Tuesday, July 9, 2019

161. Signing off…..! 8 July 2019

So, that concludes my Masters year; and what a year it has been! It has been a great privilege to serve the Company and the Mistress and I have enjoyed every moment. We have been given access to some amazing places and witnessed some very special moments. We have also met some incredible people, many of whom will remain friends for life. The fellowship and support shown by members of every Livery Company we have had the pleasure to work alongside has been very much appreciated and I hope we have done the same in return.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about what we have been doing in my Blog. It has been a joy to write them and they will serve as a good reminder of the busy times we have had this last year.

I would like to thank all those in the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators (too many to mention here) for their unstinting support to Wendy and I and for the effort they have put in for the Company. We are in a strong position right now and our standing in the City and the wider water, waste and environmental sectors is good and we are well respected. It has been a great team effort and as I hand over to the next Master and his Wardens, I know they will take the Company to even greater things. I look forward to being able to play my own small part going forward.

Thank you all and my final toast would be to the Company itself; Root and Branch may it Flourish Forever!

160. Installation Court, 8 July 2019

And so we go full circle with the Stationers’ Hall being the venue for the Installation Court, my last event as Master. It was at this very Hall on 9 July 2018 where the journey began on a swelteringly hot summers day and whilst this year the weather was much more hospitable, the sense of occasion was no less dramatic. For it was here that the next Mastership – the Company's 31st – begins. But before that there was the Court meeting itself to attend to.

Calling the various Wardens, officers of the Company and others on the Court to order, we speedily went through the business of the day. It was a particular pleasure to be able to cloth Martin Baggs as a new Court Assistant who later was installed as Walbrook Warden. We wish him well.

But then it was time for the outgoing Master to address the Court which I took as the opportunity to thank everyone for the unstinting support and good fellowship shown to me and the Mistress. Space does not allow for a full transcript of what I said; suffice to say that the Company is in good heart and I am confident that the new Master and his Wardens will continue to grow and develop the Company for the benefit of the membership and the wider Livery. There is so much to play for at the moment and I wished them all well.

Normally the Court is adjourned at this point to conduct the Installation Ceremony. But this year there was a slight deviation from the normal path due to the retirement of the Beadle and the installation of his replacement. This then was my last duty as Master and a bitter-sweet one at that.

Anthony Parker – Tony to his many, many friends – has been our Beadle for twenty years, something of a record. His service and devotion to the Company during this time is beyond compare and we are so fortunate to have had such a loyal supporter as our Beadle. I was able to take a few moments to thank him for all he has done and he received a hearty round of applause from the Court.

His last duty was to cloth our new Beadle, Tim Gutteridge and I bade him welcome to the Company. The start of a new ear for the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators! Picture shows (from left) Tony Parker, Pam Parker and the Beadle.

I then adjourned the Court to prepare for the Installation ceremony to be held shortly thereafter.

And that was it... My year as Master was completed and I would like to wish Mark Lane, our new Master every success, ably supported as he will be by the new Thames, Fleet and Walbrook Wardens. A first-class team.

Monday, July 1, 2019

159. Tudor Pull, 29 June 2019

Organised by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association (TTRA) this amazing event is one of the highlights of the Company’s year. Where else could one be rowed down the River Thames aboard the Queen’s Rowbarge, Gloriana in such splendid style and be treated like royalty for a day? It was a real privilege as Master to be able to take part.

The Gloriana is a splendid vessel, launched in 2012 as part of HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and is powered by 18 rowers plus a Coxswain, two deck crew and a Class V skipper. Her livery is to be seen to be believed (see photos) and she causes a stir wherever she goes on the Thames. The Mistress and I, accompanied by our elder daughter Holly joined her at Hampton Court for the occasion of the Tudor Pull. And what a day!

Under the bluest of blue skies and with the thermometer rocketing skyward for what was the hottest day of the year so far (think 33C!) we made our way from the train station and over Hampton Court Bridge to where the Gloriana was moored. Joining us as special guests of the Company were Sheriff the Hon Liz Green and her Consort Peter as well as the Master Watermen and Lightermen, Dr Iain Reid and the Master of the Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen of the City of Exeter, Mr Ian Gardner. Also aboard were a few select guests plus the Beadle, Tony Parker who acted as our master of ceremonies throughout the day.

The purpose of the Tudor Pull is to receive from the King (Henry VIII of course!) the wooden ‘Stela’, a piece of Tudor waterpipe made from wood and to thence to transport, by river, to the Tower of London for its safe keeping. The first step of this process was to receive the Stela from His Majesty at a small ceremony in the yard in front of Hampton Court. Dressed in full regalia the King and Queen graciously commanded us to take the Stela down river and discharge our duties. I of course complied and asked the Queens Bargemaster (who was acting as our Coxswain) to make arrangements to be rowed down. After drinking to the health of the River Thames, we processed back to Gloriana with the King to the sound of pipes and drums of the Tudor period, much to the delight of the many spectators. The Kind and Queen came aboard the Gloriana and remarked on her magnificence!

But then it was time to leave and as the painters were loosened and the crown cheered, the oarsmen took their places and we eased off downstream. What a sight! Pictures alone cannot do justice to this incredible spectacle as we made our way slowly but graciously past the sleepy villages of the non-tidal Thames. Simply stunning!

At Teddington Lock, the start of the Thames tidal reaches, we were joined by a number of Livery Company cutters who were to accompany us on our journey. We all crammed into the Lock taking care not to damage any paintwork and the oarsmen took a well-earned break – already it was swelteringly hot. And then on to Richmond where we stopped for a sandwich lunch.

At this point many more cutters were waiting for us and the Sheriff and her Consort transferred to the Company cutter Water Forget-Me-Not captained by our Bargemaster Johnny Dwan and his small but experienced crew. It was their job to transport the Sheriff the rest of the way downstream as I as Master remained on board Gloriana in comfort and style. It’s a tough job….

The afternoon continued in this manner with Gloriana leading the way and the cutters attempting to keep up. Some did, some didn’t but it was a majestic procession down River. Regular water breaks were taken but there were no ‘comfort breaks’ for the cutter crews and their passengers. But it was so hot these were not called for!

The final part of the journey through central London saw many crowds on the bridges and our on-board bagpipe player gave then a virtuoso performance of Tudor music. The waves were steadily increasing and as we shot Blackfriars Bridge the worst of the choppy water hit us (underwater obstacles were the cause) but we powered through and onto Tower Bridge.

Mooring at St Katherines pier the Sheriff and Masters came ashore and led by the Beadle and the Queens Bargemaster, we made our way to the southern drawbridge of the Tower of London. There to greet us was the Governor of the Tower and his Yeomen Warders. The Queens Bargemaster then presented to him the Stela and with the appropriate bowing etc our job was done. The Stela safely retuned where it would remain until this wonderful ceremony is repeated next year.

We all then took off our by now very heavy gowns and departed into the hot London streets.

An amazing day and so many people to thank. But the biggest thanks of all must go to the oars-men and women who rowed their hearts out on Gloriana and the cutters to get us all safely down river and in good time, despite the heat. Three cheers for the TTRA and the River Thames!

Pictures show; the Stela in its case; the Masters aboard (from left the Sheriff, Master Water Conservator, Master Watermen and Lightermen, the Beadle, the Master of the Incorporation of Exeter); HRH King Henry and his Queen together with the Queens Bargemaster (extreme right); and the Gloriana at full stretch.

158. Framework Knitters Dinner, 28 June 2019

The Mistress and I were delighted to receive an invitation to join the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters for their Summer Dinner and so we made our way down to Barber-Surgeons’ Hall on a lovely warm summers evening. As this was to be our last formal ‘black-tie’ event of our year it was a particular pleasure to spend it in such good company.

Received by the Master Framework Knitter, Mr Ian Grundy and his Consort Julia, we were made to feel very welcome. A cooling glass of good cheer awaited us on the Hall’s lovely terrace as we mingled with some 95 or so other guests and members of the Company. The Barber-Surgeons’ Hall is a wonderful space built on an original site (previous Halls having been lost to the Great Fire and to enemy action in 1940) and opened some fifty years ago. Of particular note is the splendid painting by Hans Holbein of King Henry VIII and the Company’s Court. This was somewhat ironic given the event that was to follow the next day – the Tudor Pull! (see next Blog). It certainly makes its presence felt as one enters the Dining Hall.

After drinks we were called to diner by the Beadle and grace was said by the Upper Warden. A lovely meal was served and the menu choices were extremely good. The Loyal and Civic toasts were given by the Master and he took wine with the three new Company members installed earlier that day at Court. The Master also welcomed the many guests and proposed a toast to our health – a very kind gesture. We then enjoyed a lovely musical interlude courtesy of pianists Becky Thompson and Phillip Mountford.

In response the principle guest Sir Laurence Howard KCVO, OBE gave a most interesting speech about his time as Lord Lieutenant in Rutland. Whilst it maybe the smallest county in England it has had more than its fair share of Royal visits and we were most entertained by some of the stories (suitably discreet of course!) of his time in office. We finished with a toast to the Company, ‘Root and Branch may it Flourish Forever’!

The Master kindly organised a Stirrup Cup before we departed into the London night. A lovely evening and thanks of course go to the Master, Wardens, Court Assistants and the Clerk for making it so special. Thank you.

157. Temple Church Service of Evensong, 27 June 2019

The Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders celebrate the 400th anniversary of their original Royal Charter granted by King James I this year and so a very special Service of Evensong was held in the Temple Church in Temple. The Mistress and I were kindly invited and so we were thrilled to be able to join a large number of invited guests and Livery Masters in this fine church.

A place of worship has stood on this site since at least 1162 and the current building is modelled on the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is unusual in that the pews face each other down the length of the nave and the whole building is bathed in light as only a few of the many windows are fitted with stained glass. On a fine, sunny summers evening it was a lovely place to be.

The Company’s history is somewhat chequered; essentially they lost their Charted some thirty years after grant only to regain it in 1663. Fast forward two hundred years and they had lost it a second time but in 1961 the third iteration of their Charter was granted and since then they have gone from strength to strength. This history was a central theme to the service which was expertly led by the Master of the Temple the Rev’d Robin Griffith-Jones, assisted by the Rev’d Canon David Parrott, Hon Chaplain (from St Lawrence Jewry) who also gave the sermon.

Guests included both Sheriffs and their Consorts and the Lord Mayor Locum Tenens, Alderman Sir Andrew Parmley who also read the second lesson. The music was superb led by a magnificent choir supported by some lusty organ playing and real trumpets; what a sound! The anthems were simply sublime and we sat in awe of their musicianship.

The sermon focused on ‘hot potatoes’ (themselves an import from the colonies like tobacco) and the parallels between the world four hundred years ago and today – very sobering. But then there was more music before we exited the church with music ringing in our ears.

A drinks reception had been kindly arranged in the Middle Temple close by and a lovely evening ensued catching up with the many Masters and Consorts who attended. Also on display were a number of Company artefacts including the Master Smoking Hat (see picture) and the Company snuff-box (mounted on a ram’s head!). Marvellous to behold.

A wonderful evening and our thanks must go to the Master Andrew Golding and to his Wardens, Past Masters, Court Assistants and Clerk all of whom were very much in evidence (and in Company bow-ties!) and who made us feel very welcome. Let us hope they are more careful with their current Charter!

Friday, June 28, 2019

156. Red Cross Christmas Market Launch, 26 June 2019

With the temperatures in London climbing to the high twenties centigrade, it seemed incongruous to be think about Christmas but like it or not, the Festive Season will be soon upon us so a launch event for the Red Cross Christmas Market was held. The Mistress and I were pleased to attend with forty or so other guest in the Members Dining Room at Guildhall for this first-time event.

The British Red Cross Christmas Market has been successfully run for a number of years in the Guildhall and has raised substantial amounts of charitable giving. But the demands on any charity never go away and thus it was decided to make the 2019 Market even more special and so a launch event was held. Presided over by Alderman Alastair King we were treated to a small drink’s reception and some motivating speeches. Alderman King described how Livery companies can play their part in donating prizes as well as time and support for this amazing charity. Members of the Red Cross and the fund-raising committee were on hand to talk about the type of support they are able to give both in the UK and abroad. It is a very worthwhile organisation and has a fantastic first response capability in times of strife or conflict.

The 2019 Market will be held in the Guildhall on Tuesday 26 November and more details can be found at www.redcross.org.uk Put it in your diary now!

155. Firefighters Reception and Lunch, 25 June 2019

The Master Firefighter, Mr Andrew Mayes JP kindly invited me to the above at the Wax Chandlers’ Hall and I was delighted to accept. This very informal gathering of circa twenty or so Masters was the Masters’ way of saying thank you for the friendship and camaraderie that he had enjoyed during his Mastership – it was a very kind thought.

Assembling in the ground floor reception room, the Master welcomed us all with a glass of good cheer. As well as Masters there was a good smattering of Clerks from other companies as well as officers from the Firefighters – a very hospitable bunch. There was a distinct ‘end of term’ atmosphere as many Masters (myself and the host included) are approaching the end of their year and so the stories were of events great and small over the past twelve months. Also getting some airtime was the newly formed Past Master Association (aka Apollo 19) and the organisation that was underway to get this up and running.

The Master gave a very brief speech of welcome and a light finger buffet was supplied. It was a thoroughly pleasant way to spend a lunchtime and I am most grateful to the Master for his generosity and hospitality. Thank you.