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Brian Brennan
Alberta's top Historian and "Raconteur"
Speakers' Bureau of Alberta©


Brian Brennan Photo


Heroes and Rascals

Journalism in the Internet Age

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Reputation: National

Who says Canadian history is boring? Not Brian Brennan. This Irish-born writer and raconteur has been entertaining readers and listeners with his stories about Canada's – specifically, Alberta's – checkered past for more than 20 years.

His voyage of discovery into Alberta's past began in 1992 when – as a staff writer with the Calgary Herald – Brennan was asked to write a daily in-memoriam column about everyday Albertans who had left an indelible mark. This column, called "Tribute," soon proved to be one of the most popular features in the paper. Unique for a Canadian daily newspaper, it told readers about ordinary people who had lived extraordinary lives. While other Herald writers were writing about important community leaders who changed people's lives, Brennan was writing about firefighters who had saved lives and rodeo riders who had risked their lives.
As well as chronicling the lives of individuals who had recently died, Brennan delved into a century of Alberta history to produce an array of colourful characters who had often shaped the province for the better but occasionally warranted attention for other reasons. Thus, not only did Herald readers get to find out about such enterprising individuals as Vern "Dryhole" Hunter, the driller who spearheaded the province's biggest oil discovery at Leduc in 1947, but they also got to read about the notorious Pearl Miller, whose brothel provided a welcoming haven for returning Calgary soldiers after the Second World War.

Brian Brennan wrote the "Tribute" column for seven years. During that time, the scope of the column expanded to cover not only the stories of little-known Albertans who had lived privately important lives, but also the stories of prominent Alberta individuals such as Wilf Carter and Roloff Beny who had left the province to make their mark nationally and internationally.

In 2000, Brennan took early retirement from the Herald and published the first of nine bestselling books about the colourful characters of Alberta's past. At the same time, he began to cement his reputation as one of Alberta's most sought-after history raconteurs by appearing regularly as a guest storyteller on CBC Radio's weekend program, Daybreak Alberta. He won the inaugural Dave Greber Freelance Writers Award for one of his books, "Romancing the Rockies." Another of his titles, "Scoundrels and Scallywags," topped the regional bestseller charts for more than 20 weeks.

Brian Brennan has delivered several keynote addresses at conferences and conventions, tailoring each PowerPoint presentation to meet the specific needs of the host organization. He doesn't believe in the one-size-fits-all approach. Each group is special, so each presentation is special. His clients have included Scouts Canada, the Canadian Club of Calgary, the Alberta Library Conference, the Historical Society of Alberta, Alberta Games, and the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.

"I have had the pleasure of hearing Brian Brennan speak three times in the past four years. The first time was in the upstairs of the old Central Park Library and he was talking about the history of the Public Library in Calgary. The ambiance of the site, the soft Irish lilt in his voice and his great storytelling abilities made it such a memorable talk that I invited Brian to come and present the same talk on our Annual History Day training session for the 120 Interpretive staff and volunteers at Heritage Park that spring. I asked Brian to return the following spring to present stories of Alberta's scoundrels and scallywags to the same group. Hands-down, Brian is the most popular guest speaker I have brought to present to the group in my seven years at Heritage Park. He is has a good sense of humour, is very personable, has great timing, and weaves such good tales that he holds the group spellbound for the hour and always leaves them wanting more. He was the perfect choice to ask to be our keynote speaker for the Association of Living History Farms and Agricultural Museums Conference 2014, being hosted by Heritage Park this June 21st to 25th. He has a wealth of stories to share about Alberta's history and Albertans who made that history and I expect this group of Interpreters from all over North America to be as impressed with him as I have been, each time I have heard him. I highly recommend him as a public speaker."
Ellen Gasser, Heritage Park Historical Village

"Brian's author talk at the 2012 Alberta Library Conference was fantastic. He was funny and engaging and many times had the audience laughing out loud. His presentation was informative and entertaining and he connected with the audience along the way. Definitely the best kind of speaker!"

Sarah Meilleur, Conference Organizer 

More Information: 1.866.420.3338 (toll-free in Canada) email: info@speakersalberta.com

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