Friday, 28 April 2017

143. The rain in Spain falls mainly on our garden!

Fiona and I are at our property in Spain for a long weekend. Whilst the weather forecast improves tomorrow, we have had unbelievable rain overnight and all day today. Photograph shows our flooded garden and 3m high waves in the background with a strong onshore wind.

We hope that you enjoy your May Day Bank Holiday Weekend and the weather is kind to you.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

142. St George’s Day Luncheon – Watermen’s Hall

This week I was a guest of the Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames, who organized a St George’s Day Luncheon at their Hall for Master’s and Clerk’s (see photograph of their brass plaque).

Unfortunately, our Clerk, Ralph Riley, was unable to join me – he missed a very splendid affair. The Hall, the only Georgian Hall in the City, is located just off Lower Thames Street and close to the river. The Company has a very long history – in 1514 the earliest Act of Parliament for regulating watermen, wherrymen and bargemen received Royal Assent from King Henry Vlll. In 2014, the Company celebrated the 500th anniversary of that Act.

The luncheon attracted some 60 Master’s and Clerk’s and was a very jovial event (see photograph of the dining room before lunch was served). We were each provided with a very large red rose as a buttonhole (see photograph) and that greatly added to the atmosphere.

A fine lunch and wines were provided by the Cook and the Butler (see photograph of the invitation and luncheon menu) and John Salter (Master of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen) proposed a toast to the guests and John Manwaring-Robertson (Master of the Worshipful Company of mercers) responded.

Monday, 24 April 2017

141. Tudor Pull 2017

On St George’s Day (Sunday 23rd April 2017), the Queen’s Rowbarge Gloriana took part in the annual Tudor Pull from Hampton Court to HM Tower of London with the Queen’s Barge Master and a crew of Watermen from the Watermen & Lightermen Company. The event is to transport the “Stela”, a slice of ancient wooden water pipe donated by the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators, in the charge of the Queen’s Barge Master from Hampton Court Palace (where the “Stela” is stored) under oars via the River Thames to the Tower of London where it is presented to the Duty Governor watched over by the Yeoman Warders.

We gathered on the banks of the River Thames at Hampton Court at 09.30am and processed from the Gloriana to the gates of Hampton Court Palace (see photograph). At precisely 10.00am the gates to the Palace opened and Henry Vlll (an actor very realistically attired) appeared accompanied by a drummer. I then read the following to the large assembled crowd (see photograph):

“My Liege,I, as Master of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators of London, return to this, your Royal Palace of Hampton Court, the Watermen's  Stela, crafted from a piece of ancient conduit of the City of London, that you may once more dispatch it, by water, to your Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of The Tower of London that all may be reminded of the use, from time immemorial, of this liquid highway.”

Henry Vlll accepted the “Stela” and passed it, in its glass case, to the Queen’s Barge Master with the instruction to deliver it to The Tower of London. We then processed back to Gloriana and promptly left our mooring and headed off into London (see photograph).

After approximately one and a half hours we arrived at Richmond where we moored up and had the opportunity to stretch our legs and have a cup of coffee. Mike Williamson (our Thames Warden) and his wife Sandra then boarded our Cutter (the Water Forget me Knot) and were then rowed for the second part of the journey into Central London. Their rowers were an all female crew from Poplar Rowing Club and Johnny Dwan, (our Barge Master) ensured that he safely steered the Cutter into London (see photograph).

The sun shone brightly for the whole of this part of the journey and we received much attention from the river banks and bridges – this gave us plenty of opportunity to practice our Royal wave! (See photograph of Fiona and I on board and enjoying the sunshine.)

Gloriana’s rowers were relentless in their determination to reach the Tower of London in good time, although we did slow down as we came past Chelsea to allow Lord Sterling (who had the original idea to build Gloriana) to join us on board. (See photograph of rowers in full action as we approached Central London).

We docked adjacent to the Tower of London at 15.45pm and after disembarking made or way to the gates of the Tower where we were met by the Duty Governor (in his dramatic plumed hat) and his Yeoman Warders. In a brief ceremony at 16.15pm the Queen’s Barge Master returned the “Stela” to the Governor who accepted it and promised to return it to Hampton Court Palace within one year (see photograph).

And so ended a thoroughly enjoyable day, full of colour, pageantry and sunshine! Thanks to everyone who helped organize the day and who made it such a success.

Friday, 21 April 2017

140. That Timbuktu Joke!

Following the Election Court lunch earlier this week, many of you have been kind enough to contact me to ask whether you can have a copy of the Timbuktu joke that I used during my speech!

I confess to having stolen it from a Past Master of another Livery Company and then tweaked it for our own use. So, for those of you who would like to use it, here it is:

It was the final in a National Poetry Competition. The two finalists were given a word, then allowed two minutes to produce a poem that contained that word – the word they were given was “Timbuktu”. After two minutes, the first finalist, an Oxford Graduate stepped up to the microphone. He said:

Slowly across the desert sand
Trekked a lonely caravan.
Men on camels, two by two
Destination – Timbuktu.

Polite applause ensued and then the second finalist, a young Water Conservator stepped up to the microphone. He said:

Me and Tim a-huntin went,
Met three girls in a pop up tent.
They was three, and we was two,
So I Bucked one, and Timbuktu.

Photograph shows the ancient City of Timbuktu, but this bears no relationship to the joke! Enjoy.

139. Election Court Luncheon

At the Election Court lunch held at Armourers’ Hall earlier this week we enjoyed an excellent meal and wines supplied very professionally by Mark Grove and his team from The Cook and the Butler.

The Master Engineer and Master Fueller were our guests along with senior representatives from the RAF, Navy and the Army and the CEO of CIWM (the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management). These were all enthusiastically welcomed by Simon Catford, our Fleet Warden, who went on to propose the toast to the guests, which was taken in water.

My Principal Guest was Alderman and Sheriff Peter Estlin, who gave a very amusing response on behalf of the guests with anecdotal stories about his role as Sheriff and life at the Old Bailey.

Before we left the Livery Hall for what seemed a very long stirrup cup in the adjoining reception room, Court Assistant Nigel Cartright was responsible for organizing a collection in aid of ABF, the Soldiers Charity, and we were delighted to have collected a total of £700 for this deserving charity.

Many thanks to our Clerk, Ralph Riley, who organized this excellent event with his usual efficiency.

Photographs show the Livery Hall laid up ready for lunch and Fiona, Peter Estlin. The Master and the Master Engineer during lunch.

138. Election Court Meeting 2017

The Election Court Meeting took place on Thursday 20th April at the Armourers’ Hall in the City.

Apart from its usual business, the election of Court members was a key part of the agenda. I am delighted to report that Trevor Harrington and Sue Paterson were re-elected and Dylan Barker was elected as a new Court Assistant.

I also had the privilege of installing as Freemen, Pat Fitzsimmons, Gareth Jones and Andy Williamson. This was followed by our eighth Consort being admitted - Christine North. Welcome and congratulations to you all.

Additionally, the election of the new top team for 2017/18 confirmed the following:

      Master – Mike Williamson
      Thames Warden – Simon Catford
      Fleet Warden – Mark Lane
      Walbrook Warden – Rob Casey

Congratulations to all of them and we look forward to their installation on 6th July at Draper’s Hall.

Photograph shows the 2016/17 team of Master, Wardens and the Clerk immediately following the Court Meeting.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

137. Fuellers Election Court Luncheon

This week I was a guest at the Worshipful Company of Fuellers Election Court Luncheon. The event was held in the glorious Fishmonger’s Hall and was well attended with four other Modern Company Master’s also invited.

The Fuellers are an interesting Company, because they originally represented the coal industry, but with the demise of coal production in the UK they widened their appeal and membership to cover the whole energy sector.

Grace was said by Peter Mullen, their Chaplain and our erstwhile Chaplain. He is long retired, but well and happily living in Eastbourne.

Following a welcome to the guests given by the Senior Warden, the toast to the Company was proposed by Malcolm Brinded CBE, shortly to become President of the Energy Institute – his speech focused on changing global energy patterns and the fact that there is sufficient available oil for the next 200 years and coal for at least 1,000 years. No worries there then!

Many thanks to the Master Fueller for inviting me and for an informative luncheon.

Photographs show the invitation & menu cards and the Fishmongers Hall laid up ready for luncheon.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

136. Easter Message from the Master

As well as being a religious festival, Easter is also a great time to catch up with family and friends. Like many of you, Fiona and I will have a house full of people over the Easter weekend and we look forward to a relaxing and chocolate filled few days!

We would like to wish you all a happy and peaceful Easter and look forward to seeing many of you at the Election Court Lunch next week.

135. City Walk with Murray Craig

Earlier this week, sixteen of us were entertained to a City walk given by Murray Craig, the 37th Clerk to the Chamberlains’ Court. Murray’s encyclopedic knowledge of the City, both in his role as Clerk and also as a City Guide, made for a fascinating evening.

We started in the Guildhall Yard and visited streets, Livery Halls, Churches and signage in and around Gresham Street, King Street, Aldermanbury, Wood Street, Staining Lane, Oat Lane and Love Lane. In this relatively small area, we were able to visit Roman structures some 2,000 years old and see buildings from the 15th, 17th,19th and 20th centuries.

Murray did a brilliant job on holding our attention and feeding us fascinating facts. We all thoroughly enjoyed the walk. We concluded the evening with an excellent supper in the Members Private Dining Room in Guildhall.

Many thanks to Murray for a very memorable evening.

Photographs show the Guildhall where we stated our walk, Murray in full flow during the walk and all of us at supper in the Guildhall.

134. Restoration Work at The Painted Hall, Greenwich

Those of you who attended my Installation as Master last July will recall that the event and the subsequent dinner were held in the beautiful Painted Hall in Greenwich.

This hall, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was originally intended as eating space for naval veterans living at the adjacent Royal Naval Hospital. The walls and ceilings were painted by James Thornhill, and such was the scale and intricacy, that his work took some 19 years to complete.

Immediately following our Installation Dinner on 1st July 2016, the Painted Hall was closed for three years of restoration work to Thornhill’s paintings.

An enormous scaffolding structure, some 20m high, has been constructed in the Hall to give the restorers access to the paintings. Fiona and I arranged to visit the restoration work and were given a guided tour which was both fascinating and awe inspiring. For those of you that are interested, I would thoroughly recommend booking such a tour by going on the Painted Hall website.

Photographs show the Painted Hall before restoration works commenced, our guide describing some of the hidden secrets of the artwork, and the Master on the scaffolding platform immediately adjacent to Thornhill’s ceiling.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

133. The Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch

This is the tenth year that the Lord Mayor has organized a “Big Curry Lunch” with ABF, The Soldiers Charity, to support soldiers and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event is held at the Guildhall and well supported with generous sponsors. Additionally this year, Prince Andrew was there to lend his support.

The total funds raised in the first nine years were £1.55m and this year the Lord Mayor has set an ambitious target of taking that total to £2m.

Several members of our Company attended this year including our Clerk (Ralph Riley), Mike & Sandra Williamson (Thames Warden), Court Assistant David Richards and me. We all enjoyed a delicious curry lunch and financially contributed via collections, silent auctions, champagne bars and a prize draw – all skillfully designed to raise as much money as possible for this great charity!

The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators also makes a donation and I was delighted to hand the Lord Mayor a cheque for £500 with more to follow from our collection at the forthcoming Election Court Lunch.

It was a wonderful opportunity to meet so many serving full time and reservist soldiers.

Photographs show the Royal Reception invitation card & event brochure, and presenting the cheque to the Lord Mayor.

132. Meeting with CIWM’s Chief Executive

You might recall from Blog No 117, I reported that Court Assistant David Richards is working with a couple of professional institutions to see how we can tap into their new Senior Members as a potential source of recruitment for our own Company.

Earlier this week David met with Dr Colin Church the CEO of CIWM (Chartered Institution for Wastes Management) to discuss this further, and Ralph Riley (our Clerk) and I briefly gate-crashed the meeting to offer support.

The meeting went well and David will hopefully be able to report some new initiatives later this year. Well done David!

Photograph shows Dr Colin Church.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

131. City, University of London – Rector’s Dinner

The Rector of City, University of London is the Lord Mayor, Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley – as Master Water Conservator and part of the Alumni I was invited to attend the Rector’s Black Tie Dinner earlier this week.

This splendid celebration of education in the City of London, was held in the Mansion House with over 250 people enjoying excellent food and wine.

The Lord Mayor, a passionate teacher gave a rousing speech on the importance of education to society and he was followed by Clare Verga, the Principal of the City of London Academy, based in Islington. This Academy is supported by both the University and the City of London Corporation and is in one of the most deprived areas of London. Clare gave an impassioned description of how she has turned the Academy around since her arrival in 2012 to become one of the top performing schools in the UK with 92% of students going on to University. Clare was followed by Sophia Kichou a recent graduate from City, University of London who gave a vivid description of her life living in hostel accommodation and balancing two jobs with university life to enable her to support herself. Sophia successfully graduated in 2016 and is currently part of the Speaker of the House of Commons Parliamentary Placement Scheme, working for an MP. It was an inspirational speech and she rightly received a standing ovation.

Many thanks to the Lord Mayor and the University for including me in this stimulating evening.

Photographs show the invitation and menu card and the Lord Mayor addressing us all.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

130. The “William Charter” 1067

The year 2017 marks the 950th anniversary of the oldest document in the City of London’s archive – the “William Charter” given by William the Conqueror (King William I) to the City of London in 1067, just a few months after the Battle of Hastings.

The Charter, written in English and confirming the legal rights of the citizens of London, is on display in the Guildhall Art Gallery until the end of April. It is a very small document (written on animal skin parchment) measuring not much more than 125mm x 30mm and contains just 63 words.

Earlier this week I attended a panel presentation in the Guildhall Old Library, given by three distinguished academics – Professor Nicholas Vincent (University of East Anglia), Professor Caroline Barron (University of London) and Dr Nick Holder (University of Exeter). It was a fascinating presentation which explained some details of day to day life in London in the 11th century, how the Charter came to be written and how it has survived for 950 years.

Many thanks to the City of London Events Team for organizing this excellent event and for inviting me.

Photographs show the beautiful stained glass windows in the Guildhall Old Library and a copy of the Charter (together with an explanatory note from the London Metropolitan Archives).

Sunday, 2 April 2017

129. Organ Recital by the Lord Mayor

Despite having a fantastically busy schedule, the Lord Mayor still finds time to practice his first love of music. Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley is an accomplished organist and on the evening of the United Guilds Service he gave a 45 minute recital in the lovely St Stephen Church in Walbrook in the City of London.

This event was well attended by Master’s and their Consorts and we all felt privileged to hear the Lord Mayor (who is an Honorary Liveryman of our Company) play. The recital comprised of a wide range of 9 pieces and he deservedly got a standing ovation at the end.

What a talented man.

Photographs show the interior of St Stephen Church, the recital programme and the Lord Mayor playing the organ.

128. United Guilds Service and Luncheon

In 1943, during the darkest days of the Second World War, the Great Twelve Livery Companies decided to hold a service in St Paul’s Cathedral to help lift the spirits of the City of London. This Service, known as the United Guilds Service has been held in March every year since then. It is one of the few occasions where the Livery Companies and Guilds of the City gather together as a whole.

The Service is a colourful one with the Lord Mayor forming a procession with his Sheriffs and the Clergy, and all the Masters and Prime Wardens wear their full regalia. Each Livery Company has its own allocated row in the Cathedral and this year ours was full with Company members and their guests.

It has become a custom for livery companies to arrange a luncheon after the Service and this year we combined with the Worshipful Company of Insurers to dine together in the Members Private Dining Room at the Guildhall.

It was a very convivial occasion and many new friends were made.

Photographs show the Cathedral, the Order of Service, the Members Private Dining Room and the Master with the Master Insurer