Thursday 17th May 2018
The morning after the Masters' Reception, the Learned Clerk, Mistress and I set off through Islington in search of the M1. There are not many events during the Master's year that happen outside of London; this week there were two.
Once we found the M1 and the cruise control had been set at 70mph, it did not take long before we were far north of Watford Gap services. We arrived in Sheffield at around 2pm and settled down for a light lunch before exploring the City Centre. Sheffield has been smartened up since I was last there, with trams and pedestrianised streets. We visited the Cathedral and found the Cutlers' Hall. From the outside, it looks like a typical nineteenth century example of civic pride with a Tesco attached to it. The Cathedral is impressive and worth the trek across the tramlines.
We assembled soon after 6pm to board a coach for the half mile or 10 minute drive to the Hall. Dressed in white tie, tails and badge, our hosts were cautious to ensure their guests from London would not be inconvenienced. On the inside, Cutlers' Hall is very grand. The Feast is usually attended by 350 and the main hall did not feel crowded. The feast included lamb and some excellent wines. We had good company and the evening passed quickly. Sat close to the Mistress was Angela Smith MP, who comes from our home town. There was much to discuss other than Brexit.
When the speeches started, the Senior Warden gave a full address on the state of the nation (actually it was more confined to South Yorkshire) which covered economic activity and looked forward to the threats and opportunities offered by Brexit. Politically, it was nuanced but the message was clear: someone, somewhere needs to do something because time and opportunities are being wasted. The response came from Lord Adonis, it was direct and from the heart: someone, somewhere needs to do something and, in the meantime, may we have another referendum?
After the speeches, we returned to the reception rooms for a stirrup cup before boarding the coach back to the hotel, half a mile away.
Wednesday 16th May 2018
This is the last event I am responsible for during my Master's year. I had visited HAC as Senior Warden and thoroughly enjoyed a presentation by the Pikemen & Musketeers. For me, it was a no brainer to book the HAC for the Master's Reception.
We had over 30 members and guests from the Livery attending and, after a drink and top up, we were taken upstairs at Armoury House for a presentation by Richard Jackson, the Pikemen & Musketeers' Commanding Captain. Apparently, you can tell the rank of a pikeman by the amount of lace he wears. Richard wears a lot of lace. Richard also expressed his gratitude to our Benevolent Fund which had supported an appeal for the renewal of uniforms.
It was a delightful presentation on the history of the Honourable Artillery Company (it goes back to Henry VIII), the history of the Pikemen & Musketeers, their current role to provide a guard for the Lord Mayor, their relationship with HM The Queen, the history of the house and some of the most valuable real estate in the world and why lace signifies the rank of the wearer. After the presentation, we were treated to a tour of Armoury House and an opportunity to play with muskets, breastplates, helmets and pikes. The remainder of the evening was spent enjoying canapés and wine. Everyone seemed to enjoy the occasion and I am grateful to Richard Jackson and the staff at HAC.
Monday 30th April 2018
In November, many nations will mark the centenary of armistice. Photographer Michael St Maur Sheil unveiled his latest Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace exhibition in Guildhall Yard. This is the third time that his unique photographs of the battlefields of the First World War have been displayed by the City of London. Although it was a cool, damp afternoon, the photographs and commentaries were captivating, to the extent that I and several other masters were reluctant to go inside for canapés and speeches. What was conveyed in this exhibition was the breadth of the conflict. It is too easy to think of the First World War as a European conflict focused on the Western Front but countries across the globe suffered losses during conflict. The photographs are remarkable.
Tuesday 15th May 2018
After dropping off the Master's gown, the Mistress and I took the Circle Line to Chelsea for dinner with the Trustees of the Benevolent Fund. Three of the nine Trustees retired at the conclusion of the February Trustees' meeting. A dinner was organised by the new chairman of the Trustees, Nigel Rich, in honour of the retiring trustees. Between them, George Lankester, Stephen Preedy and David Glynn-Jones have over 4 decades of service to the Benevolent Fund and Welfare Fund. Unfortunately, David was not well enough to join us.
Trustees, retiring Trustees and spouses met for drinks in the garden of Nigel & Cynthia Rich. It was a warm and sunny evening and we enjoyed generous canapés, wines and good company. At 8pm, we walked the short distance to Columbier and enjoyed a delicious fish dinner.
After dessert was done, Nigel thanked the retiring trustees for their commitment to the Benevolent Fund and George responded with generous remarks and Lankestrian humour.
I have enjoyed four years as Secretary to the Benevolent Fund and have always been impressed with the dedication of our Trustees to ensuring that our charity is run effectively on behalf of the Livery Company. Charity is, in my mind, the most important achievement of the livery movement.
Tuesday 15th May 2018
Would you believe it? The Master is back in St Paul's for another polishing of the halo - the second time in 4 days. The masters and prime wardens assembled again, this time in reverse order of precedence. Why? My view, for what it's worth, is reverse order allows the Great 12 to get out first and grab the champagne at the various receptions held after this event. My chum, Tony Smart at number 83, has been dis-installed and replaced by the new Master Furniture Maker, Hayden Davies, who incidentally lives 3 miles away from us in Buckinghamshire. After processing down the Nave, we were guided to three rows near the front. Excellent seats with a strong chance of hearing the new Bishop's sermon. We stood in front of our seats under the Dome and remained standing until the last Master was in place (Master Mercer, of course) and then we all sat down in another carefully choreographed piece of pageantry. I thought this act deserved a round of applause from the congregation but there was just the gentle hum of whispered chats. Quite possibly, the congregation was stunned into silence.
Sons & Friends of the Clergy has its origins in the middle of the 17th century and is a charity to help members of the clergy and their families in times of need. This was the 364th annual festival and the service is known for its fine music. We had the choirs of St Paul's, Chelmsford and Gloucester Cathedrals. The performances were simply outstanding but the combined choirs' performance of the Anthem set to music by Parry was astonishing. Under the Dome, they sounded beautiful. Alas, when the Bishop of London gave her sermon, the dreaded acoustics made her words very difficult to follow.
After the blessing, the processions started and I soon found myself out of the West Door, with gown and badge, in brilliant and warm sunshine, while the Great 12 were possibly on their second glass of champagne.
Saturday 12th May 2018
This was a special occasion; to be part of the installation of the first female Bishop of London. The Bishop of London ranks third in the Church of England hierarchy behind the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The diversity is always welcome and diversity ranks high on the new Bishop's to do list. Sarah Mullally has a remarkable CV; she rose swiftly through the NHS ranks to become the youngest ever chief nursing officer at the age of 37.
When it comes to pomp and circumstance and rich pageantry, the Church of England can put on a very good show. If added pizazz is required then pull in the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, Alderman, Common Councillors and a hundred plus livery masters and prime wardens. The latter formed by a chapel and organised themselves into order of precedence. I am now an old hand at this game and sought out Master Furniture Maker, Tony Smart, who was participating in his last event. The Furniture Makers are number 83 and the Pipe Makers are 82. As we processed (in order of precedence) from the West Door to the Dome area, the Nave was packed. I spotted the navy feathers of my Mistress's hat in one of the front rows of the Nave and we smiled. The masters and prime wardens carried on under the Dome and took our places in the Quire. It was a great privilege to be in this part of the Cathedral.
The only downside of being sat in the Quire is the acoustics. The choir sounded magnificent but for all the splendour of Wren's masterpiece, the sound system echos around the Cathedral and I heard the new Bishop of London's sermon from at least 4 different directions at slightly different times. Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable event with finely choreographed pageantry. After the Clerics had processed out, the Lord Mayor's party set off and, finally, a wandsman appeared to signal our departure. We processed to the West Door ... and stepped into the rain.
The next stop was to drop off my gown and chain and walk over to Guildhall for the reception. After chatting to fellow masters and hoovering up canapés, we were addressed by the Lord Mayor and the newly installed Bishop of London. The speeches were witty, warm and, above all, crystal clear.
Wednesday 9th May 2018
The View Day started with evensong in the magnificent Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great which is a few hundred yards from Barbican Station but easily missed. Bearing in mind the destruction of the Great Fire and the Blitz, there are not many pre-seventeenth century churches left in the City. St Bartholomew the Great was founded as an Augustinian Priory in 1123 and has been in constant use since 1143. I recommend readers to seek out the church, it is impressive and very beautiful. For fans of IMDb, the church starred in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The End of the Affair and many other productions. Master's were given allocated seating with their Clerks keeping a close eye on them from the rows behind.
I cannot claim to be an expert on these things, but it soon became clear that this service was "high church". Billows of incense smoke began to emerge from the tomb of Rahere, the founder of the church. He was a cleric, court jester, and favourite of King Henry I. On a pilgrimage to Rome he fell ill and had a reputed vision of St Bartholemew, who directed him to establish a religious hospital, which he did.
As the organist began, visibility was deteriorating rapidly around Rahere's tomb and the smoke was catching the back of my throat. It was one of those services where an outstanding choir did most of the work. Fortunately for the choir, and their fine voices, they were at the other end of the church.
At the conclusion of the service, the Masters and their Clerks processed in free form to the Great Hall of the Hospital for a reception and speeches. We received accounts of the excellent work of the Barts NHS Trust and Barts Charity which had awarded a staggering £28.5m of grants to new projects during the last financial year.
Thursday 3rd May 2018
This was my third Distillers' City Debate and each one has been fascinating. Beverages and Tobacco are two sectors which share many issues including the same stockbroker analysts and fund managers. It is always a pleasure to meet old friends in the City. Master Distiller and I go back many years to the days when I would bring BAT management to BlackRock for an inquisition on our latest results. The motion this year was "This house believes that family companies think about the long term, publicly-owned companies focus on the now".
We heard good arguments from Lizzy Rudd of Berry Bros & Rudd and Victor Jerez of William Grant & Sons which suggested that the long term planning and commitment of family owned companies allowed for higher levels reinvestment in business because there was less leakage of cash to shareholders. I was agin the motion at the start and remained so at the end. I do not disagree that family companies can take the long term view and doggedly hold out during the difficult years but some of the examples given were companies which had a family interest diluted down to 20% and were to all intents and purposes publicly-owned companies. Large corporations can have the financial resources to take long term bets on new categories but it all boils down to cash generation. When the cash dries up and the going is tough, the "now" is just as imperative for family companies as it is for publicly-owned companies. Family companies become publicly-owned companies when they need to access the capital markets.
After the debate, we were invited to sample products from a selection of distillers. Hendrick's Gin and Berry Bros & Rudd No 3 London Gin got my vote and they are produced by family companies. I think they also got Sandra's vote too.
Wednesday 2nd May 2018
Tucked away, just off Moorgate, is the Chartered Accountants' Hall; it is the home of The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The Hall is a Grade II listed building and is one of the City’s hidden masterpieces. Having worked nearby, I had no idea of its existence. The annual "True & Fair" lecture was given by the Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, who happens to be an accountant, in a large state of the art conference hall. He opened by saying that he just was 24 weeks and 5 days into his mayoralty. A major theme of his year was the rebuilding of trust. He referred to the Pan Livery Collaboration project and remarked that the City's reputation was at best unknown and at worst unfair. For many centuries, commerce in the City had been based on trust and he referred to a trade with Italian merchants in 1210 which had been dependant upon the trust that a debt would be repaid. The Lord Mayor, added that we should be concerned that the level of trust in the City had continued to fall since the crisis of 2008. Building trust should be the number one priority of all CEOs. Trust boils down to personal responsibility such as taxation and how the issue of pay is addressed. He asked the audience to complete the Lord Mayor's online questionnaire on the Business of Trust http://bit.ly/2Ew9OtG and to follow his Tweets at @citylordmayor #businessoftrust #trust
It was a thought provoking lecture.
Monday 23rd April 2018
The Shrieval Elections on 25th June will be an exciting event for all, except the three candidates who are contesting the position of non-Aldermanic Sheriff. A contested election is rare but three candidates running for the position puts this year's election into the hen's teeth category.
It is questionable whether the election machinery at Guildhall is prepared for such an event. Elections are usually done on a show of hands with the present sheriffs appointed as scrutineers. Common Hall is a popular event with overspill into other rooms; not a problem when there are just two candidates for the Aldermanic and non-Aldermanic positions. With three candidates for non-Aldermanic Sheriff, it is going to be interesting.
I "bent the knee" to Liz Green on the day she announced her intention to run. I had met her on several occasions during my year as Senior Warden when Liz was Master Framework Knitter. Sometimes you meet someone and immediately take notice. That's what I felt when I met Liz. As she has campaigned and worked the City intensively by appearing at many events, serving on committees and engaging with liverymen, Liz has grown in stature and I am confident she will prove to be an excellent Sheriff.
I have known the other candidates for some time: Gwen Rhys for as long as I have known Liz and Richard Fleck for two decades. Both would be good Sheriffs and would have my support in any other circumstances but one can only support one candidate and I am supporting Liz Green. I would urge fellow liverymen to put their support behind Liz and vote on 25 June. I would also advise you to get there early and be seated near to the front, in sight of the scrutineers.
Liz Green's campaign team held a supporters evening at Carpenters' Hall. It was a jolly affair attended by more than 300 people, including many friends from the "circuit". While Liz was holding court at one end of the room, I was delighted to see Immediate Past Master Charles Miller looking very dapper and holding court at the other end. It was a fun event.
Thursday 26th April 2018
I have known the recently installed Master Distiller for 15 years or more. I used to visit BlackRock Asset Managers on investor roadshows and Bryan Burrough was the impeccably courteous master interrogator. Apart from a distinguished career in the City, Bryan owned the 1983 Grand National winner, Corbiere, and, when he is not mastering the Distillers, he is High Sheriff of Essex.
It was a splendid evening in the magnificent setting of Vintners' Hall. My resolve to have no more than a taste of the wines almost buckled when I saw Pol Roger being topped up at the reception (for those who were not drinking Hendricks and Fever Tree or Grants Sherry Cask Whisky). The Loving Cup contained Bloomsbury Sloe Gin; this was, after all, a Distillers' dinner. The food was delicious and the speeches were entertaining. I was fortunate to be sat between Master Cooper, Roy Campbell, and Simon MacKenzie-Smith (Chairman of Corporate and Investment Banking for the U.K. at Bank of America Merrill Lynch). A joy of the evening was meeting up with several old broker and fund manager friends from my BAT days. It really was one of the highlights of my year.
Wednesday 18th April 2018
In an earlier life, when I worked in insurance, I spent much time with actuaries and the joke that an actuary was someone who found accountancy too exciting is simply unfair. They may be highly intelligent and see the world in numbers but they can be good company. Master Actuary, Nick Dumbreck, delivered a witty and entertaining speech, with precision timing, welcoming his guests. My Manchester United allegiance was mentioned in the same breath as West Bromwich Albion; the team that had demonstrated, at the weekend, why City rather than United were the worthy winners of the English Premiership League.
The food and wine were excellent and I was delighted to be sat next to Actuaries IPM, Sally Bridgeland and Past Master Huw Wynne-Griffith (who is also a watch aficionado). It was a nice touch that Masters were invited from the companies which proudly count David Parrott as honourary chaplain. Clearly, David was so shocked by the gesture that he left the country for some considerable time. We looked forward to his return and raised a glass in his absence.
Thursday 12th April 2018
Tucked away in Devonshire Square, just off Bishopsgate, is the smallest livery hall in the City. Coopers' Hall is one of the oldest buildings in the City, built in the reign of Charles II. It is a wonderfully elegant building with a Georgian facade but remains a late 17th century timber-framed building.
The Master Cooper has had a long and distinguished career in the City and it has a been a pleasure talking to Roy and Celia on the circuit over the last 6 months or so. The dining room is beautifully proportioned and 30 of us sat down to an outstanding dinner prepared by Cook & Butler. The wines were superb, very generous and matched the twice baked lobster soufflé, the rack of lamb and white wine and chilli poached pear perfectly. There was an intimate atmosphere, formal but relaxed with very good company. It was, without doubt, one of the most memorable evenings of my year.
Wednesday 11th April 2018
The Annual Cobham Lecture is held in memory of Sir Alan Cobham who developed the 'probe and drogue' method of air to air refuelling in 1949. His legacy is Cobham plc, a defence company listed on the FTSE 250. The lecture was entitled: "Behind the Men (mostly!), Machines and Myths – 100 years of the Royal Air Force" and was presented by Sebastian Cox, Head of the Air Historical Branch (RAF) in the Ministry of Defence, and a Co-Director of the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies.
In just over an hour, Mr Cox covered the history of the RAF but discussed in some detail the establishment of the service and the threats from the Navy and Army, which were intent on protecting their share of the defence budget. We heard about how the early aircraft were fragile and prone to failure. It's a fascinating story which was told in a very entertaining fashion by Mr Cox, who was not shy about discussing his own controversial views on certain chapters in the history of the RAF.
It was a privilege to spend time in the Royal Air Force Club. The ballroom, where the lecture was held, has a ceiling painted as a blue sky with clouds and a bi-plane in one of the corners. The event was well attended by livery companies and there was an opportunity to meet friends in the bar after the Q&A session.
Wednesday 11th April 2018
It was my third Big Curry Lunch at Guildhall (or possibly fourth). I am sure our Learned Clerk will know how many I've attended. Our Benevolent Fund supports this event with a donation to ABF The Soldiers' Charity. There were many members of the armed forces present, together with senior ranks, past and present, including General Sir Mike Jackson. I saw several inspirational former soldiers who have adapted to life on prosthetic limbs, a sobering reminder of the importance of ABF The Soldiers' Charity. The major sponsor of the event is now British American Tobacco. As supporters, Sandra and I were invited to the Royal Reception which was attended by Princess Eugenie.
Some 1,200 sat down to a Curry Lunch through three sittings. That's a big curry lunch by any measure. Sandra and I were on the last sitting at 2pm which gave us an opportunity to buy raffle tickets, sample Cobra beer, chat to fellow liveryman Sean Gavin who creates two cocktails for the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress every year and meet friends from other livery companies. It had been several weeks since I enjoyed a curry (due to a ridiculous diet imposed on me) so I enjoyed every mouthful of my lunch. When we exited the Great Hall, we browsed stalls offering products from several livery companies: orchids from the Gardeners, tankards from the Pewterers, socks from the Framework Knitters and turned wood from the Turners. I left with a rather nice piece of turned cherry wood. I haven't received a phone call about my raffle ticket which I have now written off as a charitable donation.
Monday 26th March 2018
The Smoking Club is great fun. You don't have to smoke to enjoy the evening but it helps. By its nature, the venues are places where there are arrangements for smokers. Those who do smoke at a Smoking Club evening tend to enjoy fine cigars and, as a result, there can be a great deal of cigar smoke to enjoy passively. The winter has been long and exceptionally cold and on a late March evening, we assembled in a courtyard at the back of the Boot and Flogger on the south side of the river. The Tobacco Pipe Makers' smoking caps were particularly useful. It's a fascinating hostelry just south of Borough Market with the air of a 19th century drinking establishment. As you will see from the photographs, participants were bathed in the red glow of outdoor heaters (and we needed them). The Smoking Club is an opportunity to meet potential members of the Company who are considering joining. I had the pleasure of meeting with two potential members. My son James, has also become a regular visitor to the Club in recent years.
Sunday 25th March 2018
The Learned Clerk reassured me that being left handed would not be a handicap for the Sirrah Cup. Using firearms can be a painful process if you are left handed because the spent shells are ejected towards the side of your head. "Although the guns are real, you won't be using live ammunition", she said. Sandra was right about the ammunition. The hardware is real enough but computers and pressurised gas mean the recoil from firing is there but the noise is reduced and the smell of cordite is absent. Nevertheless, all but the Glock 17 is designed for right handed soldiers and I had to shoot using the wrong hand and eye. This gave me the perfect excuse for a poor score. I'll deal with the Learned Clerk later.
It was great fun and the Tobacco Pipe Makers consoled themselves that this type of weaponry is best left in the hands of the professionals. The Irish Rifles Company of the London Regiment looked professional and they retained the Sirrah Cup with ease. A third team from the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) also romped home in second place. Bearing in mind these ladies are trained to save lives, if push comes to shove, they are capable of defending themselves.
The competition is played out using assault rifles and then we had a go with heavy machine guns. Great fun! The last competition was each man or woman for themselves using Glock 17 pistols. My son, James, got through to a play off with a FANY. Much to the relief of the Pipe Makers, James won so we weren't totally embarrassed.
Thank you to Major Bob and the Irish Rifles Company of the London Regiment for organising a splendid day for us. It is a great experience, regardless of whether you are left or right handed. Thank you to Sandra for organising our end of the experience.
Tuesday 20th March 2018
I cannot believe the year has gone so quickly. The main business of the Election Court is to re-elect the officers of the Company (I was relieved when our Learned Clerk, Treasurer and Beadle agreed to stand for re-election) and to elect the next Master and his wardens. That's it. I am almost history!
I shall be succeeded by Roger Brookes when he is installed in June. He and Sally are going to have a fabulous year. I was delighted to install Harry Borovick, Rae Maile and Simon Millson as freeman and gown Baron Stephan von Schilling in the livery. There was other business for the Court to consider but my main job was to finish by 12:30 for the reception, to avoid the risk of the champagne getting warm. The Mistress had organised a tour of Charterhouse for spouses and past mistresses. It was a relief when she, and her party, also arrived at the reception on time.
Armourers' Hall is rather impressive with plenty of mediaeval hardware on show. The food provided by Cook & Butler was very good and I enjoyed the Rubicon with the main course. The star of the show was the Mistress who proposed a toast to the Company and Master. A thoroughly enjoyable day.
Friday 16th March 2018
The United Guilds Service is now in its 76th year. The first service was held in 1943 to lift the spirits of the City following the Blitz. It is an opportunity for the City to dress up in gowns and provide a photo opportunity for the tourists outside. This year, companies number 73 to 82 were invited to process with the Great Twelve. It was an honour to be part of the procession. I was delighted that we had filled our row. As always, the music was superb and the sermon could not be criticised for being too brief.
After the service, the Mistress accompanied the Clerk, IPM and Immediate Past Mistress, PM Mark Gower-Smith and Paul & Sharon Taberer to Stationers' Hall for lunch.
Thursday 15th March 2018
This was proving to be a very busy week but the energy levels will always rise for a white tie dinner at Mansion House. There were over 300 guests and the champagne flowed during the reception. Excellent food was accompanied by generous wines. During the meal, the Honourable Artillery Company Band competed with the buzz of conversation from the guests. There were speeches from the Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, Master Mercer and Master Grocer. All three speeches were on message as far as the Pan Livery Collaboration project was concerned. After the dinner, there was a stirrup cup and I think I had a slight thick head in the morning.
Wednesday 14th March 2018
It was our fourth year to see the hugely entertaining Trial & Error performance at the Old Bailey. The evening is in support of the Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund and Pan Intercultural Arts. After a reception in the Grand Hall of the Central Criminal Court, we were ushered in to Court No 2 (Court No 1 is having the decorators in). The format is short plays illustrating trials that have taken place at the Old Bailey over the last 400 years. His Honour Peter Rook QC, devised and scripted the shows with musical support from Colin Sell. The plays can be very amusing and some can be full of pathos.
The performers include judges, barristers and guests such as our very own Fiona Adler. In fact, the centre fold in this year's Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund annual report and accounts features a colour photo of Fiona playing a woman of ill repute in last year's show. The second act was The Witch's Tale with Fiona playing Jane Wenham, who was accused of witchcraft. The act closed with Fiona singing a show stopper number: "I just like to fly in the sky". Other trials included Ruth Ellis (the last woman to be hanged in the UK), Stephen Ward (osteopath to the rich and famous in the early 60s) and publishers of Oz magazine. After the show, the Mistress and I enjoyed supper with Roger and Jenny Merton.
Monday 12th March 2018
When it's raining, Watermen's Hall involves the longest walk from a tube station. Originally, the Hall would have been closer to the River Thames but nowadays there is Lower Thames Street and the old Billingsgate Market between the Hall and the River. Despite the rain, there was a warm welcome as I entered the Hall and joined fellow Masters for a glass of wine. Senior Warden Roger Brookes was there mixing with other senior wardens and masters who will be on the circuit when his year starts in June. Cook & Butler put on a fine spread with a Brill and Lobster starter followed by whole boned Quail. Master Water Conservator, Mike Williamson, organised the dinner and Alderman Peter Estlin was the excellent principal speaker.
Thursday 8th March 2018
A fun event because the Hackney Carriage Drivers as a company are responsible for one of the most high profile livery events of the year. They organise the Magical Taxi Tour when over 100 cabs take sick and terminally ill children on a trip of a lifetime to Disneyland Paris. I had the privilege of sitting next to Past Master Phil Davis who has organised each Magical Mystery Tour.
It was my first visit to Carpenters' Hall and the place is very impressive. The toasts were entertaining, Master David Cannell was followed by the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, who gave us an insight into recent developments in the justice system and the work of the Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund.
Wednesday 7th March 2018
The Wellington is everyone's favourite venue for a livery function. Moored on the Thames, just a stone's throw from my old office in Globe House, the ship is the most westerly part of the City. An anchor line reaches into the City. Master Mariner, Captain Martin Reed, is one of the most hospitable and kindly Masters on the circuit. There was a reception on the quarter deck before we went blow for an excellent lunch which included, sword fish, venison and pear & ginger tarte tatin. It was a very agreeable occasion with excellent company.
Thursday 22nd February 2018
The Mistress, Learned Clerk and I took our seats for the 31st Annual Tacitus lecture with around 1,000 others, representing the great and the good of the City. It is a remarkable evening and congratulations to the World Traders for maintaining the momentum of this highly anticipated event. The Master World Trader, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, introduced his speaker as one of the world's great polymaths. Indeed, Dr Nathan Myhrvold, is a remarkable man with an incomparable academic record. He was Chief Strategist and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft. During his entertaining and engaging 50 minute speech, he sought to reassure members of the audience who may have beed rattled by Elon Musk's views that artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to humanity. I haven't lost too much sleep worrying about AI, so I was content to accept Dr Myhrvold's reassurance that cyber trade and AI can enhance our work and lives. I would add the proviso that Apple must get Siri to work before that can happen. In addition to his career in technology, Dr Myhrvold is also an award winning photographer, a highly acclaimed chef and the principal author of Modernist Cuisine. After the lecture, we enjoyed some reassuring wine and canapes in the Guildhall library.
Wednesday 21st February 2018
It was a debate rather than a lecture with 4 speakers giving their views on the City's architecture "Heritage and Modernity - War or Peace?". It was highly subjective and very entertaining. Master Architect, Stephen Wagstaffe, took us back to the 1950s when the City was dominated by St Paul's Cathedral which was surrounded by bomb sites waiting to be developed. Then and now photographs illustrated how much the City has changed and the views for the better or worse were given by Peter Luscombe, Chairman of the City Heritage Society, Annie Hampson, Chief Planning Officer and Peter Finch, Editorial Director of the Architectural Review. For what it's worth, my views supported the argument that to remain relevant, the City must change to meet the changing needs of business. There is a core of high rise buildings east of Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Street which look imposing and dramatic while new developments such as the Bloomberg offices on the site of Walbrook House can be sympathetic to the heritage of the City. A fascinating debate that continued over a glass or two of wine.
Monday 5th February 2018
You don't often see snow in the City but at 11am, there was a snow flurry as I made my way from St Paul's tube station. It was cold. Very cold with a chilling wind from the northern Atlantic. Two hours later, the Mistress and I were welcoming those who had signed up for a tour of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The Mistress and I have been to the Chelsea Flower Show many times and had often looked at Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece on the other side of the gates. The newly restored King Charles II understood that if he has to keep the army on his side, he would have to look after his soldiers.
The Royal Hospital is a Grade I and II listed site, a beautiful architectural legacy left by Charles II and Sir Christopher Wren. In 1681, King Charles II issued a Royal Warrant authorising the building of the Royal Hospital Chelsea to care for those 'broken by age or war'. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design and erect the building. Sir Stephen Fox was commissioned to secure the funds necessary to progress the build.
The chosen site, set adjacent to the River Thames in the countryside of Chelsea contained the uncompleted building of the former 'Chelsey College'. In 1692 work was finally completed and the first Chelsea Pensioners were admitted in February 1692 and by the end of March the full complement of 476 were in residence.
Some 300 army veterans live at the Royal Hospital today, including those who have served in Korea, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and World War II. Others may not have served in campaigns, but all understand what it means to be a soldier and the potential sacrifice that it entails.
Our guide was Bill Bullick who had served as a technician for many years in Germany. He has been a Resident of RHC for 6 years. Resplendent in his scarlet uniform, Bill had us outside in the biting wind, describing the finer points of the architectural masterpiece, who lives where and the choreography of Founder's Day. They are made of stern stuff, these Chelsea Pensioners. We were taken into the warmth of the splendid Great Hall and then the magnificent Wren Chapel. Bill's tour was informative, full of anecdotes and fascinating. All good things must come to an end. When the tour finished at the museum, there was a mad dash for the warmth of a cream tea in the RHC cafe.
Our thanks to all who supported the event.
Wednesday 31st January 2018
Guildhall School holds a number of events for supporters during the year. The Scholars Concert in the Silk Street Music Hall is quite intimate with a variety of short performances from highly talented students. The Concert started with a jazz quartet supporting a remarkable vocalist, opening with "Pennies From Heaven"; an oboist and pianist performed Bozza's "Fantasie Pastorale", before 2nd year actors provided a hilarious Comic Interlude. An outstanding mezzo soprano sang two pieces from The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville before the Concert closed with a finale from two pianists demonstrating their virtuosity on the Steinway. After the Concert, we had the opportunity to meet the performers and other students who all had the same message; without the support from livery companies and other donors, they would not be able to study at Guildhall School. A very special evening.
Wednesday 24th January 2018
I missed the September Court, so this was the first Court I had chaired. The meeting went according to plan and I was grateful to Court members who gave me a relatively easy time. I had the pleasure of installing a new Court Assistant, Henry Tuck and a new Freeman, Rob Burton. We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Richard Tranter's installation as a freeman at the 1968 January Court.
The meeting finished 10 minutes later than planned so we assembled hastily for the usual photographs before Senior Warden, Roger Brookes, and I began the process of meeting and greeting the guests. Goldsmiths' Hall is so splendid, it is difficult to find the words to describe how privileged we were to be given permission to hold our dinner there.
The guests arrived and champagne was drunk. The Beadle organised Lord Chris Smith (my principal guest), Sheriff Alderman Tim Hailes, his consort Fiona Adler, the Mistress, the Wardens and me into a procession and we entered the hall to the Scipio March. After another perfect grace led by Honorary Chaplain, David Parrott, Chester Boyd served a tasty meal of trout, guinea fowl, followed by an apple tart tatin. The French wines complimented the dishes and we were soon into toasts and speeches. Assistant Elise Ace welcomed and toasted our guests. Lord Smith gave an outstanding speech underlining the importance of the work of Pembroke House Walworth (a charity we support). I was delighted to have representatives from some of our other charities together with my family and friends. Three students from the Guildhall School of Music and Dance entertained us before we adjourned for the Stirrup Cup. Alas, the evening was soon over. Nevertheless, it was a night to remember.
Thursday 18th January 2018
The Upholders have been making life more comfortable for the population since their company was formed in 1360. A Royal Charter was granted in 1626. Master Upholder, Judy Tayler-Smith, certainly made the Mistress and me most comfortable when we arrived at Brewers' Hall for the Court dinner. We feasted on a starter of potted ham followed by pheasant accompanied by wines from South Africa and Italy. Master Upholder knows a great deal about wines. The "Master stroke" was a delicious Organic Chocolate Stout served with dessert. Perfect for Brewers' Hall. Paul Herbage gave a very good speech underlying the importance of the Pan Livery Collaboration. The Master managed to insert a huge number of puns into her response; a tour de force!
Tuesday 9th January 2018
My first livery event of the new year took place at Plaisterers' Hall on London Wall. The dinner generously provided for the masters and clerks of more than 120 companies was a magnificent affair. The Plaisterers have the largest dining hall in the City which can seat 350. This evening, we had a top table with 11 sprigs. I had a perfect spot on the centre sprig surrounded by the Goldsmith's Clerk (a retired diplomat), some Plaisterers, Master Painter Stainer, Master Chartered Surveyor and the Clerk to the Merchant Taylors (a retired Admiral). There was excellent conversation and, despite the numbers, the food was delicious. Master Plaisterer, his principal guest, Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths, together with The Clerk to the Plaisterers, gave some excellent and witty speeches. Music was provided by Apollo 5 before we retired for a Stirrup Cup. A great start to 2018!
Thursday 7th December 2017
The Lord Mayor's Big Curry lunch is held at Guildhall in the spring. The organisers, supporters, representatives from ABF The Soldiers' Charity and civic representatives met at the City of London Club for the launch party. General Sir Mike Jackson gave a very good speech and reminded us that many of the veterans who returned from the Napoleonic Wars ended up on the streets of the City begging. Without the support of charities such as the ABF The Soldiers' Charity, today's troops returning from conflict zones would face the same predicament as Wellington's heroes.
Wednesday 6th December 2017
The annual Carol Service normally takes place during the first week of December. It was a busy day for me with a GPC meeting, followed by a Benevolent Fund Trustees' meeting. Nevertheless, the Mistress and I arrived at St Lawrence Jewry in good time with chilled Gavi di Gavi to ensure that arrangements for the readers were all in place. On arrival, I was taken aback by the fact that the Christmas Tree outside the church was in darkness. The Lady Mayoress had not switched on the lights on the tree in Guildhall Yard and until those lights were on, the St Lawrence Jewry tree must remain in darkness.
Mark Gower-Smith co-ordinates and chooses the music for the carol service. This year, it was simply perfect. Catherine Ennis played the organ and we were treated to an exceptional performance. The Sevenoaks School Choir were outstanding and their performance of The Lamb with music by John Tavener was perfect. My thanks to the readers: Archie Smith, Elise Rasmussen, Charles Miller and Roger Brookes. Honorary Chaplain, David Parrott gave a thoughtful sermon which played upon Immediate Past Master Miller's profession as an auctioneer and antiques expert. Our charities were represented and there was an opportunity to chat over a glass or two of wine before we departed for dinner. As we stepped outside, it was clear that the Lady Mayoress had switched on the lights in Guildhall Yard and the St Lawrence Jewry tree was illuminated. Christmas had arrived.
Thursday 30th November 2017
The Mercers' Company lay claim to being the oldest (and the premier) livery company. The first known written reference to the Mercers' Company is in a lawsuit of 1304. The first royal charter was granted by Richard II in 1393/94. It was my second visit to Mercers' Hall in the space of a couple of weeks. The Mistress and I joined other masters and consorts for a drink before we were ushered into the main hall for a thoroughly entertaining performance by Crispian Steele-Perkins (a virtuoso solo trumpeter who has played with the greats in the classical world and lead trumpet with Led Zeppelin and Kate Bush) and, on piano, was Leslie Pearson (a distinguished keyboard player who played with the Philharmonia for 40 years and composed many TV and film themes).
Crispian collects and restores ancient brass instruments and we were treated to the history of the trumpet, illustrated by a range of performances on a variety of instruments covering Handel to Bacharach. It was a privilege to be there to enjoy two outstanding musicians.
After the music came a delicious supper of beef with a plentiful supply of wine. It was an outstanding evening to be remembered as a highlight of my year.
Tuesday 28th November 2017
Is there a better way to celebrate a birthday than joining the Basketmakers' at their Masters' & Clerks' dinner at Skinners' Hall? Prime Warden, Stephen Gee, made the guests very welcome before we took our places at dinner. Skinners' Hall is such a pretty livery hall and it is a treat to be invited there. The proceedings had a rather agreeable twist in the shape of a charity auction of several examples of basketmakers' art. I was outbid on two of the three lots and went home empty handed but not without memories of a splendid dinner in delightfully convivial company.
Wednesday 22nd November 2017
The fourth engagement of the day ... one may be forgiven for thinking that a lecture at the Actuaries may be a dry affair. Wrong on two accounts. The wine flowed and the lecture was very entertaining.
The lecture was given by Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor at Churchill College Cambridge and it was entitled: "Dodgy data in the news how to spot it and how to stop it." Professor Spiegelhalter went to great lengths to avoid the term "fake news". He covered Bullsh*t v Lies; apparently bullsh*tters don’t care about truth.
We heard about the power of the press release and it seems that communications folk and press officers are the baddies. Having spent 20 years writing press releases and talking to the press, I felt slightly uncomfortable. We saw slides of headlines and news graphics that indicated journalists (or their sub-editors) do not have a clue.
We had the back stories behind several headlines involving Professor Spiegelhalter:
After the lecture, we enjoyed a delicious supper of braised shin of beef in the good company of fellow masters and actuaries. A perfect end to a very busy day.
Wednesday 22nd November 2017
This was the third Festival of St Cecilia the Mistress and I have attended. We have completed the full set of the three venues: St Paul's, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. St Cecilia is the patron saint of music and the service is organised jointly by Help Musicians UK and the Worshipful Company of Musicians. As the service is all about musicians, the choirs, organists and soloists, it was a revelation to experience the remarkable acoustics of Westminster Cathedral. I'll let you into a secret, Sir Christopher Wren spent more attention on the dome than the acoustics when designing St Paul's. Highlights were the performance by the choirs of Heinrich Schutz's motet and Crispian Steele-Perkin's performance of John Stanley's Trumpet Voluntary in D.
After the service, the Clerk, Mistress and I had a very pleasant "toad in the hole" lunch at Brown's with the Immediate Past Master and Camilla. Browns was packed with masters, wardens and clerks from various livery companies.
Wednesday 22nd November 2017
On a busy day involving four events, I have combined the Pan Livery Collaboration breakfast meeting at Mercers' Hall and the Lord Mayor's address. The new Lord Mayor gave speeches at both events and they were on message. To put it simply, there is general ignorance about the Livery movement and the City of London. Much needs to be done to promote the work of both in particularly challenging times. The work of the combined 110 livery companies will be much more effective than measuring what is done on company by company basis. There is money to be saved with some of the initiatives. I was particularly heartened to see a focus on preparing young people for employment and supporting the type of work done by the Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund to help ex-offenders get into employment and reduce reoffending.
Saturday 11th November 2017
At 11 o' clock, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, some 99 years ago since hostilities ceased; the band and shuffling feet stopped on Gresham Street for a two minutes silence. To be safe, the silence was at least three minutes. We heard the bands and cheers start on Cheapside but we remained silent on Gresham Street until the band some 50 metres ahead struck up. The drizzle that had depressed the City at 09:30 had also lifted. The choice of the fair weather gown proved to be correct and we (and the 100 plus other floats and participants) were in high spirits. I had participated in two previous Lord Mayor's Shows and this proved to be the first dry run. Sans pleut, the parade trotted along at a good pace. The crowds were in excellent spirit and, before long, we had doffed our caps to the newly installed Lord Mayor at Mansion House and waved at the TV cameras. A quick left then a right, past the St Paul's chicane and we were climbing up the hill from Ludgate Circus to the Royal Courts of Justice. The crowds cheered and welcomed high fives right up to our pit stop at HQS Wellington. The Tobacco Pipe Makers have a reputation for turning sparkling chardonnay into something very palatable at HQS Wellington with a selection of hip flasks of Sloe Gin, Scottish Water and King's Ginger. 2017 was no exception on the mobile bar front and the clanking of metal hip flasks was warmly welcomed by other walkers. We were soon back on to the Embankment at 13:30 and the parade set off on the climb back up to Mansion House. There were many more high fives and cheers as the bands set the pace on the home leg.
It was a wonderful day. Many thanks to Senior Warden, Roger Brookes and Renter Warden, Andrew Golding for making it a Lord Mayor's Show to remember. Credit to my son, James, for some of the photographs.
Thursday 9th November 2017
The Mistress and I attended the Supporters' Evening in our capacity as Master and Mistress and also in my capacity as Secretary of the Benevolent Fund. The Benevolent Fund has been a long time supporter of the Guildhall Trust, currently helping three students through their two years masters' courses. I make no apologies about being passionate about this cause and that was reinforced by the opportunity to meet two of the hugely talented students we help. I also believe that the City of London's unique strength in addressing the uncertainties of Brexit is the cultural diversity it has to offer. Art is an important part of the City's cultural offering.
We met Philippa Bint, a first year masters student studying the viola. Make no mistake, our students are very grateful for their scholarships and they will testify that they would not be able to accept the course without the help dispensed through the Guildhall Trust. I feel it is a privilege that we enjoy by being able to help students such as Philippa. She was charming, passionate about her studies and extremely grateful for our support.
We also met Michael Vickers, who sang at my Installation Dinner and will also perform at the January Dinner. He is a young man full of personality with an immense talent. He is in his second year of his masters degree and currently applying for auditions to pursue a career following his graduation next summer. It would be wonderful if we could see him at Glyndebourne next season. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing him perform with Ben Smith in January.
Wednesday 8th November 2017
The Horners' Livery Company represents the Plastics and Composites Industry in the City. Horns, I learnt last night, are natural polymers and polymers are the basics of plastics. We were invited to the Royal Society of Medicine to hear a lecture from Dr Matt Burke of GSK. The order was black tie, medals and badges and the lecture was to be followed by a buffet dinner. Dr Burke's talk covered the application of polymers in medicine covering: applications for pills, implants, packaging, inhalers, auto-syringes and bio-electronic implants. The bulk of his talk covered control release of drugs into the body using polymer-based pill designs. What appeared to be a relatively straightforward issue is complicated by the unpredictable way the stomach holds its contents then decides to pass the contents into the small intestine. The acidic and digestive properties of the stomach are quite different to that of the intestines and the absorption rates of a drug would be very different in each environment. Designing a pill to anticipate such behaviours is what Dr Burke and his team are seeking to achieve. What happens if they get it wrong? Well, we were shown an X ray image of a stomach containing 61 coated aspirin tablets still waiting to be passed on to the intestine. As you may gather, it was a subject I found fascinating.
The talk was followed by the buffet and an opportunity to chat to fellow masters, who seemed to find the discussion equally fascinating.
Wednesday 8th November 2017
Master Environmental Cleaner, Jack Broadley, is one of those masters on the circuit with whom I am always happy to pass the time of day. A Scot with a dry sense of humour, Jack is promoting the values of the Environmental Cleaners through recycling. He was Master in 2004 and again, Master for a second time, in 2017. The Environmental Cleaners base themselves at Armourers' Hall in Coleman Street; a hall I have booked for the Election Court in March. After a grouse lunch and a very satisfactory supply of Rioja, we were entertained by very funny speeches from the Master and our Honorary Chaplain, Canon David Parrott. They were both on great form.
Monday 6th November 2017
The opening of the Annual Garden of Remembrance at St Paul's is traditionally the launch of the City's Poppy Appeal. This year's opening fell on the 100th anniversary of the day when British and Canadian troops were finally able to capture Passchendaele, marking the end of the Third Battle of Ypres which had started in July of that year. British forces were exhausted, after the long, grinding offensive, with some 275,000 casualties, including 70,000 dead—as opposed to 260,000 on the German side. The Third Battle of Ypres proved to be one of the most costly Allied offensives of World War I.
As we gathered on a cold and sunny November morning, the Band of the Scots Guards played while dignitaries took their positions and the Masters of the several livery companies of the City of London were ordered into precedence. The ceremony of planting crosses and poppies on the lawn was completed without any mistakes, "Abide with me" was sung and, after the National Anthem, many of the masters set off to a warming lunch at the Watermen's Hall on the eastern side of the City.
Sunday 5th November 2017
Thirty five years ago, a young Dr Parmley agreed to become an unpaid assistant organist at the Wren church, St James Garlickhythe. The deal was: Andrew Parmley needed an organ to practise on and St James Garlickhythe has one of the best organs in the City. Both Andrew and Wendy Parmley have supported St James for 35 years, providing support for the Sunday school, restoration projects and organising the music. While they have have risen in the City to become Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, he has retained his unpaid position as assistant organist of St James Garlickhythe.
The service was a sung Eucharist and the organist, together with his St James Quintet of outstanding singers, provided a remarkable musical experience. Father Jeremy Crossley gave a moving sermon full of good humour, praising the work of Parmleys. Father Tim Handley later echoed Father Jeremy's sentiments with equal humour. It appears to be a requirement that the City of London's clergy are armed with an acute sense of humour and rapier wit.
When the organist finished the organ voluntary, JS Bach's Prelude in F minor, he was invited down to the knave where a cake had been wheeled out for cutting. The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress duly cut the cake and the congregation chatted over delicious fruit cake and wine. Incidentally, the recipe for the cake had been published by Wendy Parmley, 35 years earlier in the parish magazine.
5 days until the Parmleys vacate Mansion House.
Thursday 2nd November 2017
The Lady Mayoress, Wendy Parmley, held a champagne reception in the Egyptian Room at Mansion House, attended by friends, supporters and representatives from various livery companies connected with the Lord Mayor. It was a splendid event. Sandra Stocker, Elise Rasmussen, the Mistress and I enjoyed delicious canapes and flowing champagne. The highlight of the evening was the Lady Mayoress's account of their mayoralty year, supported by photographs projected on to screens behind and the occasional quip from the Lord Mayor himself. It has been an outstanding mayoralty and a privilege for all who have been connected with it. Just 8 days until the Parmleys vacate Mansion House.
Friday 27th October 2017
The Mistress and I were guests of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters at their Livery Banquet at Fishmongers' Hall. It was a splendid evening in one of the most impressive of London's 40 Livery Company Halls. Although I have been in Fishmongers' Hall during the day, at night, when the chandeliers are candle lit and there is that wonderful view over the Thames and London Bridge, the Hall is magical. As guests enjoyed champagne in white tie and evening dress, we had the opportunity to chat to fellow Masters and consorts on the the circuit. We also got an update from Liz Green (Immediate Past Master Framework Knitter) on her campaign to be elected non-aldermanic sheriff.
A highlight of a visit to Fishmongers' Hall is the opportunity to view Pietro Annigoni's 1955 portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth II. No photographs are allowed but it is probably the best known of Annigoni's portraits.
Dinner was a salmon terrine, followed by pan-friend sea bream with some excellent wines. Entertainment came in the form of 5 songs from Instant Sunshine, who are well known to Radio 4 listeners. The entertainment continued with a response to the toast to the Lord Mayor and City Corporation from Dame Fiona and Nicholas Woolf working as a very good double act. Master, Peter White, delivered an excellent response and invited us to partake in the Stirrup Cup before setting off home. A delightful evening.
Thursday 26th October 2017
I have a soft spot for Pembroke House. The Benevolent Fund has supported two projects at Pembroke House for several years and Fiona Adler is a trustee (the only trustee who is not an alumnus of Pembroke College, Cambridge). Pembroke House has been a focal point for the Walworth community since 1885. It was an Oxbridge mission serving a very deprived community in south-east London; a role it continues to fulfil today. The Rev'd David Evans leads an inspirational team that provides activities which bring people of very different backgrounds together. For example, the Community Lunch included the Lord Mayor, Fiona Adler, representatives from several livery companies and local residents. We ate a delicious lunch and were treated to a performance by the Academy of Music. It took a great deal of effort by the Learned Clerk and me to avoid being included in a class being run by the Inclusive Dance group. After lunch, we enjoyed two remarkable performances by Janice, a highly talented 10 year old violinist, and Joshua, a cellist, who has won a music scholarship to Dulwich College. The Pembroke House team are very grateful to the Benevolent Fund for the support they receive but I believe that we should be grateful for having such a worthwhile cause to support.
Thursday 19th October 2017
The Selection Court Dinner with the Fan Makers presented an opportunity to return to Skinners’ Hall for the first time since my Installation. It is a favourite of mine with outdoor space for those who may wish to enjoy a cigar. The Fan Makers are based at Skinners Hall, having secured a “tenancy” over 20 years ago.
The Learned Clerk and I were invited to dinner following the Court Meeting, when new freemen and liverymen are admitted to the Company. One new freeman was a delightful young lady who actually made fans in Greenwich. I sat on the top table between Master Innholder and Master Lightmonger. The conversation was lively and the food and wine was delicious. The principal guest was the City's Remembrancer, Paul Double LVO. His speech was about the office of Remembrancer which was established in 1571. He acts as the communication channel between the City and Parliament and is entitled to sit opposite the Speaker in the House of Commons. He must be doing something right because the Green Party has demanded that the position be abolished. Master Fan Maker, Marshall Blaker, responded with a witty and humorous speech before inviting us to partake in the Stirrup Cup. A very pleasant evening.
Monday 16th October 2017
The Annual Banquet is the Master’s biggest night of the year. Planning and preparation is meticulous and our Learned Clerk works tirelessly to ensure the night is a success. I apologise to Sandra for the added pressure of holding my Banquet at Mansion House. This added a new layer of protocol and stress but Sandra took it all in her stride.
We arrived an hour before the guests to get familiar with the surroundings and ensure that we knew exactly where we needed to be and when. It also gave me the opportunity to spend a few minutes with toast master, Jamie Wallis. After photographs with my wardens and respective wives, we opened the doors and manned the receiving line. It was lovely to greet family, guests, visiting masters and fellow liverymen. Shortly after 7pm, there was a fanfare and the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress arrived in the reception room. After more photographs, we were called to order and processed behind the Beadle into the Egyptian Room.
An email earlier in the day from our Honorary Chaplain informed me that Hurricane Ophelia and Michael O’Leary had conspired to detain him in Londonderry. Nevertheless, Canon David Parrott had penned a rhyming grace which I was delighted to deliver in his absence:
We meet tonight in this fine Hall
Tobacco Livery one and all
But, oh! Our Chaplain is not here;
The clerk thought that was very queer.
It seems he cannot say this prayer,
He’s been delayed by Ryanair.
He went to Londonderry town.
He set off home; the planes were down.
So, give God thanks for food and wine,
For our Lord Mayor with whom we dine,
And may my Chaplain be in place
Next time he’s due to say a grace!
The Mansion House catering team provided an excellent lamb dinner, delivered with faultless efficiency to almost 200 people. The London Banqueting Ensemble entertained us during dinner and the Lord Mayor encouraged audience participation in the form of hand clapping. After the loyal toast, the London Banqueting Ensemble performed their hilarious Post Horn Gallop.
The Lord Mayor responded to my toast with a speech full of humour, wit and confidence in London’s future, despite the uncertainties of Brexit. I had the pleasure of presenting the Lord Mayor with a cheque for £2,000 from our Benevolent Fund to his Appeal. Fourth Warden, Jerry Merton, introduced each of the official guests with in a very entertaining speech which culminated with a toast to our guests. My principal guest, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Smart responded on behalf of the guests with a speech that recalled the bravery and sacrifice of those fighting at Ypres exactly 100 years ago.
Sandra's meticulous planning was perfect and Toastmaster Jamie Wallis kept us on track. As the clock struck 10pm, our Beadle led me and the official guests out of the Egyptian Hall. It had been a triumphant evening which many of us continued at The Ned, across the road from Mansion House. At 1am, the Mistress and I hailed a cab and set off home to bed. What a Banquet!
My heartfelt thanks to Sandra and everyone who made it such a success.
Tuesday 10th October 2017
Last week, I wrote about The Learned Clerk's and my visit to Furniture Makers' Hall. We were back this evening, with the Mistress, for the Young Furniture Makers' Exhibition. The Exhibition spilled across Austin Friars in to the Dutch Church. The Church is the oldest Dutch language church in the world and was founded in the mid sixteenth century for Protestant refugees but, unfortunately, it was bombed in the Blitz. The present Church was completed in 1954. There is a delightful coffee bar in the basement and well worth visiting during a City walk.
The Exhibition displayed the work of very talented and innovative furniture makers who are still at college or have recently graduated and starting their careers. The craftsmanship of several pieces was quite extraordinary and it was a privilege to chat to the exhibitors and enjoy their enthusiasm for their craft. A memorable evening enjoyed in the company of great talent and several visiting masters.
Saturday 7th October 2017
Our Company has had a long association with the London Irish Rifles Company (D Company). An annual dinner is held to commemorate the London Irish Rifles Company's most famous battle honour at the Battle of Loos in 1915.
On 25th September 1915, the London Irish led their Division into action, and where Rifleman Frank Edwards and his comrades dribbled a football across No Man's Land before kicking it into the Germans' trench with a joyous shout of "goal". The battalion was able to lead its Division to overcome two lines of German trenches into the village of Loos, before withholding a massive enemy counterattack. During the battle, 5 officers and 66 other ranks were killed, and 4 officers and 144 other ranks wounded. 27 other ranks were also reported as being missing. The Battle of Loos was an attempt to break the deadlock of trench warfare and was the first major push by the British and French forces. There was appalling loss of life, casualties for little strategic or territorial reward. It was also the first use of gas in an offensive but its use did more harm to our own forces than the enemy.
In the bar at Camberwell you can raise a glass to the actual leather football that was retrieved from the German trench.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to the Mayor of Lambeth and her consort and we covered a wide range of topics that had emerged from the Conservative party's conference earlier in the week. We enjoyed the pipers and drummers and the speeches that recalled battle honours of the past and the uncertainties of future reorganisations. Major Bob Brown was the perfect host. On the table in front of the Mistress, Learned Clerk and me was the famous Sirrah Trophy. I had to take a quick picture of the trophy.
Friday 6th October 2017
The Children's Magical Disneyland Tour to Paris is an annual event organised by the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers. The first trip was in 1994 and our Benevolent Fund has been a proud supporter for many years. Over 100 black cabs set off in convoy taking sick children on a trip of a lifetime with full medical support. Before the convoy departs, sponsors are invited to join the children, their families and cabbies for a hearty cooked breakfast at the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf. The only snag is the departure time of 07:05 and breakfast stating at 6am. It was the second time I had participated and I parked my car beneath the East Wintergarden a minute or two before the 6 o' clock pips. The hall was humming with excited children, a brass band and several masters who looked as though they had not been to bed after the previous night's dinner. The Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Sheriffs and their consorts (including Fiona Adler) arrived soon after. There were speeches, hip hip hoorays and a call to the cabs. I found the Pipe Makers' cab on row 2 of the grid and wished our cabbie and his charges a safe and happy trip. The Lord Mayor cut the tape and off went the convoy towards the Channel ports. I recovered my car and listened to the 07:30 news as I headed for the M11 and M25 for home. Despite the early start, it was a heart warming experience watching the whole event.
Thursday 5th October 2017
In the order of Livery Companies' precedence, the Furniture Makers' Company immediately follows our Company at number 83. In 2005, the Furniture Makers became only the fourth Livery Company to acquire its first Hall since the Apothecaries in 1632. The Hall is a gem, tucked away in Austin Friars, a stones throw from Throgmorton Avenue. The Learned Clerk and I received a very warm welcome (and glass of cold champagne) from Master Furniture Maker, Dr Tony Smart. The Hall has a magnificent circular staircase rising from the hallway where we enjoyed our champagne. At lunch, I was entertained by three of the Company's past masters and Rev George R Bush, Chaplain to the Master. The Master proposed a toast to the guests and Paul Wells, Master Brewer responded on our behalf. During the lunch, I admired the contemporary and very tasteful furnishings. It was a treat to be invited to such an entertaining lunch.
Wednesday 4th October 2017
This is a very special annual service. Masters, Wardens and Clerks are invited to process in gowns, chains and badges from the Crypt Chapel of St Faith to take our places under the Dome. The procession is a fine sight in one of the world's most awe inspiring architectural masterpieces. The highlight of this service, was, as far as I was concerned, the reading of the names of members of the Musicians Livery who had died in the last year, followed by a moving performance by The Royal College of Music String Orchestra of Elgar's Elegy for Strings (Op. 58). After we were blessed, we processed down to the Crypt, where we removed our gowns and enjoyed wine and canapes. The second party I had enjoyed in the Crypt in a month.
Tuesday 3rd October 2017
The Painters' Decorative & Fine Art Society hold an annual exhibition of works which are available for purchase. This year's exhibition has held at the delightful Painters' Hall. As the Mistress and I arrived, many fellow Masters were already well into their sparkling wine and canapes. With works priced from £35 to several thousands, it's a good tactic to look at the pictures on arrival before embarking on lengthy chats with fellow masters. A water colour of the London Bridge Sheep Drive caught my eye. Alas, the orange sticker indicated that someone had beaten me to it. After an hour or so, the Mistress and I slipped away, as I made my way to join Past Master Michael Prideaux at our biannual Lomaxers' Dinner.
Friday 29th September 2017
It was back on with the morning coat, just 24 hours after we installed the new Sheriffs. In the crypt below the Great Hall at Guildhall, Masters and their beadles put on gowns, chains and, where relevant, hats. It was hot down there and we spent 15 minutes being organised into our numerical positions in the order of precedence. I always make a bee-line for Master Air Pilot and Master Furniture Maker - or do they make a bee-line for me? Prime Warden of the Fishmongers, HRH the Princes Royal, had her own assembly point above the crypt and seamlessly slipped into line as we processed in the sunshine across to St Laurence Jewry. I don't know whether my Lord Mayor, Andrew Palmley, had a hand in it but the music for the church service was particularly moving. As the sun illuminated the interior of Wren's church, the service seemed to me to be an uplifting experience. The sun also weighed upon my heavy woollen gown and morning coat. We prayed for guidance in our choice of candidate for Lord Mayor. The rules are simple: three candidates; one man, one vote and two of the three candidates should not receive votes this year (next year, maybe). The provision of guidance to the congregation was not going to be too taxing a task for the Almighty.
After our blessing, it was back over the yard to process into Common Hall. Master Air Pilot and Master Furniture Maker were both close at hand. All was well. Once seated in Common Hall, we are invited to stand as the Assistant Rembrancer led the final procession of City officials, Aldermen, The Mace, The Sword and, finally, the Lord Mayor. The Common Cryer called Common Hall to order and ordered non-liverymen to leave the Hall on pain of imprisonment. By the end of the proceedings, prayers had been answered, and Charles Edward Beck Bowman, Alderman and Grocer, was duly elected Lord Mayor of the City of London for the year ensuing. We were then treated to speeches thanking the former Sheriffs and the current Lord Mayor for their magnificent year. Willian Russell and Peter Estlin responded with a novel Two Ronnies news sketch. Once we had processed out again, it was a short walk over to Stationers' Hall for the traditional post Common Hall lunch. The Mistress and I were accompanied by our Learned Clerk, Elise Rasmussen, Fran Morrison and Paul Woodley.
Thursday 28th September 2017
Liveryman Christopher Sawyer generously hosted a dinner at the Reform Club for several members of the Court and their wives in honour of Barnabas (Barney) Suzuki and Sir Ivor Cohen. Representing The Pipe Club of Japan, Barney is Vice President of Comite´ International des Pipe Clubs and he was in the UK for the 2017 conference of Académie Internationale de la Pipe. Sir Ivor Cohen, former chairman of Remploy, had worked with Christopher to secure contracts when Japan was a bewildering environment for western businessmen. It was a very pleasant evening in the sumptuous Reform Club with tales of tobacco and business. There was even time for some to disappear into the garden to enjoy a cigar. Barney returned to Japan with a Livery smoking cap and a clay pipe, courtesy of the ever thoughtful IPM Charles Miller.
Thursday 28th September 2017
I was honoured to be invited to the Sheriffs' Breakfast, following their installation at Guildhall. The Installation was a relatively simple ceremony requiring the new sheriffs to pledge their allegiance and swear upon their collective peril to fulfil their obligations to the letter. The pledges given by both Sheriffs simultaneously were long and completely unambiguous without punctuation, hesitation but often repetition. In other words, by the time it was over, both Alderman Tim Hailes and Mr Neil Redcliffe are pretty much on the hook for anything that may befall the City of London over the next 12 months. Our new sheriffs follow a very successful year enjoyed by their hardworking and exceptionally convivial predecessors Aldermen William Russell and Peter Estin. I wish them well but I am confident it will be a vintage year.
After all the effort of an installation, we retired from the Great Hall for champagne and into the Old Library for the Sheriffs' Breakfast. Over champagne, I had an opportunity to chat to our Hon. Chaplin, David Parrott, who looked rather northern European puritanical in his black cassock and gown. Through all that sartorial austerity, David's welcoming smile will brighten any room. Into the Old Library (the books were removed decades ago, if they were ever there in the first place), we sat down, at 1:30pm, to a sumptuous breakfast. The analogy of a wedding breakfast was a common thread in the speeches that followed. Cornish lobster, served in sea urchin shells, perched on a bed of ice in a 6 inch high hock glass was followed by delicious Ballindalldoch hornless beef and both courses were assisted by an excellent Chablis and a Chateau Junayme, Canon-Fronsac '95. The piece de resistance was the Kiss of the City dragon, fashioned in very solid chocolate (see photograph).
The office of Sheriff of the City of London has judicial responsibilities and the Sheriffs will spend their year in apartments at the Old Bailey. It was naturally fitting that the toast to the retiring Sheriff's should be proposed by The Recorder of London, Judge Nicolas Hilliard QC. It was also fitting that David Lidington (Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice should propose the toast to the new Sheriffs. They both replied with good humour and humility.
Wednesday 27th September 2017
The Mistress and I joined the Learned Clerk and Alan Beggs at a reception held at the recently refurbished National Army Museum in Chelsea. Following a £23.75 million project, the museum was opened earlier this year by HM The Queen. After a plentiful supply of wine and delicious canapes, were were taken on a tour of the exhibits. There are many immersive exhibits which will appeal to audiences of all ages and I would recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in the rich history of our forces.
Sunday 24th September 2017
The Learned Clerk, IPM Charles Miller, Assistant Elise Rasmussen, Freeman Courtney Rasmussen and I decided to exercise our ancient civic right to drive sheep across London Bridge without fear of tolls. This event, organised each year by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, raises funds for the Lord Mayors' Appeal and Woolmen's Charitable Funds. It was my first Sheep Drive and I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a very slick operation allowing at least two hundred participants to drive sheep. I was expecting a terrified flock but, in reality, we crossed about a quarter of the Bridge and the sheep were very relaxed until someone mentioned mint sauce. The event was opened by national treasure, Mary Berry, who has extended her baking talents to shepherd's pie. My son, James, arrived with a camera and he should take the credit for the photograph's. When the flock had reached a place of safety, the Mistress and I joined Elise for a birthday lunch in honour of Courtney. The menu was meat free which seemed very appropriate.
Monday 18th September 2017
From the first opportunity I had to see and hear Tim Hailes, I was confident that he would make an excellent sheriff and, in due course, I hope, Lord Mayor. I was very happy to contribute to his Shrieval Chain Appeal. There's an added bonus as our very own, Fiona Adler, is Tim's "Wingman" or Consort. The reception for supporters took place at Pewterer's Hall and I had the opportunity to have a convivial chat with Master Pewterer, Rod Kent. Alderman Sir David Wootton chaired the Shrieval Chain Appeal and he delivered a very entertaining speech. It appears that the family had turned over the Sherif Elect's school reports to Sir David; a gold mine for undermining anyone's credibility. Tim responded with a description of his coat of arms and how various facets of his life have been incorporated in the design, including portraits of his two pet dogs.
Thursday 14th September 2017
It was a quick dash from Fishmongers' Hall back to the flat for a quick change before heading to the Cavalry & Guards Club in Mayfair. We were treated to a private viewing of paintings and prints produced by the very talented Jeremy Houghton. What Houghton seeks to capture in many of his works is movement; be it Ben Ainslie's challenge to win the America's Cup, a DB3 leading the field at Goodwood or a Royal Ascot Procession. We were tempted to purchase an Aston DB5 in Scotland but it was just a bit too Skyfall for my wallet. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant evening enjoyed in the company of other Masters and their Mistresses / Consorts. We got home to see Simon Rattle and the LSO performance relayed to an audience in the Sculpture Yard.
Thursday 14th September 2017
This was my second City Livery Halls Walk, organised by W/C of Environmental Cleaners. I was a veteran of the 2016 Walk with Charles Miller which took place on an unseasonably hot September’s day. This time, it was dry and relatively cool. I was accompanied by the Mistress for the 9 miles and 40 livery halls. We gathered for breakfast on HQS Wellington and, after a detailed Health & Safety briefing and photographs, we set off for Apothecaries’ Hall. With some 50 or so walkers in the City of London, where crossing roads is becoming more hazardous each year, it was testament to the careful planning that we reached each of the destinations without loss of life. Deep in EC1, we arrived at the Information Technologists’ Hall to be greeted by Master Chris Histead with a tray of port. I seldom drink port before 10 ‘o clock in the evening but, at 10am, the glass was very welcome and went down nicely. Coffee was taken at the newly refurbished Salters’ Hall. By noon, we reached the Armourers’ Hall for lunch and a glass or two of wine. The day flew past as we were expertly guided through the City wearing our gowns and badges. Tourists stopped to take selfies with the assembled Masters. Our final stop was the magnificent Fishmongers’ Hall by London Bridge for a refreshing glass of sauvignon blanc. Thank you to the Master Environmental Cleaner for organising another successful and enjoyable walk.
Tuesday 12th September 2017
The Benevolent Fund makes an annual donation to the St Paul’s Cathedral Foundation for the Collections and the Clerk and I were invited to a reception, sponsored by Pol Roger to view some of the Cathedral’s treasures and say good bye to Roger Walkinton, who is leaving the Cathedral to take up a new post. The exhibits were set out in the North and South Quire Aisles with copes, mitres and other garments in the north and silver collection plates in the south. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore the Quire and High Altar which, for ordinary mortals, are visible in the distance during services. In the Crypt, we enjoyed some excellent canapes and the sponsor’s delightful white foil NV. A special evening.
Monday 11th September 2017
This event had a “back to school” feel about it. After the August break, we had a splendid evening at the very convenient for me “Wax Chandlers’ Hall on Gresham Street. The Hall is somewhat overshadowed by its neighbour, the Goldsmiths’ Hall, but it’s a little gem. It’s the sixth hall to be built by the Wax Chandlers on the same site since 1501. It was the turn of Master World Trader, Robert Woodthorpe Browne MBE to organise dinner and his choice of menu and wines were spot on! I was accompanied by Renter Warden, Andrew Golding, and it was a perfect opportunity to meet old and new friends.
Thursday 7th September 2017
In its third year, the Past Masters’ Dinner has established itself firmly in the Master’s calendar. It is an opportunity for the new Master to bounce ideas off the combined wisdom of our Past Masters. At dinner, we had the Father of the Court, Rolf Christophersen and at the other end of the spectrum, the youthful Immediate Past Master, Charles Miller. Before dinner, we had an opportunity to enjoy a glass or two of champagne and a cigar on the balcony overlooking the courtyard. The dinner was excellent with attentive service. I sought the advice of my elders on three issues and I received very robust steers on two of them. One issue was even considered to be an idea with merit. Chatham House rules prevent me from disclosing the nature of what was discussed. After dessert, Rolf called a close to the robust steers by saying “Takk for maten”.
After dinner, we retired to the courtyard for port, coffee, cigars and, in Rolf’s case, a pipe. A delightful evening and thank you, Past Masters, for joining me.
Tuesday 1st August 2017
The Learned Clerk and I attended the funeral of Albert Mayle, Beadle of our Company from 1996 to 2005. According to our records, when Bert joined the Company, he was Beadle to the Fan Makers and to the Ward of Walbrook. It is recorded in the Court Minutes that he had agreed to act as Beadle for a year and then stayed 9 years, retiring in 2005 when he would have been in his 70s. Bert had been an In-Pensioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea for the past two years, having served his time in the Fusiliers of the London Regiment. It was my first visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea and I am grateful to Alan Beggs for giving me on a brief tour of a remarkable institution. Instigated by Charles II, the Royal Chelsea Hospital was built by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1692.
The Wren Chapel was packed with family, friends, Chelsea pensioners in their scarlet uniforms and representatives from the Fan Makers and the City. It was a fitting service for someone who had served his country in Egypt in the post war years and had a long and varied life. After the service, the funeral cortege exited through the main gates, to the lament of a piper, while pensioners and members of the congregation formed a guard of honour. We then retired to the RHC hostelry where we spent a pleasant hour or so with friends of Alan and Sandra enjoying a very agreeable Chelsea Pensioner IPA.
Wednesday 2nd August 2017
It would have been very difficult to turn down a day out in Windsor which included a visit to the Windsor & Eton Brewery followed by lunch at a speciality meat restaurant “Meat at The Parish”. The BBC weather forecast promised showers and it was spot on. A leisurely train journey of almost one hour took me from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside station, where I joined a small group of masters for the 5 minutes walk to the brewery. I would recommend the brewery tour to anyone interested in the alchemy of turning barley, hops and yeast into ale and the relatively recent proliferation of craft beers. I have done several brewery tours but this one was the best: informative and fascinating. Windsor & Eton produces a remarkable selection of ales with distinctive and different characteristics. Our guide handed out different types of barley and several types of hops as we enjoyed samples of the beers that derive their characters from the ingredients. Our starter was Knight of the Garter which was an excellent golden ale with a good hoppy bitter flavour with citrus after notes. Their Republika pilsner is a rare lager that can boast a flavour. For my palate, the highlight was Treason: a west coast IPA of the American variety. I have enjoyed many excellent American craft IPAs and it was a revelation to find one made in this country that will stand comparison with the best on the other side of the pond. Treason can be found in well stocked branches of Waitrose.
Master Management Consultant, Noorzaman Rashid, called for taxis to transport us across a wet Windsor to the restaurant. After 90 minutes in a brewery with numerous samples to consume, we were pleasantly lubricated as we sat down to a lunch of chateaubriand. The beef was exceptional. My table included the Masters World Trader, Brewer, Engineer, IPM Framework Knitter and Mistress World Trader. The talk was entertaining, convivial and engaging. Before I knew it, I was dashing for the 17:10 slow train back to Waterloo.
Many thanks to Noorzaman and his clerk, Julie. The organisation was faultless and the programme was inspired. A perfect way to start August. The Masters will now enjoy a month of downtime to recharge their batteries before it all kicks off again in September.
Wednesday 26th July 2017
The Brigantes were a collection of pre-Roman Conquest tribes based in the north of England. For some reason, Humberside was not counted as part of their territory. That’s a shame because that’s where I come from. The amalgamation of northern tribes took their name from the Celtic goddess Brigantia.
With a Lord Mayor of London from Blackpool, I thought I should support him and other northern liverymen by attending the third Brigantes Breakfast. The first two were held in York and Sheffield and next year’s will be held in Leeds. I also thought it would be rather nice to do some sightseeing in Liverpool. A former UK city of culture, Liverpool has had the benefit of significant investment and friends who have ventured there told me it was worth the visit.
We visited old friends in Nantwich on Monday night and drove through Cheshire the next day to emerge from the Mersey Tunnel into central Liverpool. We had booked two nights at the “Hard Day’s Night Hotel” in the “Cavern Quarter” of the City. As expected, the hotel was full of posters and memorabilia of the Fab Four and the muzak was exclusively Beatles. After a stroll around the gentrified Albert Dock on a lovely summer evening, we bought tickets for a showing of Dunkirk at the IMAX theatre. I couldn’t help thinking there was a connection between the scenes of the British Expeditionary Force awaiting evacuation and the lines of vehicles queuing for the Manx and Belfast ferries. The connection became clearer as we walked around the “Cavern Quarter” staying clear of men eyeballing each other and squaring up for a fight while others were bedding down in doorways for the night. We popped into the Cavern Club during a rendition of “Yellow Submarine”. We didn’t stay long.
It certainly rains in Liverpool. However, the deluge ceased as we made our way to the magnificent St Georges Hall. The northern cities have wonderful monuments to Victorian civic excess and St Georges Hall is probably the grandest of all. We enjoyed a reception on the northern side steps, overlooking the station. It was an opportunity to chat with other masters and consorts, many of whom had taken the train from Euston, arriving just before noon. Masters were invited to process into the Concert Hall with the Lord Mayor of London and principal guests. While the exterior is magnificent, the interior is breath-taking with a 25 metre high barrel vault ceiling supported by columns of red granite. Stained glass windows depict St George slaying the dragon at one end, while the other end shows Neptune and what I presume to be a liver bird of the feathered variety. Beneath that window is the most impressive organ, built in 1855 and subsequently modified and expanded. As we processed, the 420 diners clapped us in while the organ thundered.
During our meal, we were entertained by the organist, a trad jazz band and a George Formby impersonator singing about his little stick of Blackpool Rock. I had expected Andrew Parmley to have a go on the organ but he remained at ground level to respond to a toast on behalf of the guests.
It was a memorable day when the City of London livery movement moved north and “us northerners” celebrated our connections to the lands formerly known as Brigantia (except for the Mistress and me because Humberside did not count).
Thursday 20th July 2017
Two visits to St Paul’s this week and two visits to Mansion House. After lunch at Apothecaries’ Hall, it was back to the flat to change from my morning coat into a lounge suit for the stroll over to Mansion House to attend the fifth annual Lord Mayor’s Defence and Security Lecture. This year’s speaker was Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. Commissioner Dick took up the role in April and during her first three months she has appeared on the news responding to the terror attacks on Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Borough Market, and Finsbury Park, as well as the protests that have erupted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. One cannot fail to be impressed by her leadership, confidence, empathy and intelligence.
The Lord Mayor set the scene and Cressida Dick took control of a very full Egyptian Room by peering over the top of the lectern and disclosing that she was two inches too short to get into the City of London police force. Her speech focused on the threat of terrorism which encompasses most of the other security threats facing the City. She recounted how terrorist attacks had been frustrated during the 5 years following the 2007 attacks until the appalling murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013. During that period, there had been 340 arrests on terrorist charges. Since March, when the attack on Westminster Bridge took place, the tempo had changed with 17 weeks of carnage leaving many dead or injured, as a consequence of less sophisticated attacks perpetrated by people who appear to be inspired by social networking. The strategy to deal with the terrorism is based on “Pursue, Protect and Prevent" but the strategy must be constantly reviewed to address the changing nature of the threats. In the Pursuit of supects, the intelligence agencies: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ work together effectively, “often in the shadows”. The cost of Protecting the public was rising significantly but despite the threats and costs, no high-profile events in London have been cancelled. Prevention was probably the most difficult aspect of the strategy which requires a means of stopping people being radicalised. More individuals are being prevented from travelling to Syria but effective policing requires the consent and support of the public and community. She assured us that there would be further investment in local policing because communities are the most effective means of defeating terrorism and addressing radicalisation.
Commissioner Dick dealt with questions from the floor in an assured and confident manner. She acknowledged that some of the barriers installed to deter further attacks may be ugly and intrusive but they are necessary. The questions continued over wine and canapes in the Salon. I was a supporter of Cressida Dick before this evening and I left Mansion House believing that she is the most impressive leader of the police force in modern times.
Thursday 20th July 2017
For the Mistress and me, it was our second visit to the crypt of St Paul’s this week. In the café area, we met Master Shipwright (and fellow Pipe Maker) Archie Smith, his delightful wife, Miriam, and our Learned Clerk, Sandra. We were directed past the tomb of Lord Nelson and then the tomb of the Duke of Wellington to the Chapel of St Faith, also known as the Order of the British Empire Chapel. Off the Chapel of St Faith can be found the Knights’ Chapel, just a yard or two away from the tomb Sir Christopher Wren.
The Annual Service of Dedication to the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor begins with a procession of members of the clergy and knights of the Order carrying the sword, spurs and the Pennons of the Knight Principal and Knight President. The Order preserves the chivalry of the Knights Bachelor; a name derived from the Norman French word “battelier”, a battle knight. The knights wore brilliant scarlet robes and looked resplendent as they processed down the aisle to take their positions near the altar. The service included several hymns familiar from my school days and two astonishingly beautiful anthems sung by members of the St Paul’s choir. The Address given by the Dean of St Paul’s distinguished the chivalry of the modern Order from the public’s perception of knights derived from watching the last 6 seasons of Game of Thrones. The Dean qualified his address by admitting to having watched just a few clips from YouTube. From my point of view, the Dean had a pretty good grasp of all six seasons from those clips. The service concluded with the National Anthem and the knights and clergy processed out of the Chapel.
We followed the scarlet gowns down Ludgate Hill towards Apothecaries’ Hall where we were treated to a champagne reception and finger buffet. It was an opportunity to chat with other masters, consorts and clerks in a splendid setting. The first Apothecaries’ Hall was destroyed in the Great Fire and was rebuilt in 1672 and is one of the oldest surviving livery halls in the City.
Wednesday 19th July 2017
The Mistress and I were back at St Lawrence Jewry for the second time this afternoon to meet our Learned Clerk, Sandra. We left the annual churches walk to dash back to change out of our hiking gear and put on more formal wear. The occasion was the Annual Service of Celebration to commemorate the diamond jubilee of of the rebuilding of SLJ, following the destruction of the interior of the church on 29 December 1940. The event was overshadowed by David Parrott's illness earlier in the day, which resulted in his admission to hospital.
At precisely 5:30 pm, the packed congregation rose to their feet as the Lord Mayor and his Sheriff's processed into the church. We remembered David and Sue Parrott in our prayers which were led by the Venerable Rosemary Lain-Priestly, Archdeacon of the Two Cities. The choir and organist excelled as we were treated to performances of pieces composed by Bruckner, Fauré, Tallis and Widor. There was a "pre-announcement" of a fund-raising initiative to make the entrance to SLJ even more welcoming. Lessons were read by the Lord Mayor and the Master Girdler (who was also on our tour of the Wren churches earlier in the day).
After the blessing, the civic party processed out of the church, probably heading for a white tie dinner. The rest of us headed for a very pleasant reception at the Guildhall Art Gallery where I had the pleasure of meeting the new Master Actuary. I am no longer the new master on the block.
Wednesday 19th July 2017
This was the third annual churches walk and I would recommend my successors to snap up tickets as soon as they are made available. It is a perfect day out for masters and consorts, providing a guided tour of Wren's masterpieces. It is baffling to imagine how Sir Christopher Wren managed to rebuild 50 churches after the Great Fire destroyed 86 churches in the City. St Paul's would be a lifetime achievement but he could take credit for least 49 other masterpieces.
You can imagine a Billy Connelly gag along the lines of:
"How many churches have you built today, Chris?"
"Three this morning and two this afternoon."
"Only two in the afternoon?"
"Yeah, we got stuck in the Jamaica Inn over a quart of port and I mislaid the plans of St Brides somewhere between Walbrook and Gresham Street."
Many of the churches rebuilt by Wren were bombed in 1940 by the Luftwaffe. The rebuilding of those churches is another fascinating story.
From the beautifully proportioned church of St Stephen Walbrook to the ruined church of St Dunstan in the East, we explored gems which most people would pass without giving the building a second glance. Many churches have gardens or yards which provide an oasis in the bustling City. To raise desperately needed funds for maintenance, these churches provide excellent coffee bars that demonstrate that there is more to life than Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Cafe Nero.
Our guide was Past Master Mercer (2003), Mike Dudgeon, and he made sure that no Masters and Mistresses were lost as we crossed the City's busy streets and ensured there was sufficient personal time to explore the churches. Lunch was provided by Cook & Butler at St Lawrence Jewry, where we would return later in the afternoon. I was expecting to be greeted by fellow liveryman and Hon Chaplain David Parrott at SLJ. We heard that he had been taken ill earlier in the day ... read on ...
Tuesday 18th July 2017
The City Livery Club was founded in 1914 and its cardinal objective was to “bind together in one organisation Liverymen of the various Guilds by bonds of common interest in defence of all the citizens hold dear…in service to the ancient Corporation and in maintenance of the priceless City churches.” Little has changed since then and membership of the Club is representative of practically all the Livery Companies who still make up the bulk of the membership which numbers around 800. The Club is now located at Bell Wharf Lane on the River Thames where it shares the facilities of the Little Ship Club. I joined the Club two years ago and this was the first Civic Reception I have attended.
The Reception and Luncheon is held every year at Mansion House in honour of the principal resident, the Rt. Hon. Lord Mayor. It was a cosy affair hosted by the Club President Alderman John Garbutt and approximately 250 others in attendance. Morning coat and hats for the ladies was the order of the day. The Lord Mayor was accompanied by Sheriff Peter Estlin and Sheriff-elect Neil Redcliffe. It was a splendid occasion with a reception in the Salon before we were called into the cooler air-conditioned Egyptian Hall to eat. There were 12 Masters attending and our respective companies were announced by the President. The Mistress and I enjoyed the poulet starter, followed by stone bass and raspberry dessert. The food at Mansion House has certainly improved since my last dinner there. It bodes well for our Banquet in October. Don’t forget to get your bookings in soon!
The President proposed the loyal and civic toasts and presented the Root and Branch Award to Keith Lawrey, nominated by the Hackney Carriage Drivers, and a Lifetime Achievement Award to Mrs Penrose Halson, nominated by the Turners. The Lord Mayor responded with a highly energetic and amusing speech which reminded us all why London is the greatest city in the world for work, life and culture.
Wednesday 12th July 2017
The Worshipful Company of Carmen celebrated its 500th anniversary with the Cart Marking Ceremony in Guildhall Yard. The Corporation of the City of London has exercised its rights over carts and carriers since its inception. Carmen were licensed to use their carts in the City for deliveries and, more importantly, the removal of dung and other noxious waste before sewers were laid. Carts would branded with a mark each year to demonstrate that the terms of the licence had been met. Today, over 50 vehicles were brought into Guildhall Yard to be marked, including hand carts and bicycles; horse drawn coaches and trailers; vintage vehicles powered by steam, electricity, petrol and diesel to the very latest environmentally approved transport. Each vehicle would be greeted by the Master Carmen, the Lord Mayor, Master Glover and other dignitaries. The vehicles had wooden plaques to be branded with this year's logo, a "500" rather than a letter for each year. The Learned Clerk and I sat with other Masters and Clerks to watch the proceedings and offer a round of applause as each vehicle rolled up. I have to admit that I became rather uncomfortable when the hot branding iron came towards a wooden plaque affixed to the diesel fuel tank of a lorry. It was a fascinating 3 hours and we were rewarded with some extraordinary sights, including Field Marshall Montgomery's Silver Wraith, Corporal Jones's butcher's lorry from Dad's Army and a charabanc.
After the ceremony, we entered Guildhall Library for a glass of fizz before sitting down with 670 others for a very generous luncheon in the Great Hall. I had the pleasure of sitting between Master Fan Maker and Master Glass Seller. Conversation was very convivial and my snuff box did the rounds. Master Carmen, Marsha Rae Ratcliff (who has recently been honoured with an OBE for her services to charity), gave a delightful speech with a toast to the Corporation of London. The Lord Mayor provided a very witty response which produced loud laughter from the assembled diners. I was very privileged to be part of a great event and would recommend fellow liverymen and freemen to watch the ceremony next year.
Monday 10th July 2017
Our Benevolent Fund has supported the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund for many years. The current level of annual contribution is £5,000 which compares favourably with the total donations of £139,236 received by the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund. Many livery companies support this worthwhile charity and were represented by their respective masters and clerks. Our Learned Clerk, Sandra, accompanied me and Liveryman Jenny Merton was also there, in her own capacity as a supporter of the Fund.
In the splendour of Court No 1, Lady Brewer brought the meeting to order and we ran through the Agenda approving minutes, accounts and officers for the ensuing year. What made this event well worth attending were the contributions from a beneficiary of the fund, two Brixton prison officers and the Governor of HMP Isis.
Keaton’s candid account of how he progressed from dealing on the streets at the age of 13, to becoming a resident of HMP Isis and being accepted on to a programme to prepare him for release was very moving. There is no better way to illustrate the importance of the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund’s work of improving ex-offenders’ chances of rehabilitation than to listen to a first-hand account of what can be done. Keaton was articulate, engaging, witty and very bright. I hope he makes a success of his new life. The two addresses from Laura and Sharon, prison officers working at HMP Brixton brought home the pressures and stresses of today’s prison environment, particularly in the older Victorian prisons built at a time when rehabilitation was not an objective of the penal system. Finally, Emily Thomas, Governor of HMP Isis, gave an account of how her expectations of the justice system has moved from the pessimistic to the optimistic. In her view, some fundamental issues are now being recognised and addressed. Ms Thomas is an outstanding speaker and covered many issues from how to set up a recruitment campaign for a new prison named Isis (which opened just before ISIS began to dominate global news) to the opening of the Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton. After the meeting closed, we adjourned to the Judges’ Dining Room for sparkling wine, sandwiches and chats with other masters and clerks.
Friday 7th July 2017
Our Livery, together with Past Master Mark Gower-Smith, was a subscriber to Richard Goddard's scholarly book entitled "The Heraldry of the Livery Companies of the City of London since 1954". The work is subtitled as "Being a SUPPLEMENT to the Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London". The book is of interest to anyone who wishes to delve into the traditions and pageantry of the City and, in particular, the coat of arms of their own livery company. The reception gave me the opportunity to visit another Livery Hall. Tucked down St Mary at Hill, Watermen's Hall would be easy to miss and that would be shame. The Hall is generously endowed with many artefacts, including a splendid model of a man of war, thought to be the subject of Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire". Richard Goddard was happy to chat about his work and signed our copy. Over refreshments, there was an opportunity to chat to others. The success of the previous day's Beerfest seemed to weigh upon the minds of some.
Thursday 6th July 2017
Beerfests can be great fun, provided the beer, the organisation and company is good. The City of London puts on some of the best events in the country; our Learned Clerk was there with Elise and Will Rasmussen and Alan Begg and some of England’s best craft breweries were offering their products while the Worshipful Company of Brewers was in charge. The City Beerfest was, indeed, great fun.
The Beerfest opened at lunch time but I arrived on a hot humid afternoon at 3pm to be greeted by our Chaplain, David Parrott. The event was taking place in David’s yard. There was a slight Womad feel to David’s Yard with an excellent new band, Nerja, playing a fusion of jazz, South African township music and Latin themes. £15 gets you a commemorative half pint glass and four beer tokens. The Yard had 15 beer stalls set up by a range of breweries. Beer was dispensed by a combination methods: cask tap, hand pump, bottles and, in some instances, by carbon dioxide through a chiller. My first stop was a half of Theakston’s Best Bitter, followed a little too swiftly by a half of Meantime’s tasty London Pale Ale. The conversation was convivial and eventually chairs were secured in the shade of the West Wing of Guildhall by SLJ. It was nice to meet up with a former colleague, Rob Burton, who had been brought along by Elise.
Towards 5pm when office workers descended on David’s Yard, the queues for the stalls grew and it wasn’t long before the first stall ran out. The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor arrived with a brace of Sheriffs soon after 5:30pm. I was now on my second set of beer tokens, having made friends with the delightful folk from Hepworth & Co based in Horsham. Their range of gluten free organic ales made the whole experience feel like a trip to a health farm. The Lord Mayor urged us to drink more beer and buy more raffle tickets in favour of his charities. As the temperature and humidity rose, the Lord Mayor and his Sheriffs posed patiently in their heavy woollen red robes as folk took selfies and posted to social media.
Signs of a sufficiency of ale can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. The purchase of a large sausage and sage roll was a reminder to me that it might be time to head home. Hepworth’s had run out of ale but they let me have their last half pint out of their last barrel for free. More stalls had closed and the queues for the remaining stalls got longer. It was almost 7pm and I think I had had the best of the day. I returned to the Barbican to digest my sausage roll. Cheers!
Tuesday 27th June 2017
The Mistress and I were invited by Assistant Elise Rasmussen to the Freedom Dinner organised by Forest at Boisdale in Canary Wharf. Forest is the voice and friend of the smoker and a useful pressure group to broaden the debate on how tobacco should be regulated. The record heat wave that had been the feature of the previous week had expired in favour of a very wet cold front. Cocktails were handed to us as we joined the party on the smoking balcony at Boisdale. After 20 years in the industry, it wasn’t long before we met some old friends and did some catching up. The Freedom Dinner is an annual event which marks the introduction of the indoor smoking ban exactly 10 years ago. After a refill or two, we took our seats on the top table, opposite the engaging Forest director, Simon Clark and next to Fran Morrison. It was a lively discussion during the meal and the common thread was freedom of speech, thought and trade. The guest speaker, by popular demand from the previous year, was Rod Liddle. Anyone who has read Rod Liddle in The Spectator and The Sunday Times would have a good idea of what to expect. We were not disappointed. Rod Liddle was hilarious, profound, outrageous but never dull. At one point, Rod was using a Sooty glove puppet to illustrate a point. How he got to Sooty, I can't remember but it was very funny. The proceedings moved on to the presentation of the 2017 Voices of Freedom Awards and I am delighted to report that Elise Rasmussen was a recipient of one of the four awards presented. After dinner, we retired to the smoking balcony where I enjoyed a Cohiba Siglo II and the remainder of my glass of wine.
Monday 26th June 2017
After the demands of electing and processing, I met the Mistress (who had attended a Consorts' Coffee Morning at Guildhall) and we made our way to Stationers' Hall. We gathered in the garden for drinks and were delighted to be addressed by both Sheriffs-elect and their delightful consorts. A dozen or so Livery Companies meet for lunch at Stationers' Hall after elections and today's party of Pipe Makers included Past Master Mark Gower-Smith, the Consort's Consort David Moss, Fran Morrison and Paul Woodley. It was a jolly affair and we shared a table with the Marketors.
Monday 26th June 2017
The Mistress and I arrived at Guildhall to meet the Beadle who had brought my gown from storage beneath Stationers’ Hall. It was my first opportunity to wear the Master's gown and chain since my Installation. Dressing up is an important part of the pageantry of the City. A hundred or so Masters gathered at holding stations before being led up in procession into the Great Hall to take our places below the stand reserved for the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen and a cast of many more. After the Lord Mayor had taken his place, there followed a minute’s silence for the victims of the tragic events in London and Manchester. It was time for the election which followed an 800 years old democratic process. Two sheriffs were to be elected and two candidates were named: Timothy Russell Hailes and Neil Graham Morgan Redcliffe. Hands were raised in favour of each candidate, the two current Sheriffs counted the votes and, after a lengthy consultation, confirmed both candidates had been duly elected. A perfect example of a refined democratic process. The successful candidates addressed Common Hall and Sheriff-elect Tim Hailes announced our Past Master Fiona Adler would be his "wingman" or Consort for the year. The Lord Mayor led the procession out the Great Hall and we were soon in the bright sunshine in Guildhall Yard.
Sunday 25th June 2017
It is always a privilege to attend an event at St Paul’s and the Mistress and I were keen accept an invitation to the Order of St John service. We met our Learned Clerk, Sandra Stocker, and made our way to St Paul’s. As we got within a few hundred metres of the West Door, it appeared that our Learned Clerk was a celebrity and was well known to almost everyone in the on the steps of the Cathedral. Sandra is a superstar and being one of her party was an immediate introduction to the great and good of the City. Swooping upon us, wearing the most elegant of black gowns of the Order, Past Master Mark Gower-Smith placed us in excellent seats under the Dome. There followed a complex pageant as banners and important persons moved around the Cathedral with perfect choreography. Our Learned Clerk was happy with the service and the Mistress and I were humbled by being a part of such a wonderful experience. Outside, many more people wanted to say hello to Sandra; we were introduced to several more important persons in the Order; The Lord Mayor and his entourage paraded while the band played on in Paternoster Square. A special day.
Thursday 22nd June 2017
Armed Forces Day is Saturday, 24 June, but the City of London kicked it all off with the annual Armed Forces Flag Raising two days early. A large audience had gathered when I arrived in Guildhall Yard. To the right a Guards band struck up with a march; to the left veterans with their colours stood at attention, ahead a company presented arms and, in the centre, The Lord Mayor, his Sheriffs, top brass representing all the services and our Honorary Chaplain gathered around the podium. The Armed Forces flag was raised over Guildhall; Canon David Parrott said a prayer; The Lord Mayor gave a speech pledging the City's support for the Armed Forces and a senior member of the top brass encouraged millennials to apply online to join the forces. The Lord Mayor then inspected the guard, the band struck up again and a Chinook did a fly past. The event was very well attended by Masters from many livery companies who took advantage of tea and coffee served in Guildhall.
Tuesday 20th June 2017
After the Jailed & Bailed escapade, I didn’t think the City could get any hotter but I was wrong. The BBC weather lady foretold rising temperatures to challenge the summer of ‘76. I stood in front of a Dyson fan while I pulled my white tie into shape, desperate to avoid overheating before we left for Stationers’ Hall. Although it is a mere 15 minutes walk to Stationers’ Hall, the Mistress and I hailed an air conditioned black cab and arrived reasonably cool, calm and collected. We gathered for champagne in the garden before being called to dinner in the Livery Hall. It was a splendid menu accompanied by excellent wines. Master Scientific Instrument Maker, John Caunt, presided over a top table that included Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf, Alderman Sir David Wootton and Sir Roger Bannister. As the sun descended, the magnificent stained glass windows became brightly illuminated and the temperature in the hall rose. The combination of delicious food, generously topped glasses of wine and close to two hundred diners meant the heat in the room was becoming an issue; there was much wafting of menu cards. Thankfully, Master Scientific Instrument Maker is an enlightened Master and he give the gentlemen in the room permission to remove their jackets. What relief! On to the toasts. The Senior Warden, Professor Ron Summers proposed the toast to the guests and commented on my northern roots and support for a Manchester football club. The reply came from Dame Fiona Woolf who talked about how her grandchildren enjoyed visits to the Science Museum.
It was a very memorable evening and the Mistress and I are very grateful to the Master Scientific Instrument Maker for having had the invitation to be part of such a magnificent banquet. After we got back to the flat, we sat on the balcony sipping iced water. It was still uncomfortably hot. The BBC weather lady said it would be even warmer tomorrow.
Monday 19th June 2017
After the heat of the Trooping of the Colour, it was difficult to believe it could get any hotter in the City. The BBC weather lady was warning of 33c, possibly warmer. My fruit-based smart phone threatened 34c. I strolled towards Stationers’ Hall, as the temperature rose, to collect my rather heavy Masters’ gown. In fact, the basement storage room at Stationers’ Hall was one of the cooler places in the City. Dressed in gowns, we assembled at the Old Bailey to be arrested and subsequently led into one of the smaller airtight Court rooms. Dressed in our gowns and finery, the charges were read out by a fearsome Sheriff Alderman Peter Estlin (in full judicial robes and wig). While the charges were read out, we wilted in the heat and shame of it all. My charges were based on my Icelandic ancestry and the rather unsavoury antics of my forebears; the Rule of Law had been abandoned. As one of the great jurists of the 20th century (Tony Hancock) implored: “Magna Carta, did she die in vain?” After mugshots were taken, we were marched on to an ancient Routemaster, destined for the Tower of London. At the Tower, we were led through crowds of tourists who snapped their Canons and Nikons in our general direction. As the sun beat down on us and the robes weighed heavy on our shoulders, we arrived in the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. At this point, our plight improved. Pol Roger was served in silver goblets followed by a tasty chicken lunch. Then the judicial process took a distinctly US turn. Our crimes could be plea bargained by a bail bond paid to the British Red Cross. Our gaolers sought a minimum bail of £1,000. Through the generosity of my Livery brethren, I managed £2,000 plus Gift Aid. After finger printing and more mugshots, I was released into the early afternoon sun. Dashing towards the West Gate of the Tower, I photobombed several Japanese selfies and occupied many megabites of SD cards. During a week when the British Red Cross was helping the victims of the London Bridge atrocity and taking control of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it was a privilege to do something for such a worthwhile charity.
Saturday 17th June 2017
Not strictly a livery event but certainly a highlight of the year, the privilege of attending the Trooping of the Colour was a memorable experience. The Learned Clerk had offered the Mistress and me a pair excellent seats overlooking Horseguards Parade.
Over 1400 officers and men are on parade, together with two hundred horses; over four hundred musicians from ten bands and corps of drums march and play as one. This year was the turn of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards to troop their colour. The BBC weather lady said it would be hot and, as we were processed through very tight security, spectators looked for shade to rest before taking their seats in the stands. We were advised to dress formally but I chose a dark blue suit instead of my morning coat. A wise choice. Many years ago, I had hired a morning coat from Moss Bros for a wedding and the coat produced the aroma of the previous incumbent who had probably expired on the Epsom Downs during Derby Day.
Despite the heat, the choreography of the parade was perfect and the music was outstanding. It would not have been easy for the leading members of the Royal Family who were participating in the relentless sun. A highlight of the event was the gun carriages being pulled across the parade ground at a canter, kicking up dust in the sweltering heat. See the photo. While Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh made their way back to Buckingham Palace along The Mall, a fleet of street cleaning vehicles followed, collecting fresh manure for HM’s rose garden. Behind the cleaning vehicles, a cavalry of mounted police swiftly undid the work of the street cleaners while keeping the ensuing crowds a safe distance behind as they tiptoed through fresh manure in high heels and Church’s. I never thought I would find myself in this situation but I was cheering in front of the Royal balcony while snapping shots of the flypast.
A wonderful day out. Thank you, Sandra.
Thursday 15th June 2017
Drapers' Hall must be one of the most beautiful livery halls in the City. We enjoyed an excellent dinner there earlier in the year. Not only is it the prettiest, it is also one of the biggest halls with many function rooms illuminated by gold leaf and adorned by beautiful works of art. Arriving just a few minutes after 12:30, I donned my badge and joined a group of guests in the garden, adjacent to Throgmorton Avenue. Having met many masters a few days earlier at Ironbridge, I was soon chatting enthusiastically while glasses of Louis Roederer were being topped up. We were called to lunch and I found myself sitting opposite to Past Master Sir Peter Bottomley MP. A starter of pressed Looms Wood duck was accompanied by a white Nuits Saint Georges, Domaine de L'Arlot, La Gerbotte, 2010. The main course of Hay baked beef was enhanced by Leoville Barton, 2004 and the dessert of buttermilk and lavender pie was lubricated by a glass of Domaine de l'Alliance 2011. Toasts were assisted by Dow's '97.
The hospitality was generous and the company was great fun. Master William Charnley invited us to view a gallery of exhibits put on show for a visit to the hall by HM The Queen two weeks earlier. The exhibition included ancient charters granted to the Company, including a photograph of a young Princess Elizabeth being installed a freeman of the Company.
The afternoon was rounded off with a very pleasant chat with the Master Shipwright over a cleansing ale in King's Arms Yard.
Monday 12th June 2017
Back home late Sunday afternoon from Ironbridge and it was back in the car on Monday morning for a drive along the M25 to Tandridge Golf Club. It was our annual Livery Golf Day organised by Past Master Derek Harris. “Remember, don’t have breakfast!” was Derek’s advice. Each year, our Livery’s golfers and guests tackle the Tandridge course to compete for the Charles Rich Trophy and many generous prizes in baskets that clink on the way to the boot of the car. Sponsored by British American Tobacco, the tournament is organised and run by Derek. He counts them out and counts them back in again. Tandridge is a very pretty course and deserves better than the likes of me hacking my way round. Poor technique and accumulated injuries gave me the excuse to sit in the clubhouse chatting to Derek and Sheila. We meet at Court and dinners but we often miss the opportunity to sit together and get to know one another. To spend time with Derek is a privilege I enjoyed immensely. Before long, the first threesome chip onto the 18th hole. Eventually, when everyone had changed, we settled down in the dining room. It was an enormous and truly satisfying lunch and it was quite obvious why Tandridge has such a reputation for its fine food.
Back to the business end of the day, Derek had taken the score cards and carefully recorded the numbers onto his spreadsheet before announcing for the second year running, Paul and Sharon Taberer, had both won the Men’s and Ladies’ first prizes. I was delighted to present the Charles Rich Trophy to Paul (a third-time winner) and baskets of wines to several of the other players. The Mistress and I struggled into High Single Figures EPS (the name of my car) but before long, we were back on the M25 heading for home weighed down by the famous Tandridge Pudding.
Wednesday 14th June 2017
Davy's at Woolgate Bar and Brasserie in Basinghall Street is one of the City's many oases. The crowds chatting and drinking enthusiastically in the early evening sunshine made it difficult to locate Court Assistant Tony Scanlan. Tony was busily defending his patch of several square metres where the Smoking Club was to meet. As Liverymen and guests arrived, cigars were lit, together with a couple of pipes. Smoking caps were proudly worn and a jolly evening was enjoyed by all.
Tuesday 13th June 2017
Sunday morning, after too little sleep, we broke away from the Andrew Marr show for another election. A 09:30 meeting to choose a chairman of this year’s Masters’ Association. The sole candidate scraped in unanimously with most in attendance looking at their shoes when there was a plea for volunteers. Another vote to choose a name with the “Prime Masters” beating “Mary Poppins” by a lot to one. 2017 is a prime number so the “Prime Masters” adopted the motto “Cannot be divided”. Back to the room to pack up and to watch Jeremy Corbyn trying to persuade the nation that he won (even though he lacked the seats to call a tea party in the Commons). City of London democracy is so civilised compared to the rest.
Back to Coalbrookdale and an opportunity to join a behind the scenes tour of the Darby houses and see the Costume Project. After lunch, we headed for Broseley to the Pipe Museum. This is a little gem tucked away from the most visited sights. We parked in the yard where Abraham Darby the first lay. We later discovered that our car was actually over his plot and I was reminded of Richard III’s resting place under a municipal carpark in Leicester.
The Pipe Museum is rather dilapidated and is much the same as it was when they downed tools in a hurry in the 1950s. “A time capsule” they call it. A charming curator, Tracey, took a group of five on a 45 minutes tour which was informative and fun. Unfortunately, health and safety does not allow the public unsupervised access to the factory. There are a large number of our Company’s antique prints on view with hundreds of clay pipes. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to see the museum and hope that many more members of the public make the effort. In the meantime, I have added a YouTube link to a video that is shown at the Museum.
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.
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.