Tuesday 18th February 2020
Thanks to our much prized Beadle, Mark Anderson, I had the great privilege of attending the Annual Dinner of the Yeoman Warders at Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London. This was a very special evening filled with humour, fellowship, history and tradition. I would also like to thank Yeoman Warder, Jimmy James, who organised the event (and who stepped in bravely as our Beadle for the January Dinner).
Indeed, I walked from the main gate to the Armourers' Hall alone, in the darkness and drizzle of early evening. What struck me was how silent and solitary it all was, surrounded by the noise and lights of the City, with so much history concentrated in one place; so many things which are so essential to our British identity.
The guests comprised a military and security, diplomatic (Woody Johnson the US Ambassador was present) and City of London audience and we were treated to a splendid feast, hosted by the Constable of the Tower, General Sir Nicholas Houghton. If I could steal a speech, I would definitely use Sir Nicholas' as it was the perfect combination of intelligence and wit. The music, provided by the RAF Band was also wonderful.
For my sins, I was seated between Mark and the Gaoler, so was on my best behaviour!
Many thanks to the Yeoman Warders for such a unique and memorable evening.
Tuesday 18th February 2020
The Mistress event this year was held at The Clink at HM Brixton Prison. The Clink is a charity which assists former prisoners to secure work when they are free. The Clink specialises in training in food preparation, service and events.
I have to say that what was organised (with the Clerk's much appreciated) assistance was an absolute and eye-opening triumph. After a rather draconian entrance process, members from our Company together with representatives from some 40 other Companies were expertly served and fed a delicious afternoon tea, and told about the range and ambitions of the Clink charity. It was all finished off with an entertaining and informative presentation and quiz by Geoff Hughes, himself a former Prison Governor, as well as Deputy Governor at Brixton itself, about women in prison. I was amazed that women only represent some 5% of the prison population in England and Wales!
Our thanks to Geoff for sharing his knowledge and to his lovely wife Sue for joining us and making the day such a profound success. I had planned to see if the Clink would keep the Mistress in for a few days but due to her excellent and impressive performance she was allowed to leave. Thank you Kate for a wonderful day!
Sunday 26th January 2020
Our January Court and dinner were held at the splendid Drapers' Hall. The dinner was well attended and we had the privilege of having numerous other Masters present, as well as, in Sir David and Liz Wootton a past Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. A major theme for our evening was our charitable connections, with an emphasis on both past and prospective relationships.
Our key historic connection is to Sevenoaks School, with which, since the 1960s the Company has had a valued attachment. As a past Pipemakers Scholar and Old Sennockian myself, I was thrilled to see so many familiar faces in the room- Governors, Heads, Senior Teachers, other OS and Scholars. We were also honoured to have the Acting Head of the School, Theresa Homewood, as our guest. Emma Johnson, herself an OS and scholar then provided us with some incredible musical nectar and our chief guest, Lord Sackville, a healthy dose of humour and nostalgia in his excellent speech.
Tommy Cookson, himself a past Head of the School was also present as inspiration behind Physics Partners, another worthy charity which we are proud to support.
Then, onto the new, with the presence of Viscount Gough and Major Niall Hall. Both represented the Irish Guards Association with which we are delighted to have formed a new link. We are proud to support those prepared to fight for and defend our country.
As a footnote, I should also mention the delicious dinner served by the in-house caterers at Drapers' Hall.... the beef wellington was to die for!
Sunday 19th January 2020
I am delighted to announce the Company's new affiliation with the Irish Guards Association (IGA). The IGA represents and assists the Regiment's retired soldiers. In our small way we are proud to do what we can to support those who have played such an active role in defending this great country.
To celebrate the start of this association a party from the Company was invited this week by the IGA to watch the Changing of the Guard from the vantage point of Wellington Barracks. In spite of the cold wind, we enjoyed the whole ceremony and were ably hosted by the Regimental Adjutant, Major Niall Hall and his great team.
Thank you for your hospitality and may this relationship forever flourish.
Sunday 19th January 2020
This has been a week of City Fellowship which underscores the strong relationships we enjoy with many other Livery Companies.
It started with the annual Masters and Clerks Dinner hosted by the Plaisterers in their fine hall. By all accounts some 60 companies were present and the evening was a super way to catch-up with so many familiar faces. Many thanks to Master, Alderman Alison Gowman, for such splendid hospitality.
On Wednesday it was to Salters' Hall to join the Woolmen at their Alms Court Dinner. This was a grand and well-attended celebration of this ancient Company which retains so much relevance today and which does so much to promote its noble industry. Thank you to Master, Mark Johnson for a wonderful event.
Finally, the Mistress and I finished the week at Trinity House, courtesy of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters for their Winter Dinner. The friendship and hospitality of this Company was so warm and so generous. Thank you to Master, Ian Grundy and his Mistress Julia for making us feel so welcome.
Sunday 22nd December 2019
On behalf of our Company may we wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a successful 2020.
Sunday 15th December 2019
A highlight of December for us has been two special Carol Services.
The Company's 400th Anniversary service was, as usual, held in the splendid surroundings of St. Lawrence Jewry. It was the final part of our 400th celebrations. The brilliant service resulted from the combined talents of PM Mark Gower-Smith, our Chaplain Canon David Parrott and Chris Dyer, the Head of Music at Sevenoaks School (which provided us with its amazing choir). May I thank all who who participated and contributed to this well-attended start to Christmas. I would also like to make a special thank-you to the Mistress for her delicious home-made mince pies and cupcakes and to Elise Rasmussen Ace and Carolyn Tuck for all the scrumptious savouries!
Our second service was at Barrow Farm, a riding for the disabled facility in Essex. This charity has long been supported by our Company. The coldness of the stables was more than made up for by the warmth of the welcome and the sheer happiness of all those involved. It was a profoundly memorable and charming event.
Sunday 1st December 2019
Sunday 24th November 2019
This week was a week of celebrations. To start with at Smoking Club (at the Coq D'Argent) we celebrated a Court Assistant's birthday. The ever-youthful Henry Tuck has turned 60 and a magnificent cake in the form of a corgi was presented to him (my photo does not do it justice, so I have stolen one from the internet!). It was also a week for the official launch of our year group, Apollo 19...this was celebrated in style with a fine dinner at Ironmongers Hall. Many thanks to the committee for all the hard work involved.
Our formal Livery events also included the St.Cecelia service for musicians at Westminster Abbey, always a special event. Thank you to our Beadle, Third Warden Paul Taberer and Charles Miller and Camilla for keeping us company. This was then followed by the Lord Mayor's annual address at Mansion House. There, William Russell outlined his hugely busy programme for charitable fundraising and for the promotion of this great City around the world.
Finally, I would also like to thank the Prime Warden of the Shipwrights for their fine dinner this week. Also at Ironmongers it was a faultless and entertaining celebration from beginning to end.
Sunday 17th November 2019
We are proud that our Company is a key supporter of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. On Monday, one of our four scholars, Robert Lewis, took to the lead of Fileno in Haydn's opera La Fedelta Primiata. It was refreshing and jaunty and expertly delivered- many congratulations to Robert on his excellent performance!
During the week, the Mistress and I also attended the School's annual supporters event. There, we had the privilege to meet our three remaining scholars: Andrew Garrido a very promising pianist, Mabon Rhyd an incredibly talented player of the viola, and Leila Alexander who has a magical future ahead of her as an opera singer. What impressed us was not just their self-evident talent but also the charm and modesty of them all. We applaud them all and wish each of them, every success in their careers. We have invited our Scholars to the Carol Service- so please say a warm hello to them if you get a chance.
Finally, in preparation for the January Dinner, the Clerk kindly arranged a tasting for us at Draper's Hall. All I can say is that it promises to be a fine feast- so don't miss it!
Sunday 10th November 2019
Changing into my gown, badge and chain on a small side street close to St Paul's proved to be a minor tourist attraction! However, I was soon all-set for the annual Remembrance Service in the Cathedral on a day of blue sky and brilliant winter sunshine. The service itself was profoundly beautiful and at 11.00 am exactly, to the chimes of St Paul's, we fell silent to honour the glorious dead.
Following the service, the Fruiterers' Company arranged for the Livery Companies' Masters and Prime Wardens to parade to the Royal Exchange to join the City's remembrance tribute. There, to much fanfare, we assembled alongside members of the City Corporation. the Mayoral Party, past Lord Mayors and Aldermen in their Top Hats, representatives of each of the services and veterans organisations for the laying of wreaths.
It was one of the most special events in my year so far. At its conclusion, the Lord Mayor took to the balcony of the Mansion House and we all gathered on the street below. Many congratulations to the Fruiterers for organising us all so efficiently.
Saturday 9th November 2019
Close to the time to a change of Lord Mayor, the City becomes a particularly special place for the Livery.
On Tuesday we attended the Lord Mayor's Charity Feast at Guildhall. The spectacular event, guarded by the Pikemen and Musketeers, was rocked by a youth group, sponsored by the Lord Mayor's appeal and based on the music of Queen. The evening itself, with an auction hosted by Lord Archer, raised in excess of £150,000- a fabulous result!
The Mistress and i also had the pleasure of an invitation from the Horners' Company to their annual Lecture. Its topic was the importance and challenges of developments in the chemistry and physics of polymers....and how their ultimate failure to decompose remains unresolved. It was profoundly enlightening stuff and, to be candid, far beyond our pay grades!!
On Friday it was then back to Guildhall for the Silent Ceremony, an age-old tradition to transfer authority from Peter Estlin to William Russell. Sadly, with both the ceremony silent and a packed room, it was also largely invisible! But the atmosphere was amazing and a great prelude to the Lord Mayor's Show on Saturday.
The Show, in contrast, was a parade of fun, formality, colour, noise and character. I had the honour of walking in it with the Senior and Renter Wardens. We particularly enjoyed the Senior Warden's secret supply of sloe gin as we smoked our churchwarden clay pipes on the HQS Wellington. And the added bonus was that we even managed to stay pretty dry!
Sunday 3rd November 2019
This week's highlights began with Chevening, a beautiful estate in Kent usually reserved for use by the Foreign Secretary. Our hosts were Robert Sackville West and his wife Jane. Robert is a Trustee of the Chevening Estate and will be our guest speaker at the January Dinner at Drapers' Hall.....I hope you have all reserved your places!? Chevening, built reputedly by Inigo Jones between 1617-1630, was long the home of the illustrious Stanhope family.
Another highlight was an "At Home" invitation to the Mansion House, courtesy of Lindy Estlin, the Lady Mayoress. The well-attended event marked the impending end of what has been a hugely successful year for the Mayoralty. Lindy has been superb in her role and we thank her for all that she has done for the Livery. It was a real treat for the Mistress and for me to be in the sumptuous surroundings of the Mansion House.
Sunday 27th October 2019
I'm pleased to say that the photographs for the Banquet have arrived! As my souvenir of such a memorable evening I attach a picture of our senior guests in the splendid surroundings of Mercers' Hall.
This week then commenced with a fine dinner onboard the HQS Wellington as guests of the Master Mariner and his lovely Mistress in support of the Wellington Trust. The Trust owns the ship and is actively seeking to raise funds to ensure her future. For my part, I am keen to see our Company support this important initiative. The evening was made even more special by the presence of HRH The Princess Royal who greeted each guest personally and who gave the most marvellous, informed and witty of speeches.
A second significant event was attending the Admission Court and Dinner of the Scientific Instrument Makers at Glaziers' Hall. At this I had the privilege of meeting the Company's new Master, Professor Ken Grattan and saying adieu to Past Master (now Deputy Master) Ken Sanders and Maureen, his dazzling Mistress. What shone through the excellent evening was the warmth of their welcome.
Sunday 20th October 2019
The Company's Ladies Banquet this year was held at the fabulous Mercers' Hall and attracted a capacity attendance of over 150. It was wonderful to be part of such a convivial yet formal, white tie, event. A fine introduction to our many guests was given by PM Charles Miller and the excellent guest speech by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. It is probably the last time that we will enjoy the company of HE Teresita Sotolongo, The Cuban Ambassador to the Court of St James. Teresita will be heading back to Havana soon after a highly successful period in London- we will miss her and wish her well.
I was also privileged this week to meet again with Mrs. Theresa Homewood, the acting Head of Sevenoaks School for a tour of the amazing new Science Facility, amongst other things. The School is hugely impressive and has a palpable buzz to it. As an alumnus of the School and a recipient of a Pipemakers Scholarship in its Sixth Form, I am hugely proud of the important connection which remains between us. As ever, a highlight of this ongoing relationship will be the Company's Carol Service at St. Lawrence Jewry on December 10th. As ever the School's hugely talented Choir will make it a very special evening- don't miss it!!
On a lighter note, this was also the week of the Inter-Livery Quiz, held at Guildhall and organised to perfection by the Tax Advisers. Ably assisited by PMs Ralph Edmondson and Charles Miller and by Court Assistant Fran Morrison we put on a fair show.....coming 5th out of the ten teams present but with not a lot of distance between us and the winners. The victors were the Solicitors!
Monday 7th October 2019
On a cold and wet Sunday the Mistress and I (along with a few others) drove some rather unimpressed sheep across London Bridge. This wonderful tradition (and the right to pay no toll) was brilliantly organised by the Woolmen (who were ably assisted by the Young Freemen).
The week then took off with Common Hall at Guildhall and the election of the new Lord Mayor. The event started with a fine service at St Lawrence Jewry, conducted expertly by our very own Chaplain, The Reverend Canon David Parrott. Alderman William Russell will become the 692nd Lord Mayor of this great City. We are delighted for William and for his lovely wife Hilary.
The ceremony was then followed by a splendid lunch at Stationers Hall. And if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we finally had the privilege of attending a spectacular Choral Evensong at St Paul's, courtesy of the Musicians' Company.
The next day I lunched with the Furniture Makers in their fine hall. Their Master, Dids Macdonald made us all feel most welcome. In fact it was one of the most friendly events I've been lucky enough to attend. This spirit of fellowship was repeated in spades by the Master Mariners at their Ladies Banquet the folllowing evening. As always the HQS Wellington did not disappoint!
Monday 23rd September 2019
This has been a full week with a number of wonderful events. It commenced with a delicious lunch with the Farmers at Farmers and Fletchers Hall. The hospitality was amazing and I particularly liked the celebration of all that is British and Local.
Our hard-working Membership Committee then hosted a Smoking Club in the fine establishment of JJ Fox on St. James. There, PM Derek Harris gave us his story of long connections to the Fox family. It was a lovely evening! Thank you so much to Robert Fox and his team for your hospitality! I was also privileged to see newly-elected Non-Aldermanic Sheriff, Chris Hayward, receive his splendid chain of office at Carpenters' Hall. Chris will be a great Sheriff and we wish him and his lovely wife a very successful year. That evening, the Painter Stainers' then hosted another spectacular dinner in their beautiful hall. The Company also had its Autumn Court aboard the wonderful and only floating Livery Hall - the HQS Wellington. A highlight was the commemoration of our new Oriel Window to be housed at Tallow Chandlers' Hall. This beautiful object was the brain-child of PM Roger Brookes. We very much appreciate the generosity of Christopher and Jane Sawyer in making it happen. Captain Jim Barclay, Master Mariner, as ever made us all feel incredibly welcome. The week concluded with a dinner hosted by the London Irish Rifles. With pipers and readings it celebrated, in magnificent style, the bravery and courage of the regiment at the Battle of Loos in 1915. We are proud to be affiliated to such a fine regiment. Finally, I think I need to buy some new trousers with a larger waist.....
Saturday 14th September 2019
After a quiet August the blogger is back!
The Modern Companies' Dinner in Furniture Makers Hall was a splendid event which brought together a group of Livery Companies which works so well together and which shares so many common objectives. The feeling of fellowship was palpable. The same week I returned to the same hall for the farewell drinks of Mark Sismey-Durrant, Master of the International Bankers - I am sad to see him go; he has been an excellent Master. I suspect that for us all our year as Master is over all too soon!
An early start on HQS Wellington soon followed to herald the Livery Companies Walk, brilliantly organised by the Environmental Cleaners. At some 10 miles, with visits to 38 halls this was an amazing way to see the historic heart and variety of so many Companies, as well as a few surprises- I was, for example, unaware of the existence of the beautiful Dutch Church in our midst. Thank you to PM Ralph Edmonson for joining me in this epic adventure!
The week then finished with a further highlight - the Hackney Carriage Drivers' Big Breakfast. At 6am we gathered at Canary Wharf to see 400 children and their families in 100 taxis leave with great fanfare for a trip to Disneyland Paris. It was an upbeat and moving, yet fun occasion which made me smile all day long! I am proud that our Company is associated with and a sponsor of this top event. It was a pleasure to see PM Michael Walter in such fine form and to hear that every child had received one of his marvellous books.
Monday 15th July 2019
The Mistress and I had great pleasure in joining a group of Livery Companies for a tour of the Houses of Parliament. This was brilliantly organised by Ian and Julia Grundy, the Master and Mistress Framework Knitter.
The tour began in the Great Hall and moved through the Lords and the Queen's apartments. Champagne on the terrace overlooking the Thames was followed by a super lunch. Afterwards, we were able to sit in on the afternoon session of the Lords-as a result I am now up to date with the lack of rural post offices! One lonely figure awaited us as we left- a statue of Cromwell surrounded by scaffolding. Our thanks to the Framework Knitters and to Baroness Byford for making this all happen.
The Mistress was then able to escape from my company to a fantastic event kindly hosted by the Mistress Arbitrator at the Royal Courts of Justice....but that is for her to blog. My only observation is that there is some similarity in the architecture of the two buildings...
Sunday 7th July 2019
Fresh from the resounding harmonies of the choir at Temple Church I fell to earth. Indeed, I was summoned to the Old Bailey early in the week. In a packed Court Room full of my fellow Masters we were individually and collectively tried by the Sheriffs and found guilty of ludicrous charges! We were then given a ball and chain and sent down by bus to the Tower of London, to be booed by tourists and held until sufficient bail monies were raised.
I must say, I was a little surprised by my main offence- my failure to have my car washed more than once a year!? Oddly, only the Mistress could have known this (!) and I was a little hurt (in confidence) to hear that the Mistress had written to the Court to ask for the longest possible jail term for me!
The good news was that over £40,000 in total was raised for the British Red Cross. My sincere thanks to all of you who were so generous in providing my bail for me. Also, to be candid, jail conditions were less than harsh and the event's sponsor, Pol Roger, ensured that we did not die of dehydration.
Midweek, the Mistress, Clerk and I "walked the course" for our 400th Banquet, to be held on October 15th in the beautiful Mercers' Hall. It promises to be a fine occasion and I hope many from the Company will attend.
The week was then completed with a fabulous Smoking Club outdoor event at the Rosewood Hotel. The Membership Committee arranged everything perfectly- an excellent location, some delicious wine and canapes and for those who wished, a puff or two on a Cuban cigar. It was also a very strong and friendly turnout of both new and old faces. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Sunday 30th June 2019
On a swelteringly hot day I attended Guildhall for the contested election of Sheriffs. Gowned in the Crypt with the help of the Clerk and the Beadle I then processed into Common Hall with other Masters. It was a great moment of pomp and tradition. All contestants for office were most impressive but Michael Mainelli and Chris Hayward won the day and we offer them both our warm congratulations. Common Hall was followed by an excellent lunch with Company members at Stationers' Hall.
It was then a week for last minute preparations and nerves for our 400th Celebration! After a year of careful planning everything was prepared and fingers were crossed. An early piece of good news was that Cedric, our amazing snuff mull, was to return in time for it from his restoration, thanks to the generosity of PM Roger Brookes and the logistical wizardry of PM Charles Miller.
What we could not control was the weather....it had been an awful June of heavy rain followed by excessive heat. However, on June 27th the skies cleared for a warm, sunny day. The auspices were good! What followed was, for me, a truly memorable event which celebrated our small Company with a loud and hearty voice in the company of so many friends from across the City and Livery Movement.
Indeed, the Choral Evensong at The Temple Church, so brilliantly arranged by PM Mark Gower-Smith and the Chaplain was just perfect...it made me cry at one point! This was followed by a reception at Middle Temple Hall with musicians from the Royal Academy, an exhibition of Company Treasures, amazing cigars provided so kindly by Hunter and Frankau, and a witty and informative speech by Professor Jonathan Phillips. All together it was great fun and i hope very much that everyone enjoyed themselves!
May I take this opportunity to again thank everyone involved in the arrangement of this important celebration. In particular, my thanks go to our Clerk, Sandra Stocker and to fellow members of the 400th Committee, without whom nothing would have been possible.
Sunday 23rd June 2019
This week the Mistress and I joined the Clerk and the Clerk's Assistant at a magical meeting of the Highlands and London. Courtesy of Brigadier Alistair Bruce of Crionaich, the summer Party of the London Regiment was a well attended, ear-drum testing event!
It's also been a week for finalising the details for the 400th next week - we very much look forward to seeing many of you at Temple Church next Thursday! Company bow ties are most welcome - if you are lucky enough to have one!
Yesterday, I also had the pleasure of a very fine luncheon at Drapers' Hall. For me, it is a memorable place for two main reasons: the Hall is one of the finest in the City, and, secondly, it is also the location of our annual trouncing in the Inter-Livery Bridge Competition! Hosted by Master Draper Philip Ogden it was another fine and fun occasion. At its conclusion we ventured into the garden and I was able to enjoy the company of Father Andrew Moughtin-Mumby and Assistant Tom Harris, both of whom were keen to test the Company's snuff!
Sunday 16th June 2019
It has been a busy few days for the Mistress and for me!
After my Installation at Vintners' Hall we headed to a very wet Ironbridge. Some 100 companies attended over three days of events. The highlight was a trip to the Broseley Pipe Museum where Dylan Lucas gave us a personal tour. Off the beaten track, it is an exceptional and atmospheric time capsule of a period when clay pipes from Britain reached all corners of the world. In the small Quaker cemetery next to it also lies Abraham Darby, the English ironmaster who played such a pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution.
The rain then followed us to Tandridge where I had the great pleasure of presenting the prizes at the Company's annual Golf Day, so expertly organised by Past Master Derek Harris. It was great fun and I am still digesting the famous Tandridge Pudding served at lunch!
The rain finally abated for the well attended The Tobacco Trade Sponsored Charity Lunch at Lord's. Past Master Roger Merton's attention to detail meant we had an amazing time, starting with an outdoor champagne reception. The big surprise was a delicious lunch served in the Long Room, surrounded by all that is holy in the world of cricket, followed by an entertaining speech by Henry Blofeld. It doesn't get better than that! I also had pleasure in presenting Gauntley's of Nottingham with their well deserved prize of Retailer of the Year.