CKGL firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-04-24 published
Frank MURRAY, Radio Executive (1918-2006)
Small-town Ontario broadcaster made his mark on the national scene
By Danny GALLAGHER, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S11
Toronto -- From the air to the radio station, sound was the big noise in Frank MURRAY's life. He was a long-time friend of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, covered Winston Churchill's funeral as a radio reporter and helped shape broadcasting in the Ontario venues of Belleville, Trenton and Bancroft.
The son of a professor of music at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, he grew up to join an insurance company as a sales executive but headed for Northern Ireland soon after the Second World War began to enlist in the Royal Air Force.
He spent six years as a flight lieutenant and Coastal Command air gunner, one of very few commissioned officers to serve in that role. In 1943-44, he was engaged in a special mission that altered his life dramatically: He was sent to an air force base in Picton, Ontario, to help prepare air crews for warfare as part of the vast British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was a large, busy base and on Saturday nights, busloads of young, local women arrived at the officers' mess to attend dances and other social functions. One night Mr. MURRAY met Isobel STEWARD/STEWART/STUART of Belleville, Ontario, and one thing led to another. They were married March 11, 1944, at the base and soon afterward he returned to the war in Europe. Isobel followed later on a ship full of war brides.
"As it was war time, they had no idea of when they would dock in England but Dad flew Coastal Command and kept an eye on the ship," daughter Pam MURRAY said. "He was the first person to greet the boatload of wives and kids and somehow managed to get some flowers. Mom and Dad left on a train for Northern Ireland the next day. Mom was there for the better part of a year when she found out she was pregnant with me and came back to Belleville."
When the war ended, Mr. MURRAY joined his wife in Belleville and worked at odd jobs before landing a sales position at CJBQ Radio. By 1959, he had been made general manager. Over the years, he took CJBQ from a 500-watt medium enterprise to a four-station network that included CKGL-FM in Belleville, CJTN in Trenton and CJNH in Bancroft.
Veteran broadcaster Dave SOVEREIGN still remembers the day Mr. MURRAY hired him. "I was a radio and television arts student at Ryerson in Toronto and one day in 1960, Frank came from Belleville because he wanted a summer student.
"There were seven people who auditioned for him and he chose me. Then the following year, I was hired full-time as a newsman and eventually became the news director. I worked 28 years for Quinte Broadcasting."
While he worked mostly in management, Mr. MURRAY would often get behind the microphone or hit the road as a reporter. When former British prime minister Winston Churchill died in 1965, Mr. MURRAY attended the funeral and sent live reports back to the station.
"That was pretty unique and big news in Belleville to have someone like Frank travelling all the way to London to cover the funeral," Mr. SOVEREIGN said. In much the same way, Mr. MURRAY also reported the royal wedding of Princes Charles and Lady Diana
Closer to home, he twice put crews together and took them to Montreal to cover Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics, and once caused a stir by accompanying external affairs minister Mitchell Sharp on an around-the-world visit. He pulled off a media coup by doing a live show with Mr. Sharp from the back of the plane. "We got scooped by a guy from a small station in Belleville," said CTV reporter Mike Duffy.
Mr. MURRAY also stole a march or two as a broadcast executive. In the early years of cable television, he acquired an operating licence for Quinte Cable Systems, which today claims 80 per cent penetration of its market. At the time, it was second such licence issued in Canada.
"Frank got that licence for only $25," recalls Don LAWRIE, formerly a senior executive with Thomson Newspapers, which went into a partnership on the project. "At first, Ken Thomson, the owner, didn't want to get involved because he thought the government would think we would have a monopoly. Finally, I suggested to Ken that we approach Frank and the Morton family about being a local partner."
Frank MURRAY also had a keen interest in local education. He was instrumental in setting up a radio-broadcasting program at Belleville's Loyalist College and founded and directed radio-club programs in Belleville and Trenton high schools.
For all that, his influence extended well beyond the region. He sat on the board of directors of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and was president of the Central Canada Broadcasters Association, both considered unusual achievements for a small-market radio executive. "Usually it was the big guys, CHUM, etc., who sat on those boards," Pam MURRAY said.
On the political front, Mr. MURRAY engaged in a lifelong relationship with Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal party. At a fundraiser in Belleville in the 1970s, Mr. Trudeau asked him to run as a candidate in a federal riding. He declined the invitation but the two men remained Friends. When Mr. Trudeau died, Mr. MURRAY attended his funeral.
Frank MURRAY was born on February 13, 1918 in Dublin, Ireland. He died January 24, 2006, in Belleville, Ontario of natural causes. He was 87. He is survived by his daughter Pam and sons Kevin and Stewart. He was predeceased by his wife Isobel.
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