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Bill McNeil on life and career at CBC

The Story

 Bill McNeil, best remembered as the host of the current affairs program Assignment and the much-loved Fresh Air and Voice of the Pioneer, has passed away. A true storyteller, he published six books which chronicled the lives of Canadians who lived through the homesteading, gold rush and World War eras. Following a distinguished 42-year career at the CBC, he retired in 1992. In this clip, McNeil talks about his family, his ambition and his work. McNeil died of kidney failure at the age of 78 on Jan. 30, 2003.

Medium: Radio
Program: Your Two Bucks Worth
Broadcast Date: March 15, 1970
Guest(s): Bill McNeil
Host: Warren Davis
Duration: 13:43
Photo: CBC Still Photo Collection, Toronto

Did You know?

• "I admired him because of his warm and genuine nature that to me suffused everything he did, all of his programming. I decided that I too would like to be that way on the air if I could do it -- that is, be natural and be as cool and casual as Bill was and yet at the same time be totally professional." -- longtime friend and colleague, broadcaster Lloyd Robertson

• McNeil was born in Cape Breton. For eight years he worked in the coal mines in Glace Bay while desperately trying to find to work in radio. He failed audition after audition but was very persistent. He modified his east-coast accent and finally found success in 1950 working for CBC Radio in Sydney.

• Globe and Mail writer Ken Bagnell, also of Cape Breton, wrote "When the news spread through the community that Bill McNeil, a Glace Bay miner, had been hired by the CBC, it couldn't have produced more shock than if a Protestant had been made Pope."

• At CBC Radio, McNeil hosted Voice of the Pioneer, Fresh Air and Assignment. He was also an interviewer and a commentator on Canadian Mood, Christian Frontiers and The Good Life.



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