When Alan Maitland retired from CBC's As It Happens

In 1993, when the time had come for the longtime radio host to retire, his CBC colleagues reflected on his impact.

Co-host made his mark during 19 years on CBC Radio's current affairs program

Maitland, who started working at CBC in 1947, was an all-purpose announcer before starting work at As It Happens. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Starting in 1974, Alan Maitland was a steady, engaging voice on the long-running CBC Radio current affairs program As It Happens. 

But in 1993, the time had come for him to retire — and for his CBC colleagues, it was a departure that was worthy of tributes and fond recollections.

"He's the voice, and he's the continuing presence on the program," said Maitland's then co-host Michael Enright, who himself retired from a longtime CBC Radio program, The Sunday Edition, in June 2020.

"He's the one who got us from the way we thought in '74 to the way we think today." 

'Everything that's excellent'

CBCers praise Alan Maitland in 1993

29 years ago
Duration 3:23
When As It Happens co-host Alan Maitland retires, CBC staffers share their thoughts on what made him a great host.

"I want credit for one thing in Canadian broadcasting," said Maitland's former producer Mark Starowicz. "I brought Alan Maitland into As It Happens."

It was the host's voice that drew him in, he explained at an event in the atrium of the CBC's then brand-new Toronto building in Toronto.

"There was an authority about it that I thought was the missing ingredient in As It Happens."

Elizabeth Gray, who sat in the journalist's chair on the show from 1981 to 1985, praised Maitland from her post as an international correspondent in Moscow.

"Alan Maitland is everything that's excellent about Canadian radio," she said. "There's even an Alan Maitland fan club here, and it's in mourning."

They called him Fireside Al

Barbara Frum and Alan Maitland were co-hosts on As It Happens until she left and began hosting TV's The Journal in 1982. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

According to the Globe and Mail, Maitland had joined the CBC in 1947 as a staff announcer. He officially retired in 1985 but stayed on as a contract employee until 1993.

As It Happens rebroadcasts Maitland reading the short story The Shepherd annually during the holiday season. 

"Al was such a brilliant reader that ... we started looking for public-domain stories that [he] could read," explained Starowicz.

Maitland even earned nicknames for his two seasonal story-reading personas, bestowed by yet another co-host.

"Barbara [Frum] christened me Fireside Al," he told an interviewer for a tribute that aired locally on CBC Toronto. "We started with Christmas stories and went on to Front Porch Al."

'Warm feeling'

Alan Maitland reflects on his CBC career

29 years ago
Duration 2:16
The longtime co-host of As It Happens talks to Midday's Kevin Newman on his last day at work on As It Happens.

CBC's Midday also looked back on Maitland's CBC career on his last day on the job. 

Host Kevin Newman asked about "moments of humour" on the show, prompting Maitland to recall an occasion when a beaver seated on his lap had urinated on him.

"It was a nice warm kind of feeling," said Maitland.

But Maitland sad he was satisfied with his place reading scripts and funny quips in front of the microphone.

"Ever want to sit in the other seat, the interviewer's seat?" asked Newman.

"Never," said Maitland. "I think I did ... my best part in the seat where I was."

As for the next act in his life, Maitland said he planned to retire to his "little old house in Nova Scotia."

"I'm going to push my lawn mower up and down and .. paddle my canoe," he said.

Al Maitland died in February 1999 at the age of 78, according to the Globe and Mail.

With his cozy readings of short stories during the Christmas season, Alan Maitland became known as Fireside Al. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

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