Thursday 26th May 2016
The Not Forgotten Association (NFA) is a charity for the support of wounded servicemen from all three branches of the armed forces. Just after the first World War a well known opera singer, Marta Cunningham, was horrified that there were still hundreds of wounded servicemen in hospital wards. She persuaded her friends to visit them, to take them out to tea and to support them in their recovery. In 1920 she formed the Not Forgotten Association "for the ‘comfort, cheer and entertainment’ of the war wounded" From the beginning it had a royal patron, the first being HRH The Princess Mary and that patronage continues today with HRH The Princess Royal. I was proud to support the NFA during my year as part of the Master's discretionary fund applied to Charities of the Master's choice. Each year HM The Queen allows the NFA to hold a garden party in Buckingham Palace gardens and this years it was held on the last Thursday in May on a beautiful early summer afternoon. I was delighted to be invited with the Mistress to be the guest of the Association. It is a much smaller affair than the usual garden parties just 2,000 people from all the services and their supporters. This year Prince Andrew and his two daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie attended and spent a great deal of the afternoon meeting and speaking to the guests. Being a smaller gathering the gardens seem almost empty by comparison and it was a pleasure to walk down to the lake and enjoy the sunshine and the tea of course and to meet a number of men and women who had so much to tell about their own service. I was especially interested to meet a veteran of the Burma campaign, a Chindit, who at the age of 94 was in incredible shape. His afternoon was made complete by being introduced to Princess Beatrice. This was the last of my engagements in my year. What a year it has been and what a lovely way to end it.
Tuesday 24th May 2016
8,000 guests came to the beautiful Buckingham Palace gardens to enjoy tea in wonderful surroundings and, if you are on the right list, to be introduced to the Queen as she walks from the palace terrace to her tea tent following a winding path through the guests all skilfully managed by the Lord Chamberlain and the Gentlemen Ushers. One of the few occasions where we can wear a top hat with our morning dress and looking down at the crowds on the lawn from the terrace is a feast of smartness. The Queen's journey to her tea tent can take nearly 45 minutes as she spends time talking to selected guests. This of course is a special birthday year for her and she was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. Tea for the guests is served from an enormous tea tent and is one of the best teas in London. A real treat of an occasion and the chance to wander through the palace grounds which easily absorb the large numbers of guests and are a real oasis of peace in the middle of London.
Monday 23rd May 2016
One of the most pleasurable events in the Master;'s year, right at the end of the year is an invitation to dine with the Wardens and their wives/partners. The Senior Warden is traditionally responsible for making all the arrangements and this year Charles Miller, now Master Elect, turned up trumps and organised a magnificent evening at Bibendum, the Conran restaurent in South Kensington in what used to be the Michelin Factory and garage. We had a really delightful evening with excellent food and a range of fine wines. Our thanks and appreciation to Charles and all the Wardens for their generous hospitality.
Friday 20th May 2016
Fresh from the excitement of the previous evening in Sheffield we drove down to Bristol for the March Venturers' Spring Banquet as guests of the very jovial Master Tim Ross. This was another not to be missed date in the Pipe Makers Master's year. Equally as splendid as the Cutlers Feast but much smaller and more intimate. The 450 year old Merchant Venturers have close contact with us not least because we both have important historical trading links to Bristol. It was a real pleasure to dine at their lovely hall, two Georgian houses, now made into one, formerly lived in by Bristol Merchants. The Hall looks over the Avon Gorge crossed by Brunel's famous suspension bridge in the 19th century and the merchants would have had a fine view of their ships coming into the port of Bristol. Today a forest of trees obscures the view but the gorge is still there just beyond the front garden of the Hall! We dined in the elegant splendour of the Hall dining room a beautiful space for 100 guests. It was a delightful evening and I met a number of the members of the company one or two of whom live in the same village near Bristol lived in by our past master George Lankester, to whom I took back many greetings. I had the pleasure of being hosted by Sir David Wills, scion of the distinguished tobacco family and a former liveryman of our company and was sitting next to a former master Merchant Venturer whose daughter had just started up a company, The Warm Bread Company, making bread mixes. Well worth a plug since on the strength of his recommendation I am now trying out their bread mixes at home and excellent they are.
Thursday 19th May 2016
We have close connections with the Cutlers of Hallamshire and each year we invite their Master to our Ladies Banquet and they invite our Master to their annual feast in Sheffield. Every Master tells his successor how grand this occasion is and not to be missed on any account so the Mistress and I drove up the M6 with much expectation. We were certainly not disappointed. The Cutlers have a splendid Hall dating back to the early 19th century when Sheffield was growing fast as a centre of manufacturing, especially of steel. The Company was established in 1624 just five years after we received our first charter from James 1st. Their Hall is huge and filled with beautiful artefacts many of silver, the gifts of previous masters and many of Sheffield Plate, the technique of silver coating copper invented in Sheffield in the late 18th century. In the grand surroundings of the Hall were were a group of over two hundred and fifty guests and members of the Cutler's company all welcomed by the current Master and host, Craig Mackay. This year the Mistress Cutler decided she was going to host the Mistresses at the same Banquet rather than hold a separate ladies dinner which has been the tradition in the past and this was much appreciated by the Mistresses I'm sure, certainly it was appreciated by the Mistress Tobacco Pipe Maker. The guest of honour was the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Sajid Javid who responded to the speech to the guests given by the Senior Warden of the Cutlers Company. Coming to a city such a sSheffield you are brought face to face with the enormous importance of manufacturing to this country and especially of the plight of the Steel Industry. Unfortunately we were unable to stay for the following days visit to one of the Sheffield manufacturers since we had to drive down to Bristol for the Merchant Venturers Spring Banquet but the evening was a really glittering occasion and as others before me have said., absolutely not to be missed.
Thursday 12th May 2016
The Mistress and I were at the Royal Choral Society's Concert held to celebrate the 80th birthday of its patron the Duke of Kent, their Patron. The concert was held in the magnificent surroundings of the Methodist Central Hall Westminster. The concert included included Schubert’s Mass in G, Tippett’s Spirituals from A Child of our Time, and the Soldier’s Chorus from Gounod’s Faust all special favourites of their patron. A great occasion with an excellent buffet supper before and continued after the concert. My own brief performance career is intimately connected with the Methodist Central Hall where as a schoolboy I played the triangle and the cymbals in a memorable performance of Carmina Burana. I watched with professional interest the performances of the percussion section of the English Chamber Orchestra who accompanied the RCS and I'm pleased to report they played extremely well.
Wednesday 11th May 2016
Together with other Livery Masters I was invited to attend the annual St Bartholomew's Hospital View Day reception and service. View Day has taken place every year for the last 465 years. It began an an annual inspection of properties and activities and at one time involved a procession through the city of selected patients, presumably those strong enough to walk, showing to the public their plight and encouraging charitable donations. The patients' procession has been superseded by a procession from St Bartholomew the Great after the service to the Great Hall for the reception. The involvement of the City of London was established by Henry VIII and remains as strong as ever with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs in attendance and a good representation of the Livery Companies.View Day remains today as an opportunity to reflect on the history and achievements of this remarkable hospital.
Friday 6th May 2016
The Mistress and I were guests of the GSMD at this annual concert for the coveted prize of the Gold Medal. The prize was established in 1915 by Sir Dixon Kimber and has launched the careers of many professional musicians. Previous winners include Jacqueline du Pre and Bryn Terfel. Each year the prize alternates between vocalists and instrumentalists and this year was the turn of the instrumentalists. Two pianists and a harpist gave incredible performances, a piano concerto by Prokofiev, the Rachmaninov 2nd piano concerto and the concerto for Harp and orchestra by Ginastra. Oliver Wass was declared the winner for his stunning performance of the Ginastra Harp Concerto. How difficult it must have been though to choose between these three wonderful performances. Other members of the Livery were also present and we had a very select reception provided for us by the GSMD before the concert and during the interval. A wonderful evening.
Tuesday 26th April 2016
The annual Cobham lecture hosted by the Worshipful Company of Air Pilots was held this year at the Royal Aeronautical Society. The speaker was Tracy Curtis-Taylor who flew her bi-plane, the Spirit of Artemis in the footsteps of Amy Johnson from England to Australia. It was a fascinating evening. Tracey had already flown the length of Africa and was about to set off for America to fly the famous mail routes. She braved everything that weather can throw at a pilot, hard landings, flip-overs and local bureaucracy as she navigated over 10,000 miles flying for hours each day often at no more than 500 feet. An incredible story illustrated by stunning images of her plane over the desert, the jungle and flying past the dramatic shape of Uluru in Australia which we grew up to call Ayers Rock. A great occasion and rounded off with a chance to meet the other guests and the speaker at a drinks reception.
Friday 22nd April 2016
The Worshipful Livery Company of Wales, to give it its current title, were formed twenty two years ago as the Welsh Livery Guild. On their twentieth anniversary they were granted a Royal Charter and became the Worshipful Company and they have certainly proved their worth over the past twenty years in supporting young people in Wales through scholarships and bursaries. Their Company is completely embedded in the corporate and charitable fabric of the Principality. Twice a year the members visit London for a weekend of festivities. The first of their 2016 visits was last weekend and on Friday they held a dinner on board HMQ Wellington, an old friend and regular watering hall of our Company. I was told by my host, Past Master Glass Seller Gwen Rhys, who is married to Peter Rawlinson a recently admitted Liveryman of our Company, that it would be a jolly affair and it certainly was. It might a have been a distinctly chilly evening on the quarter deck but the welcome couldn't have been warmer and the dinner was really excellent. Mark Groves of Cook and Butler once again proved his worth as one of the premier caterers in the City. The guest of honour was past Aldermanic Sheriff and next Lord Mayor to be, if elected, Andrew Parmley, who gave a tour de force of a speech. The Mistress and I were warned that the Welsh Livery has a relaxed attitude to finishing times and we sat at the dinner table until well after 10:30 enjoying good company and just a little of the excellent wine.
Monday 18th April 2016
A very special event was hosted by the Tylers and Bricklayers on Monday 18th April. This is the year of their 600th anniversary and they held a concert at Milton Court, home of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The GSMD is well known to us. Each year we support scholars in their studies and we frequently invite them to perform at our dinners. The Tylers and Bricklayers also support the school and a concert featuring several students was organised for this anniversary celebration. As usual the students performed brilliantly and we sat in awe enjoying a programme which included a brass quintet. solo piano, violin and opera. The concert ended with some Cole Porter classics which most of the audience were humming as we joined the reception afterwards. It was a very happy evening and the sheriffs, Dr Christine Rigden and Charles Bowman called in at the beginning of the evening to wish the Company well and to congratulate them on their 600th.
Tuesday 22nd March 2016
I was invited to dine with the Chief Commoner and the City Remembrancer. This unfortunately clashed with an invitation to a reception at the Honourable Artillery Company and I was forced to choose between the two. As it happened we were able to be well represented at the HAC by the Renter Warden and the Clerk and so I went to the Guildhall and had dinner in the Chief Commoner's Parlour. This is a splendid and little known room in the Guildhall and was designed in the neo gothic style by Horace Jones the designer of Tower Bridge. It is both grand and cosy at the same time and seats about 20 for dinner at a large oval dining table beneath an ornate barrel vaulted ceiling. There is also a large open fire which on this chilly evening was very welcome. My fellow guests included one other Livery Master and a number of other people from a variety of interests all connected in some way with the City.
The Chief Commoner, Billy Dove, holds a number of these small gatherings together with the City Remembrancer, Paul Double, during his year of office. It is a good opportunity to meet others interested and involved with the City but not necessarily from the Livery Companies. We changed the seating plan at half time which is an excellent idea. Too often we sit at dinner only talking to our immediate neighbours on either side. In the first half I was talking to the Chief Executive of a charity FrogLife which exists to protect wildlife habitats and is very much involved with Epping Forest which is managed by the City of London Corporation. She was able to resolve my domestic problem. All the frogs in my pond have decamped in the last two years and this year we have none spawning at all. Apparently newts, of which we have many, don't coexist in a smallish pond with frogs because they are extremely fond of frog spawn. Having gulped their way through all of the spawning tadpoles in the last two years it seems we have to resign ourselves to being frogless, unless we can do a swap which is rather tricky to arrange. Newts are slippery characters.
In the second half I was sitting next to the UK Representative of the West Indian Island Protectorate of Montserrat, Janice Panton. She is a delightful lady whose job is to defend the interests of the island and to interact with parliament and the foreign office in supporting the community economically. A dreadful earthquake destroyed nearly half the land mass in 1995 including the capital, Plymouth. The population took an immediate hit dropping from 11,000 to 2,000 as most sought refuge, mainly in Britain. After 20 years it is still only back to 5,000 and the island community clearly struggle to provide a decent living. Nowadays tourism is a important earner for them and the late Sir George Martin, record producer, had a lovely house on the island used whilst he wasn't in residence as the island guest house. It still is and is open to those who wish to visit what is apparently a beautiful place. In the early days of the island's history tobacco was a large part of the economy and my badge was of great interest to Janice especially since one of the supporters is a farmer from the Carribbean. she was delighted to see it.
We dined in style, eating and drinking the best that Mark Groves of the Cook and the Butler could offer. At the end of the meal I was really touched that in my honour as the Master Tobacco Pipe Maker we were all offered a chocolate cigar. What more could I ask to round off an exceptional meal.
Sunday 20th March 2016
The Mistress and I were guests at the London Irish Regiment's annual St Patrick's Day Parade at the Army Reserve Centre in Camberwell. This year it was held on Palm Sunday but despite the temptation to distribute palms the tradition of giving everyone a bunch of shamrock was continued. Not the warmest of days it must be said and well worth wrapping up but nevertheless it was a stirring occasion which gave the regimental pipe band an opportunity to show their worth. General Sir Sebastian Roberts, former mentor to Prince William when he joined the Household Brigade, took the salute, inspected the guard and presented the prizes. This was another opportunity to get to know the regiment and during a welcome hot lunch of Irish Stew or Curry we were able to mingle with the soldiers and other guests ,including two Chelsea Pensioners, ex members of the Regiment, who are comfortably ensconced in the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Chelsea now admits women much to the delight of these two 88 year-olds. A very worthwhile occasion and a very enjoyable one not least because the Mistress won a bottle of whisky in the raffle. We had to leave before the draw and have yet to pick up the prize. I am rather hoping it might be whiskey with an 'e'! but any whisky is most welcome. Thanks to the Officer Commanding, Major Bob Brown and to the Commanding Officer Lt Col Tim Smart, who admitted to being an events organiser in his spare time. If this parade was anything to go by he organises events rather well.
Thursday 17th March 2016
This year the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals held their annual lecture at the RAF Club in Piccadilly, a welcome change from the City and a very sumptuous venue. At the top of the grand staircase the walls of the upper corridor are covered with pictures of RAF Squadron coats of arms and elsewhere every wall has a fascinating collection of pictures of various RAF scenes and aircraft. The club is housed in one of the grand buildings in Piccadilly given to them in 1922. The Title of the lecture "How Geopolitics Is Redefining The National and Transnational Security and Economic Environment" sounds a little dry but it was in fact absorbing and very revealing. It was also an incredible tour de force by the lecturer Hagai Segal a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations expert, academic and frequent speaker on the politics of the middle east who spoke entertainingly for 45 minutes without notes. We struggle to understand the complex politics of this region and the tragic consequences of terrorism in our own countries and Hagai Segal succeeded in shedding considerable light on these difficult issues. Many thanks to the Security Professionals for arranging and hosting the evening.
Thursday 10th March 2016
To a banquet at the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor. There must have been nearly 200 of us, Masters and Mistresses, at the annual banquet for the livery. A very special evening and a highlight event, not to be missed. Having had a rotten week of the classic winter flu virus and having had to cancel two events, a lunch with the Master Mariners and a dinner with the Furniture Makers, I recovered enough to stagger to the Mansion House and it was worth it. From time to time we have our annual banquet there and it is always a memorable occasion. The glittering silver and the chandeliers and the beautiful setting of the Egyptian Room is unbeatable. Also a good menu and very good wines. Many familiar faces as to be expected at this stage of my year and some very good speeches. Just the right length and content to make us smile. Many thanks to the Lord Mayor for being such a generous host.
Thursday 3rd March 2016
I was at Saddlers Hall last week as the guest of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers. A lovely evening in a lovely hall, one we have used on a number of occasions. Party Ingredients excelled themselves with the food and drink and the champagne for the reception was excellent as befits the choice of the Master, Colin Evans, who was at one time in the champagne trade. I was sitting between a lady past Master of the Company and the newest court member and opposite was a young Liveryman who was celebrating his first wedding anniversary. That made me feel very old as our 50th anniversary is coming up fast next September. As a change from sung entertainment an actor in full costume recited the St Crispin's Day speech from Henry Vth as a tribute to the recent anniversary of the battle of Agincourt. He did it very well as he walked up and down the sprigs. I rather hoped the Company would provide a cab to take us all home but that was clearly a step too far and it was the metropolitan line for me, once again. If there was such a thing as Tube Miles I would have free travel for life after this year
Tuesday 23rd February 2016
The Mistress and I went as guests to the scholars' recital at Milton Court, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama's wonderful theatre complex alongside the Barbican. Despite missing the first fifteen minutes due to a very late taxi getting us to the station we heard three of the four instrumentalists performing for us. Piano, Flute and an exceptional jazz group called the Midnight Swing Band. As always the talent of these young performers is quite exceptional as are the facilities and teachers they have. All the students talk of what a wonderful place the GSMD is with a huge collection of talent, both students and faculty in all aspects of music and drama performance. They are very lucky to be there but their incredible talents show how much they deserve to be there. We are proud to support our scholars, some of whom perform for us from time to time. Without us and the other Livery Companies who play such an important part in helping to finance the school these young people would not be able to afford a place. My abiding memory of last Tuesday is however the foot tapping, tune humming performance of the Midnight Swing Band. Just what we needed to wake us up on a cold evening and perfect for smooching away the early hours. Not that we were there into the early hours, although we did have a very pleasant hour after the performance to socialise with students and with other supporters. Perhaps they might come to our next banquet! Not my decision though. Already I am only too aware my year draws on and that choice will be for the next Master to make.
Wednesday 17th February 2016
I was invited by Sheriff Christine Rigden to lunch as her guest at the Old Bailey. In time honoured tradition all the judges on duty lunch together with the duty Sheriff in the chair who invites a handful of guests. It was my great pleasure to be one of her guests. You might be relieved to know that lunch itself is alcohol free which means we all rise promptly at 2:00pm with a clear head and we the guests are invited to sit in on one of the cases currently being heard. I chose a murder trial which was just beginning and saw the swearing in of the jury and the opeing statement of the prosecution. Not perhaps as thrilling as Perry Mason but very absorbing nevertheless. Conversation round the lunch table is as you might expect stimulating and interesting. This is a rare opportunity to get to know the Old Bailey judges in the relaxing atmosphere of lunch. The judges find it easier not to remove their gowns and wigs for their brief lunch break so we sit in the splendour of the Old Bailey dining room surrounded by the elegant wigs of the judges and recorders ,who are barristers sitting as judges on a part time basis. At close quarters I was able to see the difference between a judge's wig and a barrister's wig. Barristers' wigs have curls, judges' do not. It is that simple. It was a pleasure to renew my acquaintance with Nicolas Hilliard, Recorder of London and the most senior judge at the Old Bailey, who was our guest of honour at the January dinner. The recorder, by the way, wears a splendid red gown and stood out in a sea of black and white.
Tuesday 16th February 2016
I have a soft spot for Pewterers Hall. It was where I was elected Master of our Company almost a year ago now. It is a small but lovely hall with two splendid rooms, a court room above and a dining hall below. I was invited together with five other masters to join the Pewterers at their Masters and Clerks dinner. A relatively small affair with about 70 in total sitting down to dine in the intimate surroundings of the hall. An excellent menu with some really special wines. The Pewterers have a wine committee who decide on the Company's wines which are stored in their cellar. Needless to say membership of the wine committee is much prized and the turnover of members is low. The Guest of Honour was the Warden of Keeble College Oxford and former permanent secretary at the Home Office responsible for organising and attending on the ministers negotiating the peace talks in Northern Ireland. A number of interesting stories to be told about his time there and one or two from Oxford including some apposite comments about the Rhodes statue furore. All given without a note as was the master's speech. A talent for speaking without notes is another much prized but seldom seen feature of after dinner speakers. I envy them both. A delightful evening.
Wednesday 10th February 2016
During their year of office every Lord Mayor visits Treloars in Holybourne, Hampshire. Treloars is a school and college for young people with disabilities and was set up by Lord Mayor Treloar a hundred years ago and whilst the local authority provides the majority of its funding the city still contributes a substantial amount to the school and every Lord Mayor is a trustee for the year. About 30 Masters accompanied the Lord Mayor on his visit and it was an incredible day. The work of the school and the development of young people with complex physical disabilities is quite remarkable.
We toured the facilities and saw a number of the specialized areas teaching young people art, business skills and music and had the chance after lunch to listen to a concert put on by a small group of the children. It was very moving to listen to their performance and we left with a lump in our throat it must be said. It was a real privilege to see the school and long may it thrive with our support
Tuesday 9th February 2016
It was cold but it was dry thank goodness, on Shrove Tuesday when we assembled in great numbers in Guildhall Yard for the annual Poulters Company Pancake race. We entered four members of the company. The Master in the Masters race, The Senior Warden, Charles Miller in the Novelty Race and Court Assistants Andrew Golding and Elise Rasmussen in the Court Assistants races. We avoided the qualifying race for Masters due to the fact that the Immediate Past Master when he was Master was nursing an post-operative foot and employed a substitute runner a young and fast Liveryman As a result of his winning the race this year I found myself running amongst a bunch of fit fellow Masters well up in the field. No matter. I was there to show the flag, hobble sedately up and down the Guildhall yard tossing my pancake in the right place and not to fall down. I achieved all my objectives and in a heat of five Masters came a respectable fourth having beaten the Glovers, who didn’t turn up.
The rest of the team acquitted themselves well especially the brave Senior Warden dressed as Sherlock Holmes searching for the cure to diabetes, this being one of the Lord Mayors charities in the manner of which contestants had to dress up. Sadly the judges didn’t really see the point and he did not receive the third prize that he richly deserved neither did he complete his race without mishap having had a collision at the turn with the adjacent runner and fell flat on his knees and tummy. Like the gritty tobacco maker that he surely is he picked himself up and staggered to the finish amid cheers and cries of ‘It was a push over’. Sherlock would have been proud of him as were we.
We may not have won anything but we were there to enjoy ourselves and that we did. A great day out and good luck to next year’s team
Thursday 28th January 2016
I was invited to the London Regiment's Annual cocktail party at Cutlers Hall. This is an opportunity to meet some of the younger officers of the regiment and to listen to the Colonel making his annual speech to the supporters of the regiment. The London Regiment is our local regiment, once a Territorial Army Regiment but now following the restructuring and reorganisation of the last few years, part of the Army Reserve and a critical part of the Army's total strength. Our particular contact and support goes to 'D' Company (London Irish Rifles) with whom we have our annual shooting match for the Sirrah Cup. Following a hiccup in December we are hoping to regain the cup in April when we have a re-match at the Army Ranges in Ash. The hospitality was excellent with a large number of guests including HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Cutlers Hall is yet another of the gems to be discovered amongst the Livery Halls of the City. Colonel Tim Smart, the CO, was on good form and all in all it was a very enjoyable evening
Wednesday 20th January 2016
We returned to the Apothecaries Hall for our January Dinner. We hadn't used this beautiful hall for a while and it is a real treat. Apothecaries was destroyed in the Great Fire but only damaged in the Blitz so it is one of the oldest halls in the City. It is perfect example of a late seventeenth century hall characterised by dark panelling, a beautiful staircase and a really sumptuous dining hall hung with portraits and lit by stained glass windows. In the stained glass are the coats of arms of all the previous masters, it being a requirement for all masters to have a coat of arms and a miniature portrait painted which hangs in the court room. Not a custom in the Pipe Makers Company which it must be said saves the Master a bob or two. The evening was a sell out and over 120 members of the company plus guests filled the dining room where we were treated to a very special meal including venison several excellent wines by Party Ingredients and a diet of speeches from Past Master Fiona Adler who proposed the health of the guests and the guest of Honour, His Honour Judge Nicolas Hilliard QC that rivalled any I have heard. Nick is the Recorder of London, the most senior judge at the Old Bailey and a very distinguished member of the legal profession. At the earlier Court meeting we had admitted three new freemen and three liverymen including an honorary liveryman, Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley, who managed to play a part in Fiona's speech. Andrew was the Aldermanic Sheriff to Fiona's non-Aldermanic Sheriff during 2014/15 and formed a very special duo during their year and we were delighted to admit him to our company. A number of us will remember the evening for a long time to come and hope to dine out on Nick Hilliard's marvellous legal anecdotes.
Tuesday 12th January 2016
The first event after the Christmas break was the Masters and Clerks dinner hosted by the Plaisterers Company at their Livery Hall. Plaisterers Hall is one of the largest halls in the city and easily sits 200. We were in fact rather more and the hall looked spectacular with every sprig full and the chandeliers gleaming down on the company silver. More than 50 Livery Companies were represented and it was a good opportunity to catch up with friends after Christmas. The food and wine were excellent and the Master’s speech had a pantomime theme, he having been asked by the clerk to introduce more gravitas and less levity into his speeches. From the choruses of ‘Oh no he isn’t’ and ‘look behind you’ the audience clearly loved it all. More levity I say.
Wednesday 9th December 2015
Just two days later The Mistress and I together with the Clerk and the Renter Warden were guests of the London Regiment at their carol service held in the chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula in the Tower of London with a reception in the Regimental museum afterwards. The surrounding of the Tower of London are particularly special and the Chapel of St Peter is full of history and a few gruesome reminders as buried beneath the chancel are the remains of Ann Boleyn and Jane Seymour who both lost their heads during the turmoil of Henry VIII’s frightening last years. We had a very enjoyable opportunity to socialize with the Regiment during the reception afterwards and finally attended the Ceremony of the Keys, the formal locking up of the Tower, as we made our way home
Monday 7th December 2015
We held our carol service on the 7th December at St Lawrence Jewry the church of our Chaplain David Parrott. This year we shared the service with the Worshipful Company of Management Consultant and it was a very successful evening. Music as usual was provided by the wonderful choir of Sevenoaks School who were a good as always. It is a traditional service with mixture of readings and traditional carols and it is always a good start to Christmas We followed the service with mince pies and a glass of wine.
Wednesday 2nd December 2015
In recognition of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta the Guildhall hosted a citizenship ceremony, attended by the Lord Mayor, in the Old Library. The ceremony was a standard ceremony but in very special surroundings and a little grander than those receiving their citizenship had expected. It was a real pleasure to be invited to be a guest, together with many other livery masters, to see so many proud families watch as their relatives and friends went through the final step towards becoming a British citizen Each new British citizen received a special copy of one of the original charters
Wednesday 2nd December 2015
I was glad to be able to attend one of the membership committee’s very successful smoking evening. This time it was held at Dunhill’s Cigar shop in St James St. and included in the very modest charge were snacks, drinks and a decent cigar. The smoking evening is a good place to meet guests brought along by members of the company to introduce them to us and what we do. We often get new members from such events and the membership committee is to be congratulated on yet another successful evening
Monday 30th November 2015
The mistress and I were invited to the Mercer’s Annual concert and supper in Mercers Hall. As befits the premier livery company Mercers Hall is rather special. Apart from the grandest reception hall in the city they have their own chapel, a legacy from Henry VIII who sold the land to them with the condition that they include a chapel in recognition of the Abbey that one stood on the same site. The concert was given by musicians from the International Musicians’ Seminar, Prussia Cove. A string quartet and pianist performed works by Dvorak and Brahms. Beautiful music performed by such talented musicians in a very striking hall. Before the concert we had been welcomed by several of the Mercers on duty as hosts and I had the opportunity of meeting the most senior past master Mercer who has an interest in tobacco and the history of our company. It is going to be my pleasure to present him with a copy of our history unearthed by the Senior Warden on E-Bay! A lovely evening rounded off by supper in the dining rooms.
Saturday 28th November 2015
Very early in the morning of Saturday the 28th November, a number of us headed for the army shooting ranges at Ash near Camberley. We had a strong team of marksmen headed up by team captain Charles Miller and including Court Assistants Arthur Richards and Adam Bennett fresh from their victory over the London Regiment last year. We compete for the Sirrah Cup given by past master Derek Harris some years ago (The sharp eyed will guess where the name of the cup came from) and we have a pretty good record against a tough opponent. This year for the first time we were at the full shooting ranges on Ash Common firing the Army’s standard issue weapon from a prone position, that means lying down, with the gun supported by a tripod aiming at targets some 25 metres away. I have to report that despite a valiant effort and some excellent shooting by the team the Army scraped home this year. Their top man scoring a perfect 100% with his last shots. I presented to cup to the winning team somewhat relieved that the Army were in fact better at shooting than a livery company even one as distinguished as ours. It was a very happy day. We had great fun with friendly rivalry and enjoyed lunch together in a local pub courtesy of the London Regiment to whom many thanks. There will be a return match in April 2016 at the same venue and we hope for a large turnout from the Company to watch and support.
Tuesday 17th November 2015
The Worshipful Company of Actuaries held their annual lecture at their home in Staple Inn a Tudor building on High Holborn where the wool was once weighed and taxed. The Inn was one of the medieval inns of Chancery now no more. But the hall is preserved and is of great historic importance. David Willets gave the lecture which was on the subject of the Baby Boomers and their Pensions. I just fall outside the Baby Boomer generation being a war-time baby, but I probably fall under the same fortunate circumstances of full employment and corporate pension schemes which are the envy of todays working generation. I cannot claim to have understood many of the slides put up by the speaker intended as they were for an audience of actuaries but it was a thought provoking lecture and very enjoyable as was the supper afterwards. Many thanks to the Actuaries for their generous hospitality.
Saturday 14th November 2015
At least it started dry even if it did end wet. We assembled in St Martin’s le Grand to be marshalled into place with the usual efficiency of the Lord Mayor’s Pageant Master. We were a part of the Modern Companies float which meant we were walking with the Firemen and the Famers amongst others. The Farmers brought a huge GPS controlled tractor which drives itself around enormous fields making decisions on how much seed to put where according the computers which control it. It was so heavy that it was banned from crossing Mansion House tube station and had to complete the reurn leg of the procession on a transporter. What a beast. And what a cost, well over a quarter of a million. Such is modern farming. We had a very convivial walk in the rain which got steadily heavier as the morning drew on. Charles Miller, Senior Warden had thoughtfully provided a flask of the King's Ginger, made by Berry Brothers to a secret recipe, to warm the cockles of our hearts and Ralph Edmondson, Renter Warden, brought some good Scottish whisky to do the same. What with the sloe gin also provided by the Senior Warden to add to our champagne at lunchtime we rapidly ceased to have any feeling toward the cold and the wet. We puffed our specially made churchwarden pipes and the crowd were delighted. Not quite what I had become accustomed to last year when I travelled in style in a carriage, courtesy of our status as mother company to the sheriff, but a more down to earth, in touch experience. Actually it was enormous fun and we acquitted ourselves very well I thought.
Thursday 29th October 2015
Together with the Clerk and the Wardens the Mistress and I attended the service at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. It was a really splendid affair. English pageantry at its best. Robert Hardy the actor and expert on the longbow celebrated his 90th birthday that day and read the prologue to Henry Vth. The actor playing the part of Henry Vth at the RSC production at the Barbican performed the St Crispin’s Day speech and the Bishop of London preached the sermon. We were sitting in the building to which the news of victory was brought by messengers from the battlefield and within feet of the final resting place of Henry Vth himself. It was a stirring piece of history and I felt privileged to be there. A memorable event and I was fortunate it took place in my year.
Wednesday 28th October 2015
This year the annual Mithras Lecture was about Art Fraud, delivered by DS Claire Hutcheon of the Metropolitan Police Art & Antiques Unit New Scotland Yard. Claire gave a fascinating account of how the unit was set up and the techniques they use to pursue cases of art theft. More than 200 people came to Goldsmiths Hall to hear the lecture including over 40 representatives of the Livery Companies. We were entertained by the Art Scholars to a very enjoyable reception in the grand rooms of the Goldsmiths Hall, always a treat to see the splendour of the building
Thursday 22nd October 2015
And so to our very own Ladies Banquet, held this year at Barber Surgeons Hall. This is always a little daunting for the Master. It is our premier event and we always hope for a good number of Liverymen and their guests. The Hall is a modern Hall nestling against the old Roman Wall at Barbican. It is designed as a small Georgian House and is very pretty with a lovely garden so excellent for summer events and evening when the weather is warm enough to go outside. October is not really for outside entertaining and we stayed in enjoying the beautiful dining room overlooked by Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII. Liveryman Howard Mundy delivered a witty and impeccably timed welcome to all our guests, the principal of whom was Richard Chartres, Bishop of London. The Bishop looked resplendent in the episcopal equivalent of white tie namely silk frock coat and breeches. He gave us an entertaining and thoughtful speech. We had more than 120 members of the company and guests which was full capacity for the hall and I’m sure everyone had a very enjoyable time.
Thursday 15th October 2015
To the Fan Makers annual dinner at Skinners Hall. Some members of our company might remember our annual banquet there hosted by past master Mark Gower-Smith. It is a really lovely hall with the added advantage, at least in warmer weather, of a very pleasant courtyard and garden The fan makers lodge at the hall so they are in residence so to speak. A glittering occasion as expected and more good food wine and company. My waistband is beginning to show signs of stress. Not good news with Christmas fast approaching.
Wednesday 7th October 2015
Another opportunity to enjoy evensong at St Paul’s. This time it was the annual evensong for the Musicians Company. They sponsor one of the choristers and as luck would have it his voice has just broken so he was unable to sing a special solo which is the usual custom. However the young man read a very good lesson in a somewhat gravely voice. Reception in the crypt afterwards
Tuesday 6th October 2015
Each year the Painter Stainers host a special art exhibition, Art in the City. The Mistress and I were invited as guests to the preview. A wonderful array of art from a number of very well known artists and craftsmen, some of whom were there and one or two were working on their craft while we watched. A little early for Christmas shopping but some excellent ideas if you could afford it.
Thursday 1st October 2015
The Mistress and I were invited to a preview of the year ahead for the students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. What a treat and what talent. We were given a short presentation by the heads of various departments. Drama, Opera, Theatre Design etc and then a preview of the work they would be tackling that year. A very interesting evening a delight to meet so many talented students.
Tuesday 29th September 2015
To Common Hall at the Guildhall to vote in the new Lord Mayor, Alderman Jeffrey Evans, Lord Mountevans.For once and probably not to be repeated in my lifetime I had a seat on the dais as the Master of the mother company of an outgoing sheriff. I was sitting with the Master Musician and between us we proposed and seconded a vote of thanks to Andrew Parmley and Fiona Adler. Kathleen Duncan, Master Musician had dug up the history of the song, Bicycle Made for Two, to commemorate the sheriffs epic ride on a tandem around the city raising money. I wrote a new verse but we decided that discretion was the order of the day and I refrained from singing it to a very full Guildhall. We must leave that for another day.
Lunch afterwards in Stationers Hall joined by a very large number of other peripatetic Livery Companies.
Monday 28th September 2015
A magnificent lunch in Merchant Taylors’ Hall to welcome the new Sheriffs. One of my favourite halls complete with its own organ in the musicians’ gallery and a lovely garden where you could puff if you wished. We enjoyed grand wining and dining and very amusing speeches of welcome and thanks. The excellent vote of thanks to the outgoing sheriffs was given by Nicolas Hilliard, Recorder of London who will be speaking at our January dinner. It seems such a short time since I was sitting in the same hall greeting the now departing sheriffs. How short a year is.
Wednesday 16th September 2015
It has been a busy week but the following day it was a real treat to be invited to a special recital preceded by Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral. Choral Evensong sung by St Paul’s Cathedral Choir has few equals for peace and tranquility and is for me a wonderful way to end a busy day. After the service the Choir sang a special recital and we adjourned to the Crypt where beside Nelson’s Tomb we enjoyed a glass of Champagne. I’m sure the great man enjoyed as much as we did. If you sniff hard you might well detect a whiff of the brandy his body was pickled in when they brought him home to England.
Tuesday 15th September 2015
To Stationers Hall for the presentation of Sheriff Christine Rigden’s chain of office. A packed Stationers Hall assembled to present new Sheriff Christine Rigden with her chain of office. And a beautiful chain it was too As Non-Aldermanic Sheriff Christine follows in the footsteps of Past Master Fiona Adler. We wish her a very successful year with as much fun as the Old Bailey allows, which according to Fiona is a great deal.
Tuesday 15th September 2015
To the Painter Stainers Hall for their Court Dinner. It is a very special Hall with many fond memories for us since we met there for many years until we finally decided to go Hall-less. The dining room walls are covered with beautiful and interesting paintings and I can remember a number of Burns Night suppers there where we toasted the haggis and danced Strip the Willow and the Dashing White Sargeant to the strains of a Scottish band. During his hilarious speech, the Master decided to refer to all the visiting Masters as characters in a James Bond movie. Sitting next to me was the Master Musician, Kathleen Duncan who was re-named Miss Moneypenny while I for some inexplicable reason was referred to as Mr Big!... Too many dinners obviously. A very enjoyable evening
Monday 7th September 2015
After a summer break the Livery Circuit picks up again in September and I was invited to the Modern Companies Dinner hosted by the Environmental Cleaners in Armourers’ Hall. It is a beautiful hall, just by London Wall, not especially large but very sumptuous with wonderful displays of 16th and 17th century armour. The dining room has a fantastic display including pikes and lances on every wall and should anyone choose to pick a fight weapons are ready to be grasped. The present hall was built in 1839 but on the same site that Armourers have occupied since 1346 which must a record for a Livery Company.
We were treated to a grand dinner and very jovial company. I was sitting between the Master Furniture Maker and the Master Farmer, a very good mix and excellent dinner companions. Our thanks to the Environmental Cleaners for being such generous hosts
Thursday 30th July 2015
Due to the initiative of the Worshipful Company of Constructors and the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, a large number of Livery Masters and Mistresses with the odd Clerk and Warden in attendance, gathered in St Paul’s Crypt restaurant for a bacon butty and coffee before setting off on a walk around ten of the City’s wonderful churches most of them of course designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The day was thankfully dry and we were in the company of two excellent City guides who knew almost everything there is to know about the City and its churches. 52 out of around the 80 that were destroyed in the Fire of London were rebuilt financed in the main by a tax on coal. Every tun of coal landed in London docks was charged a rate determined by parliament and the proceeds went to the city churches and the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral. Wren was the King’s Surveyor and he got the job of this massive re-design. A lot of the practical work was done by others of course but Wren’s imprimatur was on every new church.
It just isn’t possible to mention everything we saw but highlights stick in the memory like the garden of St Vedast Foster Lane and the magnificent domed St Stephen’s Wallbrook, a showpiece church as befits the church of the Lord Mayor, whose dome predates that of St Paul’s. One of the last on our list was St Olave close to the Tower of London and the burial place of Samuel Pepys and his wife. Her effigy stands on a plinth looking across the church at his. St Olave’s is a rare medieval survivor which the fire never reached. We ended, a little footsore it must be said, having coffee and cake in the café at All Hallows by the Tower. There are plans to make this an annual walk. I couldn’t recommend it more highly and well done to the organisers for having the idea and managing it so well.
Monday 27th July 2015
Every year since 1957 St Lawrence Jewry has celebrated its rededication and restoration following the near destruction of the Church during the blitz. We were present this year as the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs joined the simple service of rededication. Fewer than ususal were able to attend because various conflicting dates meant the service was held after the Guildhall had gone away for the summer but we were a respectable number and we gathered afterwards for delicious nibbles and a glass of wine in the chapel adjacent to the nave. This is of course 'our church' as it is the church of our honorary chaplain,The Rev David Parrott, and we were delighted to be able to support him. Our next official Company visit to St Lawrence Jewry will be our Carol Service in December where we will once again be treated to glorious music from the Sevenoaks School Choir and to mince pies and mulled wine. But that will be another story.
Thursday 16th July 2015
The Knight's Bachelors gathered in the Crypt of St Paul's for their Annual Service of Dedication on July 16th. I together with several Livery Masters was a guest of the Knight Principal, Sir Colin Berry and the Council. The Service took place in St Faith's Chapel which occupies the same space in the east end of the crypt as the OBE Chapel. St Faith's presence in the Crypt dates back somewhat longer than that of the OBE having been established in the pre-fire Cathedral in the 14th century as the chapel of the parish of St Faith under St Paul's. The story goes that the parish church of St Faith, once in the north east corner of St Paul's churchyard was demolished in the early 1300's when the medieval cathedral was extended. The crypt was offered as a replacement for their church. This has never been verified but it remains a good story. The Knights Bachelor opened their very pretty little chapel adjacent to St Faith's in 2008 having moved from St Bartholomew the Great. The space offered by St Paul's was a disused part of the crypt and has been turned into a beautiful small chapel containing many symbols of the Imperial Society. It was opened by the Queen in 2008 the centenary of their foundation as the Society of Knights Bachelor (They became Imperial in 1912) Knights of course go much further back than that and are one of the oldest chivalric honours. Every year they come together to make their vows afresh and newly appointed Knights are encouraged to come and make their vows for the first time. The sermon was given by the Bishop of London as their prelate and a subset of the cathedral choir sang. After the service we were all invited to Apothecaries' Hall when we stood in their lovely courtyard drinking fizz and eating nibbles in the sunshine. An excellent opportunity to meet and talk to so many very interesting men who had been awarded this ancient honour. It remains exclusively a male only award since there is no feminine equivalent of a Knight. Women who are similarly honoured are usually given the DBE.
Tuesday 14th July 2015
About 100 Livery Masters attended the Sheriffs and Recorders Fund AGM. Together with several judges the President of the Supreme Court, the Recorder of London and of course the Sheriffs, we filled Court no 4 for the meeting. We heard several speeches and a moving testimony from a young man, an ex-offender, who spoke of how the Fund had transformed his life and kept him out of prison. The Fund was set up in 1808 in Newgate Prison, the site of the current Old Bailey, to help inmates of Newgate Prison and their families. In 1931 it merged with the Recorders Fund, which had been established to assist offenders released on probation. Today it works mainly through the London Probation Service and has assets of more than £1 milliion. Last year it dispensed £250,000 to its various charities. The farewell speech of the President of the Fund Lady Davies, who clearly had made an enormous contribution to the work and profile of the Fund was responded to by Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court. He paid tribute to her and went on to make an insightful and light hearted speech about the work of the Supreme court. Thus was the official business rounded off and we adjourned for refreshments in the Judges dining room. I had little idea of the work of the Fund and it was a very illuminating evening for me and an enjoyable opportunity to catch up with livery friends and fellow Masters.
Monday 13th July 2015
I was invited to a book launch at Wax Chandlers' Hall. The book being launched was a book of portraits of all the Lord Mayors from Dame Mary Donaldson to Dame Fiona Woolf. Mary Donaldson was the first woman to become Lord Mayor in 1986 and Fiona Woolf was the second thirty years later. It is a very interesting book recalling the various Lord Mayors, who they were, what they did and illustrated with their portraits all of which were tracked down from the nooks and crannies of the city where they hang today. Mary Donaldson insisted on being known as the Lord Mayor since that is the title of the office and anyone referring to her as the Lady Mayoress was asked to contribute £5 to her Lord Mayors' Appeal. The idea for the book came from Nicholas Woolf, the Lord Mayors Consort when it was realised that the portrait of Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf was to be painted by the same artiist who painted Mary Donaldson thirty years before. There had been thirty one Lord Mayors in the time period chosen and all but four had had their portrait painted. They are all in the book together with an official photograph of the four who were not painted so that there is a complete record of all the Lord Mayors. A really interesting book and still available for your bookshelf. I commend it to you.
Thursday 9th July 2015
Breaking with tradition the Master Upholder, Mrs Wynne Gilham decided to hold her summer lunch outside the City at the Savile Club in Mayfair. The Savile club was founded in 1868 as a refreshingly new type of club in contrast to the more traditional clubs of Pall Mall and St James's. Once at 15 Savile Row, hence the name, they moved to Piccadily and then to their current beautiful premises in Brook St. The club has a strong link to the literary world although membership is open to anyone who the selection committee thinks will fit in to the Club's convivial spirit! Sounds like the Tobacco Pipemakers. The Master Upholder had chosen a beautiful summer's day made a little challenging by the fact that both the Tube and First Great Western went on strike, however everyone managed to arrive in time for lunch. The Mistress and I set off with a lot of time in hand and had an incredibly easy journey much to our surprise arriving in Oxford St ridiculously early! Time for coffee in Selfridges Food Hall which rivals Harrods as the best place for food in London. What wonderful displays and what enticing smells. We were a select group of no more than 30 and lunched upstairs in the ballroom, a very pretty space overlooking their garden at the top of the grand double spiral staircase. The club interiors are decorated in the Louis XVI style and manage to look grand but not over the top. I was the only Livery Master to be invited which was a great honour. The lunch was a great success for the Master Upholder and a very enjoyable occasion. Sadly the journey home didn't match the journey in but it couldn't spoil a really lovely day.
Tuesday 7th July 2015
I was the guest of the Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers at their annual Banquet held at Plaisterers' Hall. The Hall was rebuilt after the war and occupies the lower ground floor of no 1 London Wall, a very modern building. However the Hall itself is built in the traditional style and has a magnificent ceiling using Robert Adams' designs and original moulds to show off the art of plastering. By the way, as to how you pronounce their name, I was talking to a past master of the company and he told me that they answer both to Plasterers and Plaisterers. In fact within the company they normally use the modern term. Their hall is one of the largest halls in the City easily sitting 200 people. I remember playing carpet bowls there after lunch on Lord Mayor's Day a few years ago. For the Banquet we were about 170 and it was beautifully set with their silver. Their Master, at the very end of his year, had broken his leg, what rotten luck and he was in a wheelchair. As we clapped him with his leg sticking out in front he was wheeled by the clerk in a nurse's hat. Their clerk plays a more active part at their dinners than most. He addresses the guests, which in itself is uncommon, but in his case not once but twice, before and after the Master, who is thus neatly sandwiched by the clerk's opening and closing remarks. All good fun. Whether all clerks would welcome this tradiition is a moot point. I doubt it will catch on. The food and drink were excellent and all provided by their own in-house catering department. i was sitting next to the wife of the Dean of Peterborough a very interesting dinner companion. Peterborough Cathedral was used as Barchester Cathedral when the BBC filmed Barchester Towers in the 1980's. The dean lives in a magnificent deanery which apparently must be furnished by every new dean on appointment. No mean task.
Wednesday 24th June 2015
"These are to require you to cause all the livery of your Company to be summoned to meet at Guildhall on Tuesday 24th June, next, by 11.45am for the election of sheriffs and other officers, annually chosen on Midsummer Day..........Hereof you are not to fail........."
That was the summons and and we did not fail. On the 24th June we, the Master, one or two Wardens and a sprinkling of Liverymen were at Common Hall for the election of the sheriffs who will serve the new Lord Mayor on 2015/16. Alderman Charles Bowman and Dr Christine Rigden were elected unopposed to succeed our Past Master Sheriff Fiona Adler and Alderman and Sheriff Andrew Parmley, Charles Bowman will be the Aldermanic Sheriff and Christine Rigden the Non-Aldermanic. The Hall was packed as usual as the name cards were held up and cries of Aye were duily delivered when asked. The nightmare of candidates must be that cries of Never are heard. Not of course on this occasion. My last memory of Christine Rigden is dressed in her Ale Conner's leather trousers, sitting in a puddle of beer testing its viscosity. This is the important task of an Ale Conner, which she is, in order to see that the correct amount of sugar and alcohol is present. Were she to rise from the puddle with the seat attached, the beer would be deemed too sticky and too low in alcohol. But on this occasion she was more elegantly dressed as was her fellow candidate Charles Bowman. After the election we adjourned to Stationers Hall for a splendid lunch. The Stationers hosted to a large number of peripatic Livery companies and we filled their lovely dining hall.
Friday 19th June 2015
This has been a busy week and ended on a delightful high at the party to celebrate Hunters and Frankau's 225 years as a cigar importer. More than 300 guests gathered in Belgrave Square gardens on another beautiful summer's evening. Liveryman and Court Assistant David Lewis as Chairman of Hunters and Frankau entertained us to a feast of food and drink. The square was elegantly dressed with white marquees and looked magnificent. We also had the opportunity to be the first to smoke the new Hunters & Frankau Aniversario 225 cigar and to taste a very special rum made specially for the occasion by Havana Club.
Thursday 18th June 2015
On Waterloo Day I was the guest of the Scientific Instrument Makers at their annual banquet in Drapers' Hall. I was fortunate to be on duty at St Paul's that morning for the 200th Anniversary Service commemorating the Battle of Waterloo and a banquet seemed a fitting way to end the day. Drapers, the home of the number three company in the order of precedence, is a sumptuous hall and with the three huge windows wide open on a balmy evening the dining room looked magnificent as 170 of us sat down to dinner. As always these are very entertaining occasions and the guest speaker, author and economist Will Hutton, was no exception. Once Editor in Chief of the Observer he is author of the 1990's classic The State We're In and currently Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. He gave a very challenging speech supporting the work of the Scientific Instrument Makers in fostering young enterprise. Like so many good speeches one wishes one could remember more of it. That must be a matter of age, or maybe wine.
Monday 15th June 2015
Another beautiful summer's day for the Company's golf day hosted by Past Master Derek Harris at Tandridge. My pleasant task was to present the prizes. I was not obliged to play golf thank goodness. My golfing skills are non-existent, a fact discovered very early in my life when I realised I had absolutely no talent for any games involving a ball. The Mistress and I arrived just before lunch at the beautiful Tandridge Golf Club which is definitely straight out of PG Wodehouse, in a classic Surrey setting of rolling countryside. All that was missing was the Oldest Member sitting in a corner of the bar. The players drifted in after a challenging morning's golf and we sat down to a really splendid lunch for which the Golf Day is becoming renowned. The extremely generous prizes, mainly beautifully wrapped bottles of wine and fizz in presentation baskets, were all organised and prepared by PM Harris helped no doubt by his wife Sheila. First prize went to recently joined Liveryman Paul Taberer who managed the highest (or is it the lowest?) score. A thoroughly enjoyable day and a real pleasure to be there. Many thanks to Derek for such splendid organisation and all his hard work.
Wednesday 10th June 2015
My first week as Master has turned out to be a busy one. After enjoying the hospitality of the Plumbers at the Temple, the next day it was off to the 51st AITS lunch to present the prize for the best retailer of the year. This lunch was formerly known as the Pipesmoker of the Year lunch and was held at the Savoy for 39 years. Previous winners included Rubert Davies (Maigret), Harold Wilson, Tony Benn and last of all before it was discontinued due to tobacco promotion regulations, Stephen Fry. Under a different name the lunch continued and now takes place at Lords. Our Company has the honour of presenting the prize to the best retailer chosen from names submitted by the trade. Past Master Roger Merton is the driving force behind the organisation and he guided me through the sheaf of applications as we made our choice, this year it goes to Stephen Johnstone for his shop in Cambridge. A very enjoyable lunch made more so by sitting next to the guest speaker Phil Tufnell who was extremely entertaining, I can't repeat his jokes here, for a number of reasons not least because I can't remember them but he had the audience in stitches for half an hour. I introduced him to snuff. He wasn't at all certain about it but he stepped up to the wicket like a true sportsman and sneezed loudly. Thanks to Roger for such a well organised day.
Tuesday 9th June 2015
On not the warmest July day, The Worshipful Company of Plumbers celebrated their 650th anniversary with a service in the Temple Church and a reception in Middle Temple gardens. The Master Plumber with his Wardens, together with the Sheriffs processed into the Church and the Master of the Temple, the Reverend and Valiant Robin Griffiths-Jones, to give him his proper title, took the service. In his address he gave an entertaining acount of Magna Carta, a subject he specialises in having such a strong connection with it at the Temple and told a very good joke about the Archbishop of Canterbury. As with all good jokes one hears as Master it goes into a pot from which it might emerge at another dinner or lunch so I'm not revealing any more about it. 160 Livery Masters were attending as guests and after the service, beautifully sung by the choir, we adjourned to the gardens for a very generous selection of canapes where we toasted the health of the company with gusto. The Master Plumber presented all the guests with a specially made lead weight, a copy of a standard measure. Not the lightest gift to carry home on the tube but an extremely interesting memento of their celebrated history. A somewhat chilly evening in the gardens but as always very enjoyable
Monday 8th June 2015
Nigel Pullman, Chairman of the Committee was our host at Trinity House for the annual Livery Committee dinner. The Livery Committee was set up a century ago to manage the proceedings at Common Hall, in particular the election of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs. In addition they act as an inter livery communication channel and very good they are too. Look at their web site if you want to understand the City, what is going on and how it works. It is an excellent web site and I commend it to you It was a splendid affair in wonderful surroundings known to us quite recently since past master Mark Gower Smith chose Trinity House for our January dinner. The Trinity House Corporation is primarlly concerned with safety at sea, which means lighthouses amongst other things and with the welfare of seafarers A suitably nautical motif of a lighthouse on each table after which the table was named was chosen as the dining room theme. The guest speaker was the soon to be past Master of the Mercers, Deborah Ounsted, their first lady Master. Great speech, great dinner.
Saturday 6th June 2015
Every year as many as possible of the Masters and some of the Clerks gather for a weekend at Iron Bridge in Shropshire. The Iron Bridge gorge is the birth place of the industrial revolution and today is an Industrial Heritage site complete with a Victorian town at Blists Hill and no less than ten fascinating mueums including the Broseley Pipe works. The Livery Companies have been coming here for a weekend in June for many years to allow Masters to get to know their fellow Masters some of whom are very new in the job and others are at the end of their year. I was the newest master there beating by one hour the newly installed Master of the Security Professionals. Two formal dinners held in the main museum area give you a chance to mingle and socialise and a programme of visits to the site and to a few of the museums is arranged for the Saturday and Sunday. It is a very special weekend and enormously helpful and enjoyable whether you go at the beginning or at the end of your year. The Mistress and I met so many people. some soon moving on but others no doubt to be seen again during my year. The Master's year is all about meeting people and this is a wonderful beginning
Wednesday 3rd June 2015
As you read through past masters blogs everyone seems to share the same emotions. Pride, fear, trepidation and bewilderment are there in equal measure. All true in my case. It is a great honour to be asked to serve the Company as Master and I am looking forward to representing us wherever I can in the coming year. At the same time you realise, as you are centre stage for the first time, how unprepared you are. Having said that the support from the whole Company, Liverymen, the Court, the Past Masters, is overwhelming. You are almost carried aloft on a wave of good will amd as all of you have said, Enjoy it. And I will. Vintners Hall looked stunning and the lunch was superb. Searcy's, well known in the City for their excellent catering turned up trumps for us and everyone seemed to have had a great time. Our guest of honour, Colonel Tim Purdon of the Irish Guards gave us an entertainng account of his job as Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant General of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms. The Mistress and I walked out into the sunshine well and truly installed and looking forward to the first event, the Livery weekend at Iron Bridge a few days away.