CBC Digital Archives

Telescope: Farley Mowat

Smart and timely, Telescope promised to zoom in on famous and fascinating Canadians living all over the world. The brainchild of Fletcher Markle, this half-hour documentary series premiered in 1963 and ran for 10 seasons. Beginning in 1966, Telescope became the first Canadian-produced colour program on the CBC Television network.

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"Why am I doing this indecent act?" beloved author Farley Mowat asks the camera, coy and self-conscious about being profiled on national television. It's not a rhetorical question for the gregarious writer profiled in this 1970 episode of Telescope. Between frolicking with seals, a phantom game of croquet and returning an injured bird to the wild, Mowat muses on nature, the writer's life and the modern world. So why is he appearing on the show? "I need contact with you," he confides earnestly, appealing directly to the television audience at home.
• Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ont., on May 12, 1921. His love of nature and inclination to writing began early. As a pre-teen he wrote a regular column about birding for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix from 1930-1933. At 18, he enlisted in the army to fight in the Second World War. He spent three years overseas, serving first in Italy, then in Holland, Belgium and German. He returned to Canada in 1945, spending summers in the Arctic and winters studying at the University of Toronto.

• His first book, People of the Deer, was based on his experience in the Far North with the Inuit people and made him an immediate celebrity. In 1956, his novel Lost in the Barrens won the Governor General's Award for children's fiction. A lifelong naturalist, many of his books focus on man's relation to nature. His 1963 book Never Cry Wolf is credited with having almost single-handedly changed the popular perception of wolves, even leading to a ban on wolf hunting in Russia after the book was published there.

• Mowat's 25 fiction and non-fiction titles have sold over 14 million books, translated into more than 20 languages. In 1970, he won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour for The Boat that Wouldn't Float. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1981. He and his wife Claire, also seen in this episode, split their time between Port Hope, Ont., and Brick Point, Cape Breton Island.

Medium: Television
Program: Telescope
Broadcast Date: Dec. 15, 1970
Guest(s): Max Braithwaite, Farley Mowat, Claire Mowat
Host: Ken Cavanagh
Duration: 22:53

Last updated: December 17, 2014

Page consulted on December 17, 2014

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