… because man goeth to his long home

12 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Yesterday as we languished with friends Jay and Alana and their French bulldog Louie in the gazebo of their country estate, relishing the late afternoon sunshine, the soothing summer wind and sipping flavoured soda, we had the added pleasure of meeting relatives Geoff and Tracie. Though it was soon apparent that Tracie and I might never coalesce on the subject of The Hereafter, we paradoxically lost no time affirming our nebulous theory of coincidence.

Ecclesiastes may seem an inappropriate introduction to a riparian sanctuary and the topic of serendipity yet it is emblematic of both. Additionally there are other remarkable attachments which have lately manifested themselves as we approach the move to our new digs at the corner of Johanna and Spring Streets along the Mississippi River. It was over forty-six years ago that I landed in Almonte. My residence then was on Martin St S near St Paul Street where flaps the sails of the deck overlooking the river and from which vantage canoes and paddle boats are launched and swimmers plunge.

At the time of my arrival in town the predominance of lands adjoining and upriver my residence were owned by Albert Thomas Gale. Most my professional dealings at the time were with his son Alan Gale. Coincidentally I subsequently took over the chattels, library and furnishings of Raymond Algernon Jamieson QC who regularly accounted to me his association with Albert T. Gale.

Albert T. Gale was a celebrated realtor and residential property developer.  He lived on Spring St which adjoins the others I’ve already mentioned. And adjoining was Gale St which in turn ultimately led to Evelyn St then to Laura Cr where we owned a home. Sgnificantly Laura Cr was named after Mr. Gale’s daughter Laura who was also involved in real estate and with whom I frequently interacted. Evelyn St was named after Mr Gale’s wife.

Already I am jumping ahead of myself. The supreme delight of this narrative is the Mississippi River. After I joined the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, I learned that the first Master of our Lodge was Dr William Mostyn who drowned in 1881 on the Mississippi River while going upriver in the winter to the Village of Appleton to treat a patient. The historic event transpired along the same avenue upon which we shall eventually gaze from the new apartment.

On the morning of Tuesday, March 29, 1881, the people of Almonte slowly became aware that one of their most prominent men was missing. Also missing was the son of another of the town’s well known citizens.

Search parties, under J. C. Stevens, who was a miller in Almonte, and W. H. Wylie, a woollen manufacturer in Carleton Place, started to drag the Mississippi River until first an upturned boat, then a fur cap and then, several days apart, two bodies were found, not far from a part of the river then known as Gleeson’s Bay, about a mile down river from Appleton.

On the previous Monday afternoon, Dr. William Mostyn, anxious to visit a sick patient in Appleton, and unable to use the roads because of their bad condition, finally got J. W. Manning, Jr., son of the celebrated Temperance worker, to take him in his skiff. In spite of a high wind and bitterly cold weather, they reached Appleton safely.

Dr. Mostyn visited his patient and James Manning conducted some license business with Mr. McArthur, a hotel keeper.

Manning, during the absence of his father, J. W. Manning, in England on a speaking tour, was acting as License Inspector for North Lanark. They were last seen at 4:30 p.m. by Adam Tesky, who accompanied them to the landing stage. Manning was rowing and Dr. Mostyn was sitting in the stern steering and paddling.

Dr. Mostyn was descended from a Welsh family who moved to Ireland in Cromwell’s time. He was born in Ireland in 1836 but came to Canada soon after with his family. They settled in Kingston, where his father was Inspector of Licenses.

Before abandoning Dr Mostyn it is useful to note the further examples of fortuity.

This active public life was only rivalled by his contemporary, Bennett Rosamond. But Dr. Mostyn had one advantage over Bennett Rosamond, he was never married and so had no need to devote any of his time to family life.

By 1879 he was one of only two members left of the Anti- Connubial Club, a group who celebrated the benefits of bachelorhood.

Even without the benefit of such detail the overall summary of the new digs is that I will have come full circle, bouncing from one side of town to the other, old to new to old and new. Once again at the end of my life as at the beginning I shall be a tenant. Over the past half century the trees on the old side of town have grown to full majesty.  I feel as though I am returning after a long absence (though it has only been eight years).

Our new address will reacquaint me with the Anglican church of which I am a former warden (though no longer a parishioner); Dr Mostyn’s house (later called the “Doctor’s House “ because it was always inhabited by an Irish born physician, the last of whom Dr Murphy ejected me for suggesting his drunken guest might need a drive home); the liquor store where I was effectively introduced to Freemasonry when my late grandfather’s Masonic watch fob was recognized by the Manager; the home (also on the river and adjoining the Anglican Church) of Judge and Mary Hugessen who became clients and friends; Mary Hugessen was a Rosamond of local woollen mill fame; Bennett Rosamond basically paid for construction in 1863 of St Paul’s Anglican Church of which the cornerstone was installed at a ceremony headed by Dr Mostyn on behalf of the Masonic lodge; Rob Prior (whose family used to live next door to my parents in Ottawa) bought Hugessen’s house and turned it into the Almonte Riverside Inn which I recommended to Tracie who I later discovered once lived in Nova Scotia on Greenwood Air Force base of which my late father had been commanding officer in the 1950s.

The chance connections go on and on. The overwhelming sensation is that our return to the other side of town constitutes by any assessment a lucky and happy conviviality.