By Chad Ingram
One of Canoe FM’s iconic figures is moving away from Haliburton County, but listeners of the community volunteer radio station are still likely to hear Mike Jaycock’s signature baritone on the air thanks to some assistance from digital technology.
Jaycock and wife Jane will be relocating to Ingersoll, Ont., later this month to live nearer to their children, grandchildren, and a brother to whom Jaycock is very close.
“It’s one of the toughest decisions we’ve ever faced,” Jaycock says of the couple’s decision to move. “We knew there’d come a time when we wanted to be close to family.”
They retired to their property on Eagle Lake about 18 years ago, having bought it a half-decade prior and using it as a cottage up until that point. “We didn’t know anyone,” Jaycock says. “Absolutely no one.”
To familiarize himself with the community, Jaycock arranged a meeting with Martha Perkins, then-editor of the Echo. He remembers Perkins imparting this wisdom: “When you move up here, you’ll be living here. You’re not cottaging.”
In other words, better find something to do.
It just so happened that at the time, a burgeoning Canoe FM was freshly on the air. It also just so happened that Jaycock had a professional background in radio, beginning his career as a rock n’ roll DJ in Hamilton in the 1960s. He would retire decades later as the president of an ad agency.
At the time, Dave Sovereign, one of Canoe FM’s founders, was hosting a weekday morning show.
“He said he could use some help with the morning show,” Jaycock says, explaining he began filling in a few days a week.
Before very long, Jaycock was hosting the morning show five days a week, broadcasting live from the station each day, something he did for solid decade. He remembers lots of early morning drives on some snowy and rainy days from Eagle Lake to the Canoe FM studio, located in Haliburton Village.
Jaycock’s run on the morning show would come to an end when he was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, a condition affecting the inner-ear and resulting in extreme spells of vertigo, and which Jaycock acquired from years of driving a convertible.
“I had some really scary moments when I was having attacks,” he said. “Once I had one on the air. I remember Lorraine’s eyes were as wide as saucers.”
Jaycock gave the cue to his co-host that he’d be back with her once his spell subsided, leaving her to fly solo for a while.
Lorraine McNeil was Jaycock’s long-time on-air-companion, the two frequently cracking each other up, on and off the air. McNeil passed away from a combination of cancer and pneumonia in 2018.
Jaycock remembers vividly the first time he met her. McNeil had been performing with her friend Maureen James, also since deceased, as comedy duo Lo and Mo at a community event.
“I was really captivated by Lorraine, her sense of timing and her obvious good nature,” Jaycock recalls. “It was like Velcro. We just gelled.”
He remembers the summer the pair produced The Highlands Radio Almanac, which was a travelling show broadcast live from locations throughout the county on 10 Saturdays. Jaycock wrote 30-page scripts for the shows, and the pair interviewed guests, had musical performers, and even did live commercials – true old-school radio.
“It was a huge undertaking,” Jaycock says, adding that it was also incredibly rewarding, and crediting a number of Canoe FM volunteers who helped make it happen. In all of his time on radio, he says the most fun he ever had was with McNeil.
While taking a proverbial step back after his departure from the morning show, Jaycock has continued to remain active with the station, hosting the Friday Drive Show, The Mayor’s Message and other programming. During his years behind the microphone, he’s interviewed everyone from Canadian comedy legends Rick Mercer and Ron James to best-selling authors to myriad members of the community about their projects and passions.
“We always did a Christmas show,” Jaycock says, that production broadcast live from the radio hall, often featuring the music of Loney, Love and Love, and with county residents passing through to bring festive greetings. “It was just full of togetherness and love.”
He also fondly recalls hosting the Polar Bear Challenge, a fundraiser for the Haliburton & District Lions Club, where residents raise money and then jump into the icy waters of Head Lake, crediting Canoe FM production technician Ron Murphy for braving the chilly temperatures to ensure all went smoothly.
Canoe FM manager Roxanne Casey says it’s difficult to fully capture the immense contributions Jaycock has made to the station, including serving years as its president, designing the logo with the man in a canoe, providing mentorship and coaching to other volunteers, and establishing a relationship with the CBC that has allowed Canoe FM some unique interview opportunities.
“Mike is simply one of the best and we will all miss his coming and going at the station,” Casey told the Echo. “I can personally thank him for all his support and words of wisdom, especially in my early years of this job. I will truly miss this gentleman.”
Jaycock intends to continue to contribute to Canoe FM once he’s settled in his new home by recording interviews, and, once a new broadcast board is installed at the station, perhaps even going live-to-air once again.
“You literally take over the station from home,” Jaycock says of the capabilities the new board will provide.
Jaycock’s volunteerism didn’t end at the radio station, with him frequently lending his wit and commanding public speaking ability to numerous organizations in the county, emceeing countless events, auctions and galas. From the Haliburton Hospital Auxiliary, of which Jane has been a part, to SIRCH Community Services, to the Ontario Seniors’ Games, to the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, to Tall Pine Tales, a project by members of the writers’ and editors’ network, the list is incredibly long.
“Special events have been a big part of my volunteer life up here,” Jaycock says. “I was always glad to help with their events.”
For years, Jaycock regularly emceed the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards gala, where he didn’t hold back in roasting municipal politicians and other local public figures. He explains he always let them know that he only poked fun at people he liked.
At one of those galas, Jaycock was given the chamber’s prestigious Highlander of the Year Award, and he was also recognized by the Haliburton Rotary Club with a Paul Harris Fellowship for his community volunteerism.
McNeil and Jaycock also founded the Haliburton Highlands Shindig, an annual fundraiser for Fuel for Warmth, a charitable organization that helps county residents heat their homes during the winter. The shindig is a variety show featuring local musical acts and other guests, and is hosted by the dazzling Dame Beatrice – Jaycock in a wig, high heels and dress, and sporting a British lady’s accent. The seventh annual shindig took place this past November, and Jaycock hinted that even though he is leaving the county, it’s possible Dame Beatrice may return.
Jaycock says it’s been emotional packing for the move, with a flood of memories coming back to him, and while it was the aesthetics of the Haliburton Highlands that first brought him and Jane to the county, it’s the friends they are leaving behind that are top of mind as they prepare to depart.
“We’ll miss the beauty of the Highlands and everything that entails,” he says. “More importantly, it’s about people. We will miss the community.”