Election Court & Lunch, Tallow Chandlers' Hall

Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Arriving a tad late for the 09.30 run through thanks to a sluggish District Line, I found all the Wardens, Clerk and Assistant Clerk patiently waiting. We were using the charming 17th Century courtroom of this Livery Hall, built around 1676 and very little altered, it's located on the third floor, so we were all a bit out of puff! All the members sit on benches around the panelled walls with no tables, but it means the Master can see everyone very easily and its intimate size means its very easy to hear everyone too. We used this room for a while when we were reformed in the 1950s and the Clerk had found a great old photo of the then Court - it turned out that PM Derek Harris (who was attending today) not only recognised everyone, but knew their firms' names and that it was the very Court where he was admitted to our Livery - amazing! I asked Ian, our Assistant Clerk to bring his camera and, with the assistance of Christopher Sawyer (IPM Scientific Insts. and soon-to-be one of us) we re-took this historic image which I'll put up as soon as it's available. We served coffee from 10-11am at the back of this room, dominated by a fine Thomas Tompion longcase presented to the TCs in 1738 and working perfectly. We assembled and, at 11am sharp, myself, wardens and Clerks made the micro-procession to our seats. We enjoyed a good meeting with plenty of useful decisions made and galloped through a 24 point agenda in one and a half hours - and that included admitting a new Court Assistant, two Freemen and a new Liveryman (Christopher Sawyer). I'm not sure if it was the bench seating, or semi-bribe of a nice cigar before luncheon that kept things ticking along, but all was convivial and fraternal - just as it should be in our Company. Jemma Freeman had kindly provided me with a box of half corona's and at 12.30pm we repaired to the lovely little semi-covered courtyard to enjoy one (yes, that's the other reason I chose this Hall!). Whilst we were in Court, the Mistress had lead a party of ladies around the Museum of St. John, an amazing place if you can get there - Hogarth's dad ran a coffee room in the gate house! They also arrived at the Hall on time at 12.30 so we were a pretty merry throng both in the reception room and Courtyard. Finally the Beadle came to nudge me upstairs and we took our places at table - no procession - in their lovely dining room: apart from the removal of a musicians gallery, it's unaltered from 1676 and is charming. I read a grace our Chaplain had provided (David was obliged to be away, sadly) and was seated next to their Master, Richard Fleck. We tucked into a nice smoked trout starter, loin of beef and almond tart, with good French vino - it was very good indeed, and served in such a timely manner, we had time for a "comfort break" after the Loyal Toast. After that, I made a short speech, mainly thank you's, but couldn't resist pointing out that Richard was the Tallow Chandler's 450th Master - the Master that will fill those shoes for us won't be born for 340 years! With that all done, IPM Chris Allen responded on behalf of the Mistress. Chris was very kind indeed but reserved his right to sing part of it as the Lord Mayor supports music (in all forms?!), and so he sang a G&S style patter song.. set to the music of "I am the very model of a modern Major General" the text ran:

You are the very model

of a modern livery master.

You can drink a gin and tonic

And there's none who drink it faster

You can knock back cold prosecco

Whilst you're spouting lots of trivia

On the quarterdeck of Wellington

Not falling in the riv...ia!

With your waistcoat buttons popping

'Cos you dine out every other day

At Drapers, Merchant Taylors, Skinners

Even Mansion House, they say.

Your snuff box at the ready

And your smile so broad and pleasing.

You charm your fellow masters

And you always leave them sneezing.

With bonhomie beguiling,

You puff your pipe where ‘ere you be

With the Mistress at your elbow

You acquit yourself so admirably.

With blogs so entertaining

That we read them and we crave for more.

You're the star turn in the City,

Like a character from Pinafore.

Your year will soon be over

Yes, the Clerk will soon abandon you.

Your diary will be empty,

You'll be wondering what you can do.

From the Master and the Mistress

You'll be Charles and dear Camilla

Unforgettable eccentric,

We shall miss you Master Miller”

So there you have it - he then presented me with a framed copy with photographs from some of the other banquets - I was very touched.

Even with a mini operetta inserted into Luncheon, we had time in hand - enough for me to invite those who wished it, another cigar, with a cognac, down the the courtyard. Ralph and I donned our smoking caps and had a very good half hour or so, before we left (the last to leave) at 3.30.. I had to get on to the next event..