Retrospection is not something I normally do. Looking back on or reviewing past events or situations, especially those in one’s own life, is I find usually plagued by wistfulness and regret. Quite simply, I have no regret. This does not mean I can’t see how transfigured things may have been if certain choices had been otherwise; but I never wished I had done so. I have on occasion visited singular junctures in my life when going one way instead of another would likely have radically changed my life. In every case I’m glad I went the direction I did. I see it not as mere accident but rather a positively beneficial outcome. Indeed I can become quite proud – even haughty – though I concede that is no shocker!
As an example: when I had completed my first year at law school, thanks to my father’s connection to Judge Advocate General Simpson I secured a summer job at JAG’s offices on MacLaren Street in Ottawa. JAG is one of only two legal departments of the Federal Government of Canada, the other being the Department of Justice. JAG was devoted solely to the Canadian military, handling everything concerning its national and worldwide bases, engaged in sometimes exotic tortious liability involving manslaughter and millions of dollars of reparations as well as the somewhat archaic process of court martial. Though I was no stranger to military custom (having been the Regimental Sergeant Major of St. Andrew’s College Highland Cadet Corps), JAG was overcome by more ceremony than the Catholic Church.
Not long after my arrival at JAG I was told they would pay for my entire law school tuition, summer employment before graduation, then upon graduation a full-time job with instant elevation to an officer. The only condition was that I had to commit to a five-year term of employment. I turned it down. I ended articling upon graduation from law school at Macdonald, Affleck, 100 Sparks Street. That firm subsequently took over McIlraith, McIlraith & McGregor whose senior member Senator George K. McIlraith became Counsel. It was Senator McIlraith who introduced me to Almonte lawyer, his son-in-law Michael J. Galligan QC who had recently taken over the firm of Raymond A. Jamieson QC in whose office I subsequently sat. That was over about 45 years ago. I now live on the street named after him.
An earlier important turning point for me was the decision I made to attend undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall on Bayview Avenue in Toronto rather than Trinity College on Hoskins Avenue. Trinity College was the customary venue for boys such as I who graduated from the prep schools then called the “Little Big Four”; namely, Upper Canada College, St. Andrew’s College, Trinity College and Ridley College. When attending my final year of study at Glendon College I turned down an offer to be a Don in the men’s residence, choosing instead an offer from Dean Bixley as a Don of Devonshire House, University of Toronto which was located immediately adjacent Trinity College. It was at Devonshire House that I initiated the first debating society in its history. One of our more colourful debates was with Trinity College who by the way had their collective noses well in the air! They considered the predominantly engineering students of Devonshire House less than capable to handle the talent of public oratory.
An even earlier fortuity arose when I graduated from St. Andrew’s College. Through friends at school I had secured the offer of summer employment. To the credit of my father he insisted I return to Europe to spend the summer with my parents and sister. Following a month on the Costa Brava in Spain and a car accident in the Pyrenees mountains, I ended staying in Paris with Ricardo Schmeichler (a friend from boarding school) and attending Alliance Française and eating horse meat, escargots and baguette. We subsequently traveled together to Stockholm where my family lived. It was a summer loaded with memories too numerous to mention. Sadly Ricardo was gunned down by machine gun in front of his bank in Caracas, Venezuela not many years later.
One final recollection. When I attended undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall I telephoned my father in Europe to tell him I had decided to study Philosophy instead of Economics. His only cool and somewhat delayed response was, “Well, it’s your bed; you make it; you sleep in it!” Like so many others I have made, it is a decision I have never regretted. Nor is it a trifling observation. It turned out that Philosophy was primarily the reason I went to law school – because I couldn’t do anything with Philosophy other than maybe be a Professor. The further unanticipated advantage was that Philosophy was extremely useful in law school. Philosophy is founded on logic and deductive reasoning generally. Nor is syllogistic reasoning any stranger to the legal community!
Given the favourable outcome of all these events I am inclined to delve into an examination of karma! Everything about the primary affairs of my life has oddly been unexpected and unanticipated though it could so easily have been as premeditated and predictable. I credit the outcome to a predominance of inner motivation, not cultivated posture. The bottom line is that I am very proud to have been a country lawyer now living with a great guy on Jamieson Street!