Clyde Sanger remembered

Clyde Sanger, distinguished journalist and long-time Glebite, died in January. He is shown with his granddaughter Claire O’Neill Sanger when visiting the grave of his wife Penny, instigator of the Glebe Report.  
Photo: Toby Sanger

By Daniel Sanger

The Glebe lost one of its biggest fans and comprehensive chroniclers in January when journalist – and my father – Clyde Sanger died aged 93.

Clyde was eminently recognizable around the neighbourhood, whether on his bike (his preferred mode of transport long before it was the done thing among adults), walking his Jack Russell terriers or visiting the many Bank Street merchants whom he befriended.

He was also a long-time presence in the Glebe Report, which was founded by his wife Penny and Sylvia Holden around the Sanger kitchen table and to which he contributed a column for 16 years.

Clyde and Penny and their four boys landed in the Glebe in the winter of 1970 after a nomadic decade.

Born and brought up in comfortable circumstances in Surrey, England, Clyde had taken up journalism after graduating from Oxford and doing military service in Egypt. His first jobs were in northern England, London and Kentucky, but he longed for more adventure and in 1957, to his father’s despair, quit a job on the Daily Mail to become the editor of a start-up weekly in Southern Rhodesia, then a British colony.

Before long, he had met and married Penny and moved on to become the first Africa correspondent for The Manchester Guardian (now simply The Guardian), based in Nairobi. After five busy years covering the bumpy end of British colonial rule in central and east Africa, the family moved to New York and then Toronto, initially with The Guardian and then The Globe and Mail. Finally, the Globe’s parliamentary bureau came calling.

The Glebe was different then. The first real estate agent Penny talked to urged the family to settle in Alta Vista; the Glebe was too central, with ragged edges and rooming houses, it could go either way. The suburbs, the agent said, were safer. But Penny wouldn’t be deterred and the family moved initially to 209 Fourth and shortly thereafter to 299 First.

That was where the Glebe Report was born. Clyde and Penny’s attachment to the community and its residents grew deep and unfailing. They owned the house for 48 years, living in it all that time but for a two-year spell back in England in the late 1970s when Clyde wanted to be closer to his aging parents and he and Penny thought their boys should see different landscapes and horizons.

The parties at the house were innumerable, joyous and legendary with Clyde often declaiming poems he had composed for the occasion. The causes and campaigns organized in its living room or around the dining room table were almost as many.

Clyde’s politics had shifted away from those of his conservative tribe even before he went to Africa, but there his commitment to social, political and economic justice for all – especially the developing world – was galvanized. This was not always compatible with working in The Globe’s parliamentary bureau and by the mid-1970s Clyde had gone to work for CIDA, then IDRC and later the North-South Institute. In this way Clyde was frequently described as “an internationalist,” and his passport got regular workouts whether on trips back to Africa or to Asia and Latin America.

But if he thought global, he also acted local and always remained deeply engaged with the Glebe, and in any number of ways. One week it might have involved pushing the city for a greener, more human-scale development of Lansdowne Park; the next he might have been organizing a birthday party for Moto or Rafiki at Brown’s Inlet and hand-delivering invitations to every other Jack Russell owner he knew in Ottawa. But always he was building community, though he would never have used such a term. For him it was just part of being alive. In the same way, he never rode an elevator or stood in a checkout line beside a stranger without sparking up a conversation.

Clyde also taught journalism at Carleton University and became the mentor to many reporters, whether Canadians with an international outlook or from Africa and elsewhere in the global south whom he helped make their way to Canada to study. (For a more complete account of his work in this regard ,see the tribute at .)

A memorial of Clyde’s life will be held in the spring. His remains will be buried alongside Penny in the MacLaren cemetery in Wakefield.

Daniel Sanger is one of Clyde Sanger’s four sons.

Clyde Sanger

By Randal Marlin

If I had to define what it is to be a journalist in the best sense of the word, I would look to Clyde Sanger’s life as an embodiment of those qualities. First, an impassioned desire to find out the truth about many things, large and small, and then a strong ability to communicate those findings. These qualities were coupled with a sense of justice but also fairness to those under attack.

Clyde had a boundless curiosity and a desire to witness events first-hand, even at risk to his safety. There was often a sharp edge to his reporting, and one sensed that politicians, diplomats and other influential people who came within his notice treated him with respect, sometimes based partly on fear.

For many years, Clyde wrote a very interesting column, “Glebe Questions,” in the Glebe Report. My wife Elaine, the editor in the early 2000s, remembers that he often dropped by the office to chat about his stories that were always ready ahead of deadline. Then he would sometimes remark: “Now I have to go home and whip up my column for The Economist.”

The Glebe Report was part of Sanger family life from its first issue in June 1973, his late wife Penny (née Ketchum) being the founder and first editor. Elaine recalls that with no office to accommodate production, the Sangers’ home became action central. There was excitement after the first issue when Pierre Benoit, mayor at the time, threatened to sue over the front-page story.

When I guest-edited Global Media Journal in 2010, I asked Clyde to review a book titled Newspeak in the 21st Century. I thought he would be sympathetic to this critique of establishment media like The Guardian and the BBC. But he began his review: “This is a hatchet job.” He mostly agreed with their points but thought the authors, who were not journalists, should appreciate more the pressures upon the media.

Clyde faced those pressures himself. When he was working for a bi-weekly newspaper in Salisbury (now Harare) in 1959, an emergency was declared in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and hundreds were detained. His boss declared “we can cover it from here;” Clyde disagreed, quit his job and flew in to cover the trouble on his own. He was lucky to have found himself in the right history-making places at the right time – Central Africa, Kenya, Zanzibar – and to have emerged unscathed from some dangerous situations. They say “curiosity killed the cat” but also that “cats have nine lives.”

Clyde was extraordinarily fortunate to make the right career decisions and the right personal choices, especially marrying Penny and raising their four boys. He greatly enjoyed lively gatherings with family and friends.

Two months before Clyde’s death, his family organized a gathering to mark Clyde’s 93rd birthday and his special literary legacy: an extraordinary book, Our Golden Years in Africa: From the Congo to Zimbabwe. He presents in that book a kaleidoscope of stories, photographs and other images, interweaving family life with local and world politics.

We are with him in his successes and failures. We see him trying to convince editors of the need for social justice in Africa and for in-depth reporting that would expose the injustice of colonial rule. You can feel Clyde’s repulsion as he quotes the once-revered Cecil Rhodes: “Always remember you are an Englishman and have won first prize in the lottery of life” and “The more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race.”

The book begins with a description of his father Gerald Sanger, who worked for Movietone News, a main source of public information in his day. Gerald had always taken pride in Clyde’s work and professional choices but criticized his decision to go to Rhodesia as an “abdication.” But he concluded prophetically: “Later I may see his action in a different light; but now I can only pray that he knows what he is doing.”

Yes, Clyde knew what he was doing in life and achieved it, right up to the completion of this extraordinarily rich final book. We don’t just read about his adventurous and productive life, we live it with him.

Clyde will be remembered for many different things: UN enthusiast, seeker of global justice, poet, mentor, university lecturer, editor, author of legal studies, biographies, editorials and, finally, a mischievous inventor of party games to challenge his guests.

Randal Marlin is an author, professor, lecturer, Glebe resident and former president of the Glebe Community Association and a long-time friend of Clyde Sanger.

In honour of Clyde Sanger

By JC Sulzenko

I have admired Clyde Sanger for many reasons and many seasons. Never one to resist the temptation to write and comment, he became a frequent contributor to Poetry Quarter with his unique voice and verses. On the occasion of the publication of his lovely 2014 poetry collection, Second Wind, I wrote a cento using lines from individual poems in that book. Clyde appreciated the dedication and the substance of the poem, which I offer here as a tribute to the man. I will miss him.

JC Sulzenko is curator of the Glebe Report’s Poetry Quarter.

On second thought

                                 For Clyde and Penny Sanger

How much of my life is contained in before
just promises I made
in work and play and children’s eyes?

Where the butterflies drink,
and tropic mornings bring the sun,
I pick petals from her hair.

To think she leads a double life! Perhaps
there’s more hope than you suppose:
A place for setting out from, and a place for returning.

Where limestone, granite fused,
we soon learnt not to stumble.
Just hang on and hang tight.

JC Sulzenko

writing as A. Garnett Weiss

Cento gloss:

Line 1: “The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea”
Line 2: “The Candidate’s Farewell”
Line 3: “For Malcolm at 18”
Line 4: “Mexican Musings”
Line 5: “The Happy Life of Bobby Moore”
Line 6: “Picking Petals in Bangladesh”
Line 7: “For Mella at 80”
Line 8: “A Rose by another name”
Line 9: “Three Favorite Places”
Line 10: “Bon Echo—down the Ages”
Line 11: “Two Warehouses”
Line 12: “The Man on the Windshield”

(All lines are drawn unaltered, apart from adjustments for reasons of syntax or grammar, from individual poems in Clyde Sanger’s collection, Second Wind, published in 2014)

Share this