Photo by Levin on Unsplash
Joan Hollobon was born in 1920 at Seaview on the Isle of Wight, the first and only child of Ernest Frederick Hollobon, a career British soldier, and Alice Hollobon. Joan grew up outside Rhyl, Wales where she graduated from high school. During the latter part of World War II, Joan worked as a volunteer administrative and press officer with the British Red Cross and the St. John War organization in Rhyl, Wales.
At the beginning of 1946, Joan moved to Berlin to work for the British Foreign Office and the Allied Control Commission of Germany and Austria in the British sector of the Quadripartite Powers in Allied-occupied Berlin. Joan served as the British secretary covering meetings of the Health and Civil Administration Committees of the Internal Affairs and Communications Directorate, and the various sub-committees of the four wartime Allied Powers. Her position involved working with her French, Russian and American opposites, especially the Americans, with whom the British worked in the closest co-operation in the quadripartite organisation. Joan left Berlin and returned to the United Kingdom in June 1948 because of the deteriorating political situation in Berlin resulting in the Soviet blockade of Berlin. Thereafter, Joan worked for The Reader’s Digest in London, England until the end of March 1952.
Joan decided to emigrate from England to Canada in April 1952. Having a liking for journalism, Joan went to see Ken McTaggart at The Globe and Mail. He counselled her about possible work opportunities and two weeks later, Joan became a reporter at The Northern Daily News in the town of Kirkland Lake in northern Ontario, at the time a booming goldmine centre. Her first job as a journalist in Canada was as the women’s editor for The Northern Daily News at $30 a week, at first covering women’s social news such as weddings, but later she covered many major news assignments.
After working for the The Northern Daily News for 18 months, Joan went to work for The Daily Nugget in North Bay, Ontario in December 1953, where she worked as a general reporter until early October 1956, when Joan was hired as a general reporter for The Globe and Mail in Toronto.
Joan’s first day at The Globe and Mail in Toronto was on Monday, 15 October 1956, assigned as a general reporter to take over the desk of a staff reporter who had left for The People’s Republic of China for a year at the invitation of Chairman Mao Tse Tung, after writing to Mao Tse Tung directly and asking if he could report on the People’s Republic of China. Joan settled into his old oak office chair for the next 29 years, and despite the best efforts of The Globe and Mail to toss the old office furniture when The Globe moved from King Street East to its new building on Front Street West in Toronto, Joan stubbornly held on to that old oak office chair. 2
In 1959 Joan became the medical reporter for The Globe and Mail, a position she held until her retirement at age 65 years old. During that time, she acquired a reputation as a master of the art and science of medical reporting. Joan Hollobon worked her last day as the medical reporter at The Globe and Mail on 31 January 1985, and took her retirement on 1 February 1985, aged 65 years old. A retirement party was held in Joan’s honour at offices of The Globe and Mail and she was presented with her old oak office chair and gifted a trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands.
Joan is a founding member and she was elected the first female president of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association in 1974 for the 1974-1975 term.
Joan served as the CSWA Chair, Science and Society Journalism Awards Committee from 1985-1999. The Science and Society Journalism Awards were awarded annually by the Canadian Science Writers’ Association in recognition of excellence in science journalism in print, including two book awards, radio, television and electronic media.
In 2010, at the age of 90 years old, Joan Hollobon was awarded the Canadian Science Writers’ Association (CSWA) Lifetime Achievement Award, presented for the first time in the history of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association (established in 1971) by then CSWA president Kathryn O’Hara to Joan Hollobon in recognition of her lifetime contributions to increasing public awareness of science and technology in Canadian culture and her pursuit of excellence in science journalism.
By: Andy F. Visser-de Vries