Skip to main content
lives lived
Open this photo in gallery:

Victor Knight.Courtesy of the family

Victor Knight: Actor. Teacher. Union activist. Friend. Born July 7, 1922, in London; died April 19, 2019, in Montreal, following a stroke; aged 96.

Victor hated school and held the record for the most canings for misbehaviour; he left at 15. He was, however, a math whiz and all his life he impressed people by mentally calculating an answer faster than a calculator. As a teenager, Victor worked for a bookie at the racetrack figuring out instant odds on horse races: He did the job of a computer.

At 17, Victor was 6-foot-1 and barrel-chested – so no questions were asked when he enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1939 even though he was underage. He was seriously injured on a training mission in the English Channel – using railway ferries to carry guns to defend against a German invasion – and was invalided out early in the war. He always said the injuries probably saved his life.

Victor went to acting school in London. He was always vague about it, but his voice and stage presence showed he was formally trained. He worked in theatres in England, perfecting his craft. But to help pay the bills, Victor used his number skills to land him an accounting job with British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). He acted on the side.

In the late 1940s, he met Helen Paul, a beautiful Canadian who was working in London. When she returned to Canada, Victor followed, managing to cop a free flight to Montreal from his mates at BOAC. He married Helen soon afterward. They had one son, Paul, who inherited his father’s charm and negotiating skills, and who is now vice chairman of Barclays Bank.

With all Victor’s voice training, he soon found work on CBC radio dramas. He also worked in live theatre, although that didn’t pay much, if anything at all. Television provided more opportunities, and he appeared in significant roles on TV dramas, including Radisson and Groseilliers, about the two explorers. It was live TV – no taping – and performed in English and French.

In the mid-1960s, theatre director D.B. Clarke told Victor he was a born teacher, and Victor was soon hired by Sir George Williams University, later part of Concordia. (For academic qualifications, Mr. Clarke asked Victor to write a long essay on theatre and said that passed for a master’s degree.) Later, Victor moved to Dawson College and taught there until 2011, reluctantly retiring at 89.

Along the way, Victor was an activist with ACTRA and worked as the national president from 1968-71 where he fought for Canadian content rules. He also helped found the Actra Fraternal Benefit Society to provide health care and pensions for performers and writers. Victor was a strong AFBS board member and helped run the AFBS scholarship committee for decades. If a student wanted to apply to some expensive school in Britain or the United States, Victor always said there were good schools in Canada.

Through his work at ACTRA, Victor met his second wife Kathleen Fee, an accomplished actress and voice-over artist. They married in 1990 and had a wonderful life together.

Victor lived and breathed theatre. His legacy lies in all the students he helped over his decades of teaching, and the performers and writers he helped with his devotion to ACTRA and AFBS.

Bob Underwood is Victor’s friend and long-time colleague.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

Interact with The Globe