Thursday 11th April 2019
Susan Stocker was recently admitted to the Freedom of the Tobacco Pipe Makers' Company and has wasted no time to apply for the Freedom of the City of London, as is her right. The 'guiding hand' in the process was her sister, Sandra Stocker, who is none other than our Company's Learned Clerk. Once an application is accepted, the candidate is invited to attend the Chamberlain's Court for an Admission Ceremony which is conducted by either Murray Craig, the Clerk to the Court, or Laura Miller, the Deputy Clerk. The date was quickly set!
Susan wanted to share the occassion with family and close friends including some of us from the Company. This kind invitation was not to be missed and so it was that the party met at the allotted time on a very fine day outside the North Wing entrance to Guildhall. Once signed in we were ushered into a waiting room that was like a small museum, it was so full of historic artifacts and prints about the City and the Livery Companies. We could have stayed there a while longer but the Court Beadle scooped us up and escorted us to the Chamberlains' Court Room where Laura Miller awaited with a generous welcome before the ceremony began.
Susan delivered her Declaration superbly to become the latest Freeman of the City of London. Laura reminded us of how ancient the ceremony is and what it meant to those in times of yore. It was nothing less than the marker that the person was not a peasant but a free person that enter commercial contracts and conduct business. A life changing event for the individual. Laura went on to highlight many famous people in history that had been admitted to the Freedom and showed us the Freedom Certificates of some including Lord Nelson, Florence Nightingale and Margaret Thatcher. There were many photographs of well known people today receiving their Certificates, a topical recent individual being James Cracknell, the Olympic rower and recent Boat Race winner. We also saw photographs of celebrities exercising their right to drive sheep over London Bridge.
Like all good things, it was time to leave still wanting to learn more but it was a busy day at the Chamberlain's Court and Susan was soon to be usurped as the newest Freeman. In high spirits the party left for a celebratory lunch where Susan was showered with sheepy gifts from her many sisters. It was difficult to comprehend that so many ovine collectibles exist so well done to the family for their enthusiatic endeavour finding them and good luck to Susan housing them in her home! I hesitate to think what will happen on the day that she joins the sheep drive over London Bridge. Would the sisters mark that occasion with a new pet for the garden...?
Tuesday 9th April 2019
The Company of Public Relations Practitioners holds a Spring Dinner and it was my honour to be invited to this year's event. Held at Tallow Chandlers' Hall, it was well attended by the industry's great and good along with official guests from a variety of Livery Companies with whom they have established close bonds in the Company's short life. Our own connection stems from the Deputy Master (IPM, in our terms), Katherine Sykes, who worked at British American Tobacco for many years earlier in her career. We have continued the close relationship into the year of her successor, the current Master, Gavin Ellwood.
The Company was most hospitable and generously provided for its guests. The Principal Guest and Speaker was Dr. Simon Elliott, the award winning author, historian and archaeologist, who regaled us on Brexit...not the current farce but that of the ancient detachment of the UK from the Roman Empire in the 4th Century. The conclusion was that it was every bit as tortured as the experience today! As Mark Twain is purported to have said 'History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes'.
The Master also took the opportunity this evening to make an important announcement. The decision has been made to change the Company's name to the Company of Communicators which he believes to be more encompassing of the professional body that it serves. With approval now granted by the Court of Aldermen, this change will be implemented in the coming months. To be amongst the first to hear this news was a privilege indeed, turning an already wonderful evening into one that was truly memorable. This is an important step for the Company as it prepares itself to become a Company with Livery. The Tobacco Pipe Makers wishes them well!
Saturday 6th April 2019
Past Master Derek Harris is the mastermind behind this wonderful annual event which has been running for over thirty years. It is a shooting competition between the Tobacco Pipe Makers and its affiliate, The London Regiment, where we are allied to D Company, the London Irish Rifles. At stake in the competition is The Sirrah Trophy which has been in the hands of the London Irish Rifles for a number of years...
The Commanding Officer, Major Robert Brown, makes arrangements for us to meet his team of sharp shooters at one of the Army's barracks in or around London. This year it was the Wellington Barracks situated in the heart of London, close to Buckingham Palace in Birdcage Walk. For the modern Army, the days of firing live ammunition at physical targets in a shooting range are long gone. It is now all high tech. Accordingly, upon arrival, we were taken to the range and were presented with real rifles adapted to fire at interactive screens.
Divided into teams, we all set about getting acquainted with the equipment and spent our time in earnest practice under the critical gaze of our opponents. The practice scores were collated and Major Bob declared that battle would commence after lunch, a tactic surely intended to dull our newly acquired competences!
After our hearty meal we returned to the range where the Company's teams were tested under great pressure, shooting at targets at varying distances, including in simulated battle scenarios. Every sitution thrown at the Tobacco Pipe Makers was parried and repelled with vigour (if not skill) and with great tenacity before it was the turn of the London Irish Rifles. Despite their best efforts it turned out that the London Irish Rifles tied with the Tobacco Pipe Makers' A team and a deciding round was needed to settle the matter. In a tense shoot out requiring pinpoint accuracy to win, it was Nick Perry, son-in-law of Liveryman Paul Reeves, that won the day for the Tobacco Pipe Makers.
And so, The Sirrah Trophy is ours again!..or is it? It seems that our prize had been inadvertently 'left behind' at the Camberwell barracks and I am sure I heard someone from LIR call it 'my Precious'. Major Bob told us not to be alarmed, it is safe and it will be engraved to recognise our glory. We shall see...
Thursday 4th April 2019
The Lord Mayor's Big Curry Lunch is in its twelfth year. Held at Guildhall and hosted by The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, it has several purposes. Primarily, it raises much needed funds to support soldiers and former soldiers, both regulars and reservists, who had served in Iraq and, subsequently, in Afghanistan and their families. Secondly, it raises awareness in the City community of the role of the Armed Forces. Thirdly, it builds awareness of the national charity that works ceaselessly to support soldiers, veterans and their families - ABF The Soldiers' Charity. Finally, to emphasise to City workers, the breadth and depth of the City's philanthropy to those in society who need help and support.
The Patron of ABF The Soldiers' Charity is Her Majesty The Queen and it is customary that a member of the Royal Family attends and supports The Lord Mayor's Big Curry Lunch. This year it was Prince Harry, a former soldier himself. Arriving to fanfare and a military reception line, the young Prince met and mingled with many of the organisers of the event, the key sponsors and the Masters of Livery Companies running myriad fund-raising stalls.
With the event officially open, the 1,500 attendees were then at liberty to spend as much as they could on the many goods and services put forward by the charities, businesses and Livery Companies with stuff to sell. All profits going to the ABF The Soldiers Charity and the benevolent funds of the RAF and the Navy. Before most people had time to grab their curry lunch, it was announced that over £100,000 had been gathered to that point pushing the total amount of funds raised over 12 years to more than £2 million.
Having done our bit, the IPM Ralph Edmondson and I left the stalls to continue their charitable sales as we headed to the jam-packed Great Hall for our curry lunch and a well deserved Cobra beer.
Friday 29th March 2019
The site of St Paul's Cathedral has been the site of Christian worship for over 1,400 years. The famous building designed by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London is positively modern being a mere 344 years old but none of its predecessors were quite as impressive. Despite is scale and grandeur, it enjoys constant use by its City congregation and, at times, services conducted there will fill it to capacity. One such event is the annual Service of the United Guilds of the City of London, an occasion that brings together the many Livery Companies and Guilds, lead by the Lord Mayor and the Civic Team.
With each Livery Company and Guild being represented by their respective Masters, Wardens and Clerks the spectacle was extraordinary with them all being attired in their gowns and badges of office. To this add The Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, the Aldermen and other Civic officials in full regalia. It was not an occasion to be underdressed. Indeed, The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullaly, observed during her Sermon that it was a rare thing to find herself outdazzled in the sartorial stakes.
Solemn ceremony, thought provoking readings and uplifting hymns came together in what was a beautifully crafted and executed Service, all spectacularly sewn together with the finest singing by the choir and organ pieces. I am happy to report that the Tobacco Pipe Makers were in good voice for their part.
Emerging from the Cathedral into bright and warm sunshine, the great mass of Livery Company and Guild folk dispersed to their many Halls and restaurants for a hearty lunch. For us, the destination was Stationers' Hall.
Thursday 28th March 2019
Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Lord Mayor hosted an annual banquet for the heads of the Great Twelve Livery Companies. Today, the dinner for the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff is inclusive of all Livery Companies and provides an excellent opportunity for the Lord Mayor to address the whole community.
The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor Alderman Peter Estlin chose this year to extend the invitation to sister organisations from further afield, to thank the Livery and Guild community for the contribution it makes not only to the City of London, but to the whole of the UK.
In the magnificent setting of Mansion House, we were entertained by the Salon Orchestra of The Honourable Artillery Company Band with a wonderful mix of pieces from many musical genres. We enjoyed topical speeches from the Lord Mayor and the Masters of the Mercers' Company and the Grocers' Company with particular focus on the growth of digital skills for a modern City and the great strengths of the City as it faces Brexit.
The Lord Mayor also took the opportunity to focus on The Lord Mayor's Appeal which is principally supporting three charities, Place2Be which addresses mental health issues in children, InSide Youth Zones which addresses 21st century youth provision including activities ranging from sports to music and enterprise to mentoring services and Samaritans which runs a ground-breaking Wellbeing in the City programme.
Thursday 21st March 2019
Nine months into a Master's year it is the Election Court where the Company selects its Master and Wardens for the ensuing year, starting in early June. For an incumbent Master, the occasion is bittersweet; a glorious discharge of one's duty to prepare the Company for its next chapter which is also tinged with a personal sadness that one's own tenure draws towards its close. This year, the scene of this act was the fabulous Cutlers' Hall, tucked behind the Old Bailey.
As the Court members drily administer the day's business, it is traditional that the Mistress entertains their respective partners by hosting a tour or visit to a City-based place of interest. This year, the Court spouses were offered the opportunity to visit the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, an institution with whom our Company has long and close ties. The visit captured the School at a busy time, providing great insights into many aspects of its outstanding work - the party experienced the rehearsal rooms, a costume workshop and enjoyed tours of the concert hall and theatre at the new Milton Court premises.
Back at Cutlers' Hall, the Court voted that Andrew Golding be the Master-Elect. Adam Bennett, Jerry Merton and Paul Taberer all progressed as Wardens whilst Elise Rasmussen was elected Fourth Warden. In June, Elise will be the second lady in our Company's history to take that office and she raises the prospect of being the second lady Master in due course. The Court also admitted two new Freemen, Jonathan Fell and Ettore Moraschinelli, and gowned Adam Phillips with the Livery.
The Court Meeting and Guildhall School tour finished at about the same time and the Luncheon that followed in the Cutlers' Livery Hall was marvellously executed by caterers, Cook & Butler, all under the watchful gaze of the host of carved elephants that support the vaulted roof. The Master's speech came and went but it was the Mistress's speech that won hearts and minds this day. A rather fitting finish to our cycle of formal events given the care and energy that she has quietly applied to making these occasions such a success in our year.
As we left the Hall at the end of our lunch, we popped our heads around the door of a small gallery housing ancient treasures of the Cutlers' Company. To our delight, there were also stained glass windows at one end that depicted amongst other things our 'patron saint', Sir Walter Raleigh! A blessing on our day.
Monday 18th March 2019
The history of the Livery Companies of the City of London traces back to medieval times when guilds were first formed to organise trades and industries, establishing best practices and product standards, apprenticeships and licenses for market participants. These guilds were granted charters by the Crown to conduct their activities in return for levies and taxes. The model was very successful and over many centuries the numbers of Livery Companies grew and they prospered. However, by the early 18th Century, Livery Companies went into decline, the last Livery Company of that age to be formed was the Fan Makers in 1709. There were then no new Livery Companies for almost 220 years until 1926 when the Honourable Company of Master Mariners was formed. The Master Mariners' Company was determined to be number 78 in the order of precedence and is the first Modern Livery Company. Since that time a further 31 Livery Companies have been formed including our own.
It has become the habit of the Modern Companies to bring together their respective Masters and Senior Wardens for a biannual dinner. Responsibility for organising each dinner falls to a Modern Company with the baton being passed on in the order of precedence. For this Spring Dinner, it was the Hackney Carriage Drivers that performed the honours.
An impressive 29 of the 32 Modern Companies were represented as the Master of the Hackney Carriage Drivers, Phill Davis, presided over the occasion at the historic Waterman's Hall. The Master chose a particularly fine menu accompanied by delicious wines. He had also invited Alderman Alison Gowman as Principal Guest who provided us with an engaging and thought-provoking speech on the strengths of the City of London on the eve of Brexit. The heavy subject matter was lightened by Alison's sharp wit and humour.
It was an excellent evening and one of the few occasions where Modern Livery Masters and Senior Wardens can break bread with their peers. It was also another opportunity for Phill Davis to demonstrate his skill at hosting fine events in what has been a signal year for the Hackney Carriage Drivers Company.
Saturday 16th March 2019
The London Regiment, part of the British Army Reserve, consists of five companies; Headquarters Company, London Scottish (A Company), the Queen's Regiment (B), City of London Fusiliers (C) and London Irish (D). The Tobacco Pipe Makers have enjoyed a long relationship with the London Regiment and specifically D Company, the London Irish Rifles.
This is the second occasion in our year that the Mistress and I have been invited by the Commanding Officer to a formal dinner at the barracks in Camberwell. These are easy invitations to accept, so warm is the welcome and hospitality and this occasion was to mark the Eve of St Patrick's Day. Too good to miss!
Set in the Officers' Mess, the processional party was lead in by a musician playing the bagpipes and we found ourselves to be amongst the honoured guests on the top table. I was seated between the CO of the London Irish Rifles, Major Robert (Bob) Brown, and the CO of the London Regiment, Colonel Geoffrey Strickland and in prime position to survey the richly fitted Mess hall with its walls adorned with the portraits of the many CO's and valiant figures in the Company's illustrious past. The room was packed with officers of many ranks including two Brigadiers and a large number of guests.
Major Bob Brown lead the evenings proceedings which included speeches, awards, farewells to departing members and the ceremonial playing of the bagpipes followed by a traditional toast. With the formalities over, the party retired to the bar for Guinness and an opportunity to mix freely with the Company and guests. Much talk of the military parades scheduled for St Patrick's Day itself then fell away to the banter and jokes you would expect of such a gathering. For the Mistress and I, it was again a wonderful insight into an unfamiliar part of the life of this country, one that is positioned at the sharp end if duty calls. It was an evening not just of joy and celebration but one of appreciation and respect for the remarkable men and women of the Army Reserve and specifically the London Irish Rifles.
Thursday 14th March 2019
The Tobacco Pipe Makers has a long and fruitful history with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama having supported hundreds of students since the the 1950s. Today, we support four scholars each year, currently two singers (a bass and a soprano) and two musicians (a painist and a cellist) all of whom we seek to engage with in some way. It is common for our scholars to perform at our dinners and the Master will usually find other occasions to meet with them during his or her year. In addition to this we have occasions to mix with those individuals that lead the Guildhall School and an invitation to the Annual Dinner of the Board of Governors is a notable example.
This prestigious event was held at Haberdashers' Hall where over a hundred gathered for this celebration of the Guildhall School's achievements and a 'state of the nation' address by the Principal, Lynne Williams. The attendees were a healthy mix of benefactors, associated London-based music and drama organisations including the Royal Society of Arts and the BBC, the cream of the organisation's management and City of London civic luminaries. As you would expect, the evening was interspersed with entertainments provided by the students that included recitals of Shakespeare's sonnets and the music of Cole Porter all of which were excellent.
Thursday 14th March 2019
The Learned Clerk and the Clerk's Assistant have strong links to the Royal Hospital Chelsea and over the years have brought our Company close to the Chelsea Pensioners. One of the Pensioners, Leo Tighe, is particularly interested in the Tobacco Pipe Makers and was kind enough to extend an invitation to the Master, Mistress, Clerk and Clerk's Assistant for what he calls his 'nine bob tour'. This was an opportunity too good to miss so we gladly accepted.
Weather-wise it was an odd day. Generally warm, it was intermittently bright and sunny and then suddenly pouring with rain as if some celestial being was rapidly turning a tap on and off. Dodging the hazard of a drenching was a challenge as the site of the Royal Hospital is a combination of the beautiful Christopher Wren-designed buildings and large open spaces...but, with our guide, we did it!
Leo walked us around Light Horse Court and Figure Court providing us with amusing historical details. He then showed us the living quarters of the Pensioners in the Long Wards including some of the orginal berths that have been retained for posterity. They were just six feet square. The dominating features of the complex are the Great Hall, used for dining, and the Chapel. Maintained in their original form, both are stunning. The Great Hall includes a vast mural at one end depicting Charles II on horesback with allegorical figures and the Royal Hospital in the background. The Chapel has an plain style overall except for a marvellous mural in the half dome of the apse which depicts the Resurrection.
With enough walking done, Leo entertained us to lunch in the Great Hall which was abuzz with the banter of old soldiers. Surrounded by wood panels inscribed with three hundred and fifty years of campaigns and with the table on which the Duke of Wellington's body lay in state at one end, this place was redolent with military success and sacrifice. Chatting with Leo, we gained a wonderful insight into the lives of the Pensioners and what it means to be residents of the Royal Hospital. He laughingly calls them 'inmates'.
After lunch we all retired to the Chelsea Pensioners' Club where we drank Guinness. Leo and many of his colleagues served in the Irish Guards, after all. A fitting conclusion to a wonderful visit just a head of St Patrick's Day.
Wednesday 13th March 2019
One of the joys of a Master's year is the great variety of opportunity to broaden one's knowledge and a key source is the array of lectures organised by fellow Livery Companies. This lecture organised by the Security Professionals is a case in point. The scheduled speaker was Sir Mark Sedwill KCMG, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, appointed National Security Adviser in April 2017. He was to join the Security Professionals and their guests at Barber-Surgeons' Hall to deliver this year's Annual Security Lecture but unfortunately the politics of the day forced him to withdraw on the morning of the event. Unwilling to disappoint the Security Professionals, his deputy, Madeleine Alessandri, stepped into the breach. She is the UK Deputy National Security Advisor responsible for Intelligence, Security and Resilience.
The Hall was packed and, whilst a little uncertain what to expect knowing that Sir Mark had cancelled, the audience was rapt as soon as Madeleine began her cogent address on the state of global security and the potential future threats to our society. Unscripted and with breathtaking speed and clarity, she took us through the themes of political dynamics, economic imbalances, technological development (AI, quantum computing, 5G), climate change and terrorism. Elegantly stitched together, these themes were thoroughly explored, contextualised and, where possible, placed in perspective. There then followed one of the most extraordinary and engaged Q&A sessions that I have heard in a very long time with Madeleine providing exquisitely fashioned responses to demanding and piercing questions on subjects at the heart of her work. It was truly impressive. All the more so for the fact that she had been parachuted into the lecture with just hours of notice. It is good to know that people of Madeleine's calibre are dedicated to the service of the country.
Tuesday 12th March 2019
The Savage Club was founded in 1857 when a letter was sent by George Augustus Sala (pictured) to prospective members. The letter was an invitation to 'a meeting of gentlemen connected with literature and the fine arts, and warmly interested in the promotion of Christian knowledge, and the sale of exciseable liquors' with a view to 'forming a social society or club'. Having then been formed and named, the Savage has ever since prided itself on being one of the leading Bohemian gentlemen's clubs in London with its stated aim of the 'pursuit of happiness'...and happy it is, for today it enjoys very comfortable residency at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall.
Close connections lead to a kind invitation from an esteemed member of the Savage and so it came to pass that he played host to this Smoking Club event. Taking full advantage of the well stocked and welcoming bar, our party was able to relax in the agreeable setting of the club lounge and mix not just amongst ourselves but with Savage Club members. Despite the weather being clear that evening, it was rather cold. However, very little can stop a smoker when he or she wishes to smoke and a large group soon stepped out to the magnificent Thames-side terrace and the bracing night. If people shivered, they didn't show it. Lit cigars and bonhomie warmed the party and our time was happily spent in our own Bohemian rhapsody set with the backdrop of twinkling lights from the South Bank. The evening was perfect and I like to think that the spirit of Mr. Sala was smiling on us as we paid our own homage to his Club's aim.
Thursday 7th March 2019
It is not uncommon for Livery Company hosts to seek to surprise and delight their guests at formal dinners. However, the Tax Advisers really stood out when they included in the Receiving Line beside the Master a living, breathing owl. Her name was Sage and she was completely unphased by the grand surroundings of the Clothworkers' Hall and the stream of guests that passed her by. Indeed, I sensed the feeling of some disdain as she looked on in a regal manner, occasionaly preening to lift the boredom of being the star of this show. Photographs were taken and the processional party made is way to dinner with Sage on the arm of some servant.
The Tax Advisers are a young, modern Company but it will be no surprise to hear that it is sizeable, well resourced and includes members of some stature in the industry and the City at large. The Budget Banquet historically was timed to coincide with the Spring Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and was an opportunity to allow the Master and Principal Guest to address pertinent issues derived therefrom. Since tradition has been upturned by the current incumbent of No.11 with the Budget now being delivered in the Autumn, the Tax Advisers' faced a conundrum. Do they move the Budget Banquet to the Autumn or leave it in the Spring? They chose the latter and transformed a traditionally good sized attendance into a very large one. The professionals no longer had to be heads down at their desks poring over numbers.
Thus it was that the Company and its guests were able to tuck in to a most enjoyable dinner with delicious wines in a most leisurely atmosphere. The speeches were somewhat relevant to the industry but much more skewed to broader City matters, particularly that of the Company's Past Master and Past Lord Mayor, Alderman Ian Luder who applied a light touch for the amusement of the room. The only one that was not amused was Sage. Apparently, the caterers had failed to meet her dietary requirements and she did not care for the music. Insisting that her people get her out of there (no paparazzi, please!), I understand it took some time to smooth the ruffled feathers.
Wednesday 6th March 2019
The Tobacco Pipe Makers' have a long and close relationship with the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and are no strangers to the Company's home, the HQS Wellington. Many a Court Meeting and Dinner have we held on board this unique, floating Livery Hall. Accordingly, accepting the invitation of the Master, Captain Rob Booth, to join him along with other Masters and Clerks was an easy choice.
A very civilised Reception on the quarterdeck primed the assembled party well for what was an excellent lunch. With thirty Masters and Prime Wardens in attendance it was an event that carried significant weight with a mixture of both old and modern Companies ranging from the Grocers (No.2 in order of precedence) to the Hackney Carriage Drivers (No.104), a truly representative body of the Livery movement and a testament to the broad reach of our hosts.
The guests enjoyed the speech of the Principal Guest, Commodore Bob Sanguinetti, UK Chamber of Shipping which was followed by that of the Master, delivered in his signature style of a poem; no doubt a skill developed in the many years at sea.
Tuesday 5th March 2019
The Worshipful Company of Poulters initiated the City’s inter-livery pancake race on Shrove Tuesday in 2004. Whilst originally focused on those Livery Companies connected with the making of pancakes the event has grown with this year's event comprised of thirty Livery Company teams of four - a Master, a Liveryman, a Lady Liveryman and a Novelty Entrant. These contestants are pitched against their fellows from the other Companies in a series of heats in which they run much of the length of Guildhall Yard tossing pancakes whilst clad in gowns, aprons, gloves and chef's hats. The times of the contestants are recorded and the top five in each category win a place in a final.
For the Tobacco Pipe Makers this year, I was joined by Third Warden Jerry Merton (Liveryman), the Mistress Sally Brookes (Lady Liveryman) and Assistant Elise Rasmussen (Novelty Entrant). In the case of Elise, she designed and made an excellent representation of the charities being supported by the Lord Mayors's Appeal - Place2Be, OnSide and Samaritans. She and all the other Novelty Entrants were reviewed by the organising Committee along with the Lady Mayoress with the top three most innovative or fun being rewarded with acclaim.
Fine weather (almost like summer!) blessed the occasion which meant that the races were on. The home team made an excellent job of the heats and, in the case of the Liverymen and Masters' races, Jerry and I got through to the respective finals. Outrun and outtossed, the laurels went to other Companies. Our hopes then rested on Elises's entry for best costume in the Novelty Entrants. Alas, despite her wins twice in previous years, she was pipped to the post by a green telephone. At first deflated, the team picked itself up and we reminded ourselves that it was the taking part that counts.
Monday 25th February 2019
The Mistress has a penchant for jewellery so, when thinking about what to do for The Mistress's Event, it seemed a logical thing to accept the kind offer of our good friend Adam Phillips to pay a visit to the London Assay Office which is buried deep in Goldsmiths' Hall. The Tobacco Pipe Makers know Adam well from his many attendances at Smoking Club events over the years and his work at the Assay Office has always been the source of fascination.
Twenty one of us attended that day, mainly the partners of Court members although there were a few interlopers like me, the IPM and the Senior Warden - couldn't resist. Once all coats and bags were taken away and locked up safely, Adam and Assay veteran Dave Merry walked us through the Hall and its many reception rooms providing us with a history and many fun facts. This included Goldsmiths' Hall having been the setting for Ellie Goulding's video for 'Love me like you do', a song written for the film 'Fifty Shades of Grey'!!
Once the swooning had stopped, we were all moved on to the offices and workshops of the Assay Office itself where we learned about the daily activities as jewellers across the country would send in their products for hallmarking ahead of sale. The processes of testing the goods, confirming their quality and then applying appropriate hallmarks was described and shown in a fascinating tour that culminated in the testing of a number of the guests personal pieces of jewellery. Thankfully, there were no nasty surprises. The same cannot be said for some luckless buyers of silver antiques now in the possession of the Assay Office in its 'Black Museum'. These items were seemingly plausable items that were either the products of innocent adaption or outright fraud. What they had in common was genuine hallmarking misapplied to composite silver products. True cases of caveat emptor!
Leaving Goldsmiths' Hall extending heartfelt thanks to our hosts and guides, the party made its way just a short distance to Manicomio, a fine Italian restaurant, for a most pleasurable and relaxed lunch. It was a perfect day.
Tuesday 19th February 2019
The Basketmakers' Company is celebrating its 450th Anniversary in 2019 and it has organised a number of special events for the year. The first is this showcase for the basket weaving trade and, for the occasion, the setting was the Old Library at Guildhall. Arriving at Guildhall Yard on the sunniest day of the year so far, we were greeted by the imposing figures of the wickerwork Gog and Magog, standing silent guard over the day's proceedings.
Formally opened by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, the event was packed and included the Lady Mayoress, Sheriff Liz Green as well as many Masters, Mistresses and Clerks. The Master Basketmaker, Chris Hipkins, addressed the room and provided not just the historical significance of the trade but a clear message that the craft and the trade is alive and well. Indeed, as communities turn their back on non-recyclables, basket-woven goods are making something of a comeback. The event provided good evidence of that with items ranging from the practical to the decorative. In the case of the latter, the medium is so versatile that sculptural works were limited only by imagination and we found many pieces that were things of wonder.
This event was an excellent example of a Livery Company being not only close to its trade but also a strong agent of support and development. If the further Anniversary celebrations of the Basketmakers are half as well done as this showcase, it is going to be an exceptional year!
Tuesday 12th February 2019
It is always a privilege to dine with the Pewterers' Company. Apart from the delightful Hall and its historic collection of pewter treasures, the Company's members are unfailingly good hosts, offering delicious food and even better wines to their lucky guests. This Livery Dinner was no exception and it was fine company with thirteen visiting Masters and their respective Clerks. We were also joined by the Deacon of the Hammermen of Glasgow, one of the fourteen esteemed guilds of that city.
The Principal Guest and Speaker was His Honour Judge Michael Lawson QC who, with dry wit, entertained us with a stroll through today's world of political correctness. This was followed by the Master Pewterer, Richard Parsons, who then took us all on a journey to Brussels. Speculating how the assembled group might fair in Brexit negotiations, Master Pewterer offered suggestions of how each Master might contribute to the endeavour.
After a good shave by the Barbers, the Saddlers and Loriners would provide transport. The Wax Chandlers would illuminate the journey, the Watermen would secure safe passage over the English Channel whilst the Armourers would supply the necessary hardware to protect the party from bandit attack. Once in Brussels, the Stationers and Newspaper Makers would set about reporting on matters as the Hammermen and the Founders would thrash out an agreement with the EU team, the Plaisterers would cover any cracks leaving the Broderers to stitch up the deal. With the job done, it would then be left to the Innholders and Butchers to host the celebratory party (with pewterware, of course) and the Tobacco Pipe Makers would supply the cigars! The Master Pewterer declared that had only this plan been thought of sooner, the Brexit process would have been resolved a very long time ago in the most satisfactory way.
It was a wonderful evening of wishful thinking and bonhomie, the Pewterers' Company having fully upheld its reputation for the most gracious hospitality.
Monday 4th February 2019
The Prime Warden of the Saddlers' Company extended the great kindness of an invitation to this annual event held at Saddlers' Hall. Greeted by a lifesize model of a horse in the entrance lobby, guests were herded upstairs to the reception rooms that had been filled with the best saddlery and equestrian leatherwork of the day, produced by master craftsmen and women and trainees alike. The event was one that allowed guests to view the great array of pieces all of which had been categorised and appraised by judges over the prior weekend. Apart from saddles, there were bridles, harnesses, you name it... Whilst prize-winners had been identified and were clearly marked, the awards of Gold, Silver and Bronze in each category was yet to be announced by the Master Saddler later that day.
The event was well attended by people from the industry and equestrian as well as the City and Livery Companies. It was enjoyable not just for seeing the new products on show but also the many treasures that the Hall has on display. This included a stunning saddle that belonged to Queen Elizabeth I and was used on a visit to Bristol in 1574. A wonderful complement of historic craftsmanship with that of today.
Wednesday 30th January 2019
Whilst achieving its Royal Charter as recently as 1937, the Basketmakers' Company has a history that can be traced back to medieval times being first recognised by Order of the Court of Aldermen in 1569. City records show it existed much earlier in the 15th Century. With that said, the craft itself is truly ancient with examples held at the British Museum that have been dated back to 3,000 BC. Happily, our Company enjoys a strong relationship with the Basketmakers and this year we are both celebrating notable anniversaries. Just as we will celebrate 400 years since the formation of our First Company, so the Basketmakers will celebrate 450 years since its formal establishment.
It was a great honour to be invited to their Livery Dinner, held at Skinners' Hall and to process with the Prime Warden and my fellow Livery guests. We were lead in by two Stewards, one bearing a banner bearing the Basketmakers' coat of arms whilst the second carried a basketwoven head of a griffin on a pole. This latter totem was a very fine thing.
Upon arrival at my place at table, I was struck by the sight of a most extraordinary piece of silverware positioned right in front of me. It was one of the Basketmakers' treasures that rarely sees the light of day, a large snuff box fashioned in the form of a plumed hussar's cap or busby. More than that, it was charged with snuff! This was was a great kindness extended by the Prime Warden to make me feel at home.
The evening had a distinct military feel to it as it marked the first occasion that the Basketmakers were able to demonstrate their support for their new affiliation with 8th Batallion The Rifles, the newest infantry battalion in the British Army Reserve, formed in 2017. Guests enjoyed a carpet guard, a military fanfare to announce dinner and a speech from the Principal Guest, Brigadier Charlie Collins. It was a wonderful and affirming occasion that reinforced the strong relationship between Livery Companies and the Armed Forces.
The final joy for the honoured guests were presentations of basketry gifts with each piece selected having some relevance to the guest. The Master Wheelwright received a basketwoven tray in a wheel design, the Master Pattenmaker received a basketwoven overshoe and I received a basketwoven snuff box! I have decided that it shall be put to a different purpose as it is large and holey. A perfect case for my smoking cap!
Monday 28th January 2019
As many of you will know, the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, or The Pickwick Papers, was the first novel of Charles Dickens. It was published in monthly instalments from March 1836 to November 1837. The first instalment sold about 500 copies. However, sales rapidly grew and the last instalment sold about 40,000 copies making the book a bestseller and it established the writer as a notable literary force at the age of 25. The beginning of an illustrious career!
Set in 1827-28, the story centres around a kind and wealthy old gentleman, Samuel Pickwick Esquire. Along with a collection of acolytes, he forms the Pickwick Club and they embark on a variety of travels, adventures and misdeeds in England with their journeys being taken by coach. Dickens' deft use of humour and satire combined with a great cast of magnificently comic characters proved such a winning work that it remains a much loved treasure to this day.
In tribute to Dickens and Samuel Pickwick himself, The City Pickwick Club was formed in 1909 with membership limited to 100 individuals each of which are allotted the name of a character. Membership is much sought after, tougher than joining the most prestigious of golf clubs, for sure. They meet three times a year at the George & Vulture Tavern to discuss the Club's business and to share a snug little dinner. Vacancies for this club arise very rarely, as you might expect.
As it happens, a Past Master of our company is a member and it was a great honour to receive an invitation to join him at one such meeting. Mr Pickwick presided over the proceedings supported admirably well by the Honorary Secretary, Mr Augustus Snodgrass. The members and guests dined well before Mr Pickwick presented his guest to speak, Rt Hon Lord Justice Nigel Davis QC. It turned out that the choice of speaker was contentious for the Lord Justice sought to prove that the Court case against Mr Pickwick for breach of promise (of marriage) towards Mrs Bardell was, in fact, fair; that his subsequent incarceration was just. Despite the protestations from Club members, to an impartial observer such a Master Tobacco Pipe Maker, the Lord Justice's case seemed clear cut. However, the cloud cast by this difference of opinion soon passed with a glass of port and a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Wednesday 23rd January 2019
For the members of our Company, the January Dinner is always a special occasion. Historically linked to a trade fair, the event still holds on to its industry roots with many attending from the world of tobacco not just from the UK, but also Europe and America. This year was no exception as the assembled party filled out the wonderful Goldsmiths' Hall. Amongst the honoured guests was the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company, Michael Prideaux, who also happens to be both a former Board executive at BAT and a Past Master Tobacco Pipe Maker. The evening could not have been more auspicious!
At the Court Meeting earlier that day, it was my great pleasure to admit four new Freemen to the Company. They were Mario Cescutti, Robert Fox, William Rasmussen and Susan Stocker. At the dinner each was presented to the Company and guests in customary fashion.
We were very fortunate to have as Principal Guest Air Vice-Marshal Nick Kurth. Having retired from a distinguished career in the RAF, Nick has enjoyed a busy retirement first leading the British Mountaineering Council and currently as Chairman of The Ulysses Trust. It was about this last role that Nick spoke during his speech. The mission of the Ulysses Trust is to provide encouragement, advice and financial support for challenging expeditions planned and undertaken by our Volunteer Reserve and Cadet Forces. Since 1992, the Trust has provided over £2.8 million, to help over 34,000 young people from all backgrounds to participate in over 2,650 expeditions around the world. Under Nick's leadership, the charity continues to grow with the support of its Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.
Whilst the Company is modern in Livery terms having been formed in 1954, it is, in fact, the third incarnation of the Tobacco Pipe Makers. The First Company was formed in 1619 in the reign of James I so this year we are celebrating four hundred years of history. Bringing together the formation of the First Company and the role of the Goldsmiths' Company in the plantation of Virginia, I took the opportunity to present a clay church warden pipe to the Prime Warden Goldsmith as a token of fellowship and thanks. The Company will mark the quatercentenary with a special church service and reception in the summer which will be led by my inestimable successor!
Tuesday 8th January 2019
For most Masters and Clerks, the annual Dinner with the Plaisterers' Company is the first Livery event in a given year. In 2019, it was certainly the case for this Master although, sadly, unaccompanied as our learned Clerk was indisposed.
The event was the first occasion that I have been to Plaisterers' Hall and it was quite a surprise. The exterior is all modern concrete, steel and glass. However, within, the Hall is a rich, intricately decorated marvel that reflects Robert Adam's 18th Century neoclassical designs for the historic pre-War building. It must be seen to appreciate it as photographs do not do it justice.
The Great Hall is great in all senses! Not only is it magnificently decorated and fitted but it is very large, seating three hundred and sixty easily with much room to spare. I understand that only Guildhall has a greater capacity. As such, it affords the Plaisterers' Company the luxury of gathering over fifty Livery Company Masters and Clerks. It is a most generous display of hospitality that is appreciated by all the guests.
We enjoyed speeches from both the Master Plaisterer, Timothy Cooke, and his Clerk, Nigel Bamping, that included many topical matters concerning the Livery Companies interlaced with warm-hearted rivalry between the speakers about the preeminence of their respective historial heroes, The Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. Like the heroes themselves, neither advocate gave an inch and, in the end, it was agreed that they disagree. The Guest Speaker was the Master Draper, Philip Ogden, who provided a thought provoking speech that reflected on the challenges and opportunities for the Livery Companies in the modern day. With its origins in the 14th Century, the Drapers know a thing or two about survival and prosperity. The Master's words were well heeded.
The final delight of the evening was music. This was provided Nicholas McCarthy, an accomplished and celebrated one handed pianist. Born in 1989 without a right hand, he was encouraged to develop his musical gift seeking left-handed classical pieces to play. Attending The Royal College of Music, Nicholas is the only left-handed painist to graduate in that instituion's 130 year history and in 2018 he was awarded honorary membership by its President, HRH The Prince of Wales. Needless to say, the audience was rapt, all were inspired by the wonder and achievement of this remarkable young man.
Monday 17th December 2018
The final event of my Livery Company programme for 2018 was 'A City Scrooge' at Mansion House, an event organised in aid of The Lord Mayor's Appeal. The Dickensian theme was evident from the moment that we arrived with Scrooge's refreshments, water and dry cheese biscuits. As the Lord Mayor's guests mingled, there were stands around the Salon selling an array of Dickensian merchandise as well as the Lord Mayor's Christmas chocolates and his special edition whisky! There were raffle tickets too for some pretty impressive prizes; my eye was on the Sleepy Scrooge hat.
Whilst the distractions of the Salon were fun, the centrepiece of the evening was Simon Callow, the actor, author and director. To a packed out Egyptian Hall, Simon provided a fascinating tour of the life of young Charles Dickens. The poverty that he and his family suffered first hand before he rose to prominence informed much of his work and none more so than 'A Christmas Carol'. This masterpiece was first published in 1843 when Dickens was just 31 and already successful having published the Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Barnaby Rudge to name but a few. Interestingly, the public never learnt of the Dickens' family penury until long after Charles's death.
Excerpts from 'A Christmas Carol' were recited and read in the most wonderful way by Simon Callow interspersed with sharp observation and commentary. The characters, particularly that of Scrooge himself, were brought to life as we were swept through the story's path. Simon Callow's mastery of his subject and delivery was so great that his performance was one of the quickest hours of my life. The audience would have encouraged him to go on and on were it not for the intervention of the Lord Mayor who brought proceedings to an end before his invitation to the reception that followed, one much more in keeping with the generous soul that Scrooge became.
Returning to the Salon the assembled crowd enjoyed a welcome drink and some food before the raffle was called by Mark Dickens, a great-great-grandson of Charles himself. We learned from Mark that he was not the only descendant in the room that evening and that, in fact, there were ten in total. The game then was to discover who they all were.
It was a truly memorable evening, a great way to raise money for The Lord Mayor's Appeal and a fun event to precede Christmas! 'And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!'
Saturday 15th December 2018
Located between Chelmsford and Brentwood in Essex, Barrow Farm Riding and Carriage Driving for the Disabled is a charity that our Company has supported for a great many years. The facilities are purpose built and are designed to make riding and carriage driving accessible for people who, for whatever reason, cannot be catered for at another riding school.
The charity's purpose is to provide physiotherapy and exercise, a chance to learn, the opportunity to make new friends, to build self esteem and confidence whilst also having fun. Over 100 children and adult riders and drivers come to Barrow Farm each week where the school has been been providing riding and driving experiences since 1976.
It is a highlight of a Master's year that he and the Mistress are invited to the Barrow Farm Carol Service where the children of the school enact the nativity including their ponies and horses. The event is typically attended by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Mayor of Chelmsford and the Lord Lieutenant. With all this to look forward to we wended our way through what was one of the most miserable nights of the year as wind and driving rain rendered driving conditions very poor indeed. Happily, we made good time and pulled into the Barrow Farm yard a little ahead of time.
However, having done so, we could not help but notice that the place and the farm house close by were swathed in utter darkness. Furthermore, the yard was empty but for one other car that promptly drove away leaving us alone and feeling a little confused. Were we in the right place? At this moment a tap on the car's driver's window signalled that we were not alone after all and we were greeted by a lady, the lovely occupant of the farm house, who was stoically braving the weather to speak to any bemused visitors.
It transpired that the village had suffered a comprehensive power cut earlier in the day and that, despite repeated assurances from the energy supplier, the power had not been restored by that evening. Whilst Barrow Farm had made the decision to cancel the Carol Service in the afternoon, the attempts to contact all of the visitors for that evening were severely hampered by the fact that all electronic records with contact details were unavailable, as was the ability to email and telephone.
Whilst the outcome was sad for the vistors and guests, it was the children that really lost out. The months of preparation for their big night were all for nought. We passed our best wishes to the organisers and turned back for our homeward journey into the the wintery night. For us, this treat at Barrow Farm will have to be another year...
Tuesday 11th December 2018
It's the most wonderful time of the year!... and, as is traditionally the case, the Tobacco Pipe Makers celebrated together with a Carol Service lead by our Honorary Chaplain, The Reverend Canon David Parrott, at St Lawrence Jewry in Guildhall Yard. With David's blessing, Past Master Mark Gower-Smith arranged a beautiful Order of Service that was delivered with the support of The Sevenoaks School Choir conducted by Michael Heighway and the much sought after organist, Catherine Ennis.
The Sevenoaks Choir sang outstanding hymns including a medieval Spanish villancico, 'Ríu, Ríu, Chíu' which was a real treat. The congregation was invited to sing traditional carols - Once in royal David's city, The holly and the ivy, The first Nowell and a hearty Hark! the herald angels sing. I am pleased to report that the Tobacco Pipe Makers were in good voice, doing justice to the magnificent setting of the church and the organ playing.
The Honorary Chaplain made his address on the importance of names and how we know one another by having them. Referring to an earlier reading of St John as he unfolds the great mystery of the incarnation, he taught us that Word was God and that the Word also refers to Jesus Christ in the verses. In making his point, David played with his own surname, Parrott, and showed us the many gifts that he had received over the years representing parrots including a fine parrot hat. One young member of the congregation got somewhat confused and thought it more resembled a duck much to the chagrin of the Honorary Chaplain. But the spat ended well, as it should at this time of peace and good will to all men (and children...).
With the Carol Service over, the congregation stayed for a time to enjoy each others' company along with a glass of wine and mince pies before dispersing into the crisp December night. Once things had been tidied at the church, the remaining Court members bade farewell and Christmas good wishes to the church staff and the Honorary Chaplain who will forever more be known as Duckie!
Thursday 6th December 2018
Almost exactly six months in to my year of office I have had the pleasure of attending many fine dinners and banquets representing the Tobacco Pipe Makers. This particular occasion at Mansion House was by any measure an exceptional evening.
The guests were first greeted and guarded by the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers in full 17th Century uniform and weaponry. The new Master, Mark Winston, and his Mistress then welcomed us to a fine champagne reception attended by 300 Company members and their guests. The Eqyptian Hall was groaning with silverware and fabulous floral decoration that included pictorialised playing cards for further adornment. The meal was lavish, the wines exquisite and coffee was attended by edible playing cards which were made of painted white chocolate. Music played throughout being provided by The Militaire Orchestra concluding with The Post Horn Galop; always a winner at such occasions.
We heard excellent speeches form the Master and The Lord Mayor but plaudits go to the Guest Speaker, Peter Williamson, the astronomer and broadcaster. A personal friend of the Master, his speech focused on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the first successful manned lunar mission. The Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed on the moon on 20th July 1969 and Peter provided his wonderful insights and observations about the historic achievment to a rapt audience.
The Master of the Makers of Playing Cards played a winning hand...
Tuesday 27th November 2018
This quarterly social took place at a new venue for the Company; the Karma Sanctum Hotel in Soho, a short stroll from Piccadilly Circus. A former MI5 research building, the hotel is an unabashed paean to hedonistic rock n' roll luxury. This all makes sense when you understand that its style is inspired by the vision of its two creators which bring together the worlds of night clubs and the music business.
Dodging the flashlights of paparazzi, our party swept into the building and were guided to the lifts that took us to one of the hotel's secret weapons, an initimate roof terrace and bar. Fully kitted out with heaters and awnings, this 24/7 venue is perfect for those of a smoking disposition in all weathers. Our evening's drizzly conditions passed unnoticed by the assembled revellers who enjoyed a fun and raucous time...and that was without recourse to the hotel's thoughtfully provided roof-top jacuzzi. Probably just as well!
Like all good things, our evening came to an end and we filed out in batches to avoid detection by groupies. Described as being 'defiantly unconventional with a punk edge', for the Tobacco Pipe Makers, this hotel felt like home.
Monday 26th November 2018
The Worshipful Company of Turners is one of the oldest Livery Companies tracing its history back to the 12th Century. 200 years later, Edward III decreed that 'wooden measures, as well for wine as for ale' should be made by 'turnours' with marks of their own - and so, amongst other things, the medieval turners established the English 'pint' as an official measure. Thank you! The Company's Royal Charter was granted in 1604 by James I providing something of a link to our own First Company, which received its Royal Charter from King James 15 years later.
The Turners hold turning competitions every two years in association with the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain, the Society of Ornamental Turners and the Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Greenwood Workers. They attract entries from turners of all ages and skill. A special feature this year was the Master's Open Competition which marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice where woodturners were asked to create works which reflect their personal style, techniques and response to the 1918 Armistice and the 100th anniversary.
Based on what we saw at the Private View, the craft of turning in the UK is clearly in rude health. The array and quality of the work presented was as impressive as it was varied including pieces of exceptional skill. There was even an entry by the Master Turner, David Batchelor, in the amateur category. Being a man of Kent, his piece represented a Kentish oast house.
Wednesday 21st November 2018
According to legend, St Cecilia was a Roman woman of noble birth who was martyred for her Christian faith around the year 230 AD. Having resolved to live a chaste existence, her father betrothed her to a Roman man against her wishes and it is said that as the musicians played at her wedding she "sang in her heart to the Lord". St Cecilia converted her husband to Christianity and together they preached the gospel until they were captured and executed. She has since become the Patron Saint of Musicians and her saints day is November 22.
For 72 of its 97 years in existence, the Festival of St Cecilia has been the flagship event and highlight in the calendar of Help Musicians UK. It is one of the leading charities for musicians, providing support and opportunities to artists from all backgrounds across the country. The charity addresses not simply professional development but also a musician's well-being and in 2017 it did so for around 14,000 people in the music sector.
The event organised by Help Musicians UK brings together the choirs of Westminster Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and is held alternatively at Westminster Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral. This year it was the latter and the event was supported by many patrons and organisations including 40 Livery Companies including the Tobacco Pipe Makers.
The Service was excellent, containing choral work and music that can only be described as sublime. We heard excellent readings from the Chairman of Help Musicians UK, Graham Sheffield CBE, and the actress, Jane Asher. A standout musical solo performance was given by Milos Karadaglic, a guitar player of international acclaim. The Preacher that day was the Reverend Richard Coles, the former instrumentalist half of 1980s pop band The Communards, together with Jimmy Somerville! This event is truly a wonder in every way.
Thursday 15th November 2018
For eleven years, the Lord Mayor has held a Big Curry Lunch, one of the City of London's biggest fundraisers in support of all members of the Armed Forces and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan through the three National Service Charities - ABF The Soldiers' Charity, the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. In 2018, it raised £190,000 and the aim is to reach a cumulative total of £2 million since inception by April 2019 when the next lunch takes place.
Promotion of the Big Curry Lunch starts early with this Launch Party which took place at the City of London Club. Representatitives of the Livery Companies and Ward Clubs assembled along with corporate sponsors to hear a speech by General Sir Mike Jackson who laid out the invaluable work of the ABF The Soldiers' Charity which money from the lunch supports. Michael Hockney, the Co-Chairman of the The Lord Mayor's Big Curry Lunch 2019, then went on to explain the new initiative to implement a three your programme in 2019-21 that will focus on (i) employment and employability, (ii) support of the three National Service Charities current commitments to help veterans into employment and (iii) to support the King Edward VII Hospital's Centre for Veterans' Health which helps veterans prepare for work.
Our Company has supported The Lord Mayor's Big Curry Lunch for many years and expects to fulfil its role in 2019.
Tuesday 13th November 2018
Sir Lionel Denny is a Master that looms large in the history of the Barbers' Company. Holding office in 1938, he followed both his father and grandfather in the role and, unusually for the Company, he chose to progress with civic roles, ultimately becoming Lord Mayor in 1965. However, it was his great foresight at the outbreak of World War II for which he is most revered because he saved the Company's treasures from desctruction during the war by sending them to safety in 1939. The treasures are great and many, including a magnificient portrait of Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons of the day painted by Hans Holbein the Younger. This huge and remarkable painting graces today's Great Hall.
In tribute to Sir Lionel, the Company has organised annual lectures now in their 36th year. These were initially held at the Museum of London, a stone's throw from the Hall until a former Clerk decided that the walk was too long and ever since they have been held at the Hall itself. As a setting, it is one that I prefer given the wealth of aforementioned treasures to see.
The speaker was Dr Margaret Pelling, senior research associate at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford and the subject of her lecture was that of barbers' poles; their origins and use. It seems that their iconic place in the minds of modern Britons is one not founded on their wholesale use in times past. Neither have they been simply red and white but also red, white and blue (18th Century) for reasons not altogether clear even to the scholars. Passing mention of poles can be found in certain literature and in legal records (mainly wills) but Dr Pelling has been frustrated at the overall lack of historical references particularly when other chattels in trade for Barbers have been well documented.
Whilst the search for poles lead to a certain amount of disappointment, the lecture was rich in interesting historical, medical and social content. One small example was that the numbering system that we take for granted today for address purposes only emerged after the Great Fire. Prior to that a letter would have found its way by long and complex instructions referencing an array of directions and descriptions of other buildings and features in the given road. What fun if we still had that system today!
Saturday 10th November 2018
It is an incontrovertible fact that it is both cold and rainy on the day of the annual Lord Mayor's Show, the event that heralds the arrival of a new Lord Mayor for the City of London. For those that support the new Lord Mayor in this great pageant through the streets of the City, the adverse weather presents great challenges; what warm clothes to wear, what waterproof shoes and, particularly for those in Livery gowns, whether to where a plastic poncho. Practical things to help cope with a six mile walk without cover that hopefully disguise any discomforts of a meteorological kind from the hundreds of thousands of well-wishers cheering and waving as you pass by.
So when the Clerk, Senior Warden, Renter Warden and I assembled at Stationers Hall that morning, it was with astonishment that we found that the weather was rather nice. For a few moments we wondered if we had the right day. After the learned Clerk assured us it was the right day and that, yes, the weather really was clear, bright and quite warm for mid-November, the walkers had to reconsider their attire. We stripped back some layers and, with some gratitude, left behind our ponchos before donning our Company's gowns and badges of office. With that done, off we set to join our fellow Modern Livery Companies' float, a magnificent gold RouteMaster bus.
Fittingly for the Tobacco Pipe Makers, the collection of 22 Modern Companies being represented that day was number 82 in the order of procession. In total there were 148 participating organisations including the Lord Mayor, Peter Estlin, and the Sheriffs, Vincent Keaveny and Liz Green, and the floats, walkers and marching bands put on a fine show with everyones' spirits lifted by the beautiful weather. The party atmosphere continued into the lunchtime break where, by tradition, the Modern Livery Companies are welcomed onboard HQS Wellington by the Master Mariners. On deck, we enjoyed a light lunch, a drink and, for those so disposed, a smoke. Reinvigorated, the Show restarted for its short finish past Mansion House for a second time and then back to London Wall before concluding a little before 3pm.
The Senior Warden, Renter Warden and I returned our gowns and processional trappings to Stationers Hall. As we said our goodbyes, grey clouds were gathering in the sky and within half an hour of this moment the heavens opened with a biblical downpour. So the tradition held true with regards to the weather on the day of the Lord Mayor's Show but, thankfully, it did not rain on this year's parade!
Friday 9th November 2018
The admission of the Lord Mayor Elect into office takes place on the 'Friday next preceding the second Saturday in November in every year'. This year the Lord Mayoralty passed from Alderman Charles Bowman to Alderman Peter Estlin, a Past Master of the International Bankers, in a time honoured ceremony that is conducted in silence.
The Silent Ceremony, as it is known, is conducted in the packed Great Hall at Guildhall. At 2.55pm precisely, the procession arrived with all of the City's senior and ceremonial officials including the Lord Mayor and Lord Mayor Elect. With no word spoken, the ceremony begins entailing procedures that symbolise the passing of power; the outgoing Lord Mayor first passes over the Sceptre, the Seal of office and the Purse to the incoming Lord Mayor. He then passes the Sword and the Mace to the incoming Lord Mayor. All of these are accepted by the incoming Lord Mayor who then places the Sceptre, Seal and Purse into the care of the Chamberlain, the Sword into the care of the Swordbearer and the Mace into the care of the of the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms.
Further similar procedures take place to mark the transfer of obedience of other offices all followed by a rotation of the Aldermen, Recorder, Sheriffs, Officers, Chief Commoner, members of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs' Committee who extend their congratulations. The procession then left the Great Hall and the new Lord Mayor Peter Estlin, the 691st individual to hold the office, emerged onto Guildhall Yard to the apllause of a thronging crowd and the flashing cameras of the press.
The whole ceremony was performed with clockwork precision. The silence in which it was conducted imbued the ceremony with great dignity and meaning. Something so ancient and traditional in its form and execution and yet so sharply of the moment; the renewal of leadership in the modern City of London.
My thanks go to the Clerk Sandra Stocker and Assistant Elise Rasmussen for supporting me at the event and to Elise, in particular, for her wonderful photograph of the newly minted Lord Mayor!
Thursday 8th November 2018
The craft of the Horners is an ancient one. Horn from animals is a natural plastic (keratin) that was moulded into myriad products such as beakers, utensils, buttons and combs. However, its widest historic use up until the 18th Century was in being beaten into thin translucent sheets to be fabricated into leaves for lanterns and even windows. This latter application came under threat with the advent of cheaper manufacturing costs for glass and so the Company's fortunes slowly but steadily waned. That was until the 20th Century. Having survived as a dining club for some time, the Horners' Company embraced the new industries around plastics, the modern equivalent to horn. Since then it has powered back into life and now stands proudly playing its full role as both an ancient and modern Livery Company.
In celebration of its industry, the Horners' Company hosts the annual Ralph Anderson Lecture, now in its 21st year. The venue was The Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street which boasts one of the most comfortable auditoriums I have ever sat in and we had the pleasure of received an engaging address from a leading light in the British polymer sector, Ian Shott CBE. His messages concerned the state of the industry today, its innovations and its responses to the pressing needs of sustainability. The excellence of this speaker was such that he succeeded in maintaining the audiences rapt attention irrespective of their scientific knowledge or professional expertise. It was both informative and a masterclass in public speaking.
Wednesday 7th November 2018
The Company of Public Relations Practitioners is a young and vibrant Guild that is building its City credentials as rapidly as it is building its numbers. Blessed with brains and, unsurprisingly, a knack for publicity, the leadership team has raised the Company's profile in leaps and bounds including a prominent role in the ongoing Pan-Livery Initiative. Much of their hard work has paid dividends during the twenty-month Mastership of the inestimable Katherine Sykes who has rightly earned much acclaim during her tenure in office. However, the time came for the baton to be passed on and it was with the greatest of pleasure that I accepted an invitation to the Installation Reception of the new Master, Gavin Ellwood.
Having been installed into office at the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, the Master hosted the Company and his guests at the Judge's Dining Room at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. The opportunity to do so was by the kind permission of the Recorder of London, His Honour Judge Nicholas Hilliard who also attended and gave a witty and generous speech.
The evening was a wonderful opportunity to meet many members of this young and energetic Company with big plans. All being well, it aims to achieve Livery status by 2020 and, getting to know the new Master and the Wardens that follow, I have every expectation that this will be comfortably achieved.
Monday 5th November 2018
The Annual Service of Thanksgiving takes place at St Stephen Walbrook, the church closest to Mansion House. The Service gives thanks for the works and achievements of the Lord Mayor at the end of his or her term of office. In this case it was for Alderman Charles Bowman supported by the new Sheriffs, Vincent Keaveny and Liz Green.
The church has a long and interesting history dating back to the end of Roman rule. However, its current form dates back to 1672 when it was designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren. The construction of its dome was a trial run for the dome at his masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral.
The interior of the church is unusual in that its layout is essentially based on a square and its ornamented classical style is symmetrical. Whilst the pews and altar were historically laid out in traditional fashion, today the altar is central under the dome on a circular dais. The altar itself is also round and was designed and installed by sculptor Henry Moore during the extensive repairs to the building following World War II. The banks of pews are curved to encircle the altar which makes participation in a service much more intimate.
The Service was lead by the church vicar, Rev'd Stephen Baxter, with an address by the Lord Mayor's personal chaplain, Rev'd George Bush, and a reading by our Company's Honorary Chaplain, Rev'd Canon David Parrott.
Monday 5th November 2018
Remembrance has its origins in the First World War. The losses in that war were so great that the focus of commemoration became the fallen. It gave rise to the Act of Remembrance, the Cenotaph, the Unknown Soldier, Armistice Day and the Two Minute Silence. It also gave rise to the poppy as a universal symbol of Remembrance and hope for peace for which The Royal British Legion is its champion 'lest we forget'. The work of the RBL continues to this day and it honours not just the sacrifices of the First World War but those of any forces under British command since 1914. It also honours civilian services that have supported the Armed Forces in times of conflict as well as the service of Armed Forces, veterans and their families in times of peace.
Each year, on the Monday preceding Armistice Day, there is a service to mark the opening of the annual Garden of Remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral. Conducted by the Dean of St Paul's, the service is attended by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, the Chapter of St Paul's, Masters and Clerks of the Livery Companies and senior representatives of City institutions amongst others. There are standard bearers of the RBL, a ceremonial squad of the London Ambulance Service and choirs from the two City of London Schools. Music is played by the Coldstream Guards.
The solemn service includes an address by the Lord Mayor, time honoured hymns and traditional Exhortation before The Last Post and a Two Minute Silence. There then follows the planting of crosses lead by the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, Aldermen and the Dean of St Paul's. Further crosses are planted by representatives of the other organisations including the Livery Companies before the service concludes with the Dedication, God Save the Queen and the final Blessing.
The experience was moving. Many families have suffered loss in, or as a result of, the First World War and the many conflicts since. This significant service organised by the RBL in the peaceful setting of the garden at St Paul's was particularly poignant and it served as a reminder that the peace and freedoms we enjoy today came at a heavy cost.
Wednesday 31st October 2018
Our Company has been a supporter of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama since our early beginnings in the 1950s. Over the years, our Benevolent Fund has provided valuable support to hundreds of young singers and musicians for whom our money has made a real difference. Each year the School invites the supporters to a reception that enables them to meet their students and to mix with School staff and fellow benefactors. This year we have increased the funding to enable the Company to increase support from three to four students. It was therefore with great eagerness that the Mistress, the Clerk and I attended the Supporters' Evening to hopefully meet them.
Upon arrival at Milton Court, we were delighted to find that all four students were in attendance. These were Robert Lewis (Singer, Tenor), Andrew Garrido (Classical Piano), Leila Alexander (Singer, Soprano) and Zachary Owen (Cello). Each of them chatted freely about their experiences about how they found their way to Guildhall School and the considerable sacrifices that they have made. In the case of Leila, for example, she gave up a career in law in her native New Zealand to pursue her dream of being a professional singer and travelled half way around the world to do it. Similar stories of hard choices were also related by the others.
The courses for these students are gruelling being full time every day plus practice and commitments to productions. With living costs so high in Central London, the students have to supplement their student finance either by taking low paid jobs in their limited free time (when they should be practicing) or by winning scholarships from benefactors. We found our students to be outstandingly driven and committed. They are each charming and very grateful for the opportunities at Guildhall School, one of the finest conservatoires in the world. These opportunities would be much harder or impossible to enjoy if they were not receiving our Company's support. We wish them every success.
At our January Dinner, we will be entertained by Robert Lewis and Andrew Garrido. I, for one, can't wait!
Tuesday 30th October 2018
To mark the 25th Anniversary of the Children's Magical Taxi Tour, the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers hosted an exceptional banquet at Mansion House. Since September, the Master, Phil Davis, is holding office for the second time; recognition and tribute by the Company for his inspiration to establish this remarkable charity and the years of tireless work that he has dedicated.
Support for the charity comes from the Company members along with many businesses and organisations in the City and representatives of all these organisations were invited to the event. This included the Masters and Clerks of twenty Livery Companies of which the Tobacco Pipe Makers' was one. The Principal Guest was The Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, and the Lady Mayoress.
We heard from the Master about the beginnings of the charity when a sequence of chance conversations lead to an invitation from Disneyland Paris to offer a long weekend to children with life threatening diseases. Phil's challenge was to find enough support to arrange sufficient transport from London to Paris. With many of his Company members rallying behind him it was another stroke of luck that lead to the solving of the puzzle. Upon hearing of the ambitious endeavour, it was P&O that put its backing behind how the taxis could cross the channel. The charity was born!
What was intended to be a one-off event was repeated the following year and the year after that. Despite many further challenges, Phil's ingenuity and tenacity has seen the charity become fully established and it has grown into an extaordinary annual event that enjoys huge backing in the City. Since it began, over 5,000 people have benefitted from the charity; sick children and their families and carers. It has brought joy and happiness to the lives of people that otherwise might not have been able to share such special time together.
The Lord Mayor spoke for us all in extending well-earned gratitude and congratulations to Phil Davis and the members of the Company for their selfless commitment to such an extraordinary benevolent activity. It is exceptional. Thanks were also given to the Company for a wonderful evening of hospitality and entertainment. With over 360 people in attendance, it was a rare occasion to feel the Egyption Room at Mansion House to be truly full. A testament to the popularity of not just the charity but the Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers itself.
Wednesday 24th October 2018
Formed in 1360, in the reign of Edward III, the Upholders' Company oversaw the regulations governing fillings to be used in the making of featherbeds, bolsters, pillows, quilts, mattresses and cushions initially in the City of London but eventually in the whole kingdom. It had the power to exerice its right to search, destroy bad wares and to inflict fines which it did until around the mid-18th Century. Today, the Company still has a connection to its industry and includes funeral directors in its membership.
Any event held at Mansion House is a special occasion and the Upholders' Banquet was no exception. The Master, Tim Solway and his Lady, Gilly Solway, presided with confidence and good humour over a wonderful evening. The Principal Guest was the Lord Mayor Charles Bowman, attending what was to be his last Livery Company dinner in his extraordinary year in office. The Lord Mayor delivered a fine speech mixing central messages about the power of the City and the confidence that British businesses should feel as Brexit negotiations conclude with personal reflections on the highlights of his term in office. Much of the latter derived from the fun engaged in the fundraising activities for The Lord Mayor's Appeal. The speech concluded with the Lord Mayor making a gift to the Master Upholder of a peppermill, peppercorns being an historic symbol of trust; a fitting acknowldegement for Tim Solway's considerable contribution and companionship at many of these charitable events.
Saturday 20th October 2018
The London Irish Rifles was a volunteer rifle regiment of the British Army with a distinguished history and now forms D (London Irish Rifles) Company of the London Regiment that is part of the Army Reserve. The Tobacco Pipe Makers have been supporters of the London Regiment for decades and enjoy a strong affiliation.
The Mistress and I were delighted to receive an invitation from the Commanding Officer, Major Robert Brown, to attend the annual Loos Dinner at their barracks in Camberwell; an event that commemorates the Company's valiant leadership of its Brigade at the Battle of Loos in France on the Western Front on 25th September 1915.
We heard the extraordinary account of the events that unfolded over four days of continous action at the village of Loos. In the first attack 'over the top', the Battalion's football captain, Rifleman Edwards, took a football and kicked it hard towards the enemy. Under heavy fire and suffering great losses, the soldiers kept kicking it forward until they reached and took the first line of the German trenches. Brutal hand-to-hand combat ensued until the second line of trenches was also taken.
The momentum gained was then used to push on to take and secure the village of Loos behind the enemy line. The London Irish Rifles met their most dangerous challenge yet as they defended their position against a sustained onslaught from German forces for three days until they were relieved. It was recognised at the time as being one of the greatest actions of the First World War and it won battle honours. It also won for the Company the nickname 'the Footballers of Loos' and the original football remains one of its greatest treasures.
The officers and men of the Company could not have been more hospitable that evening. We enjoyed an excellent meal of the highest standard, prepared in a field kitchen beside the Mess Hall, and we enjoyed delicious wine. However, the abiding memories of the evening will be both the warmth of the welcome and the feelings of humble gratitude for the scale of valour and the sacrifice from this most illustrious Company and Regiment.
Thursday 18th October 2018
The history of the Fan Makers dates back to 1709 when it was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Anne, a charter that incorporated the 'Cities of London and Westminster and twenty miles round the same.'. The business then and for much of its history was focused on handheld fans and upon arrival at Skinners Hall for the Company's Selection Court Dinner, the guests were greeted by a wonderful display of antique fans in an array of materials and different forms of exquisite decoration. However, in modern times, the Fan Makers are more about the industrial applications of fans and there is a prominent link to the aviation industry. Close to the display of handheld fans was large, shining fan blade; a component from a state-of-the-art Rolls Royce aircraft engine. The coat of arms of the Company, granted in 1991, incorporates both types of fan, bringing together its history and its relevance to modern life.
The Master Fan Maker, Dr. Michael Smith, himself an aviation industry man, presided over a very fine dinner with every comfort and courtesy extended to the guests. The speeches were engaging and provided great insight into the Company and its members, all capped by a riveting speech by Principal Guest Sir Michael Arthur, a former British diplomat and current President of Boeing Europe. Bravo!
Wednesday 17th October 2018
This year's Annual Banquet was held at the magnificent Drapers' Hall. The site had been home to Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and Chief Minister to Henry VIII and was forfeited to Henry upon Cromwell's execution in 1540. The Drapers' Company acquired it in 1543 where they have been ever since. The current hall was originally constructed in 1772 and, today, it is one of the most stunning Livery halls in the City. It provided the perfect setting for a memorable night for the Tobacco Pipe Makers.
We were joined by the Cuban Ambasador, Her Excellency Mrs Teresita Vicente Sotolongo and six Masters of Livery Companies whose orders of precedence ranged from No.3, the Drapers' Company, to No.101, the Security Professionals' Company; a heady mix of old and new. We were also joined by the Commanding Officer of The London Regiment.
Our Principal Guest for the evening was Mr Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Mark delivered an excellent speech on the subject of happiness. He argued that so many choices made in life by human beings are informed not simply by pure economic considerations but by what weight of enjoyment they add to their decisions. The differences in peoples' characters, appetites and interests necessarily create great varieties in choices about the same things; one person's meat is another's poison etc.
As an economist recognising the importance of happiness in the sphere of peoples' economic choices, he is an advocate of less, not more intervention by government to regulate the consumption of goods or the conduct of activities that might not necessarily be 'good' for the health or economic wellbeing of an individual. If people are informed about their choices, including potential hazards, they should still be free to make those choices if it makes them happy. No need for a nanny State! The money expended on quangos and draconion policies would be better spent on education to improve peoples' ability to happily make free choices.
Our evening concluded with jazz music and a stirrup cup where some of us repaired to the Hall's delightful garden to reflect on Mark's words and to have a smoke.
Thursday 11th October 2018
The Installation of the Masters of the Security Professionals falls in the first week of June, similar to the Installation of the Masters of our own Company. The precise timing of the respective Installations each year determines which Master is the most newly minted before attending the annual Ironbridge Gorge Museums Livery Weekend. This year it fell to the Tobacco Pipe Makers but the bragging rights count for little as both Masters and Mistresses were equally fresh to the Livery circuit and were equally welcomed into the fold. Our journeys of engagement with our respective roles have since moved in step and so it was with the greatest of pleasure that the Mistress and I received and accepted an invitation to the Annual Dinner of the Security Professionals by the Master Phill Hagon and the Mistress, Maggie Hagon.
Held at Mansion House, our host Company filled the Egyptian Room with youthful energy, laughter and goodwill. The top table was graced by the great and the good from the industry accompanied by the newly installed Sheriffs, Vincent Keaveny and Liz Green. We enjoyed witty speeches and the presentation of the Provost Marshal (Army) Sword to a Past Master for his outstanding achievements. Carrying the mighty blade, I imagine that his journey home on the Tube that night was undoubtedly trouble free...
The highlight of highlights that evening was the presentation of the Sheriffs' Award for Bravery. Directed by the Security Professionals, this annual award goes to a civilian that has demonstrated exceptional courage. This year's winner was a young man, David Burgess, who saved another young man from a violent knife attack. Taking place in broad daylight and with a standing crowd doing nothing, David launched himself on to the attacker and disarmed him. With thirty three stab wounds, the victim was taken to hospital and survived. David's presence of mind and speed of intervention saved a life. It is a story of selfless heroism and one that quite rightly earned him this public recognition. The Security Profesionals are to be applauded for their role in shining a light on this extraordinary young man.
Thursday 4th October 2018
The Furnitures Makers' Company is number 83 in the Order of Precedence and, therefore, an immediate neighbour to our own Company. The Masters' of our two Companies are frequently paired at events and in civic processions. It is unsurprising, therefore, that a special bond exists and so it was with great pleasure that both the Clerk and I eagerly accepted this invitation to the Masters & Clerks Luncheon at Furniture Makers' Hall in Austin Friars along with eleven other Masters, one Prime Warden and all of their respective Clerks.
The Furniture Makers' are unusual for a modern Company in that they have amassed a wealth in short order sufficient to allow for the purchase of a very fine Hall. Situated in Austin Friars, it is tucked away from the hullabaloo and passing through its doors you enter a world of serene gentility and elegantly proportioned rooms. The building retains many original characteristics including a spiralling, grand staircase. Its chambers are graced with elegant, finely crafted furniture and wood panelling and the walls sport paintings of Past Masters many of whom were at the lunch!
The Master Furniture Maker, Hayden Davies, extended his Company's hospitality in great style and he could not have been more welcoming to the visiting Masters and Clerks. After excellent speeches and a glass of port for the road, we left the peace of Austin Friars back to the noise and bustle of the City with warm feelings about the last few hours of leisure and good conversation.
Wednesday 3rd October 2018
With is origins dating back to 1500, the Musicians' Company, like the First Company of the Tobacco Pipe Makers', was awarded its Royal Charter by King James I. They pipped us to the post by sixteen years... For over five hundred years, the Company has regulated musicians in the City of London and, unsurprisingly, it has a close connection with Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Every year, the Musicians' Company attends St Paul's Cathedral for an Evensong to which Masters, Wardens and Clerks from all of the other Livery Companies are invited. It is a highlight event in the calendar and an opportunity for the Livery Company community to come together with the regular congregation to sit under the Dome of Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece.
The Evensong is beautiful in religious devotion, in sight and in sound. The Master of the Musicians' Company, Lady Brewer, read an important lesson about the importance of good works to support true faith and the choral work, the organ playing and musical accompaniments were sublime. There was also an Elegy for Strings composition by Edward Elgar played in memory of members of the Musicians' Company that have died in the last year. This haunting piece has been performed at the annual service since 1914.
At the end of the Service, Masters, Wardens and Clerks all processed out and descended to the Crypt where the Musicians' entertained us to refreshment at a Reception. A perfect end to a perfect evensong.
Monday 1st October 2018
Having enjoyed an exceptionally nice wedding in the Cotswolds over the weekend, the Mistress and I had hurried home in the small hours of Monday morning to catch some sleep before making our way to the City for the Election of the Lord Mayor at Guildhall. Any tiredness was soon forgotten as we arrived to the great buzz that surrounds such a time-honoured occasion. Gowning in the crypts is always an entertainment, particularly if in a rush. A helping hand is needed and the Learned Clerk was there to oblige. Indeed, both she and Mistress were looked to by the exceptionally tall Master Water Conservator who had to kneel.
The day's proceedings began with a Divine Service at St Lawrence Jewry, overseen by the Reverend Canon David Parrott, the Guild Vicar and our own Honorary Chaplain. It was an extraordinary service in so many ways; the prayers, the hymns and a striking Anthem 'Let all the world in every corner sing' (R Vaughan Williams). The choir and organ music were sublime.
With almost 80 Livery Company Masters in attendance and many Liverymen, Common Hall was packed. The Lord Mayor came to open the proceedings before retiring to allow the Liverymen present to consider the candidates. These were Aldermen Peter Estlin (International Banker), William Russell (Haberdasher) and Tim Hailes (Pewterer). The vote went in favour of Peter Estlin! The voters declared 'Next Year!' for William Russell and 'Later!' for Tim Hailes. Upon this, the Lord Mayor returned to Common Hall with the Lord Mayor-Elect who delivered an inspiring acceptance speech, looking forward to the year ensuing as the City of London's 691st Lord Mayor.
With the excitement over and the Civic Party having left, the Livery Masters departed for lunch with their respective Company members at a variety of halls nearby. Our own Company lunched at Stationers Hall, sharing table with the Master and jolly members of the Security Professionals.
Friday 28th September 2018
Phillip Davis is the Master of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers...for the second time! It was he that organised the first Magical Taxi Tour Trip to Disneyland Paris for children with life-threatening diseases in 1994 and so it is fitting that he is Master again as the Company celebrates 25 years of this extraordinary charity. With donations gathered from City businesses and Livery Companies alike, it is an annual event that has grown and grown.
Representing our Company, I made my way before dawn to the East Winter Gardens at Canary Wharf to join all the other donors and supporters to a big breakfast laid on for the children, their families and carers ahead of their taxi journey to Europe's home of all things Disney. The excitement of the children was palpable as music and fanfares were played. Apart from the Master of the Hackney Carriage Drivers, the party was lead by the Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, the Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs and their Consorts; all there to support the event and wish everyone well as they set off.
After breakfast, unable to contain their eagerness to get under way, the families and carers were physically dragged by the children to the waiting taxis; 120 of them! To the cacophony of blaring taxi horns and a brass band, the taxis roared out of Canary Wharf with their happy passengers waving at the assembled crowd who were all waving back.
It was one of the most joyous events of this Master's year so far and also the most poignant. There were children there that day whose lives would certainly be cut tragically short, others whose lives would be burdened by debilitating disease. Some lucky ones might get better but not without suffering and pain. This charity affords all of them, their familes and carers a welcome break. It is an opportunity to suspend their worries and share a special time together.
The Master Phillip Davis has much to be proud of for his initiative and I wish him well in his year as the Hackney Carriage Drivers celebrate their big-hearted and steadfast work over these 25 years.
Thursday 27th September 2018
The National Army Museum has been transformed! Sitting alongside the Royal Hospital Chelsea, it has been for a great many years a rather unprepossessing prospect with exhibits laid out in a traditional style over multiple floors. School parties and tourists trudged in and out gazing at a great array of military equipment and uniforms in displays accessible only to those with knowledge of military history. The stories being told were remote and disconnected from the people there to hear and see them; men, women and children with no experience of war and no connections to the armed forces.
That has all changed following a recent refit of the Museum with £24 million being spent on refurbishment and the radical resetting of the displays. The money was raised from a number of sources including Livery Companies. Prominent amongst these are the Mercers, the Goldsmiths and the Armourers. The investment has produced a very modern setting for the Museum; opening up spaces, creating airy and light settings for displays and pursuing themes explored at the human level to give insight into how soliders and armies lived, worked and fought over the ages. Periods are addressed looking through the prism of real families where successive generations served. Without shying away from uncomfortable truths, there is a section that deals with death and injury and how the army has responded to these issues over the centuries to the modern day.
There are interactive features, directed at civilians to teach them how to march and stand on parade. There are sections that require the visitor to consider theatre-of-war landscapes and look for hidden enemies in the scenes. There are displays encouraging people to consider what it means to carry equipment and wear substantial and uncomfortable uniform and life-saving kit. As an experience, the Museum brings to life not just the history of military combat but the realities of being a soldier today. There is even a dedicated section to the Special Forces for those with an appetite for the extremes of warfare.
The effect of the newly styled National Army Museum is to make it interesting and engaging for modern society. It takes them on a journey from the distant past to today but in a way that keeps the visitor close to real men and women that served. It is brilliantly done.
One minor and interesting point for the Master of the Tobacco Pipe Makers was the fact that snuff was clearly enjoyed by the army, particularly in the late Victorian age. One cabinet holds a number of remarkable mulls collected from various messes, including one made from an elephant tusk and another from a tortoise.
Tuesday 25th September 2018
Of the many invitations that a Master receives, the invitation from the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company to a private viewing of the annual Goldsmiths' Fair generated a disproportinate amount of excitement in the household. The Mistress was quite insistent that our reply be prompt and that there would be no circumstances that would cause us to miss the occasion, come hell or high water. Thankfully the wishes of the Master and Mistress were in complete accord. Not only is the event special in the Livery autumn calendar but the Prime Warden this year is our own Past Master Michael Prideaux. There was no question that we would not attend although I did make a mental note that it was to be 'sans credit card'.
Set in the magnificent hall and chambers of Goldsmiths' Hall, our host was the apotheosis of gracious hospitality. We were joined by many other Masters and Consorts along with prominent figures from the industry and the City. The vision of so many Livery and civic badges of office was almost as dazzling as the array of fine jewellery and precious goods on display. Dark sunglasses would have sold well that night had an enterprising soul considered it.
It was quite the social occasion. As we took a turn around the fair, we were stopped many times by people that we knew including one of our newest Freemen, Adam Spielman, and his wife Amanda. It became clear that there was some shopping to be done that evening by the Spielman's so, with a fond adieu, we left them to it and I steered the Mistress on and away from expensive temptation.
Our evening concluded enjoying some eyecatching displays of vases and cups. These were exceptional pieces exemplifying the very finest skills in precious metalwork today. It was a privilege to be part of this extraordinary event.
Thursday 20th September 2018
It has become the tradition of our Company to hold its Autumn Court and Dinner onboard HQS Wellington, moored on the Thames just within the boundaries of the City. The ship is home to The Honourable Company of Master Mariners and it is the only Livery Hall afloat! The Court's business was varied on this occasion but most notable was the admission to the Freedom of the Company four exceptional new members followed by the gowning of three Liverymen. A bumper harvest!
With all ceremony complete and the Court's business done, we retired to the Quarter Deck for drinks and then a very fine dinner prepared by the ship's caterers, Cook & Butler. We had the great honour of being joined by the Master Mariner, Captain Rob Booth, who delighted the assembly with a short history of HQS Wellington not in a speech but in the form of a poem penned by his own hand. It was a delight that made the occasion truly memorable.
The night was balmy and perfect for the enjoyment of port and cigars at the end of our evening as we took in the view of the glittering Thames reflecting the nightscene of the South Bank. Perfect!
Wednesday 19th September 2018
With the Shrieval year rapidly drawing to its close, Sheriff Tim Hailes and Wingman Fiona Adler hosted a reception in the Great Hall at the Old Bailey to celebrate their year with those Livery Companies with which they are most closely connected. The invitation was to Masters, Wardens and Clerks and I was joined by Adam Bennett, Renter Warden, Jerry Merton, Third Warden and Paul Taberer, Fourth Warden.
Apart from our own Company, the guests included, amongst others, Alderman Peter Estlin, Master of the International Bankers, and Ann Buxton, Master Pewterer. These two Master's joined Tim in speeches that reflected on the achievements of his year and also recognised the transfer of Tim's mother company from the International Bankers to the Pewterers, an exceptionally unusual event.
With hearty toasts, the assembled crowd applauded Tim and Fiona for their remarkable year in office and wished Tim well for the future as he eyes a more lofty office...
Wednesday 19th September 2018
In June of this year, Liveryman and Past Master Framework Knitter, The Hon. Elizabeth Green was elected in Common Hall to be the Non-Aldermanic Sheriff for the year ensuing. She is due to take office at the end of September and ahead of that time there is a Presentation of her Chain of Office attended by those that supported her. It was my pleasure to attend this on behalf of our Company.
A great many people gathered at Stationers' Hall for the occasion. Excellent speeches were delivered by the Sheriff-Elect, the Chairman of her Chain Appeal Committee, Sir Andrew Parmley, and her Consort, Peter Green. This was then followed by the formal presentation of Liz's Shrieval Badge of office.
Whilst entitled to use an inherited Right to Arms, Liz decided to petition for a new design which reflects her life. The Arms include the Leicestershire fox and the Hertfordshire stag, two counties with which Liz has strong connections. The design features a cinquefoil, or flower, which is also associated with Leicestershire with each petal having a traditional plain knit stitch background; a connection to the Framework Knitters Company. Enamel shields feature on the cinquefoil petals to represent the Framework Knitters Company, her three Ward Clubs and the City Livery Club. The badge is not only an ingenious representation of Liz's background and civic life, it also beautifully designed and crafted. It will be a joy to those that behold it during Liz's upcoming year.
The scene is set!
Tuesday 18th September 2018
In their year in office Sheriff Tim Hailes and Sheriff Neil Redcliffe along with their Consorts, Fiona Adler and Emma Redcliffe, have sought to boost the Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund by introducing innovative and challenging fund-raising events. This Rowing Challenge is special as it is both original and, hopefully, the beginning of what will become a tradition. The challenge is to row down the Thames in the City of London's Cutter, The Lady Gillett, accompanied by a team from the The Watermens' Company and a Royal Navy P2000 Destroyer. With little rowing experience between them in the Shrieval Team, it was no mean feat and thankfully one without serious incident.
Whilst a little breezy the weather had been kind for the event. The rowers skulled in perfect unison, avoiding crabs and other river craft to arrive on time a little after 2.00pm at their destination, HMS President. This fine sounding vessel is, in fact, a 'stone frigate' (or shore establishment) of The Royal Naval Reserve and it was here that the Shrieval team and the Watermens' team were greeted by the supporters along with well deserved refreshments.
The reception was generously sponsored by Dr Hamed al Suwaidi, a Liveryman of our Company.
Monday 17th September 2018
The Company's Beadle, Mark Anderson, is a Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, at The Tower of London. Through his good offices the Membership Committee was invited to host one of its quarterly Smoking Club events at the Tower. The evening entailed a tour, drinks at the Yeoman Warders bar and, finally, the opportunity to bear witness to the ancient Ceremony of the Keys.
On a balmy September evening over sixty revellers attended the West Gate to be admitted to the Tower at 7.25pm precisely. Our tour guide was Mark Anderson himself and he took us on a jolly canter through the long history of this Royal Palace. We heard about the unsavoury Moat, the Royal Menagerie, the Tower's function as the Royal Mint, the horrors that unfolded in the Bloody Tower and the many executions of famous figures in history. In the case of the latter most seemed to be connected to Henry VIII; two wives and a string of other inconvenients. Our tour took us to the beautiful Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where an astonishing number of the aforementioned executees were buried, many in less than ceremonial fashion. It was becoming clear that at a certain time in the past, the Tower was a rather grim old place.
With much to dwell on, our party retired to the The Keys, the Yeoman Warders' bar, to reflect on all the information over a pint and, for those outside, a cigar or pipe. It was here that we found more interesting things about the Tower's extraordinary past including the fact that in more recent times it had served to briefly imprison Rudolf Hess following his capture in Scotland in 1941. Documentenation signed by the man hangs on the wall near the bar.
Sworn to secrecy, nothing can be said of the Ceremony of Keys. Suffice it to say that it is believed to be the oldest military ceremony in the world; it is both powerful and poignant. It is remarkable to think that without fail, it takes places every day and has done so for all the centuries of its existence.
Wednesday 12th September 2018
The Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF) is a trade event in its eleventh year organised by the inestimable Elise Rasmussen, publisher of the Tobacco Reporter and Vapor Voice magazines. She leads Women in Tobacco and is also a Liveryman and Assistant to the Court of our Company. The GTNF is organised in a different world city each year and this year it was in London.
Not a person to let an opportunity pass by, Elise thought it would be interesting for the GTNF delegates to experience some City tradition. So, lead by Sheriff Tim Hailes and his Consort, Fiona Adler, a City team was assembled including the Master, Immediate Past Master and Wardens of the Tobacco Pipe Makers to process and open the GTNF The Golden Leaf Awards Dinner which had been arranged in the Livery Hall at Guildhall. The Sheriff and I made speeches to the audience comprised of international business people from all aspects of the tobacco and vaping trades. Between us, our purpose was to introduce the City, the Corporation and our Livery Company.
After a delicious meal, the Awards Ceremony got underway. It was glamorous and delivered in Hollywood Oscars style to celebrate exemplary service, production and innovation in the industry. The evening was sponsored by the Indonesian specialty paper and packaging company BMJ and the Chief Executive, Omar Rahmanadi, presided over the most prestigious awards of the night.
It was an extraordinary evening of celebration for a global industry in full vigour and an elegant blend of all this with some City pomp and tradition. Well done Elise!
Monday 10th September 2018
Tallow Chandlers Hall was the venue for the Modern Livery Companies Dinner, a venue well known to the Tobacco Pipe Makers. It was here that the founding fathers of the Third Company held their first Court Meeting so I felt very much at home in its welcoming, wood panelled chambers. The current Hall dates back to 1672 but it replaced a much older, medieval Hall that had burnt down in the Great Fire of London. And here we were being hosted by Andy Mayes, the Master Firefighter. Would that his Company had been on hand back in 1666! To great applause, we were regaled with stories and many bon mots from the Principal Guest & Speaker, Sir Andrew Parmley, a fellow Tobacco Pipe Maker. With spirits lifted, the evening drew to its close with thanks to the Firefighters for their successful stewardship of this thoroughly enjoyable six-monthly event and we welcomed in the Hackney Carriage Drivers who will take care of the next occasion.
Thursday 6th September 2018
Whilst a relatively recent addition to the Master's cycle of events, the Past Master's Dinner has the feel of a longstanding tradition. By courtesy of PM Charles Miller, the gathering of the Past Masters took place at the In & Out Naval and Military Club in St James's Square. The premises is a spacious townhouse constructed in the early 18th Century and has been lived in by a long line of illustrious owners, including Viscount Astor and his wife Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in Parliament in 1919. It turns out that our dining room was previously Nancy's bedroom and, unsurprisingly, it enjoys by far the best view of what would have been the garden; the courtyard today. The Past Masters enjoyed champagne and cigars on the balcony before retiring inside for a delicious meal and conversation. The occasion is an opportunity for the Master to sound out the PM's about current matters concerning the Company. The evening's discourse was open leaving the Master with plenty of ideas and advice to consider. With business complete, the party descended to the courtyard for coffee, port and more cigars...
Saturday 1st September 2018
On 28th June 2014, Past Master Mark Gower-Smith attended a Solemn Drumhead Service of Remembrance at the Royal Hospital Chelsea marking the centenary of the assassination in Sarajevo of HIRH The Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This event triggered 'The Great War' which was to last for four years, costing the lives of millions of military and civilian personnel across Europe and many millions more were wounded. That Service, was conducted by the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Richard Chartres in the presence of the Queen.
These last four years have seen many ceremonies and events that have marked key events that took place during The Great War as well as remembering the human sacrifice for the greater good of this country and its Allies. As this period draws to its close on 11th November 2018, a second Drumhead Service took place at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on 1st September 2018 to commemorate the actions of the London Divisions during the final Hundred Days Offensive; a bookend to the first Service.
Senior military personnel from the UK forces, Allied forces, diplomats, representatives of the City of London Corporation and London boroughs as well as the Livery Companies all joined regular military personnel and Chelsea Pensioners to remember and honour the London Divisions. The congregation also included descendants of the valiant. In elegant symmetry, this Service was led by the now ennobled Rt Rev and Rt Hon Lord Richard Chartres.
The Divisions representatived at the Service were London's Maritime Reserves, The Royal Yeomanry, The London Regiment, 600 Squadron RAuxAF and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. The Marching Bands present were The Royal Yeomanry Band and The Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish.
Wednesday 1st August 2018
The Royal Yeomanry is the senior light cavalry regiment of the British Army Reserve. Mounted in light armoured vehicles, it is a fast and highly mobile reconnaissance force with substantial firepower. Royal Yeomanry soldiers train and serve alongside their regular Army Counterparts, 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards. As befits such a regiment, it has a remarkable 35-piece band which not only provides a full marching band for miltary parades but also woodwind and brass ensembles, concert, traditional jazz and big bands.
Each summer, the Band of the Royal Yeomanry provide an open-air concert for the City in Guildhall Yard which to me seemed too good to miss. As it turned out, it was a beautiful, warm and balmy evening and, with little else going on in the City that evening, it was a perfect and calm setting for the occasion.
Lead and conducted by Major Roy Falshaw, Director of Music, the large crowd was entertained to a varied and exciting repertoire. This ranged from wartime pieces such as Eagle Squadron, familiar marches, UK airs and national tunes, pieces from The King and I and Sister Act and many more. The grand finale was a stunning medley of James Bond movie hits. For one magical hour, the audience was captivated; swept along by the energy of the band and marvelling at the quality and finesse of the musicians. A summer treat!
Tuesday 24th July 2018
The International Wine and Spirits Competition is an annual event in its 49th year. The Worshipful Company of Distillers marks the Comptition by hosting this tasting of award winning products at Vintners Hall attended by guests from the industry as well as the City and the Livery Companies. It is a busy and buzzy occasion with hundreds of products ranging from the expected gins, whiskies and vodkas to the less obvious vermouths, rums, mescals and akvavits. Brandies, armagnacs and cognacs offered a grand finale. Whilst some brands and products were familiar, the wonder of the event is the introduction of so many new ones, all exceptional.
The tasting process is one of taking the merest sip of the subject spirit or liqueur but the cumulative effect of this can take its toll. Those at particular risk were the participants in the master-classes, pre-booked and occurring just before the main event. Having had a head start on the rest of us, I could not help but notice that the jolliest amongst the 'tasters' were those that had attended the gin master-class. As this would have been my own choice, it was a lucky escape.
The Master Distiller, Bryan Burrough, was keen to mark the occasion with a group photograph of as many Livery Company Masters that he could muster and so we did, fifteen of us! I suspect there were Masters attending the event that missed the photocall; so taken with the delights of the evening.
Whilst certainly a merry occasion, this event is extremely well done and serves the serious purpose of celebrating the craft and innovation of the booming distilling industry, much of which is here in the UK. I thank the Fourth Warden, Paul Taberer, and Assistant Elise Rasmussen for their support at the event and their wisdom for ensuring that we were not the last to leave.
Thursday 19th July 2018
It is a great privilege to be invited to attend the Annual Service of Dedication of The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor. The members of the Imperial Society are those individuals awarded knighthoods by the Monarch for service to the community in all parts of business, law, academia, medicine, public service and the arts.
Marching briskly to the event at St Paul's Cathedral in morning dress, I felt somewhat out of place amongst the crowds milling around its steps until stopped in my tracks by a cheery greeting from Past Master Chris Allen who had other business at St Paul's that day. Chris pointed me in the right direction, we bade each other farewell and I headed for the Crypt.
Held in the Chapel of St Faith at the eastern end of The Crypt, this service is an impressive distillation of devotional religious ceremony and chivalric pageant. The occasion, which includes the spectacle of the procession of scarlet cloaked knights, is strikingly unique and was overseen by the Bishop of London, the recently appointed Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally. A great many Masters of Livery Companies were in attendance in their formal attire, adding extra pomp to the occasion with their respective badges of office. Familiar hymns, choral pieces and fine ecclesiastical music followed.
Of special note in this year's Service was the marking of a new painting now hanging in the Knights Bachelor Chapel adjacent to St Faith's. Painted by Hughie O'Donoghue, 'St Martin Divides his Cloak' depicts the moment that the knight St Martin of Tours cuts his red cloak in two to share half with a beggar. St Martin is the Patron Saint of the Knights Bachelor and this painting, in a modern, realistic style, is intended to bridge time since the event took place and the present day. It is a reminder that acts of charity should remain at the heart of Christian belief. It is a powerful painting well worth seeing.
Friday 6th July 2018
Despite the bright sunshine that day, a heavy cloud hung over me on Friday, 6th July 2018. I had been called to appear at The Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey to face heinous charges likely to result in my incarceration at The Tower of London. Making my way, my mind was racing with fevered plans to prove my innocence and, failing that, a daring escape. Upon arrival, my heart was slightly lifted to find that at least I was not alone. There were twenty two other alleged felons in the same predicament and a rum lot they were. Surely, the Judge would be discerning enough to see that that a Tax Advisor or Accountant, say, was more deserving of his ire than a blameless Tobacco Pipe Maker!
The assembled alleged felons were lead to Courtroom Two and obliged to sit together and await the Judge who turned out to be Sheriff Neil Redcliffe. We were all surprised to hear that special powers had been bestowed on him by the Lord Mayor to act as Judge and Jury! And so it began, the charges were read out about each of us. I have to say, that I felt quite uncomfortable in such disreputable company. There were thieves, rotters, Royal impersonators and one that caused great upset at the Lord's Mayor Show with a miltarised Rolls Royce. There was even a peeping tom! By these standards my own 'crimes' of breaching the peace with high-decibel snoring and excessive consumption of Monkey 47 gin were, in my view, the least of the Judge's worries. Despite that I was charged and ordered to a deep undergound cell where the snoring could be contained and my climbing skills rendered useless, so thwarting any chance of escape.
Many of the felons were Masters of Livery Companies and in one small concession to avoid total humiliation in front of the people of the City, we were transferred to The Tower in a traditional Routemaster bus rather than the usual Black Maria. Upon arrival we were met by officers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who gruffly lined us up and marched us single file into the Tower complex to be given a final meal before being shown to our cells. There were pitiful claims of 'I didn't do it!' and mutterings about kangaroo courts. Although the peeping tom was strangely silent.
Finally, we were told that we could avert disaster if bail money were paid and we were invited to provide evidence of such. There was an unseemly rush to take advantage of this leniency and so it was that bail money paid to The British Red Cross secured our freedom. In total the felons paid £38,873. Representatives of The British Red Cross were whooping with joy. It seems that this Jailed & Bailed charade is a tried and tested ruse. However, the Fusiliers were less than happy that not a single felon was to remain in their tender care. With some menace and unecessary waving of sharp looking pole-axes, we were invited to leave the Tower before minds were changed. And so it was that the humbled and chastened felons fled the confines of the Tower, regaining their composure for the eyes of the milling crowds who were oblivious of the sorry drama that had so recently taken place.
Monday 25th June 2018
The fateful day arrives for Liverymen of the City of London to attend Common Hall in Guildhall to vote for the coming year's Sheriffs and other Officers. Voting is required for two Sheriffs; an Aldermanic Sheriff and a Non-Aldermanic Sheriff. In the case of the former, it is Vincent Keaveny that has been nominated by the Court of Aldermen. Unusually, this year, there are three candidates for the latter...a contested election!
Each of the three candidates for Non-Aldermanic Sheriff are excellent. Richard Fleck (Past Master Tallow Chandler), Liz Green (Past Master Framework Knitter) and Gwen Rhys (Past Master Glass Seller). Following all due ceremony, proceedings were opened by The Lord Mayor, and the four Shrieval candidates made their respective addresses to the assembly of Liverymen and other eligible voters. Common Hall was packed to the gunnels as were additional chambers. The candidates' addresses were fine and impressive. There was not a cigarette paper's difference between the Non-Aldermanic candidates and there was hearty applause for each.
So rare is it the case that we have a contested election for the Non-Aldermanic Sheriff and so large was the assembled electorate, that a new voting system was devised. Four coloured cards were given to each voter; one card for each candidate. Keaveny was white, Fleck was pink, Green was (confusingly) yellow and Rhys was orange. At the allotted time, the voters cast their votes and they were counted. The vote emphatically supported Liz Green and so it was that her election was confirmed that day. With Vincent Keaveny's candidacy also being supported by the Livery, the newly elected Sheriff's delivered their acceptance speeches after which further votes were taken on the Bridge Masters, the Ale Conners and Auditors. It was a fine day's work. Well done to Vincent and Liz!
With the main excitement of the day over, the formal proceedings at Guildhall were concluded and the assembled crowd dispersed with many retiring to comfortable Livery Halls nearby for lunch. The Tobacco Pipe Makers made their way to Stationers Hall where the Master Stationer presided over a very agreeable reception and meal for around ten companies including the Glass Sellers who were by far the most raucous of us all. Whilst the Shrieval election had not gone Gwen's way, the fact was not going to stop her and her supporters marking the day in celebration for their part in civic democracy. An example to us all.
Wednesday 20th June 2018
So, to Fishmongers Hall to attend the Annual Banquet of The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers by kind invitation of the Master, Professor Ron Summers, and his Wardens. Our two Companies have a long and close association not simply due to proximity in the Order of Preference but warm friendship over a great many years. This was evident from the moment the Mistress and I arrived upon which we were entertained at the Reception by Assistant Charles Holroyd and his wife Caroline. We also happily met with Past Master Scientific Instrument Maker Chris Sawyer, a fellow Liveryman of the Tobacco Pipe Makers.
A delicious meal followed prepared by the kitchen at Fishmongers Hall with magnificent fish courses - the lobster bisque was sublime - all washed down with exceptional wines. To underline their consummate skill still further, the caterers also served perfect baked Alaska to the 140 or so diners; a truly impressive feat.
The Principal Guest for the evening was Air Vice-Marshall Nick Kurth CBE who gave a fascinating and witty speech, marking both the 100 year anniversay of the Royal Air Force as well as his own experiences in his eventful and illustrious career. As a mountaineer myself, I was delighted to learn that he too is an avid climber. Nick has applied this interest in a practical way and is Executive Chairman of The Ulysses Trust. This organsiation provides encouragement, advice and financial support for challenging expeditions planned and undertaken by the UK Volunteer Reserve and Cadet Forces. This is incredibly good work that teaches young people many life skills. A force for good, building aptitude and confidence in the new generations and strongly supported by its Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.
This was a fine evening amongst great friends.
Monday 18th June 2018
The Worshipful Company of Pewterers is one of the City's older Livery Company's. It's illustrious history dates back to the 14th Century (1348 according to some records) and it achieved its Royal Charter in 1474 in the reign of Edward IV. Whether you take the short date or the long date, the Company has existed a very long time indeed. So, it was an honour to be invited to The Lord Mayor's Dinner hosted by the Master, Ann Buxton, the first lady Pewterer to hold that office.
Arriving at Pewterers Hall, guests were greeted by the the personal guard of the Lord Mayor, The Company of Pikemen & Musketeers. Resplendant in their 17th Century uniforms, they were a blaze of red uniforms, shiny armour, 12 foot pikes and firearms resembling hand-held cannon. There was also a drummer whose task it was to beat the drum upon the arrival of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs which he did with gusto! Catching some by surprise, I think there were more than a few spilt drinks...
Before retiring to the elegant Livery Room for dinner, there was an opportunity for a snap of those attending from the Tobacco Pipe Makers stable; Sheriff's Consort Fiona Adler, Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths Company, Michael Prideaux and I were corraled together by the Master Vintner to record the fact.
With impeccable courtesy and generosity, the Pewterers entertained the assembled guests with fine food, fine wine and fine company. We could not have been made to feel more welcome. Informative and witty speeches followed from both The Lord Mayor and the Master before proceedings concluded with music and singing from students of The Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Tuesday 12th June 2018
Past Master Roger Merton, Mike Adams, Peter Jenkinson and Chris Mercer are the 'Gang of 3+1' and they are the organising Committee that pulled together this year's annual Tobacco Trade Sponsored Charity Lunch. As in previous years, this prestigious event took place at Lord's Cricket Ground, the home of cricket. It is an opportunity for the great and good of the tobacco industry to come together and celebrate the work of the retail trade.
Tradition has it that the Master of the Livery Company is invited to the event to present the Retailer of the Year Trophy along with a cheque for £500 for the winner to use as he or she sees fit. Accordingly, the Mistress and I made our way to St John's Wood to fulfil this pleasurable duty.
Starting with a reception in the Harris Gardens, we were greeted by the Chairman of the Association of Independant Tobacco Specialists, Paresh Patel, along with the Gang of 3+1. The champagne and fine cigars flowed as the guests arrived culminating in the arrival of the Guest Speaker, the lauded impressionist Jon Culshaw. Whilst the weather was a little overcast, there was thankfully no rain on this parade.
A fine lunch followed in The Thomas Lord Suite choreographed with great skill by our Master of Ceremonies, Rodger Oatley. With the Master, the Past Master and the MC all bearing the same first name, London buses sprang to mind.
With appetites sated, we moved on to the business in hand; the award of the Trophy for the Retailer of the Year. There were many contenders for the prize and the decision of the organising Committee and the Master was a tough one to make. It went to a man that has built an iconic business over nearly 40 years in the West End of London. Today it is very successful and world-renowned for its quality of products and services. The winner was Edward Sahakian of Davidoff of London! The Trophy was accepted by his son Eddie Sahakian.
Having raised the excitement to fever pitch, the dial was turned up several notches more when the room welcomed the Guest Speaker, Jon Culshaw. Jon brought with him many friends to entertain us; Tony Blair, Boris Johnson, David Beckham, Michael McIntyre, Bruce Forsyth, Donald Trump, Steven Gerrard...and many, many more. It was entertainment at its best; great impressions with sharp wit. Leaving the crowd baying for more, the act ended with a superb tribute to the talents and subjects of Mike Yarwood, the grandfather of modern British impressionism. It was a tour de force!
The Mistress and I felt this was a marvellous day of fellowship, fun and charity. Over £8,500 was raised, a sum that will be donated to the Benevolent Fund of the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders. Thank you Gang of 3+1, thank you Jon Culshaw and thank you to everyone supporting this remarkable event.
Monday 11th June 2018
Past Master Derek Harris has organised the Company Golf Day at Tandridge Golf Club for as long as I can remember and so it was a great honour to be invited as Master to join the event for the famous lunch and to present prizes to the players in the tournament. Arriving at around midday, the Mistress and I joined Derek and Sheila on the sun-drenched terrace and we sipped cooling drinks as the 19 players steadily made their return. We passed some of the time admiring the red caps commissioned for the occasion, bearing the Company's crest and the year of our first formation - 1619. These were for Company members only, we were told.
Amongst the early arrivals at the 18th was red-capped Liveryman Mike Colley accompanied by his guest who seemed familiar. Debonnaire with a lithe carriage, this man's identity became clear as other golfers extended welcomes interspersed with cheeky calls of 'Seven!'. It was Len Goodman! We were in for a treat.
With all players counted in, scrubbed up and scorecards handed to Derek, the assembled party made their way to lunch. Sitting in the spacious and sunny dining room overlooking the magnificent course amongst the burble of light-hearted chatter, there is little to beat such an occasion. A splendid meal ensued with delicious wines, concluding with a good helping of Tandridge Pudding. The lunch lived up to its hype.
Retiring to the Lounge for coffee, with tension rising, it was soon time to recognise the best of play. I was invited to present the winner of each category with their generous prizes which I noted were generally of the alcoholic liquid kind. Time to take up golf, I think. I am delighted to report that the Trophy went to Liveryman Jeff Jeffrey accompanied by another large bottle, this time champagne. A hearty well done to Jeff!
Before the proceedings drew to their end, Past Master Derek Harris had one more prize to announce. It was the gift of one of the hallowed Livery Company red caps to Len Goodman. For that performance Derek, you get a 'Ten!'.
Sunday 10th June 2018
The Mistress and I broke loose from the Livery Company pack after breakfast on the Sunday of the Ironbridge weekend to visit the Broseley Pipeworks Museum. The small town of Broseley was once home to many pipeworks but just one survives, The Crown Pipeworks. It is this that our Worshipful Company has supported for a great many years and it is home to a collection of prints that we own and loan to the Museum. These have recently been reframed and some are now on display in a newly refitted section of the buildings, all beautifully curated.
Dating back, in part, to the 1700s, the buildings have served as cottages and, some believe, a cotton factory. However, in 1881, their use was turned to the making of clay pipes. Even then, Broseley had 200 years of history making fine clay pipes renowned around the world. This new venture was immediately successful and prospered for many decades until it finally closed its doors in 1960. Abandoned and untouched, the pipeworks is effectively a time capsule. The images shared here show the facilities as they were when the workers downed their tools and walked away. The traditionally styled bottle kiln has not been used since. Film footage taken at the factory after WW2 brings to life the way that the work was done and shows what skill was required to make the great variety of pipes produced.
An odd feature of the Broseley Pipeworks is the small graveyard at its entrance. It turns out that a Quaker meeting house once stood in today's carpark and so many Quakers were buried here in the 18th Century, largely in unmarked graves. Amongst them is Abraham Darby who died in 1717, father of the Industrial Revolution. His innovation to adopt coke rather than coal to fuel his iron blast furnaces turned history and enabled Ironbridge Gorge to gain global importance, driving industry forwards to the modern age. The juxtaposition between the man's achievement and his humble resting place could not be more stark.
Friday 8th June 2018
Not a day had passed following the Installation when the Mistress and I went hotfoot to Telford to attend the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Livery Weekend organised by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. In its 35th year, this annual pilgrimage of Livery Companies' Masters and Consorts is one of only two events in the calendar when all Livery Companies can come together. The other occasion is the United Guilds Service.
The journey was much longer than expected with a tiresome detour through Nuneaton. However, all anxiety was dispelled upon our arrival at Hatton Grange, Shifnal, the home of Rupert Kenyon-Slaney, Chairman of the Foundation Committee. The invitation to all of the weekend revellers was a kindness gratefully accepted. It offered the visitors an opportunity to take a stroll in Hatton Grange's beautiful gardens, meet others and enjoy a restorative cup of tea before completing the journey to the Telford Holiday Inn.
As Masters before have recounted, the weekend is set in the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The Gorge includes ten museums and key attractions including the Broseley Pipe Works which our Company supports. The organisers lay on coaches for the 200 or so visitors to tour the Gorge and see the principal sites; the Coalbrookedale Museum of Iron, Jackfield Tile Museum, Blists Hill Victorian Town and the Coalport China Museum. We learned many interesting facts from the tour including why Coalport China has its name and the job of a saggarmakers bottom knocker. Ask me next time we meet...
Marking the 100 years since women were given the right to vote, we found an art installation at the Museum of Iron; silhouettes of those women in the Ironbridge Gorge that were eligible to vote at that time. Astonishingly, eligibility was determined not just by age but also by relative wealth and this filter meant that only 37 out of 160 women in the Gorge could vote. Checking the names and occupations of the 37, the Mistress and I found that 8 women were employed in the making of clay pipes; a gratifyingly high percentage. We did not establish exactly why this was the case but suspect that working conditions were somewhat better for this industry compared with others. Perhaps survival rates and the time to accumulate savings were the key.
Livery Companies would not be what they are without formal dinners and the weekend included two! Best bib and tucker. The President's Dinner on the Saturday was graced by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress along with the Sheriffs. It was wonderful to see Past Master Fiona Adler fulfilling her role as Consort to Sheriff Tim Hailes. Standout moments from the first night include sitting next to the Master Pewterer, Ann Buxton for the second time in two days, learning that she is the aunt of Rupert Kenyon-Slaney (Foundation Chairman) in his address and a rousing rendition of 'Any Old Iron' by the Master Mercer. Apart from the wonderful and inspiring speeches of the Foundation President and Lord Mayor at the President's Dinner, there was also a moment of joy with the raffle. With 10 places at each table, the diners were invited to buy tickets representing one of the 10 museums in the Gorge. The Lady Mayoress then pulled the winning name of a museum from a hat...it was Broseley Pipe Works!! Dear readers, your hearts will be warmed to hear that both the Master and Past Master Fiona Adler were winners.
This annual event is truly a remarkable thing, fully bringing together the three pillars that support the activities of the Corporation and the Livery Companies; our role in the City, fellowship and benvolence. The Foundation did a magnificent job organising it and tribute must also go to the participating Masters and Consorts for their goodwill and welcome to those of us newly installed.
Thursday 7th June 2018
The Installation of a new Master is traditionally followed by a formal lunch or dinner. This year it was the former and it began with a reception in the courtyard of Saddlers' Hall. By no means a given in June, we were blessed with warmth and sunshine which set the mood for the day. As Company members and guests arrived they were greeted with good company, drinks and cigars. The party was getting into quite a swing when the time arrived for us all to be ushered into Saddlers' Hall for lunch, the learned Clerk adopting a stern line to the pleas of the most ardent revellers (you know who you are...).
Received by the Master and Wardens, the guests made their way to the beautiful and light main hall. Our Principal Guest was Margaret Evison, the Founder of the Mark Evison Foundation, and she was joined by the Master Pewterer, Ann Buxton, and the Master Distiller, Bryan Burrough. We were also joined by the Past Master Glass Seller and Shrieval candidate, Gwen Rhys. Together, the guests enjoyed a fine meal of Scottish smoked salmon mousseline, rump of salt marsh lamb and tarte tatin accompanied by fine wines with each course - a sterling effort by our caterers, Party Ingredients.
Margaret Evison spoke eloquently and movingly about her son, Mark, a talented and charismatic officer in the Welsh Guards who was shot in battle in Helmand, Afghanistan in 2009. Despite the heroic efforts of his men to extricate him from the battlefield and the army's repatriation of Mark to the UK, he lost his life. Margaret has since been a campaigner for better resources for the British army in theatres of war and has written a book about Mark's experience, 'Death of a Soldier'. She has also taken the inspiration of Mark's life to start the charity that bears his name. The Mark Evison Foundation has provided hundreds of young people in London schools with the opportunity to seek and fulfil personal challenges that will help them to achieve better things in life. It is a charity that our Company is proud to support.
The lunch concluded with thanks to our guests and to the Immediate Past Master, Ralph Edmondson. He and his wife, Maureen, have enjoyed an exceptional year, leading our Company with energy and elan. That energy created such heat, they saw fit to cap their year with a restorative trip to Iceland! We hope that it does the trick.
Thursday 7th June 2018
The Installation took place in the historic setting of Saddlers' Hall, one of the City's most elegant Livery halls, courtesy of the Prime Warden, Hugh Thomas. The baton was passed from my predecessor, Ralph Edmondson, with the customary ceremony that befits such an occasion after which I was delighted to appoint my Wardens, Andrew Golding, Adam Bennett, Jerry Merton and Paul Taberer. Lastly, but not least, I presented the Mistress with her 'Mistress' Jewel' before concluding the proceedings. It was a great pleasure to me that members of the Company were joined by a number of our guests that day to bear witness to this formal occasion.