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Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award

Allan Fotheringham
2002 Recipient

Allan FotheringhamBefore the wry weekly Maclean's column that's become a Canadian institution. Before he and Jack Webster were benchmates on Front Page Challenge. Before the steady outflow of books that chronicled Canada's fortunes and follies. Even before there was a Dr. Foth...

Allan Fotheringham cut his journalistic teeth in B.C. newsrooms, first as a University of B.C. student running the Ubyssey in the '50s, then in a remarkable career at the Vancouver Sun as sportswriter, travel writer, editorial writer and columnist.

How a guy born in Hearn, Saskatchewan and raised in the Fraser Valley became the buddy and bane of Prime Ministers is the clearly the subject of another dinner.

And yet, all the elements that became national trademarks - using language to nail the temper and the tinsel of his time, keen observation of elites honed to one-liners, personality serving to explain the political - these were already well developed when a dispute with Vancouver Sun management in 1978 sent Fotheringham over the Rockies.

Trevor Lautens, former Vancouver Sun columnist, was an early Fotheringham colleague.

"Emblazoned on my c.v., right at the top, are the words: 'I was Allan Fotheringham's first-born's first babysitter!' This was an important side-benefit of having become fairly friendly with Foth - whom I used to gravely call "Lord Fotheringham," and address as "Yes, My Lord, no, My Lord" until it occurred to me that he might be taking it seriously.

"Soon after making his acquaintance, I recognized Allan's superb qualifications," Lautens recalls. "I advised Earl Smith, the assistant managing editor: 'Fotheringham's got the writing, brains, class, knowledge, wit, social conscience, style, looks, everything!' Totally coincidentally, of course, Foth soon began his unstoppable rise.

"Earl Smith died almost 25 years later, and I now regret that I didn't turn around that day and add: 'And let's not forget humility!' "

"He started as my Monday relief when I was doing a saloon column in 1968," recalls former Sun columnist Denny Boyd, himself a Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. "He immediately started doing city politics; and as soft as I was - and here we were the same age - I marveled that he was just as tough as ratshit."

Fotheringham's Sun column spanned the tumult of the 1960s through the 70s. He wrote about B.C. politics with humour and insight that made people pay attention. If you wanted to know what was going on in the city and in the province, you got it from Fotheringham's column. It was must-read journalism that didn't return to British Columbia until Vaughn Palmer's ascendancy in the 1980s and '90s.

Fotheringham's Collected & Bound, a 1972 compilation, stands up today as a definitive social history of B.C.

"He combined two essential elements of a good reporter" says Sean Rossiter, another Sun colleague whom Fotheringham inspired. "He had a nose for a great story - the collapse of the NPA from 1968-72 - and the style to express almost any thought about it that you could possibly have. He brought down a civic administration, not by himself, but somehow he was at the point of the spear.

"I'd say that it's a curse for columnists at the Sun that every day you have to follow Fotheringham. At his peak, he was the best there ever was around here.

"You could see it every day Downtown when people would pick the paper out of the box, scan the page one headline, then turn the paper over and flip to Fotheringham's column at the bottom of the second front."


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Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award