until his death. „ _ _
Ninetyone Years in Family
IN 1833 the Recorder passed into the hands of H. W. Blackadar, father of the present owner, and since that time its policy has been shaped by the one family. During the whole of its career its proprietors never have sought to increase the circulation of their paper by canvass, and never have they solicited an advertisement! C. C. Blackadar has run errands, set type, and served in every capacity up to that of proprietor and editor. Never has he deviated from the policy of his predecessors, who, in his own words, ‘trusted to the character of their journal to find its way to the firesides and hearts of their countrymen.’
Except for a brief period prior to Csnfeieration, when it supported the Tupper Government, the Recorder has been a bulwark of Liberalism, yet a writer says,: ‘it is the most conservative paper published in America.’ Mr. Blackadar has made his journal the mirror of an unswerving loyalty to_the best principles of Liberal policy, but that he is not a mere party man is patent from an editorial I uncovered, which was penned in 1913. This extract is quoted not so much tojndicate the character of the journal as the calibre of the man. Referring to his predecessors, he wrote:
‘They ever exercised their own judgment on public matters, and gave their opinions fearlessly, independent of all party considerations, caring little whom they offended in the discharge of their duty to the people.
‘This is the character which we desire to_maintain for the Acadian Recorder, and, on entering upon a new century, we make bold to declare that we shall maintain it or altogether abandon the calling to which we were bred, to those who may not be indisposed to bend and bow to men and parties as circumstances may command. We wish to be supported on independent grounds as we have been, andjwe shall labor still to deserve the patronage which our countrymen have so generously and voluntarily bestowed.
‘If it were necessary to emphasize the declaration of a a guiding policy, let it be said that on the 16th of January, 1813, the Recorder hoisted its colors as a champion of the cause of the people; through one hundred years it has undeviatingly pursued that line of duty; in the future it shall continue unswervingly to keep the standard uplifted—and—
-----the people’s rights maintain,
Unawed by influence and unbribed by gain.’
If anything further need be said to reflect the quality of this able editor and gentleman it is simply that, in all his career, he never permitted anything to be published in his paper that would wound the soul of a neighbor, bring the least injury to his name or the slightest unhappiness to his family.
At Desk at Seven
EVERY morning, rain or shine, Mr. Blackadar is at his desk at seven o’clock. Seldom does he leave his office before six in the evening. These hours of work have become a custom, it is not easy to break the custom of half a century. In addition to the many routine duties of an editor, he weekly publishes four columns of historical sketches, drawn from his rich memory and embellished with all the skill of a historian. These are specially
written for the young people, and if anyone were to find the sordid details of the latest murder trial in the same sheet, I have no doubt that that one could collect a large sum of money from Mr. Blackadar.
There is in his heart a buoyant love of youth and a deep sense of responsibility for giving sound guidance to the young. He started to carve out his own career at a tender age, without the aid of the proverbial ‘silver spoon’, and he knows all about the hurdles along the pathway. At a remarkably early age, shortly after his fifteenth birthday, in fact, the goal he set for himself was ‘a foundation for success in ten years.’ Success to Charley Blackadar means a job of work well done, opportunities for service, a respectable livelihood, and, after many years, the possession of a conscience that requires no applications of iodine. In effect, he told me that when the waters become troubled there is nothing like work to sooth them, and he knows.
The next time you hear a man say: ‘I could have had a million if I hadn’t been handicapped by an early start’ cast this pearl before him. ‘Every boy who is not marked for the professions should start out on his life work not later than fourteen. Unless he is allowed to commence his career then he is handicapped in a hard struggle. A sound educational program should teach a boy to think for himself at that age, and the remainder of his formative years should be spent in acquiring practical knowledge and practical discipline’.
Mr. Blackadar does not expect all young men to slacken speed in order to pick up anything so commonplace as advice, but he leaves this with the courageous and budding young business-man:
‘Seek early for the work you can really like. Do it so well that you lose yourself in the task. Be thrifty and honest, and you will wake up some day and be surprised to find a reward that, whether it be material or not, you will nevertheless be proud of.’
A very simple formula, but it worked in his own case. The most important work a young girl can do in this world, in Mr. Blackadar's opinion, is to ‘build a home and help a young husband grow in the right direction.’ Many may not agree, but Mr. Blackadar had a lot of that kind of help himself, which perhaps accounts for his views.
The tide of strife between capital and labor never laps the Recorder Building. Here is the tribute of a former employee, now a well-known newspaper man. ‘Forty-three years ago, I broke into public life as the cub reporter, office sweeper and “seal” writer of the Acadian Recorder in Halifax; and on Saturday last I met there eighteen or twenty men who were senior to me, and who are still holding down their same jobs. A splendid band of real craftsmen printers who are loyal and satisfied and love their profession.’
Love of profession does not necessarily mean loyalty, of course. In the Recorder organization, loyaltyis a tribute to the kindliness and humanity of the Chief.
A Man of Parts
WE PASS now to other fields than journalism, for Charley Blackadar is a man of parts—writer, patriot politician, financier and public benefactor. In these activities there appears the same worthy record.
He is marked as a patriot politician because he places country before party. Back in those strenuous days when Canada was conceived, he, together with his brothers, with all strength opposed Nova Scotia's participation in the Confederation Pact. Their hostility was based on the ground that the people were not given an opportunity to pass judgment on the measure, and both his personal friend, Joseph Howe, and his opponent, Dr. Tupper, were punctured by many torpedoes from the Recorder. In 1867, the Recorder's stand was vindicated by the almost unanimous election of an Anti-Confederate Government, and from that time on Mr. Blackadar consistently predicted that, regardless of promise or pact, the East must decline in prosperity.
The years rolled by, and these prophecies were gradua"y fulfilled. In 1921, when the late Howard Corning, M.P.P., House leader of the Conservative party, moved a resolution of secession in the House of Assembly, some of Mr. Blackadar’s jovial friends thought they saw all
Continued on page 34
Fifty Years an Editor
Continued from page 16
the earmarks of a short circuit on the political wires. “Now,” they said, “you are always consistent. You opposed Confederation in 1867, so you must support this resolution.” But time had altered circumstances, and the listener had seen new economic factors take shape. “It is the duty of my paper,” he replied, “to lead and not mislead the people, and I will place myself on record.” Knowing that no man ever got lost on a straight road, in a reasoned editorial, he opposed anything savoring of secession. He still contends that it was a mistake for the Maritimes to substitute artificial laws for natural economic laws, but fifty years have wrought a great change, produced a national sentiment, and he believes that secession today would be unwise and unsound.
Consistency is a strange engine of virtue, and it sometimes back-fires. Mr. Blackadar’s doesn’t back-fire, and it is perhaps unique amongst politicians. Many years ago Sir Wilfrid Laurier offered him a seat in the Senate in recognition of his services to Liberalism. It was respectfully, but none the less firmly, declined because, whether he ever publicly advocated the policy or not, he held the view thatthe Senate should be abolished and he could not square acceptance with his ideals.
At a later date he was offered the Lieutenant-Governorship of Nova Scotia, This he a[so declined on the ground that he could not accept public office and maintain a newspaper that he wanted free to take decided stands on political questions. It might have been turned into a stock company, but the tradition and prestige of the Acadian Recorder remained unimpaired.
A Financier, Too
IN THE financial world, the name of C. C. Blackadar is synonymous with integrity, and his sound business judgment receives a well-merited respect.
He has been a bank director for more than forty years and was at one time the youngest in Canada. He played an important part in the growth and expansion of the Union Bank of Halifax, and personally opened some fifteen branches in the Annapolis Valley. Since its amalgamation with the Royal Bank of Canada, he has been a director of that progressive institution, and never misses the annual meeting. He is also president of the Acadia Fire Insurance Company, and has been one of its directors for more than forty years.
Mr. Blackadar’s philanthropies have been many. For forty years he has been president of the Association for Relief of the Poor; for forty years director and treasurer of St. Paul’s Home for Girls. For twenty-one years he has been presi-
dent of the Old Men’s Home at Halifax, of which he was the founder. For twenty-eight years, president of the Deaf and Dumb Institute. For many years a director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty, a director of the Tuberculosis League. For forty-two years, vestryman and church warden of St. Paul’s Church of England.
A Foeman’s Tribute
CONSTANT to duty, consistent in conduct and loyal to ideals. These virtues humanity is not slow to appreciate, and in Mr. Blackadar they have drawn tribute from friend and foe alike. Not long ago the Halifax Herald, an organ that has been the bitter opponent of the political ideals he has sponsored through the years, had this to say about him: ‘What a splendid record of constancy and loyalty to his party, his city and his friends. In the field of finance, in the affairs of church, and in all movements having the welfare of the people at heart, he gave freely of his time and substance. Those who have been acquainted with Mr. Blackadar and his paper, in times of victory and in times of defeat, through the years of half a century, have always found him the same genial, loyal and the good citizen.’
In appearance, he reminds one of what is, perhaps, the average man’s conception of the traditional Southern Colonel. Top him off with a broadbrimmed hat, and one can imagine him presiding over the destinies of an old colonial mansion at the broad bend of a Georgian river. The resemblance is purely imaginative, however, and stops at the physical.
One gathers much from the way a man walks, and Mr. Blackadar’s is the opposite of impulsive. I could never imagine him acting on impulse unless it was to do something good, and that would be due to custom. His is a measured, steady tread, set in operation after due deliberation.
There is just a hint of sternness in his face, but on closer inspection one gathers that it is the visible expression of strength rather than real sternness. There is a determined mouth and jaw, but the eyes are merely serious. They can twinkle merrily, and, more frequently than not, they do, for the brain behind has a nice sense of humour and a ready wit. It is not of the milk and water kind, as many a political heckler, in argument, has found to his sorrow, hut it leaves no sting in its wake. The eyes have never worn glasses, although their owner is on the far side of seventy, and when you look into them and find there both the light of youth and the kindly look that comes with mellowing years, you are glad they are not shadowed behind horn rims.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.