Country living

When I moved to Almonte in June of 1976 at 27 years of age it was strictly for professional reasons. I wanted out of Ottawa. I wanted away from those of my brethren with whom I had associated during my brief career as a lawyer. I was then practicing law at 100 Sparks Street, Ottawa with Macdonald, Affleck having been called to the Bar at Osgoode Hall in Toronto about a year earlier. Though my career had already afforded me appearance before the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada, and while my daily undertakings included representation of Drummond Henry Birks and other highly successful businessmen, I hadn’t a personal attachment to the firm. I had begun to make casual enquiries about switching firms within the City but nothing had matured to the point of an interview. Unexpectedly – and serendipitously as it turned out – Senator George K. McIlraith (counsel to the firm) tipped me off that in Almonte his son-in-law Michael J. Galligan, QC of Galligan & Sheffield was looking for a junior lawyer to fill the gap created by the retirement of Raymond A. Jamieson, QC. (who had been called to the Bar in 1921). If I recall correctly Senator McIlraith speculated that the partners of Macdonald, Affleck would linger at their desks until they collapsed on the greens at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. When I left Macdonald, Affleck those senior partners and Baron Brocklesby, QC were all above 80 years of age and showed no signs of quitting.  Macdonald still walked from Sherwood Drive to work every day – including in the winter with cleats on his shoes.  Brocklesby told me he had his Mercedes washed once a week whether it needed it or not. Robert McLaughlin, QC – a senior but younger partner – ended overworking himself, dictating while standing by his desk, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. He died an untimely death. Jeffrey Lyman DeWitt King, QC, after exhausting the utility of the Liberal Party of Ontario (of which he was a former President) went to work for the Vatican.

From the moment I met Mr. R. A. Jamieson and took over his ancient office on the second floor at 74 Mill Street I felt I belonged. The old book case (behind which I subsequently discovered the murky remnants of whiskey and other bottles of booze), the small walk-in vault in which was secreted a hide-a-bed, the rickety staircase to the third floor where the toilet was located (and from which you could see the top of Mr. Jamieson’s desk through a hole in the planked floor), the antique oil burning stove (which Mrs. Evelyn Barker, the long-standing legal secretary, regularly soaked up with entire roll of toilet paper) all contributed in my opinion to a favourable environment for the practice of law.  In my youthful enthusiasm it wasn’t long before I had negotiated with Galligan & Sheffield to take over Mr. Jamieson’s office and contents which included a Gestetner copier and a collection of original deeds and Crown Patents (many of which now reside in the Lanark Museum).

Meanwhile – unknown to me at the time – business went on in Ottawa as usual.  The incident involving Judge Williams was at the time sufficiently close-to-home within the relatively small Ottawa Bar to render a credible impact. This was the era during which Canada Permanent Trust Company held its annual cocktail party at the Château Laurier Hotel for the Ottawa Bar. This social event is now history. As is my membership at the Château Laurier Health Club.

On July 13th, 1977, an Ottawa prostitute was arrested on a charge of keeping a common bawdy house. In her possession was the name, address and telephone number of a judge of the Provincial Court (Criminal Division) of the Judicial District of Carleton His Honour Judge Harry J. Williams. That disclosure led to a complaint concerning the conduct of Judge Williams and eventually to the appointment of this Commission charged “to inquire into and report upon the circumstances relating to the behaviour or misbehaviour of Provincial Judge Harry J. Williams and respecting his ability or inability to perform his duties properly including alleged incidents involving the said Judge and one Lynne Martineau”.

Coincidentally – though in hindsight not an entire surprise – Judge Thomas R. Swabey (who lived immediately next door to my parents) ended going to prison for similar indiscretion. Though I encountered reports of lascivious behaviour among some of my own clients in Almonte, the repercussions were almost universally of no consequence – or at least there was not much of a superficial nature which captured the iniquity. I found after having heard a succession of gossip about social improprieties that the accounts were best ignored. In many instances I was acquainted with both the Party of the First Part as well as the Party of Second Part; and never was there any obvious advantage in pursuing the disruption. To this day those ephemeral romances were never repeated by me. They represent no more than the common human foibles.

Among the other revelations which I kept to myself were those related to bloodlines beyond marriage. Illegitimacy is certainly not something confined to either urban or rural habitats. I learned that in the country it was inappropriate to derive any advantage from such personal knowledge. More often than not the love child was a product of a larger misadventure of which the community was the parent.