Wednesday 7th June 2017
As my predecessor wrote, in his final blog, the cycle of the Livery Movement stops for no man. The democratic processes which have evolved over centuries in the City of London have been refined to the point where there are very few surprises. I was elected in March with a unanimous vote; not a complete shock as I was the only candidate. One waits in anticipation until the Installation Court when a carefully choreographed procedure sees the retiring Master relieved of his seat and the new incumbent put in place with the power of the gavel. This was a complete contrast to the events that followed two days later when Mrs May retained her seat at the Cabinet table but with very little else, including her dignity. More oaths were sworn; the new Mistress had her badge pinned (very carefully) on her dress; the new Court was blessed and it was off for photographs and the meet and greet line for the guests to the “2017 Post Installation / Pre-Election Dinner”.
I chose Skinners’ Hall because it is such a delightful building with outdoor areas that provide a perfect space for a cigar during the evening. Party Ingredients produced a splendid meal and the choice of wines appeared to be well received. Service was outstanding but I soon realised that service is always pretty good when one is seated at the centre of the top table. The dinner was attended by Masters from other companies, many of our Liverymen, their guests, my family members and old friends. Grace was said by our wonderful Honorary Chaplain, the Revd. Canon David Parrott who struggled at first but overcame the challenge of incorporating “Edmondson” into his famous rhyming couplets. What fun! Assistant Tony Scanlan introduced and toasted our guests and, in reply, Richard Burrows, Chairman of British American Tobacco, delivered an entertaining speech that covered the history of tobacco. Richard started with the Huron native American myth which recalled in ancient times, when the land was barren and the people were starving, the Great Spirit sent forth a woman to save humanity. As she travelled over the world, everywhere her right hand touched the soil, there grew potatoes. Everywhere her left hand touched the soil grew corn. And when the world was rich and fertile, she sat down and rested. When she arose, there grew tobacco. Producat terra. We also heard about developments in in the new generation of non-combustible products aimed at reducing risk to the consumer. Richard even gave an insight into the dark arts of investor relations; a life I left behind some 5 years ago.
It was a special pleasure to thank Immediate Past Master Charles Miller, and his Consort Camilla, for their outstanding year and present him with his Past Master's badge that had been previously presented to Alfred Dunhill in 1956 and Richard Dunhill in 1988. After an impressive musical interlude provided by the richly talented Guildhall Scholars: Ben Smith (piano) and Michael Vickers (baritone), we retired to the roof terrace for a stirrup cup of armagnac and a box of San Cristobal de la Habana El Principe. It was a quick tube ride back to the Barbican with my Mistress and memories of a splendid evening.