Ironbridge - Friday and Saturday
Tuesday 13th June 2017
The orderly transition of power from one administration to another is a key feature of a strong and stable government. It is no different for the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders except that power rightfully sits with our wonderful Learned Clerk, Sandra Stocker. The Master is given the gavel and our equivalent to the codes to the nuclear weapons (the password to the content management system of the Master’s Blog page of www.tobaccolivery.org).
My Master's Year started 24 hours before my Installation at the Association of Independent Tobacco Specialists' lunch held this year in the Long Room at Lords. It was a great occasion. I had the opportunity to participate in a game of Pointless with Alexander Armstrong and present our Livery’s prize to the Tobacconist of the Year. This year it went to James Barber of Otley. Just check out his website to see why he was a worthy winner http://www.smoke.co.uk More importantly, £13,500 was raised for our Welfare Fund. Well done, Roger Merton for organising the event.
Less than 48 hours after my Installation we packed the car with my dinner suit, the Mistress’s posh frocks, our badges and other paraphernalia and headed north west on the M40 towards Shropshire. It was the 34th annual gathering of Masters, Mistresses, Prime Wardens and Consorts at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Livery Weekend. When the car was unpacked at the Telford Holiday Inn, we gathered to be bussed to Coalbrookdale for a black tie dinner (badges to be worn). Over a glass of champagne, I confirmed that I was the most recently installed Master. The Master Security Professional, Air Commodore Stephen Anderton had been installed at midday two days earlier while my installation was a 6pm event. Master Shipwright Archie Smith (and fellow Pipe Maker) took me under his wing and introduced me to many of the Masters before we sat down to dinner. After a very good pork dinner and plentiful supply of wine, we were bussed back to the bar at the Holiday Inn for a cleansing lager.
As it was the 34th annual gathering, the process of getting some 200 folk around the various museums was down to a fine art. Our coach only suffered two losses in Blists Hill which seemed perfectly acceptable. One could understand why a Master and Consort found the Victorian village so fascinating that they chose not to board the coach to return to Telford. It was our first visit to the Ironbridge World Heritage Site and, at the first sight of Abraham Darby’s iron bridge, the Mistress and I agreed that we must return soon. For us, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution brought back memories of our O Level history exams.
After an opportunity to watch the F1 qualifying back at the Holiday Inn, catch up on the latest news of the Coalition of Chaos and put on our formal clothes (badges to be worn), we were back on the coach to Coalbrookdale. Champagne awaited us in the Enginuity exhibition, where we played with exhibits and enjoyed each other’s company before being called into a steak dinner. We were entertained by the Lord and Lady Mayoress and both Sheriffs. The Lord Mayor delivered an address so full of energy, humour and wit, it was a welcome respite from the anxious discussions about why we had to have a general election in the first place and the parlour game of naming a DUP member of Parliament. After the Mistress and I assisted the Master Shipwright and his Mistress in building an arch in the Enginuity hall, it was back to the Holiday Inn bar and a couple of night caps.