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The wit and wisdom of Peter Whalley

The Story

With his appealing cartoony style and arch political streak, Peter Whalley may be the most iconoclastic and prolific cartoonist Canada has ever produced. A trained artist, Whalley plied his trade as a magazine illustrator before he found his stride in the 1950s and 1960s skewering national icons like the Group of Seven and Pierre Trudeau. In this early CBC Television clip, Whalley describes the life of cartoonist and then uses his sardonic pen to satirize a home advice book. 

Medium: Television
Program: Open House
Broadcast Date: June 3, 1959
Guest: Peter Whalley
Host: Fred Davis
Duration: 8:25

Did You know?

• Peter Whalley was known for many things, including numerous cover illustrations for Maclean's and his collaborations with award-winning humourist Eric Nicol. He was also a fixture on CBC Television's Observer from 1963 to 1966, and later served as a recurring guest on Take 30.

• This appearance on the midday show Open House (with host Fred Davis) is one of Whalley's earliest - and features a rare one-on-one interview.

• Peter Whalley was born in Brockville, Ont., on Feb. 21, 1921. He attended the Nova Scotia College of Art in Halifax before enlisting in the merchant marine during the Second World War.

• After the war, he moved to Montreal, then later Morin Heights, Que., and began drawing illustrations, gags and political cartoons for magazines. In the 1950s, he began appearing in Maclean's, the Montreal Standard Weekly magazine and the Montreal Gazette.

• His mordant wit and hatred of sacred cows made him a stand out and earned him many fans.

• In the 1979 book The Hecklers, Peter Desbarats and Terry Mosher recall Whalley's reputation in literary circles: "Pierre Berton considered Whalley to be one of the most inventive cartoonists he had ever run across. Max Newton, the late art director of Weekend magazine, called Whalley a man before his time in that, 'he had a warped, poignant sense of humour that is finally coming into style.'"

• His first book, The Man on the High Wire, was published in the early 1960s.

• Whalley also collaborated on five books with Stephen Leacock Award-winner Eric Nicol.

• These include An Uninhibited History of Canada and 100 Years of What?, both of which skewered many of the things that Canadians held dear including socialized healthcare, bilingualism and Trudeaumania.

• To watch Whalley's unique take on the battle of the sexes, go to our additional clip: 'Big Sister is Watching'.

• Whalley also penned several self-published collections of his work, including Northern Blights, Phap (the Pornographics of Politics).

• The book which Whalley lampoons in this clip, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, was originally published in 1861 by Isabella Beeton. Most recently reprinted in 2000, the volume features Victorian era advice on everything from child rearing, fashion, poisons and the management of servants.

• In 1965, Whalley published his own parody of the book called Broom, Brush & Bucket: The Good Old Days of Mrs. Beeton's Housewifery Revisited.

• Also in 1965, Whalley won first prize for political cartooning at the International Salon of Caricature and Cartoon.

• His last publication before retiring was a 2003 collaboration with Eric Nicol called Canadian Politics Unplugged.

• In 2005, Whalley was one of the inaugural inductees to The Giants of the North, a hall of fame for Canadian cartooning set up as part of the Doug Wright Awards. Whalley still resides in Morin Heights with his wife and has exhibited his sculptures in Montreal.

• Peter Whalley died Sept. 18, 2007 in St. Jerome, Que. He was 86.




The Comics in Canada: An Illustrated History more