What’s the news?

I can’t think of a more innocuous introduction to gossip than the idle query, “What’s the news?”  It was the faithful initial acquaintance of the late Raymond Algernon Jamieson, QC whom I fashion my “predecessor” though if the truth be known I only purchased the hardware and contents of his law practice at 74 Mill Street, Almonte where he had practiced law for 50 years or more.  I believe he retired in 1975 at 84 years of age after having been called to the Bar at Osgoode Hall in 1921. He sold his practice to Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield, Barristers &c. who hired me in 1976 to plug the hole.

When I began my solo practice in 1978 I had significantly purchased the lease where Mr. Jamieson’s office on the 2nd floor continued to exist. It was a fortuitous venture on my part because it afforded the appearance of my having taken over Mr. Jamieson’s erstwhile practice which technically “belonged” to Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield. In one sense it was a distinction without a difference because clients could naturally take their business wherever they preferred. Yet there is no question that the adage, “Possession is nine-tenths the law” prevailed when it came to projecting the image of being a successor.  In addition people were accustomed to walking up the narrow stairway (and turning the corner to another landing onto the 2nd floor) from Mill Sreet to Mr. Jamieson’s former office where many years before Mr. Jamieson had met with Albert T. Gale do “do up the writin’s “.

There was in my mind never anything malicious nor anything in the nature of a Nosey Parker arising from Mr. Jamieson’s stock question, “What’s the news?”  If I attached anything to it at all it was the deceivingly polite pumping for gossip; and the characteristically diminutive format of a country gentleman.

Let’s face it, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t enjoy a bit of gossip! It’s nature’s kindling upon the fossil fuel of human behaviour. Gossip enables us to elevate rhetoric to astronomic in short order!

Speaking of which…earlier today I happened to chat with Mrs. Gladys Currie who is now approaching 87 years of age.  She and I met in June of 1976 when I first came to Almonte for my initial interview with Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield. Gladys worked at the Superior Restaurant and served me at the lunch counter.  I recall having had a chicken sandwich on plain brown followed by (upon Gladys’ hearty recommendation) a cup of in-house tapioca pudding topped with whipped cream and a Maraschino cherry. What matters here – aside from the primary relationship – is that Gladys is a close friend of our mutual friend, John H. Kerry. I should add that for the next 30 years Gladys looked after me, John, Nicholas Magus, Ross Taggart OLS and whomever else regularly joined us for breakfast at a 6-person booth. Each of us was armed with an appetite for local intelligence!

Gladys and I shared the mounting disappointment that so few of our ancient friends remain. Burdened as we all are with the cloister of the pandemic none of us has had the opportunity lately to express our interest in the well being of one another nor to share the latest information about our respective “goings-on”. Naturally the subject of activity is muted in any event by the universal barriers to communication. The deprivation however does nothing but augment the necessity! As it was, Gladys and I were obliged to confine our knowledge of this and that to more historic rather than topical events. It nonetheless partially succeeded to enlarge upon the well from which we so thirstily drunk.

Interestingly Gladys shared with me that Shirley Deugo (now married to Al Potvin) is her niece.  Gladys’ family name is Watt.  Shirley’s family name is Fulton. The Deugo, Watt and Fulton clans are well known around the nearby Village of Pakenham. Not surprisingly everything connects. Even my initial commercial relationship with both Gladys and John Kerry is no accident.  R. A. Jamieson QC was – by John’s own assertion to me – a strong supporter of John when he came to Almonte over 50 years ago.  John returned the favour to me in 1978 when I first contemplated opening my own law office. It is a further amusing synchrony that I now live in an apartment owned by John H. Kerry in a building called Jamieson Mills on a street named after R. A. Jamieson!

Living and working in the same place since 1976 (45 years in all) gives me a huge sense of belonging. I have had the privilege to meet many of the younger family members of former clients. I have adopted the arrogance of a “local”, a bravado which entitles one to question anything considered inappropriate (but always with due regard for care) much as that associated with a loving parent. And naturally there has been a great deal of gossip shared over the years! It’s always good to get the news!