Timothy Findley Biography

Timothy Irving Frederick Findley, also known as ‘Tiffy’, was a renowned contemporary Canadian writer who believed in the importance of uncensored literature. Over the course of forty years, he published numerous collections of his diverse novels, which often explored fundamental issues. Inspired by the works of Shakespeare, he also wrote notable plays and participated in the annual Stratford Shakespearean festival of Canada. Timothy’s writings were characterized by a ‘Southern Ontario Gothic’ style, heavily influenced by Jungian psychology. His novels featured dark characters with hidden secrets and various psychological disorders, making for compelling and thought-provoking reads.

Quick Facts

  • Canadian Celebrities Born In October
  • Died At Age: 71
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Janet Reid
    • Father: Allan Gilmour Findley
    • Mother: Margaret Maude Bull
  • Quotes By Timothy Findley
  • Canadian Men
  • Died on: June 21, 2002
  • Place of death: Brignoles, France
  • More Facts
  • Education: St. Andrew’s College
  • Awards: Governor General’s Award, Canadian Authors Association Award, ACTRA Award, Ontario Trillium Award

Childhood and Early Life

Timothy Findley was born in a well-to-do family in Toronto to Allan Gilmour Findley, a stockbroker, and his wife Margaret Maude Bull. He was raised in an affluent neighborhood in Toronto in the Rosedale district. He attended boarding school at St. Andrews College but poor health forced him to give up his formal education after the ninth grade. He went forth to learn arts, dance and acting and had a flourishing career as an actor for a brief time. In 1950s, he joined the Stratford Festival company (a Shakespeare production), which organized annual theatre festivals. He acted together with Sir Alec Guinness and hence appeared on the English and American stage. He played ‘Peter Pumpkin’ in ‘Sunshine Sketches’ which was the television adaptation of Stephen Leacock’s ‘Sunshine sketches of a little town’.


In 1970s, he collaborated with writer Bill Whitehead on several documentary projects including the television mini-series based on Pierre Berton’s book ‘The National Dream’. In 1960s, he published his first short story in a Canadian literary magazine, ‘Tamarack Review’. After the publication and encouragement by a close friend, he took to writing more seriously, and evolved as an excellent writer. In 1985, he was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada. He was also a founding member of the Writer’s union of Canada. Furthermore, he was given the president-ship of the Canadian chapter of PEN International. His famous works include ‘The Wars’ (1977), ‘Famous last words’ (1981), ‘Not wanted on the voyage’ (1984), ‘Dinner along the Amazon’ (1984), ‘The telling of lies’ (1986), ‘Stones’ (1988), ‘Inside Memory: pages from a writer’s notebook’ (1990), ‘Any time at all and other stories’ (1993), and the novels ‘Headhunter’ (1993), and ‘ The piano man’s daughter’ (1995) and ‘Pilgrim’ (1999).

Major Works

His first two novels, ‘The last of the crazy people’ (1967) and ‘the butterfly plague’ (1969) were originally published in Britain and the United States after being rejected by Canadian publishers. These both novels are set in Southern California. These are very well-written with varied vocabulary and descriptive style of writing. In the early 1970s, he wrote radio and television scripts and a play ‘Can you see me yet?’ It was followed by the release of two of his most acclaimed novels, ‘The Wars’ (1977), which was later adapted into a film in 1981, and ‘Famous last words’ (1981). He authored numerous plays. The most famous of them all being ‘Elizabeth Rex’ which debuted at the Stratford Festival of Canada. This play was a big hit and won many accolades for him. ‘Shadows’ was his last completed work among plays. In 1998, ‘From stone orchard’, a collection of some of Findley’s Harrowsmith columns. It is a memoir of Findley’s life at Stone Orchard, Cannington, southern Ontario, where he lived with his partner William Whitehead.

Awards & Achievements

In 1975, he won an ACTRA award for scriptwriting for ‘The National Dream’, with his partner William Whitehead. The series described the concept and construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th century. He received a Governor General’s award for fiction for his novel ‘The Wars’ (1977) which was based on the First World War. In 2000, he received the same award in the drama category for ‘Elizabeth Rex’, an adaptation of Shakespeare. In 1986, he was appointed an officer in the Order of Canada. In 1988, he received the ‘Trillium Book Award’ for ‘Stones’ which is a collection of nine stories depicting the realities of contemporary relationships that evokes emotions. In 1991, he was honored with the membership of ‘Order of Ontario’, the most prestigious official honor in Ontario. In 1996, he was awarded a Chevalier De L’Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres by the government of France for his significant contribution to literature. In 2002, he was inducted into Canada’s walk of fame for the acknowledgement of his achievements and accomplishments in the Canadian literary field.

Personal Life

In 1959, he married actress and photographer Janet Reid but the union lasted only three months, ending in a divorce. In 1962, he met writer William Whitehead while working as an art’s reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. William became his partner and collaborated with him on several documentary projects in 1970s. The two remained devoted companions until Findley’s death in 2002.

Leave a Comment