December 22, 1915
About Capt. J. W. Margeson.
Readers of The Register will readily recall the famous case of Dr. Crippen who was "caught by wireless" and brought back to England for trial. The trial was held in the famous Old Bailey. Pictures of that trial went the wide world over. Sketches appeared of the bench, the dock and the seats and tables of the eminent counsel. During the trial the prisoner in the dock occupied a comfortable leathern chair. I never expected to see a Nova Scotian sitting in that chair. It is the unexpected that most often happens.
If The Register circulated largely in Lunenburg County it might not do for me to tell the name of the man I saw in Crippens chair. The people of Lunenburg would resent the statement that their popular representative in the provincial parliament had been in such a position. Berwickians, too, might be resentful, since that popular member is a Berwick boy. But I must tell it. On Tuesday, November, 30, 1915, I was in the Old Bailey and in the prisoners dock, in Crippens chair, sat Capt. J. Willis Margeson, M.P.P.
If I stopped here, some Grits who dont like Willis might say: "I knew he would come to a bad end because of all the things he has said against the Murray government."
But it happened this way: Captain Margeson, while in the fighting line in France, where more formidable missiles than Grit epithets were coming his way, got orders from his commanding officer to report in London. He did so, and got further orders to report at Ottawa. I am not supposed to know any of the details of these orders and if I did know it would not be etiquette la journalese to publish the same. Anyway, the captain had some spare time in London and since we both hail from the same port, it was natural that we should, for a time at least, be in each others company. He and I did some sightseeing together and, lawyer-like, he wanted to see the courts. For my part I prefer to avoid such places as long as possible. These are militaristic days, however, and when the captain said we must go to the Old Bailey it was not for me to demur.
Court was not in session, but there was an ever-ready (and ever-receptive) attendant in charge and we were shown through the wonderful building which now covers the site of the Old Bailey of centuries gone by. It was during this ramble that the Lunenburg member sat himself down in the Crippen chair.
Since I have started my letter with a story about Capt. Margeson I might as well tell another. The captain is not as well acquainted with the fruit market as I have become. It has been my business to get acquainted with the fruit market. I am quite familiar now with the Stratford Market, the Borough Market, Spitalfields Market and the far famed Covent Garden Market. In the latter market there is a big auction room called Floral Hall. It was built for floral displays but has degenerated. The salesmen, from barrels or boxes displayed on their stands, auction off large parcels of fruit running into hundreds and thousands. During the plum season Captain Margeson was in London and happened into Floral Hall. Plums were on sale. A glib auctioneer showed a beautiful box and the bidding began. The fruit looked toothsome and the gallant captain thought it would be a nice treat for his mess at Shorncliffe if he took a box to camp. He made a bid. Down came the auctioneers hammer and the purchaser stepped forward to discover that he had bought three thousand boxes of plums! Shades of Sam Hughes! A paymaster in the Canadian Army making a big fruit speculation! Anybody in the local legislature will tell you that nobody knows better than J. W. Margeson, M.P.P., how to get out of a tight corner. He uploaded those plums in less than sixty seconds. It seems that the auctioneer was ultra-patriotic and noticing the khaki of the bidder knocked them down without much competition and a Hebrew fruit dealer, seeing his opportunity, readily took over the three thousand boxes at the prices bid. Willis has been kicking himself (figuratively speaking) ever since for not making a shilling a box on his fruit flyer.
I wish I could tell some of the things the Captain told me of the front but "mum" is the word. I can say, however, that he often got a shave from "Felix" Corbin, who now hails from Weymouth but for a long time was a beard remover in Berwick. He frequently saw Kenneth Butler, who is now, to quote the Captain, "a fine stalwart chap that can stand anything and because of his courage and trustworthiness has been made a messenger carrying important instructions between various places on the fighting line."
From some other officers I have learned that Captain Margeson, although paymaster, is not kept back in safe quarters. He has frequently had to be in fighting positions of great danger with troops under his command. That he has attained popularity in the camp goes without saying. Among the sick and wounded he has been "different from other officers." It might be his political training, it might be his nature, it probably is both, that makes it impossible for J. Willis Margeson to be "uppish." They say he can call every man in Lunenburg County by his first name, that one out of every five babies in that county is named after him, and that when this war is over if he wants to represent Lunenburg County at Ottawa all he has to do is to say the word and woe betide any man who dare offer opposition. The same qualities that have made him popular on the fields of pace have endeared him to the brave chaps on the field of battle.
I am very busy these days or I should tell a little more about "London in War Time." When I get back to Berwick, if Mr. Bligh will let me have the hall or one of the parsons let me have his pulpit there are lots of interesting things I can tell that I dont want to get into print. Red Cross funds are needed and if the Berwick Red Cross thinks that I can draw a crowd willing to pay a little to hear me talk I am at their service.
P. F. Lawson.