From there to here

As I commented to my partner earlier today, the patently boring review of one’s life is diluted by adherence to the thesis, “Write what you know”. It is a small compliment. Yet for whatever prospective reason I also imagine it is worthwhile to note the specifics of those whom one remembers in particular. Just part of my pervasive angst but otherwise moderately sustainable.

The summary record of my life is boldly speaking a division of childhood, teenage and adulthood of which respectively I remember nothing, some and most in that order. The altering depth reflects the surviving worth of the details not just the diminutive and distancing effluxion of time.


I am informed I was born in Montréal, Québec (1948). At two months of age, my parents and I went to England where my sister was born about a year later. The trans-Atlantic voyage was accomplished on the Queen Mary. Our nanny in England was Mrs. Begg (“Auntie Begg”) whom I only briefly recall because she continued for many years upon our return to Canada to send birthday greetings.

I have only few vague recollections of the period when I was a young child (until about age 6 or 7) living in Greenwood, Nova Scotia where my father was Commanding Officer of an air force base. From there we moved to Washington DC (I’m guessing around 1956) where my father was Attaché to the Canadian embassy.  We lived within blocks of then Vice President Richard Nixon whose daughter Julie and I were in the same classroom at nearby Horace Mann School. The only other distinguishing features I recall were the times at the country club in Maryland, my unfolding interest in tropical fish; and, swimming at the Reasoners’ house (they had the first in-ground pool and colour television).

In about 1960 we moved to Alberta where my father was Commanding Officer of another air force base near Red Deer, Alta. Somewhere within that subsequent period my father was Air Commodore in command of United Nations forces in Leopoldville, Belgium Congo. I remember early one dark morning, the driver in a black car picking up my father to take him away.  My mother cried. He was gone for at least a year possibly longer. Meanwhile my awakening to the world was consumed by regular visits to dillapidated barns in search of fledglings (which I later trained to “home”) from pigeon nests, accompanied by a neighbour’s Yellow Labrador named Sheen of whom I had the vicarious enjoyment to the mutual satifaction of both her and her owners. I also had the distinction of an article called “Billy’s Bird” written by naturalist Kerry Wood in the Red Deer Advocate about a purple martin chick fallen from a colony nest at Dr. McGregor Parson’s home and revitalized and trained by me.


In 1963 my father was appointed Canadian Military Attaché to Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. I was put in boarding school at St. Andrew’s College, Aurora, Ontario. I was 14 years old. I flew home twice a year, Christmas and summer. It marked the last time I would live with my parents and sister. I remember one gloomy rainy afternoon being delivered by a driver in a black car to the school. I was strangely (dare I say perversely) excited by the prospect of facing life alone.

In boarding school my influential associations included my French master Tibor Bozzay (who later became Headmaster of another independent school in Toronto), my history master and theatrical guide James Carmen Mainprize (with whom I subsequently socialized in undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall); and my friends, roomate Keith Forsythe, Billy Grand, Max Maréchaux, Nicholas Glassow and his parents Dr. Frank Glassow (of the Shouldice Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario) and Mrs. Winnifred Glassow and their daughter Karen Glassow (who attended Havergal College on Avenue Road, Toronto), and Alexander Dougall and his parents in Kingston, Jamaica where I visited with them. This period of my life was in retrospect important because it set me afloat on my own (though I clearly benefitted by my acquaintances).

Undergraduate and Law school:

Upon graduation from St. Andrew’s College I and many of the same friends and associates joined the ranks at Glendon Hall, Bayview Avenue, Toronto for undergraduate studies. The man behind the motivation was Dean Escott Reid who had made an in-person attendance at the school to promote our attendance.

Glendon Hall was a significant switch from the primary alternative at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Serendipitously while later attending Osgoode Hall for the Bar Admission I was a Don of Devonshire House, University of Toronto immediately adjoining Trinity College (with whose Speaker of the House I orchestrated a competitive debating match with Devonshire House). All this was thanks to the infuence and support of Dean Charles Lennox of Devonshire House.

Because my undergraduate degree was a Major in Philosophy, my next step was law school at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I owe it to Dean F. Murray Fraser that I stayed at Dalhousie University because I had been accepted as well at Osgoode Hall, Toronto. My most memorable acquaintances from law school are Janet Bird, Bruce T. MacIntosh, George Macintosh (now a judge of the Superior Court of British Columbia), Danny Laprès (solicitor, now of Paris and Beijing) and of course the lovely woman and colleague Heather Gunn to whom I was briefly and mistakably engaged to be married (and her father Judge William Gunn) and my debating partner the late John Stobie (also a judge).

After graduating from law school, I completed my Articles at Macdonald, Affleck, 100 Sparks Street, Ottawa and returned to work for one year after being called to the Bar at Osgoode Hall, Toronto in March, 1975. I am indebted to the late Jeffrey Lyman De Witt King, Solicitor for his assistance in the practice of law and the related familiarity with political interests (he was President of the Liberal Party of Ontario).


Thanks to the suggestion and infuence of Senator George J. McIlraith PC QC, Counsel to Macdonald, Affleck, I jumped the urban ship and headed to the country.  Senator McIlraith’s son-in-law was Michael J. Galligan QC. Following a meeting with Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield, Barristers &c. at the Mississippi Golf Club in June of 1976 I was hired to plug the gap resulting upon the recent retirement of Raymond A. Jamieson QC.

My first acquaintance in Almonte was Charles James Newton QC who at the time was the Crown Prosecutor for the County of Lanark.  He established my initial social fabric in the community followed by Edward and Isobel Winslow-Spragge, John and Halcyon Bell, Keith and Penny Blades, K. Patricia Flesher, John and Helen Sutherland (who have the doubtful distinction of having spirited my Inter Vivos Trust Agreement), Janet Mitchell (Rintoul), Frank and Julia Thomas, neighbours Frank and Annie Honeyborne, Bobbie and Eileen Sadler, Ross Taggart OLS, Dr. Michaela Cadeau DC, Dr. James G. Coupland DDS, Mr. Justice James K. Hugessen and his wife Mary Rosamond Hugessen and Dr. Naji Louis DDS.

Straddling my studies at Dalhousie Law School and practice in Almonte was my business and social relationship with Ian B. Cowie and his partner Pierre Pontbriand whom I have followed not only from Halifax to Ottawa but also from Ottawa to Mont Tremblant (lake and mountaintop residences) and ultimately to New Zealand.

The business side of things was dominated by John H. Kerry (to whom I owe fathomless gratitude too extensive to outline at this time), N. T. Sadler Limited, Suzanne Campeau, David and Mary Dillabaugh, Jack Peterson, K. Patricia Flesher, David Drummond, Shirley Deugo, George and Terry Charos, Paul Virgin and Stephen E. C. Brathwaite. On the periphery of the direct business relationships were the always stimulating ventures with solicitor N. Alan Jones and Legal Assistant Cindy J. Edmonds (who previously worked for solicitor Paul D. Courtice before his retirement).  I am of course grateful too for the support and expertise of my own first legal assistant Jennifer M. Thomson and my penultimate legal assistant Marina D. Thompson.

Mixed with business and everything else was Dr. Franz B. Ferraris who to this day remains a dear friend and trusted confidant.

Most relationships cultivated in Almonte were of necessity and peril products of business.  I quickly became associated with J. C. (“Jack”) Smithson who was Land Registrar Lanark North (No. 27). Our blossoming friendship grew to include membership in Mississippi Masonic Lodge of which I later became Master and President of the supervening corporation. My financial needs (inveterate borrowing of money) were very agreeably handled by Geoffrey Hirst, Colleen Montgomery and Mike McCabe of Bank of Montreal.

From the outset of my appearance on the landscape in Almonte I had the quiet but effective support of Desmond Houston, Clerk-Treasurer of the Town of Almonte. He and his crony Brian Gallagher were instrumental in having me selected as counsel for the Public Utilities Commission (of which Gallagher was the General Manager) and later appointed to the board of directors of Mississippi River Power Corporation which owned and developed the $20M power plant of which the Town was the sole shareholder. As a result of my board membership on MRPC I became better acquainted with Scott Newton, General Manager who is owed endless thanks for his perspicacity and assiduity.

Nurtured by R. Louis Irwin, he, Robert Wilson CA and I became the founding trustees of the Elizabeth Kelly Library Foundation (designed by Louis to build a significant trust fund separate from and independent of provincial government support).

Thanks to the initial influence of Alan D Sheffield, I rented the home belonging to Rev. Geo. Bickley and his wife Anne while they lived in the manse of St. Paul’s Anglican Church on the river. I later became Junior Warden for St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which parenthetically had been celebrated on its construction around 1863 by the local Masonic Lodge of which Dr. William Mostyn was the first master.  Moistyn built the nearby grand stone home called the “Doctors House” because it was from the beginning until only recently owned and inhabited by an Irish-born medical practitioner (the latest having been Dr. Frank Murphy).

My burgeoning familiarity with the incorporation of not-for-profit corporations (starting with the Library Foundation) included Councillor Herb Pragnell’s interest in the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum; and, Almonte Hospital Director Raymond Timmons’ interest in the Almonte General Hospital Foundation. Further I was retained by then President Paul Virgin of the Mississippi Golf Club to handle the acquisition of its 2nd nine holes.

I would be remiss to overlook mentioning Kevin Finner who worked in the engineering department of the Almonte General Hospital.  Kevin included among his many talents the ability to clean clocks with the precision of a surgeon. I had only met Kevin because he returned to me my business sign (painted by Norman Guthrie).  The sign had been stolen on Hallowe’en.  When I asked Kevin how he came upon the sign, he replied, “It was in the back seat of my car.”  When I then asked how did it get there, he replied, “Through the back window.”  I was thereafter remorselessly grateful to him.

Of similar artistic repute is Ian D. LeCheminant who, by entire coincidence, worked in one of the western provinces for the brother Kim of Jan Graybiel (a colleague from Glendon Hall); who bought (and seriously renovated) the house of George Slade located immediately behind the house I rented from Rev. and Mrs. Geo. Bickley; and, who ended constructing several remarkable pieces of fine wooden furnishings for me and Dr. Ferraris (who eventually bought and sold Ian’s house). Jan also coincidentally met Dave Drummond when moving a stone building in Windsor, Ontario.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that all these webs of the fabric are connected; but it nonetheless does. As the rain begins to subside, and the mist and fog lift from the river, my gaze from my desk across the endless open fields widens and clears. The wind too has dropped sufficiently that the water on the river is clear as glass seemingly without a particle of motion, reflecting with uncommon definition the stiffened grey trees on the shoreline.