Take a Look Around

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By L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

I am beginning to think my office is a museum. After thirty-five years in practice in Almonte, and having assumed the practice and professional effects of Mr. Raymond A. Jamieson, QC who in 1976 retired at the age of 82 after 56 years of practice in Almonte and who was himself the successor to the practices of Percy A. Greig (1903-1962), Harold Jamieson (1892-1916), Alfred M. Greig (1873-1913) and Joseph Jamieson (1869-1893), there are ancient artifacts and collections of one thing or another here.

Among the paraphernalia is a large book containing drawings (on linen) of the "Water Works, Fire Protection" and houses and buildings in Almonte, colour-coded to illustrate whether they’re made of brick, stone or wood. The book, which is dated January 1950 at a time when the population of Almonte was stated to be 2,628, is described as an "Insurance Plan" being the property of the Underwriters’ Survey Bureau Limited, lent to Mr. Percy A. Greig on the following conditions: "That the plan is to be kept in good order, that it is to be used only in connection with business of Companies, Members of the Canadian Fire Underwriters’ Association, and to be returned on request". I believe the book was used by Mr. Jamieson when he acted for the General Fire Insurance Company of Paris, for which body corporate I also have an antique glass paperweight.

Mr. Raymond A. Jamieson (the "A" was for Algernon by the way) wore quite a few hats during his lengthy career in Almonte. Foremost was his profession as a lawyer. When handling a real estate transaction, in addition to doing the conveyancing, he was well connected to people such as the late Dr. Johnson of Carleton Place who had seemingly endless piles of money to lend on the security of a first mortgage. I recall having seen advertisements posted by Mr. Jamieson in the Almonte Gazette  proclaiming the availability of funds. And, as noted, Mr. Jamieson could also arrange your household fire insurance. He further acted as Clerk of the Town of Almonte which I fully suspect explains how he was able to secure the large 1893 Town of Almonte parchment map – one of two only, the other being in the Land Registry Office. The map now hangs in my inner office.Mr. Jamieson also acted as solicitor for the Town of Almonte. Note, for example, that in 1953 Mr. Jamieson was witness at the execution of an Agreement between the Corporation of the Town of Almonte and the Board of Park Management whereby "the trusts and special purposes mentioned in the grant of certain lands to the said corporation by the executors and trustees of the last will and testament of Winnifred Knight Dunlop Gemmill are hereby annulled"


This Agreement was part of The Town of Almonte Act, 1953 Statutes of Ontario, Chap. 110, a private member’s bill in the Ontario Legislature to set aside the terms of the last Will & Testament of Winnifred Gemmill to enable "Gemmill Park" to be used in part for residential housing. Gemmill was one of the rich British people who operated a woollen mill in town. The persons behind the private member’s bill included George M. Dunfield (Mayor) and Robert J. France (Clerk). The Chairman of The Board of Park Management was Geo. L. Comba and the Secretary pro tem was A. Levitan. It was a condition of this assault upon the will that The Board of Park Management "shall erect and at all times maintain upon the park property a suitable Memorial Tablet reading: Gemmill Park, donated by Winnifred Knight Dunlop Gemmill of the Town of Almonte, formerly the property of James Dunlop Gemmill of Almonte, deceased".

Hanging on a wall of the office is a Crown Patent which distinguishes itself not so much by its date (July 3, 1828) but by the excellent condition of the large beeswax seal appended to the Patent by a faded ribbon. On the seal is clearly visible the word "Imperial" over the icon of an ornate anchor.

On another wall there hangs a picture of the graduating class of 1921 at Osgoode Hall which is singular in that it positions the 9 graduating ladies in a cluster, not alphabetically as with the gentlemen. I also display a photograph of J. C. Smithson on the day of his retirement as Land Registrar of Lanark No. 26,before amalgamation with the Perth office, Lanark No. 27. Coincidentally the photo captures Jack registering his last document which happened to be one of mine, a Deed (though whose I cannot discern from the photograph).

The office furniture, much of which I inherited from Mr. Jamieson’s office, includes a sturdy but uncomfortable bench in the waiting room. I’ve added a royal blue velvet covered cushion made by Mrs. Cynthia Guerard of My Upholstery to improve its comfort, though the back is still uncommonly rigourous. The bench came from Bank of Montreal across the street, and was, I am informed, where people sat patiently awaiting an audience with the manager. When the bank decided many years ago to convert its appearance to modernity, Mr. Jamieson enquired of the manager whether he could purchase the oak bench. The manager said he couldn’t put a price on it, or he wasn’t able to sell it, so he gave it to Mr. Jamieson for one dollar.

Mr. Jamieson also acquired a large safe in an odd way. The safe was being sold at a Sheriff’s Execution auction to satisfy a debtor’s creditors. I recall Mr. Jamieson having told me that the sale took place in Carp or possibly in some rural venue in the former Township of West Carleton. Anyway, when Mr. Jamieson expressed an interest in the safe and enquired as to its price, the Sheriff asked, "Are you going to move it?", to which Jamieson said "Yes", and the Sheriff immediately replied, "One dollar!".

I now have three safes in my office, the smallest having been originally employed in the offices of the late Albert T. Gale who founded Gale Real Estate Company. The middle size safe – the most elegant – was one which Mr. Jamieson must have bought for himself. I learned more about that particular safe when a refined lady client was sitting in my office preparing to sign some documents. She turned her head to examine the safe, whereupon she exclaimed, "I didn’t know we made those!". I asked who "we" was, and she explained, "I’m a McCulloch; that was my grandfather". The florid writing on the safe was "The Goldie & McCulloch Co., Limited of Galt". When I asked what "we" did make, she looked coldly at me and said, "Boilers!".

In addition to having the Revised Statutes of Ontario going back to a two-volume collection of 1897, which I suspect was the first to be produced, I also have the Upper Canada Queen’s Bench Reports from 1845. Those case reports eventually morphed into what is today called the Ontario Reports. Just as the modern case law has much to do with the automobile, the ancient texts had much to do with horses. In addition I have an entire collection from the 1930's of Halsbury’s Laws of England, which is to this day a reliable and incisive collection of the British Common Law. In many instances the footnotes are longer than the main text. I have a collection of numerous corporate seals, among them, The Rosebank Cheese and Butter Co-Operative Limited (Rosebank was the lovely former name of the nearby Village of Blakeney), Royal Scarlet Chapter L.O.L. No. 482, Stella, Ontario, Albert Gale (Ottawa) Ltd., G. H. Hill Motors Limited (one of the best know General Motors dealerships in Almonte for many years) and Mississippi Curling Rink.