The Singular Features of Lanark County

As I write this autobiographic account I am 75 years old and complacently seated at my desk overlooking farm lands and the Mississippi River as it flows smoothly down from the Village of Appleton on the southeast side of Almonte to the Village of Blakeney on the northwest side of town amidst names such as Galbraith, Corkery, Union Hall, Rosetta, Clayton, Bennie’s Corners and the Mill of Kintail. I’ve had some time to gather my thoughts about what it is that distinguishes Lanark County. It was almost half a century ago in June of 1976 at 27 years of age, alone and with my Yellow Labrador puppy Lanny (whose purebred name was Lanark Drummond Beckwith of Rosedale) that, to the astonishment of some of my family, erstwhile friends and acquaintances in the city, I moved to Almonte from Ottawa where in 1973 – 1974 I had completed my Articles with Messrs. Macdonald, Affleck, Barrs., &c., 100 Sparks Street upon graduating from Dalhousie law school in Halifax, NS.  I was called to the Bar at Osgoode Hall, Toronto in March of 1975; and then subsequently practiced law briefly with Macdonald, Affleck, including not insignificantly appearances (or what now might rightfully be called my “15 minutes of fame” when I actually stood and addressed the bench) in the Federal Court of Canada (Appeal Division) and the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of West Coast Transmission Co. Ltd. in its inventive challenge of Marshall Crowe as Chairman of the National Energy Board relating to possible bias in matters surrounding the McKenzie Valley Pipeline Hearings. It was a distinction never to be repeated on my part.  I believe of the 50 lawyers in the court room at the time I was the only one with a stuff gown; the rest had all taken silk. To my credit, however, of those Queen’s Counsellors I was only one lawyer among perhaps eight others who said more than, “My Lords, I respectfully agree with my learned friend Mr. Soloway”.  In accomplishing even that abbreviated commendation, the rustle of their silk gowns as they stood obsequiously from their black leathered wooden chairs was mystical.

Hyman Soloway was born in the Ukraine in 1913 and emigrated with his parents in 1923. On arrival in Canada, his father and older brother began working in the Byward Market area of Ottawa selling fruits and vegetables and would continue to do so for the remainder of their working lives. Hyman, on the other hand, entered the Canadian school system at age 10 at the grade one level, without a word of English as his command. He quickly made up the difference, and by grade 12 was selected as his class valedictorian. From there, he went to Queens University, with a stethoscope as a parting gift from his parents, who desperately hoped that he would pursue medical studies and become a doctor. Without telling them, he embarked on a course of study designed to lead to law school, because he had a feeling that being a lawyer would be a good choice for him. He was right.

It was evident to me no further abroad than the 2nd floor of the Supreme Court Building during adjournments at the monstrous marbled pissoirs where I stood voiding my bladder that I was among a rarefied crowd. The gentleman standing next to me told me he was from Calgary. When he asked if I had ever been to Calgary I told him I had learned to ski in the Rocky Mountains while staying at a private lodge on Mount Temple.  He then spluttered, “Did you like it?” to which of course I responded yes, and he then said, “Good! I own it!”

Mount Temple is a mountain in Banff National Park of the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, Canada. Mt. Temple is located in the Bow River Valley between Paradise Creek and Moraine Creek and is the highest peak in the Lake Louise area. The peak dominates the western landscape along the Trans-Canada Highway from Castle Junction to Lake Louise.

The transition to Almonte from Ottawa was by no means automatic. I could nonetheless discern that if I were to go anywhere in the community in general or the legal practice in particular I would have to direct myself elsewhere. It was then serendipitously that Senator George K. McIlraith, QC who was Counsel-at-Law for Macdonald, Affleck informed me of a prospect in the County of Lanark with Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield, Barrs., &c. in Almonte.  Galligan was his son-in-law married to his daughter Janet. I met Galligan and Sheffield at the Mississippi Golf Club for dinner one warm summer evening and the knot was tied.

Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield, Barrs., &c. had hired me to work for them essentially to plug the hole left upon the retirement of Raymond A. Jamieson, QC. Galligan & Sheffield had purchased the half-century law practice of R. A. Jamieson, QC but it was not for several months until my subterranean quarters with the Title Searcher (Mrs. Patricia Ewaschuk) and the Bookkeeper (Mrs. Margaret McKay) in the old O’Brien movie theatre (become Royal Bank of Canada) owned by Galligan and Sheffield at the corner of Mill and Bridge Streets were altered to Mr. Jamieson’s former law office on the 2nd floor of 74 Mill Street.  Galligan and Sheffield remained in their existing offices at the back of the Royal Bank building (on the second floor of which were the offices of James G. Coupland, DDS). Meanwhile I joined Mrs. Evelyn Barker, the longstanding stenographer of Mr. Jamieson, at Mr. Jamieson’s old office, complete with oil heater and Gestetner duplicating machine.

The first moment of consequence I recall upon arriving in Almonte and settling into my rented house belonging to Rev. Geo. Bickley and his wife Anne while they curated and inhabited the manse of St. Paul’s Anglican Church on nearby Brougham Street (where also was located the Land Registry office) was a procession of marchers (probably celebrating Orangemen’s Day) headed by Mrs. Margaret McKay, the Bookkeeper for Galligan and Sheffield.

The Twelfth (also called Orangemen’s Day) is a primarily Ulster Protestant celebration held on 12 July. It began in the late 18th century in Ulster. It celebrates the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), which ensured a Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. On and around the Twelfth, large parades are held by the Orange Order and Ulster loyalist marching bands, streets are plastered with union jacks and bunting, and large towering bonfires are lit in loyalist neighbourhoods. Today the Twelfth is mainly celebrated in Northern Ireland, where it is a public holiday, but smaller celebrations are held in other countries where Orange lodges have been set up.

The parade – about which frankly I hadn’t a clue – featured a huge flowing flag with the word “GIDDAY!” written upon it. It was my formal introduction to Lanark County folklore.

Another event of memorable consequence relating to Lanark County folklore arose in the country upon the encounter of two half-ton pick-up trucks parked side-by-side facing in opposite directions on a main thoroughfare, the drivers engaged in conversation through their open windows. When I first drove up behind one of the trucks, thinking that my appearance might provoke the driver ahead of me to move along, I was astounded instead to see the driver merely raise his head, look casually into his rearview mirror, then continue uninterrupted his conversation, leaving me the option of going around him on the side of the road.  Which is what I eventually did after pursing my lips briefly.  I recognized that this central roadway conduct was not to be disturbed.  Patently in Lanark County when two parties have a moment of interest to share with one another, it were best not to upset the precision.

I mention this particular adventure because today, as I was tricycling along Spring Street in an effort to maintain my racehorse figure, a half-ton pick-up truck approached and from the open window I heard my name called. It was the son (Mr. Rodney Currie) of a woman who he and I together readily agreed is the equivalent of Almonte royalty (Mrs. Gladys Currie), a woman who by further coincidence was the first whom I met when I began doing business in Almonte.  I accordingly brought my tricycle alongside his handsome vehicle.  And thus began our animated conversation.  It had been years – almost a decade – since we had last spoken.  In the meantime he had acquired all the social talents and affability of his mother.  We were having a spirited confab!

It was then that I noticed an automobile had approached from behind my friend’s truck.  To my complete astonishment – and I say this sincerely because I never for a moment thought otherwise – upon seeing the car, I simple looked at it then returned to our heart-to-heart conversation. I never once imagined that we were in the way.  My friend quietly posed the question, “Should we move?” but we didn’t undertake the project.  Then – in the moment of awakening – the car driver pulled to the left and passed along the open side of the road.  It most certainly wasn’t a mechanical gymnastic though I fully suspect his having to do so caused him endless annoyance.  Thankfully the driver of the car had the courtesy not to honk his horn – which I can tell you would have provoked violent reaction from me!

We have today punctuated all that is best of Lanark County by visiting Fulton’s Sugarbush in Pakenham where we enjoyed a modest but very tasty “breakfast sandwich” (prepared by the cooperating constituency of the Almonte Butcher Shop) and appropriate selections of maple syrup and maple butter. We also had the ineffable pleasure of chatting with Mrs. Shirley Deugo (née Fulton) who in her inimitable way enthused cheerfulness and abundance. An underlying theme of our enterprise today was the collection of Maple Luscious Lip Balm (one of Fulton’s Pure Maple Products).  Fortunately I purchased sufficient number to share them with my niece and her girlfriend upon our anticipated upcoming Easter foregathering. I have already spoken glowingly to the Fulton family about the product.  It, like Gidday and chatting in the middle of the road, is in my opinion another singular feature of Lanark County!