SHAWVILLE May 13, 2020
A fixture on Ottawa televisions at supper time will no longer grace the region’s TV screens as CTV Ottawa’s long-time weather anchor, J.J. Clarke, announced his retirement on May 4.
Ironically, the name he’s best known for – J.J. Clarke – isn’t his real one. Clarke’s real name is Ron Rowat and has close family ties to Shawville.
Along with long-time anchors Max Keeping and Carol Anne Meehan, Rowat was one of the main faces associated with local news.
Rowat has served as the weatherman for CTV Ottawa’s 6 o’clock news since 1985, back when it was known as CJOH.
In fact, when he first got the job with CJOH, Rowat sat down for an interview with THE EQUITY that made the front page on the Jan. 8, 1986 issue.
Although he was born in Toronto, Rowat has strong family ties to Shawville that date back to the 1920s when his grandfather and grandmother, Harland and Bessie Rowat, moved into the region. His father, Cameron, went to school and grew up in the region.
Rowat got his start in broadcasting in his university days when he was a student at McMaster.
While he was studying geography – with a few meteorology courses sprinkled in – Rowat discovered the campus radio station.
His time there sparked an interest in broadcasting that led him to a part time radio job at Hamilton’s CHAM in 1973.
““It was actually a great life,” Rowat told THE EQUITY in 1986. “I was making $3.00 an hour and I worked all the rotten weekend shifts, from midnight Friday to six o’clock Saturday and Saturday and Sunday night. But it was okay because in university it doesn’t matter. Working weekends is all right because Tuesday night is a party night as well as Saturday night.”
Rowat attributed his obvious good-nature to his father, Cameron. His gregarious personality essentially won him the job that he’d come to be known to thousands for.
“They were looking for a kind of personality-type of weather man,” he said at the time. “The most important thing is ‘Do you know anything about the weather?’ Second is ‘Are you afraid of the camera?’ and third is ‘can you do a little bit of performing and be happy?’”
After working in Hamilton through the 1970’s, Rowat got a chance to come to Ottawa in 1980 as a radio host on CKOY from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
During that time, he filed freelance reports with CJOH, so when former weatherman Brooke McNab decided to pursue a legal career, Rowat made the short list.
After an audition process, he was told he got the job.
Although he never really fit the typical mould of what most people expect a TV personality to look like, Rowat – in a sign of the times – shrugged it off.
“Obviously, just from looking at me, I’m not exactly your Gord Martineau or Lloyd Robertson,” Rowat said at the time. “They’re not exactly looking for anybody terribly glamorous for the weather, which is good. That’s why you can kind of get away with it.”
Many people need to pick their jaw up off the floor when they find out that the person they’ve been watching on the news for the last three decades is using a stage name.
The revelation usually raises the question: why J.J. Clarke?
“When I started in radio, for the first night I was on, I was Ron Rowat,” he said in 1986. “The manager, for some reason, decided that Ron Rowat was not a great radio name. Well, needless to say, I thought it was a fine radio name and my mother and father thought it was a great radio name but the manager didn’t think so.”
So, after some thought, the manager settled on the name of someone he worked with in the broadcasting business.
“From now on, you’re going to be J.J. Clarke.”
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