Thomas Chandler Haliburton

There are some lucky people whose self-esteem is enhanced by living in a road named after the famous or the good — or both. Statesmen, sports personalities, explorers and even top-secret World War 2 acronyms have all given their names to local streets.

Us humble mortals who live in Haliburton Road, St Margarets have to content ourselves with the knowledge that our street is named after the man who invented such well known sayings as “He drank like a fish”, “The early bird gets the worm” and “It’s raining cats and dogs”.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in Canada on December 17th 1796, the son of a New England planter. In 1821, after having the good sense to marry a girl from Henley-on-Thames, he established a successful law practice at Annapolis Royal. By 1841 he was a Judge of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

In his spare time, Thomas Haliburton wrote a series of folksy books following the adventures of Sam Slick, an itinerant clockmaker. The books were extremely popular both in North America and Europe. Part of their appeal rested on the witty and much quoted sayings that pepper the stories — “you can’t get blood out of a stone”, “six of one and half a dozen of the other”, “a stitch in time saves nine” and “truth is stranger than fiction”. The Sam Slick books are still in print.

In 1856, Haliburton moved to Great Britain and moved into Gordon House on the Thames in north St Margarets, just a ‘stones throw’ — another ‘Sam Slickism’ — from the orchard that 40 years later would become the road that bears his name.

In 1863 Haliburton took up the famous Banting Diet, the high protein forerunner of the Atkins Diet and managed to lose 10 inches around his waist. Unfortunately the Banting Diet had the same regrettable effect on Thomas Chandler Haliburton as the Atkins Diet had on its creator. He died on August 27th 1865 and was buried in All Saints Churchyard in Old Isleworth. To the abiding gratitude of the pallbears, he was a few stones lighter than his former self!

The National Biography of Canada confidently states that
Haliburton is buried next door to another famous Canadian, the explorer George Vancouver. Unfortunately they are about 2 miles out. Vancouver is actually buried in St Peter’s churchyard, Petersham. As Sam Slick would have had it — ‘they are barking up the wrong tree!’

— Martyn Day