The lazy country lad

On a summer evening in mid-June 1976 (when I was 28 years old, fresh out of law school and the Bar Admission course at Osgoode Hall, relatively thin and clad in a bespoke dark blue woollen suit (made by Palette Taylor on Sparks Street) with a gold watch and chain (formerly belonging to my paternal grandfather) hanging from my waistcoat, I ventured into the then unknown and starkly unfamiliar County of Lanark. I had initiated my temporary dislocation from downtown Ottawa (where I resided in the Mayfair Apartments on Metcalfe Street under the auspices of the infamous Mrs. Edith Cotterill) to the county seat at the behest and recommendation of Senator George McIlraith who was then Counsel to the law firm where I articled on Sparks Street. I had arranged to meet my future employers Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield, Barrs. &c. at the golf club for dinner.

It would not have occurred to me 47 years ago at the Mississippi Golf Club in the Village of Appleton when I first stepped foot within the boundaries of what is now called the Town of Mississippi Mills (a conglomerate of the former Town of Almonte and the adjoining Townships of Ramsay and Pakenham) that one day – almost half a century later – I would be sitting complascently and admittedly somewhat smuggly like a bag of potatoes, filled to the brim, laden with nutritious local capital and determined for only idle restitution or absorption, meanwhile gazing predominantly blankly and injudiciously from my 2nd storey drawing room windows over a lush meadow beneath, a blue and flowing river nearby, the same river that skirts the golf club (for the management of which years later I would also act as counsel in the historic corporate purchase of the club’s 2nd round of 9-holes).

George James McIlraith, PC QC (July 29, 1908 – August 19, 1992) was a lawyer and Canadian Parliamentarian.

The son of James McIlraith and Kate McLeod, he was educated at Osgoode Hall and practised law in Ottawa. In 1935, he married Margaret Summers.

McIlraith was first elected to the House of Commons of Canada in the 1940 federal election as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Ottawa West. He was subsequently re-elected on nine successive occasions.

McIlraith joined the Cabinet of Lester Pearson when the Liberals formed government following the 1963 federal election as Minister of Transport. From 1964 until 1967, he was Government House Leader in charge of the Pearson minority government’s parliamentary strategy for much of its tenure, including during the Great Flag Debate and parliamentary debates on the introduction of Medicare.

He also served as Pearson’s Minister of Public Works from 1965 on, and was also Pierre Trudeau’s first public works minister. He served as Solicitor-General of Canada from 1968 until 1970 under Trudeau, who appointed him to the Senate of Canada in 1972.

The George McIlraith Bridge over the Rideau River is named for him.

For the past several days I have been battling a mixture of sentimentality and mournfulness, an obstruction I attribute to nothing more remarkable than aging. Perhaps the weather has been dull and unpropitious. I haven’t a fear of the future or a regret for the past. Just pondering, sometimes to a disturbing degree.

Today, in the hopes of overcoming this insignificant though perturbing annoyance in, I convinced His Lordship that he and I might profit from a jaunt into the country where the roads are smooth, the bucolic landscape and distant views are blissful. We tottered “up the line” as far into the hinterland as Calabogie then descended the Lanark Highlands to the remote and tiny Village of Tatlock on the outskirts of the Village of Clayton before returning homeward on more familiar territory.

This frugal scenic outing – no doubt enhanced by our reacquaintance with former meandering’s spasmodically entertained over the better half of the past century – appears to have revitalised us. It is my uneducated supposition that this bit of tranquil reflection upon the past has embellished what I confess to have previously underestimated. C’est la vie! And yet I take unquestionable solace in recognition of the trifling though delightful details of my personal insinuation to country living. Without becoming tiresome allow me to conclude with vitality by asserting that this idyllic plateau is the Sacrament of Heaven!

Osgoode Hall is a landmark building in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The original 2+12-storey building was started in 1829 and finished in 1832 from a design by John Ewart and William Warren Baldwin. The structure is named for William Osgoode, the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario).