It is not entirely unwittingly that I confess a decided partiality to the Town of Almonte. May I first say that my failure to have identified my beloved home as what is now part of the Town of Mississippi Mills is not meant to diminish the other members, namely the former Townships of Ramsay and Pakenham. The predominance of my bias has arisen over the past forty-four years as a resident whose social and professional activities were largely confined to the boundaries of the Town of Almonte. Beyond those limits I have been privileged (thanks to the suggestion many years ago of my law school crony James Allen MacEachern) to have read, re-read and relished each time E. F. Benson’s creations Mapp and Lucia.
“It might be thought that even such activities as have here been indicated would be enough to occupy anyone so busily that he would positively not have time for more, but such was far from being the case with Mrs Lucas. Just as the painter Rubens amused himself with being the ambassador to the Court of St. James—a sufficient career in itself for most busy men—so Mrs Lucas amused herself, in the intervals of her pursuit of Art for Art’s sake, with being not only an ambassador but a monarch. Riseholme might perhaps according to the crude materialism of maps, be included in the kingdom of Great Britain, but in a more real and inward sense it formed a complete kingdom of its own, and its queen was undoubtedly Mrs Lucas, who ruled it with a secure autocracy pleasant to contemplate at a time when thrones were toppling, and imperial crowns whirling like dead leaves down the autumn winds. The ruler of Riseholme, happier than he of Russia, had no need to fear the finger of Bolshevism writing on the wall, for there was not in the whole of that vat which seethed so pleasantly with culture, one bubble of revolutionary ferment. Here there was neither poverty nor discontent nor muttered menace of any upheaval: Mrs Lucas, busy and serene, worked harder than any of her subjects, and exercised an autocratic control over a nominal democracy.“
The inevitable admission when likening the Town of Almonte to Mapp and Lucia’s equally beloved Riseholme is instantly to antiquate the Town of Almonte; or, perhaps more generously, to recall a more insular or poetic time. Yet ambling as I do almost daily about the Town I am repeatedly of this happy familiarity. There is throughout a patent undercurrent of preservation and perfection, whether the re-engineered woollen mills or the dusting and polish of the R. Tait MacKenzie war memorial.
“Robert Tait McKenzie (sometimes written MacKenzie; May 26, 1867 – April 28, 1938) was a Canadian physician, educator, sculptor, athlete, soldier and Scouter. Born in Ramsay Township, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada, he attended McGill University in Montreal as an undergraduate and medical student, and was an instructor in its medical school beginning in 1894. In 1904, he moved to the United States to teach at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1930s, he returned to the county of his birth, retiring to the Mill of Kintail in Almonte.“
It amuses me in moments of candid introspection to acknowledge my parallel snobbery for Almonte that I so regularly attribute to others – most notably our American friends who naturally are as proud as I of where we live.