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Part II: A Chat With Political Journalist Al Hollingsworth

Nov 6, 2022 | Free

By Andrew Macdonald

The Notebook on Saturday carried a news chat with just retired broadcaster, Al Hollingsworth – that was Part I.

Today, in The Notebook on Sunday, we carry Part II, of my 30-minute chat with Hollingsworth, who just retired from his volunteer role at Lower Sackville’s community radio station, CIOE.

Hollingsworth, the father of CTV Atlantic journalist, Paul Hollingsworth, logged an incredible 71 years as a political and sports journalist.

He retires at age 86, with health issues speeding up his retirement from journalism. If you can imagine, Hollingsworth has been a journalist as long as Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II served as a figurehead leader of the Commonwealth & UK.

Al Hollingsworth logged 71 years as a NS journalist and has just retired from his last post as a broadcaster on air at Lower Sackville’s community radio station, CIOE.

In our conversation, Hollingsworth mentions he had been a Frank magazine reader up until its demise in late summer, the scandal sheet had been published for 35 years, before owner Parker Rudderham pulled the plug on the mag, which at one time had 12,000 paid readers, but in more recent years, that readership had dwindled to circa 2,000 paid readers.

“I am very disappointed they are gone. They served a purpose – to me a good purpose. They exposed things that would have never gotten exposed. It was a typical David Bentley operation. But it did serve a purpose”, Hollingsworth says.

“I hate to see any journalism fail because it is not good for the industry – so little of it is left”, he adds.

On Bentley, who created Frank, and gave it away to its employees, he also had the vision and fortitude to create the Halifax Daily News in 1981, and would later found allNovaScotia.

Hollingsworth was hired by Bentley to write sports and churn out an Inside Political column in the early founding of the Daily News – the tabloid had many owners after Bentley sold it in 1985 and its last owner, Transcontinental killed the paper in 2008.

The paper would, later on, hire former Globe & Mann journalist, Lyndon Watkins, now 84.

Hollingworth was asked by Watkins in 1979 to chat with Bentley about a possible news job. At the time, journalist David Mann was helping Bentley publish the paper, with co-owner Patrick & Joyce Simms, and also guiding the ship was former Bentley spouse, Diana Bentley.

“I ran into Lyndon Watkins at an event at the Nova Scotian Hotel, and he asked me, ‘Are you working now?’ I said, ‘No, I have just been laid off with The Kings County Record (New Brunswick newspaper)’”

Watkins replied, ‘Well, David Bentley is going to go daily, and he is looking for somebody to do sports’, and then Hollingsworth said “I’d love to talk to him about it, and next thing you know, I had an appointment and met with David, and at the time he managed to put together $10,000 a year (to pay Hollingsworth a salary). That was not a lot of money – but we were dedicated.”

Watkins would join when the Daily News moved to Agricola Street, in 1983-84, says Hollingsworth.

Soon, Bentley began assigning Hollingsworth to cover politics, and in the early, to mid-1980s those political columns were insightful and back then became “a must-read”. I read those columns as a teenage political junkie.

“That happened almost by accident. I have always enjoyed politics, and I started dabbling in it. When I left The Daily News, I was doing six columns a week. I would do a page three column Mondays to Fridays, and then I would do two pages of political gossip if you will.”

Hollingsworth had the respect of politicians, despite a political gossip column – I should say The Notebook models our Inside Political columns after the way Hollingsworth practiced his craft as a political journalist.

“Over the years, I was very fortunate to have interviewed a lot of people. I interviewed Pierre Trudeau on three occasions, and all three occasions I went into the interview thinking, ‘If I ask a stupid question, he will dismiss me’, but we hit if off. For some reason, we got along and the interviews all went well – they went very well with him”.

Pierre Trudeau was a 1969-1984 prime minister, and father to current PM, Justin Trudeau.

At one point in his career as managing editor of N.B. paper, The Kings County Record in Sussex, and Mitchell Franklin was owner of the paper.

During a federal election, Hollingsworth took a phone call from Pierre Trudeau’s aide, Arnie Patterson, who owned CFDR radio station in Dartmouth.

Patterson wanted to know if Hollingsworth would interview Pierre Trudeau, who was campaigning in NB, and the interview was then set up in the kitchen of a hotel.

“I went and stood in the kitchen with a photographer and down comes Trudeau and I had a great interview with him. I then went back to the newsroom in Sussex, and who is sitting behind my desk, Mr. Franklin, the owner of the paper and he said, ‘Where were you’?. I said, ‘I was in Saint John, New Brunswick’. He said, ‘What were you doing there?’ I said, I was interviewing the former prime minister (1979-1980)’, the owner replied, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ and I said, ‘It will be on the front page, when was the last time the paper had the former PM of Canada’? The owner replied in no uncertain terms: ‘It won’t be on my front page. This is a Conservative newspaper and you won’t put that on the front page, I am telling you right now’”, recalls Hollingsworth.

The article did go on the front page because Hollingsworth put it there against the owner’s wishes.

“When I came back to the newsroom (after the paper was published”, he was again behind my desk, and the owner said to Hollingsworth: “I think you would make a good manager for my hotel, the Lord Nelson Hotel”, and I said, “you’re serious? I don’t know a towel from a bar of soap”. He said, ‘Doesn’t matter, be there for tomorrow morning’”

“Just like that I was done (with the newspaper)”, says Hollingsworth. “I went in every day for three-four months pretending I was the manager, but I lost my (news) job for interviewing Pierre Elliott Trudeau.”

Hollingsworth says it was a strange time politically to work for Franklin’s Sussex NB news weekly.

“It was a strange experience. On the first day in 1979, in walks a guy who introduced himself to me as the president of the Fundy Royal Progressive Conservative Association”, Hollingsworth replied, “It’s good to meet you, and he said, ‘I just want to let you know that you have been elected to our board’. I looked at him and I said, ‘what?’ He replied again, ‘you have been elected to our board.”

Hollingsworth told the man “to get your ass out of here, get out of the office and I chased him out the door. I said, ‘don’t ever come in here and say I have been elected to your board. I am nothing, I try to be (politically) neutral. That was my introduction to Sussex”, recalls Hollingsworth.

On Allan J MacEachen, Scott Brison & Peter MacKay

“Of the three the one I know the least is Peter (MacKay). Peter is a good friend of my son, Paul. They used to travel back and forth on airplanes (to Ontario). But, Allan J (MacEachen) was a prince – there is no better term”.

Allan J was a NS politician in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, as Pierre Trudeau’s first deputy prime minister.

“He was good for Nova Scotia. He did everything possible for the province”, adds Hollingsworth.

“I think Scott Brison was cut from the same cloth. I was a family friend of the Brisons, and I knew Scott when he was a Conservative, and I knew him when he became a Liberal. He rarely changed. He slipped over into the Liberal ranks so quietly and did it in such a way there was no gap. As I recall there were no real criticisms of his move. People for the most part were accepting of what he did”.

Hollingsworth is referring to 2003 when the PC party of Canada merged with the Canadian Alliance, and Brison left the party to join the Paul Martin Liberals in Ottawa.

“People understood what Brison did, and he had been working for a tyrant. There is no other word I can use for Stephen Harper. He was a tyrant – and I did not blame Scott for taking a hike”.

Hollingsworth does not describe Brison’s political move to another part as being a kin to a ‘Political Turncoat’.

As for as Brison was concerned back in 2003, his PC party disappeared and his values were no longer represented by the merged Tory party. And Hollingsworth agrees with Brison’s thinking.

Part One of my news chat with Al Hollingsworth is below in the Notebook on Saturday.

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