Harry J. Boyle

Harry J. Boyle

OCTOBER 7. 1915 - JANUARY 22, 2005

Harry J. Boyle was born in the small community of St. Augustine, Huron County, Ontario. Boyle’s home life was dominated by the general store that his father ran alongside their farm. Boyle spent hours each night taking in the sounds and stories of rural life as they conglomerated on the first floor.

When Boyle’s father gave up his farming to focus on the store Boyle, still in his childhood, attempted to continue in his own small way by taking up gardening. A memorable anecdote of Boyle’s described his ordering of potato and cosmos seeds for a school fair. The teasing he endured as a boy ordering flower seeds in that time-period was resoundingly rebutted by his cosmos taking second place overall. His penmanship, however, would take first, perhaps foreshadowing his future career.

Boyle would devote his life to spreading the stories of Rural Canada across a swath of mediums. After completing high school Boyle quickly secured employment as a freelance writer and newspaper stringer for multiple publications including the Globe and Mail. At the same time, he also landed his first radio job at CKNX in Wingham. Boyle joined the CBC in 1942 as a farm commentator and was promoted in short to Supervisor of Farm Broadcasts. In this role, Boyle began his role as producer over the National Farm Radio Forum. A position he would maintain until 1965, the duration of the programs run and a timespan in which Boyle was successively promoted to Programme Director of the Trans-Canada Network, Radio Network Supervisor of Features, Programme Director for Radio and Television for the Ontario Region, and Executive Producer for Television.

Boyle used the program to address weighty and interesting topics, it’s initial war-time context practically necessitated it do as such. Additionally, the format often involved multiple small communities from multiple Provinces, a rarity for national media representation both now and today. Boyle also used his position to help the careers of individuals like Max Ferguson and Austin Clarke who both represented viewpoints outside of the Anglo-Canadian urban mainstream.

Boyle kept up his rural attachments with his written work as well. Many of his novels including Mostly in Clover (1961), Homebrew and Patches (1963) and The Luck of the Irish (1971) dealt with themes and memories of Boyle’s farm upbringing. Despite his capabilities for media outreach Boyle also stayed in personal contact with the farming community; his 1966 appearance at the Annual Junior Farmer’s Conference in Guelph an example of this community involvement.

Boyle died in Toronto in 2002. His career and legacy provide a shining example of the potential of an individual’s power in storytelling and discourse. His work to provide insight, both through his own productions and through the empowerment of others, enshrines him as a key figure in establishing and promoting a diverse Canadian identity. A Canadian identity that, at least in Boyle’s mind, had at its core a rural heart.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture