Monday 13th September 2021
Livery Companies who were established after 1926 are together categorised as Modern Livery Companies, the “oldest” of which is the Master Mariners, formed in 1926 and ranking 78th in the Order of Precedence. Despite our 17th century roots, our reformation in 1954 means that we, too, are a Modern Livery Company. Every 6 months a dinner is arranged for the Masters and Senior Wardens of the (currently) 33 Modern Companies, organised in rotation by each company. This time it was the turn of the Tax Advisers; in fact this was their 3rd attempt to organise this dinner, given the disruption over the last 18 months. The Senior Warden and I, together with over 60 others, assembled at Butchers' Hall for a dinner of cured salmon and guinea fowl, and a speech by Adrian Waddingham, CBE, Actuary and former Sheriff, who commended the Modern Companies for their very significant charitable giving, and for their forward thinking and modern outlook, which he said benefited the Livery movement as a whole. With many thanks to the Tax Advisers for their perseverance in organising a very enjoyable evening.
Thursday 9th September 2021
As fine a body of Past Masters as you could ever hope to meet gathered in the Astor Room of the Naval & Military Club in St James’s Square for dinner with this shiny, newly appointed Master. This dinner is one of our newer traditions, started by PM Chris Allen, and is an opportunity for ideas to be exchanged and guidance to be given. I am particularly grateful for the dogged determination that our Senior PM, Rolf Christophersen, displayed in making it to the dinner at all, after his journey was marred by non-appearing taxis and awful traffic, and for his “Takk for maten” at the end of the meal. A few of us then retired to the courtyard for cigars and (a little too much) port, to round off a lovely evening
Tuesday 7th September 2021
To commemorate their 650th anniversary, the Fletchers Company held a service at the Parish Church of St Vedast-alias-Foster, to which the Clerk and I were invited. It was a lovely, intimate, service, attended by the Masters, Prime Wardens, Upper Bailiff and Clerks of some 65 Companies, and was followed by a drinks reception in the shaded courtyard of the church – a welcome respite from the heat of the day. Many thanks to the Master Fletcher for allowing us to share in this very special occasion.
Monday 6th September 2021
Our previous Smoking Club evening in July was marked by torrential downpours, so it was inevitable that the September event would be held on the warmest evening we have had for some time. With thanks, again, to Elise and the rest of her Membership Committee a significant group enjoyed drinks and canapes and cigars in the balmy surroundings of the Hippodrome’s new roof terrace. We were delighted that one of our newer Freemen, Sarah Saunders, was able to bring along two of the top three competitors from the UK round of the Slow Smoke (the World Cigar Smoking Championships) and to tell us a little about the competition. I was astounded to hear that the world record for smoking a single cigar (keeping it constantly lit) is well over 3 hours, and that the gentleman who finished 2nd in the UK championship had only ever smoked 3 cigars previously. I would encourage everyone to come along to these Smoking Club evenings – they really are a great way for us to get together in a less formal environment, to enjoy a cigar (and each other’s company) and to introduce potential new members to the Company. Look out for the next event, to be held towards the end of the year.
Monday 19th July 2021
In December last year, The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor, William Russell, launched an award to recognise the outstanding contribution that individual Liverymen and staff have made in support of the City and communities impacted by the pandemic. We were pleased to nominate our Honorary Chaplain, The Reverend Canon David Parrott, for all that he has done to support our Livery Company, and the wider City, over the period, and we were delighted that David was chosen to receive one of the awards. The awards ceremony was held at Mansion House, at which the Lord Mayor presented awards to 26 individuals and 4 organisations (including the amazing NHS Livery Kitchen Initiative, which has delivered over 160,000 meals to Bart's Health NHS hospitals and East London communities) who had all done so much during the pandemic. It was inspiring, and a little humbling, to hear what they had all achieved to support their communities, and society at large, in such trying times. I’m clearly more than a little biased, but it seemed to me that The Lord Mayor was especially pleased to present David with his award. The Lord Mayor made the point that so much of what the Livery does goes unnoticed; in addition to all the contributions recognised here, there were many more individuals who have worked tirelessly with little public acknowledgement. He also pointed out that, last year, the Livery donated a record £72 million to good causes, which is a phenomenal amount of money and, taken as a whole, would make them the 5th largest philanthropic organisation in the country.
Monday 12th July 2021
Last March, the Membership Committee had organised a Smoking Club evening at the Caledonian Club which, for obvious reasons, had to be cancelled. I was delighted that they were able to reschedule the event, albeit some 15 months later. Thirty intrepid souls braved torrential downpours to huddle on the Terrace under awnings, drink whisky, eat haggis and smoke Havana cigars. It was a fun evening, despite the rain, and it was lovely to see so many old friends, and to meet so many new ones. Many thanks to Elise, Stephan and the rest of the Membership Committee.
Thursday 8th July 2021
I was delighted to have been invited by Major Dominic Masters, Officer Commanding D (London Irish Rifles) Company of the London Regiment, to a dinner, commemorating the battle at Anzio in northern Italy, when Allied Forces broke through enemy lines and linked up with the US 5th Army. The battle involved many Battalions which now go to make up the London Regiment, which is why Anzio Day (14 May) was chosen as the London Regiment's Regimental Day. The dinner (which is traditionally held on the Thursday closest to Anzio Day, but which was postponed for obvious reasons) was held at the beautiful Cavalry and Guards Club, and it was a rare treat to have been invited. Before dinner we were read a moving first-hand account of the battle; after dinner the former Commanding Officer of the London Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Strickland (who has recently become a Liveryman of our Company) presented the Regiment with a magnificent silver model of their Headquarters on St Johns Hill, Battersea. There were also bagpipes, lots of bagpipes …
It was a pleasure to hear from Dominic of the great work that he and his colleagues have been doing, particularly in establishing the COVID testing regime at the start of the pandemic. The massive contribution that our reserve forces make to our country is, to a great extent, untold, which is a travesty.
D Company is also supported by the Worshipful Company of Founders, as well as by us, and it was lovely to meet their Master, David Robinson, and his wife Claire.
Foolishly, I neglected to take any photos of the evening, but on my way to the dinner I did spot this herd of elephants in Green Park
Thursday 24th June 2021
You wait (well, my predecessors waited) 16 months for an official event, and then two come along in one week. My second outing of the week was to Common Hall on Midsummers Day to elect the two Sheriffs. Alison Gowman and Nick Lyons were standing unopposed, and were duly elected by the assembled, much reduced, throng – restrictions meaning that only Masters were allowed to attend. Importantly, we also elected the Auditors and Bridgemasters; even more importantly, the Ale Conners were voted in too. The Chartered Accountants had arranged a lunch in the Guildhall Members’ Dining Room for those attending Common Hall. Although the lunch was delayed by a fire alarm in Guildhall, it was a very enjoyable affair, with the Master Arts Scholar, Master Broderer and the Clerk to the Chartered Accountants all providing entertaining, real-life conversation. On my way back to the office, I managed to pick up a snippet of the Band of the Coldstream Guards as they played in Guildhall Yard as part of the Armed Forces Day flag raising ceremony.
Tuesday 22nd June 2021
My first outing in the City as Master was to St Paul’s Cathedral, for a service organised by the Lord Mayor. As the Dean of St Paul’s said in his welcome, the intention was to “remember those who have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic; to give thanks for the sacrificial efforts of those who have risen to meet the needs of the many throughout the last year; and to look forward in hope to the future.” The service did just that: the music and readings, and the Address by the Bishop of London, The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally, were spot on. Perhaps most poignant of all was the Testimony of a Consultant Chest Physician from Barts, Dr Will Ricketts, who gave a moving, yet hopeful, account of what life was really like for him and his colleagues on the front line during the worst of the second wave. What they were able to do, and how they were able to carry on, in the most horrific circumstances, was truly remarkable. We are in their debt, and the debt of all of the key workers and volunteers who have helped us through this crisis.
Many thanks to the Master Apothecary, who allowed a great number of Masters to use his hall to Gown ourselves, and to process together up to St Paul’s. Also, it was lovely to be able to meet up after the service with Renter Warden Elise Rasmussen, and Past Master Mark Gower-Smith, for a drink and a chat, before the office drew me back.
Thursday 17th June 2021
This was the first official event of my year as Master, and how lucky that it was our own Company Golf Day. The Mistress and I ventured half-way around the M25 to Tandridge, arriving just in time for a drink and to watch the golfers slowly making their way back to the clubhouse. This event has been ably organised by Past Master Derek Harris for the last 26 years, and he has produced a great formula which has much to offer for the golfer and non-golfer alike. The weather, which was forecast to be biblical, turned out, thankfully, to be fine and dry; the presence of our Honorary Chaplain was purely coincidental in that, I’m sure. With golfers all safely returned (and a large cohort who were only there to be fed and watered) we moved into the dining room for a very fine lunch which included, as promised by Derek, the famous Tandridge Pudding – a treat not to be missed. The prize-giving followed, with the Charles Rich Trophy for the best Company golfer again going to Senior Warden Paul Taberer – congratulations Paul but, surely, there must be someone in the Company who can beat him?. Past Master Charles Miller ran an auction of McLaren FI luggage, kindly donated by BAT, which raised £200 for the Benevolent Fund. Many thanks to Derek for yet another triumph! A great way to start my year.
Tuesday 15th June 2021
Having been founded in 1371, the Fletchers Company is 650 years’ old this year, and to mark that occasion they organised a [virtual] lecture about the momentous events that occurred some 10 years later:- “London and the Peasants Revolt: The people of 1381”. Professor Anne Curry, the Master Fletcher, is a medieval historian and she, and her several colleagues who participated in the lecture, led us through the genesis of the rebellion, the people involved (on both sides) and the social and political context of late 14th century England, all the way through to the death of Wat Tyler and the aftermath of the Revolt. Parallels were drawn with more modern events, such as the Poll Tax riots in 1990 and the recent storming of the Capitol in Washington. It was a lively and entertaining canter through the events of June 1381; many thanks are due to the Fletchers, and many congratulations to them on their anniversary.
Thursday 3rd June 2021
And so to my Installation as Master. Having been on the Court since 1999, I’ve certainly taken my time to prepare myself, but that doesn’t make it any less daunting – especially following in the footsteps of my grandfather, father and brother-in-law. The ceremony was, as is the custom nowadays, a Virtual one, but I hope that that will become more of a rarity as society starts to open up. I was honoured that Past Master Rolf Christophersen was able to formally confirm my nomination – 99 years old and still going strong – particularly because my grandfather was one of Rolf’s Wardens during Rolf’s year as Master. I was also delighted to install my crack team of Wardens – Paul Taberer, Elise Rasmussen, Henry Tuck and Tony Scanlan, who I know will provide me with wisdom, guidance and support during my term of office. As I said at the ceremony, great credit must go to my two immediate predecessors, Andrew Golding and Adam Bennett, whose years were unkindly impacted by the pandemic, but who nonetheless have led the Company through a difficult 15-months or so. The continued support and hard work of the Clerk and the Treasurer has been essential during that period, and is much appreciated by me, and the other members of the Court and, indeed, the Company. I now face a year where my diary is beginning to fill up with real (as opposed to virtual) events, and Catherine and I very much look forward to representing this Company across the City. I say that in expectation rather than hope, but with my fingers and toes firmly crossed.
Wednesday 26th May 2021
On Wednesday 26 May, I attended a (virtual) meeting of my Past Masters’ Association 2020-21, which was led by the Lord Mayor, William Russell. I have to say that it seemed somewhat surreal attending a Past Masters’ Association meeting before I had actually been installed as Master, but these are surreal times. (In a “normal” year, this meeting would have taken place at Ironbridge in June but, alas, that weekend was yet another victim of COVID.) Anyway, there were over 80 of us on the call. Having duly constituted the Association, we then had to decide on a name. We were presented with a choice of one from a list of 55 (!) suggestions and, but for the assured presence of the Sword Bearer, Tim Rolph, I am sure that chaos would have ensued. In the event, “The Unmutables” was the clear favourite, and so we move on – immutable and un-muteable.