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G. Cecil Day

By Beverley Day-Burlock
In earlier days, every weekly newspaper in North America came out on Thursdays. But The Advance which announced the death of its former editor came off the presses on Wednesday August 25, 1976, the day of his funeral, in the 99th year of its publication.
G. Cecil Day died at the age of 78, one week after receiving the Sydney R Stone Trophy at the 57th CWNA (Canadian Weekly Newspapers Association) convention in Halifax, where he'd been honourary chair. Speechless for once in his life, Cecil was presented the trophy by Mr. Stone. The citation read: In recognition of meritorious achievement in the service of their fellow man and their community, with great appreciation for their ceaseless effort and personal self sacrifice. His peers gave him a standing ovation, long before they became commonplace.
It was not his first award, but culminated a remarkable career for a lad from Worthen, Wales, originally refused entry into Canada because he'd had polio at three years of age. His master grocer father had decided things might be better for his five children in Canada, so after an Anglican minister signed for Cecil's care, the family sailed for PEI and Cecil had his 13th birthday Easter Sunday on the boat, sick as a dog.
Though he'd never farmed before, in six years Mr. Day won the award for most improved farm, now part of the vast Vesey's Seeds farms, and promptly moved to Charlottetown to open a shop. Because of Cecil's mother's persistence in massaging his limbs, Cecil finally regained the use of his arms and one leg, but spent the rest of his life on crutches.
Despite the fact that President Franklin Roosevelt had polio 20 years after Cecil, with all the medical advances, plus his wealth and power to support him, he still concealed his disability because 'society didn't recognize the ability of handicapped people to perform demanding duties'. Cecil had no such luxuries. He took six years of missed schooling in three and entered pre-law at Prince of Wales College at 16. He often walked the seven miles home to Little York on weekends.
However, due to shortage of funds and shortage of workers because of the war, Cecil left school after one year for work as night editor with the Charlottetown Guardian, 10 hours at $3 a week. His parents provided $1 so he could pay his board of $3.50. Having discovered he'd taught himself the linotype, the next year he was offered a day job, nine hours at $6.
The next year he moved to the Daily News in New Glasgow, getting $14 a week on the linotype. He continued his studies as night and, over his 14 years there, added reporting to his repertoire, including covering the courts and sports. He also helped form the province's first softball league. He moved to the Sydney Post Record for two years and then, deciding if he was to have a paper of his own he should get some weekly experience, he moved to The Pictou Advocate, where he was also correspondent for the Halifax Chronicle..
In 1931 he came to The Advance in Liverpool where he saw the potential from the Mersey (now Bowater) mill boom, despite the shock of finding the paper's facilities located behind the post office in an unfinished barn, 18'x28', with one 60-watt light on a long cord. The press was hand-turned, the paper sheets hand-fed. Then owned by elderly James Clements, the paper had been founded by Senator Edward M. Farrell and his brother, Thomas in 1878.
Cecil married Elizabeth Harlow in July 1937, Mr. Clements died that December and money had to be found to purchase the paper. Since the banks wouldn't look at a crippled foreigner, he found assistance in the Senator's sister, Miss Mary A Farrell, who also loaned him funds in 1940 to build a magnificent new two-storey fireproof brick building on Main Street. That year Cecil won his first awards - for the best ad, the best job printing and as the Second Best Weekly in all of Canada.
Three years later he was the first recipient of the Calnan Trophy for best community service. In 1945 an article in Canadian Editor & Writer likened him to Horatio Alger and in 1951 he was the first recipient of the R.C. Smith Trophy for the most progressive weekly in Canada.
In 1956, Time Magazine had an article in its June 11 issue celebrating his 40 years in the newspaper business. Ten years later, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald featured him on the front page, celebrating his half century and CWNA presented him with the Golden Quill Award for distinguished service to the weekly newspaper profession.
By this time The Advance was the first tabloid sized paper in Nova Scotia. It had grown from 4 to 16 pages, the staff had increased from 3 to 14, the $100,000 valued shop was one of the best equipped in eastern Canada. The circulation, having climbed from 700 mostly unpaid to 3,300 prepaid (eventually it would exceed 5,000 audited) was the highest weekly circulation in Nova Scotia. Hardly a week passed without The Advance being cited on the CBC radio program Neighbourly News, mostly because of the large number of community correspondents providing volumes of community names and news.
Cecil's interest in politics began in Pictou and he ran twice for the Liberals in Queens County, federally and provincially, and served as town councilor. During WWII he was PR chair for Victory Loans, publicity agent for war services, money raiser for the Greek fund, Spitfire fund and Queens Canadian fund. He was VP of Liverpool Community Club, Softball Association president, Playground Association president, Hospital Board Trustee, Board of Trade president. He was on the Queens County Historical Association and the N.S. Boy Scouts Association executives. A member of Kiwanis for 32 years, he then established the Lions Club and rose to District Governor. He was a member of the Masons, Knights of Pythias and an Honorary member of the Royal Canadian Legion. Among the many certificates of merit and appreciation he received were ones from The Canadian Red Cross and the International Assn of Civil Defence Public Information Officers, the only one received by any Canadian paper.
He was President of both the N.S. Weekly Association as well as CWNA, and was made honorary life member of both. While president of CWNA in 1957-58, he visited 300 weeklies across the country. He was Director of Class A Weekly Association, a member of the Georgia Press Association and the Commonwealth Press Union. In the mid 60s, a MacLeans magazine survey, seeking possible suggestions for the Senate, mentioned his name which was promoted by The Herald. From then on his office door bore a sign plate: The Senate.
Once the paper moved to the new building, the masthead and all business stationary contained a picture of the main door with the slogan "Open Door to Queens County". His office was visible to all who entered the building, its door was always open. One wonders if that's why Cecil was always working late, evenings, weekends, holidays and overtime, because anyone who came through always had free access to chat with him.
People brought him the first, best, biggest and weirdest of everything. Countless people received a leg up because of Cecil's encouragement, support or assistance, including the world famous award winning photographer Sherman Hines. With his hearty laugh and love of practical jokes, he was the life of a party.
Neither disability nor discrimination ever stopped Cecil. He traveled the world, beginning with his first U.S. trip to the New York World's Fair in 1939. He made four trips to Europe, one as Maritime UNESCO representative, and visited Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii and Africa. He was presented to two popes, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, several prime ministers, including Diefenbaker and Joe Clark whose father had a weekly paper, and several premiers, including Henry Hicks.
Since he only missed two CWNA conventions with their leading edge seminars, he crossed Canada many times. On one rail trip a bullet crashed through the window of his train compartment and out the other side. Many weekends were spent traveling Queens County, visiting the people, and Nova Scotia, visiting other editors. Always he promoted Liverpool and The Advance, handing out countless imprinted souvenirs.
The fact his stories and editorials were written directly to the linotype, error free, was legendary. He was usually the first to purchase and promote the latest equipment and new methods. Knowing other printing was essential to staying afloat, he vigorously pursued jobs, including printing the award-winning Mersey Quarterly.
After 37 years, Cecil retired in 1968 at age 70, sold the multi-award winning paper and traveled 45,000 miles. The year before, The Advance had the highest growth rate in recorded history. He continued to write his candid, forthright and fearless editorial column One Man's Opinion until his death. At 75 he took up painting and finally accepted a wheelchair.
In One Man's Opinion he promoted every worthwhile project, offered suggestions, gave criticism when he felt it was required. For years he promoted the filling in of the rat-infested waterfront with its rotting wharves to provide a Sunset Blvd, and the construction of a museum. Having promoted the twinning of Liverpool with its namesake in England, he was partially responsible for the presentation of the mayoral chain and mace for the town's bicentennial.
G.R.T. Ayling, Cecil's assistant for 12 years, described him as ever optimistic, never satisfied with the status quo, having a desire for progress, unfailing energy, and being generous to a fault.
That Anglican clergyman truly recognized great potential when he saw it.

(This article was written by his daughter, Rev. Beverley Day-Burlock on this 30th anniversary of the death of her father.)

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