Dalton Robertson 1927-2008

Dalton Sinclair Robertson died this week. He was 80.

I first met Dalton in 1967 when I was toiling in “the trades,” as the Maclean-Hunter business publication division was known. I was a lowly assistant editor on Modern Purchasing magazine and Dalton was executive editor of The Financial Post but was a “secret” contributor. Each month his commentary on the economy ran in the front of the magazine – with no byline – and it was my job to edit his column, a task that consisted of putting paragraph marks on his stellar copy and sending it to the plant for typesetting.
Dalton always walked his copy down the one flight of stairs from The Financial Post, just before deadline. I would work at FP later in life, but in those days, that one floor higher looked like Mount Everest to me.

Our paths crossed again in March 1978. I had worked for Robert Stanfield, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. I wanted to return to journalism, but was seen as tainted goods, so I joined the Bank of Nova Scotia for two years in public affairs. Suitably drycleaned, I met with Dalton who said, “You don’t want to work at The Post. All we have at the moment is an opening for pulp and paper beat reporter. Why don’t you talk to Peter Newman? He’s taking Maclean’s weekly.” Peter hired me as business editor, starting that June. I was later managing editor and had a national column. Quite a leap from the trades.

Dalton influenced our lives again in July 1991. By then I was working for The Financial Post as Washington bureau chief. The G7 Economic Summit was in London, so Sandy came along and we thought we might visit France for a holiday after the meeting.

Dalton had retired and purchased a home in France, so I phoned and asked if he had any suggestions where we could stay on short notice. “My three-weeker just dropped out,” said Dalton, “you can rent my place.”

And so we found Heaven on earth in Puycelci – a fortified medieval village that looked like a wedding cake sitting on a hilltop an hour north of Toulouse. Views from the terrace of the two-bedroom stone dwelling were spectacular with the Pyrenees visible on a clear day. Seven private and interconnected gardens offered Sandy plenty of artistic scope. The local food and wine were unforgettable. Over the next decade, we rented Puycelci seven more times, staying as long as a month during the summer when Dalton preferred his Muskoka cottage.

We last saw Dalton in November at an eightieth birthday celebration attended by an eclectic group of fifty friends. Although Dalton never edited any of my work, he was an avid reader of my books and pronounced Fantasy in Florence my best yet. “It’s so free,” he said, “you have developed an entirely new style.” Thank you and farewell to a mentor, landlord and long-time friend.

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