Little Current soldier part of honourary call to the bar of Law Society of Canada

Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing Photo by Johan Bakker (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

GORE BAY—Canadian soldier Private William Adam Irving, originally from Little Current, was one of 59 fallen soldiers who were part of a Law Society of Upper Canada special Remembrance Day ceremony; an Honourary Call to the Bar on November 10, 2014 for the Ontario law students who joined the military during the First World War and lost their lives at the threshold of joining the legal profession.

The event was held as part of a special Remembrance Day ceremony to commemorate the Centenary of the onset of the First World War. Family members of the law students were invited to attend the November 10 event and each received an honourary Call to the Bar certificate bearing the name of their fallen relative following the ceremony. The ceremony was held in the Main Rotunda at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

“William Irving was originally born in Little Current,” said Mike Addison of Gore Bay. “He served as a private in the 15th battalion. His family were business people and over the years they lived in Sudbury, Little Current and Manitowaning.”

“His family had a cottage on Silver Lake (as does Mr. Addison’s family) going back to the early 1900s, and they still have family connections there,” said Mr. Addison. “I still know some of the family (three of Mr. Irving’s) grand nieces and nieces live in Toronto and come up here in the summer for a little while each year and other family relations have a cottage on the other side of the lake.”

“Mr. Irving had one of the original cottages on Silver Lake,” said Mr. Addison. “Years ago my dad bought the property and took down all the cottages as they had become run down. It was in the cottage that Mr. Irving stayed at that we found a letter he had sent to his family, war medals and a casket breast plate that we found in a box in the cottage and sent to the family.”

“It was about a year ago I saw a posting on Facebook from Patrick Shea, a Toronto lawyer, asking if anyone knew of the Irvings who live on Manitoulin, especially Mr. Irving.”

The Law Society Gazette reported on November 11 that between 1914-1918 hundreds of young men aspiring to join Ontario’s growing legal profession put their studies on hold to serve their country in the Great War.

Many returned from the trenches of the First World War, were called to the Bar of Ontario and became lawyers. Others were not as fortunate, the Gazette reported. Each year, as the names of lawyers and law students who perished during the war are read aloud at the Law Society’s annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, the student’s names are followed by the words, “never called.”

However, that changed on November 10, 2014 when the Law Society held an Honourary Call to the Bar for this group of students as part of a special Remembrance Day ceremony.

Throughout history we’ve seen that war is often an outcome when political leaders fail to uphold the supremacy of the rule of law, Law Society treasurer Janet E. Minor was quoted as saying by the Gazette. Our annual Remembrance Day service helps people realize and appreciate the hardships and losses of war and this year’s Honourary Call will highlight and acknowledge the sacrifice made by the young law students who volunteered to serve their country during World War I and lost their lives at the threshold of joining the profession.

The Honourary Call ceremony was the brainchild of Toronto lawyer Patrick Shea, who became inspired after attending Remembrance Day ceremonies at Osgoode Hall.

Mr. Shea told the Gazette he felt the Law Society should do something in tandem with the 100th anniversary of World War I by providing these men and their families with what the fates denied them almost a century ago. A former reserve officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and a partner of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Mr. Shea proposed the idea to former treasurer Thomas Conway in 2013. It was accepted and the ‘Great War Law Student Memorial Project’ was launched.

Mr. Irving was one of seven children of Alexander and Janet Kennedy Grant. Mr. Irving operated stores in Gore Bay, Thessalon and Little Current and had worked in the timber business before finally being appointed Sheriff of Sudbury District. The couple had seven children: Matthew married to Eleanor Thompson; Jessie; William (killed in 1915); Jennie married to Wallace Smith; Helen married to Adam Sime; Margaret married to Jim Martin and James who lived in Sudbury and who was killed in 1945.

“I just think it was neat that after the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One that an honourary bar degree was being presented to Mr. Irving,” added Mr. Addison.