Return to the beginning

Bill-newby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

All day I have peculiarly been reminded of places and things which, after four decades in Almonte, reflect where I started.  It’s as though I have ended up where I began.

This is an oddity which is the subject of many artistic expressions though my focus is less upon discovery than upon the serendipitous circle of life’s experiences.

“You shall not cease from exploration 
And the end of all our journeying 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.”
~ Eliot, T. S. in ‘Little Gidding V’, from ‘Four Quartets’ 1942

Snaps

My first awakening to the fortuity materialized as we set off on our bicycles for an early summer morning ride.  When we turned off King Street onto Argyle Street I was within 100 yards of my first little house on St. George Street.  I have seldom ventured along St. George Street since I left it in 1984 to move to the other side of Town where I bought my second house in Almonte and where I lived comfortably until just last year (March, 2014).  This detail prompted the further observation that I am now living on Jamieson Street not only close to my first house but also back on the same side of Town where I began.  It is also remarkable that my current street address is named after R. A. Jamieson, QC whose office I filled when I initially began practicing law in Almonte. Additional exploration into the alcoves of my past reminded me that the first house I rented on Martin Street North (owned by Rev. Geo. Bickley of St. Paul’s Anglican Church where I first attended worship service) was on the other side of Town so I have effectively bounced from one side of the Town to the other over the past forty years.  And once again I am renting a property instead of owning it, culminating as I commenced.  Pointedly the property we now rent is owned by John and Donna Kerry;  John was my most influential first Client and an unflagging supporter throughout my entire practice.  To compound the swirl of events, John Kerry reported to me years ago that it was R. A. Jamieson, QC who materially helped John when he first arrived in Almonte to launch his own career.

I cannot ignore a further coincidence which harkens back to the springtime of my life in Almonte.  That is the profound relationship I had with the late J. C. Smithson who not only supported my application to the local Masonic Lodge but was also the Registrar of Deeds with whom I spent so many hours throughout my law practice.  Lately I had the honour to speak on behalf of Jack’s family at his funeral at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.  Jack and his family lived on St. George Street when I met them.

Vintage Dickens

Following our bike ride we went to Mississippi Golf Club for breakfast.  It was there in June of 1976 on a spectacular summer evening that I first met and dined with Messrs. Michael J. Galligan, QC and Alan D. Sheffield (now of the Superior Court of Justice) who hired me to join them in the practice of law in Almonte.  The echo of that happy day has often rung in my mind.  As fate would have it this morning we were introduced to the House Director of the Club who, when he asked whether we were enjoying our meal, I rejoined that I was in fact savouring the experience much as I had done for the past forty years.

Mississippi Golf Club

Afterwards we directed ourselves to Ottawa where we first checked the now vacant house of my elderly mother who has recently moved to a retirement residence in Ottawa South off The Driveway.  While most of my mother’s surplus possessions have been absorbed by my sister, pointedly I have obtained many of the very things which I gave my parents over the past many years.  This pleases me because the things I bought them as gifts were items I personally admired. I have for example two paintings (one of Toronto Cabbagetown and another of a rural scene), along with a tiny silver ornament of a sparsely clad nymph carrying a faggot of sticks and a Henry Birks & Sons carriage clock. Frequently my mother has commented that she wanted me to have those things “when I am gone”.  As we march ever forward to the inevitable end of life these once remote considerations are now at hand. Again the events and the gifts have come full circle.

Carriage Clock

The other and perhaps most significant revolution that occurs to me is the constancy of my sense of happiness.  It seems that wherever I am in life I am convinced that it is the happiest time of all.  This is no histrionic account but rather a sober and determined view that life could be no better.  A mere glance at my current circumstances discloses what for me is inarguably the height of munificence.  As I am wont to say, life owes me nothing.  While tragically there are some who feel they have been robbed of fortune, that fateful day has yet come for me.  If and when it does I hope that I shall have the good character to recall my present sense of gratitude.

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