Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Today we swung by the ancient County Court House in Perth, Ontario on our way to Westport. Though the trek along Drummond Street is not the usual way I'd take to go to Westport I felt the latent criminal urge to return to the scene of the crime.  In the near forty years of practicing law in the County of Lanark, I attended the Perth Court House on a number of occasions, some of which were actually quite pleasant (as when dealing with a young family's adoption approval); others, not so much.

One case in particular involved a nasty dispute between a woman and her estranged husband's estate whereby the wife sought to attack the deceased's last Will and Testament so that she could by operation of law on intestacy inherit more than her late husband's amended Will provided her. The grounds for attacking the husband's Will were that he was in extremis at the time of his death.  While this may certainly have had the appearance of truth - the Will was signed only days before he died and his skin was yellow - the Judge ended being more persuaded by the fact that based on the evidence of three people the deceased at the time of signing was verbal and competent. Perhaps more persuasively the instructions for the Will had been given his Solicitor months before the husband's death at a time when the husband was indisputably in full control of his mind and faculties.

This affair - like all the others in which I was involved - was clearly open to debate depending upon whose testimony was given. By the time the disputants get to court their positions are normally so hardened that only a judicial resolution is possible.  Once however I settled a case after the other party failed to appear on three successive occasions.  It was getting to the point that, having to reappear any number of further times would have cost the same or more than a token settlement.  Accordingly we settled.

Another occasion was not so favourable to the Plaintiff who ended being not only chastised by the Court for being frivolous but also forced to pay the sum claimed in addition to a healthy portion of the other lawyer's charges to his own client. The judgement was all the more stinging for the Plaintiff because she was shrouded in arrogance from her erstwhile fashionable urban association; and she clearly had the wherewithal to pay the sum about which she had been so injudiciously imprudent.

All these trifling matters resonated as we drove past the Court House today on Drummond Street.  I hesitatingly resisted the impulse to revisit the courtroom where it had all transpired.  Swinging the bar towards Counsel's bench did not take place today. The memory of my black gown shall therefore remain as remote as the possibility of now fitting into it.  Some battlefields are best undisturbed.

When we arrived in Westport our first stop was a curiosity shop in one of the old stone buildings. The elderly female entrepreneur told me she was from Ottawa.  When I shared with her that we were from Almonte she immediately informed me she had formerly operated a retail store on Mill Street in Almonte. Naturally I recollected her building and I knew the parties to whom she had subsequently sold the property. To heighten the exhilaration of those discoveries - and after I shared with her my legal background - she told me she had been a former legal assistant in Ottawa.  When I asked with whom she listed three firms: Soloway Wright, Perley-Robertson & Co and Honeywell Wortherspoon.  I then opined that she might know Mrs. Rose J who over fifty years ago had worked at Soloway Wright. The entrepreneur not only knew Mrs. J but also her son who is also a lawyer and a longtime acquaintance of mine. I further mentioned I knew the nephew of one of the other partners for whom she had worked; and recounted a funny joke about him in a pub in Halifax many years ago when we both attended Dalhousie Law School.

In the middle of all this "Well, imagine!" I noticed a large silver ring she wore.  I asked if it were a piece by Georg Jensen.  Instantly she responded that it was a knock-off and that she was well acquainted with the jeweller having frequented the flagship shop in Toronto - which I then chimed was formerly on Bloor Street West.  This information then took us down a circuitous road of recollections including my friendship with the daughter of the former owner of Holt Renfrew also on Bloor Street West. The woman also knew precisely the area of St. Clair Avenue East where my Toronto friend had lived.

Needless to say the overwhelming sensation after this engaging repartee was the serendipity of it all.  I could only reply, "There are only six families in this area - the rest is done with mirrors!" I also laughingly assured her that she and I were related!

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