Arctic & Northern Biographies
Born in 1941 in Valleyview, Alberta, Les McLaughlin was just 3 years old when he arrived in Whitehorse. The photo to the right shows him at the age of 7, in the alley behind the McLaughlin home on Strickland Street in Whitehorse.
His youth included playing midget, juvenile for the Hougens team, and senior hockey, along with volunteering at the military-run radio station CFWH in the late '50s. That was just the beginning of a long broadcasting career.
In 1962, Les began work at CBC's Northern Service in Whitehorse. He was a full-time announcer there from 1964 to 1968, then moved to the Northern Service office in Montreal. His next move was to the Ottawa office where he remained until he retired in 1995.
Les spent countless hours helping to preserve the history of the Yukon with his recordings of special people and events over many years for CBC Radio. More than 200 hours of audio selections are housed in the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife and the Yukon Archives in Whitehorse.
The founding producer of the True North Concert series broadcast across Canada, Les also produced a unique and innovative series of broadcast recordings featuring Northern musical talent from across the north. The series includes over 1,000 musical selections.
A CBC article reporting his death said:
McLaughlin was remembered for producing a number of historical documentaries, as well as for recording and promoting northern musicians including Susan Aglukark, Hank Karr, Charlie Panigoniak and Kashtin.
William Tagoona of Kuujjuaq, Que., recalled how McLaughlin encouraged him to record an album of Inuit country music with professional musicians in southern Canada.
"They said, 'Well, William, you put your mouth into your own hands and come down to Montreal and we'll record you,'" said Tagoona, now a CBC Radio broadcaster himself.
Another musical offering is "The Songs of Robert Service", a CD featuring ten poems by the famous poet, set to contemporary music. Robert Service was the subject again in one of a series of hour-long recordings created for the Yukon tourist market, including "Colourful Characters of the Klondike", "North to Alaska on the Trail of '42", "The Northwest Mounted Police in the Klondike", and "The Robert Service Story".
Les was also the author of "High Flyers", the story of the improbable quest for Olympic gold in 1948 by the RCAF Flyers hockey team, which ran in the national publication AirForce Magazine and in the Globe and Mail.
In 1996, he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, who wrote that it was "to recognize the contribution of Les McLaughlin to the preservation of the Yukon's heritage".
In 1999, he wrote and self-published "Granddaddy of the Peace, the Life and Times of Tom Kerr", about his grandfather's life in northern Alberta.
With his efforts to record and highlight the history of the North, Les McLaughlin left his own mark in the more recent history of Whitehorse, notably as author and host of CKRW's "Yukon Nuggets" series.
In 2008, Les retured to the Yukon for a visit, and that winter produced 3 short videos,including one about Yukon roadhouses being narrated by ExploreNorth owner Murray Lundberg. Les had 2 accounts at Youtube, one with the three 2009 videos, and one with 23 videos, mostly about the Yukon.
Les McLaughlin died at his home in Ottawa on January 08, 2011, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.
Friends of Les McLaughlin have established a "Les McLaughlin Fund" in his honour to be administered by the Yukon Foundation. The family directed that the annual proceeds of the fund be used to assist students who wish to pursue a career in journalism or history. Contributions can be made to "The Yukon Foundation" P.O. Box 31622, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 6L2 or by dropping it off at the CKRW Studios, 4th & Elliott St.
This article was expanded from a CKRW Yukon Nugget by Ron McFadyen, which is used here with permission from the Hougen family.
Also see a lengthy article in the Whitehorse Star.