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 spectacle of the procession, including the array 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 glamour 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.