10 July 2020

​I chaired my first Court meeting last night – possibly quite often a scary moment for an incoming Master. There were 33 in attendance on Zoom! Whether or not my chairing was satisfactory, I learnt some new Zoom tricks, including swiping right on my iMac to see the full Court (shades of the dating site called Tinder with which I am unfamiliar (obvs!) but many thanks to Carolyn Dwyer for that moment of amusement!); and also a gizmo for a secret ballot which the Learned Clerk told us about, which came in handy.

The pandemic and its accompanying lockdown have no doubt changed all our lives in different ways – some good, some not so good. If we have not been ill, or worse, then I guess we should count our blessings. So far as the Paviors is concerned, there will be consequences, for me and many others, as we come to terms with the effects of the disease. Speaking personally, my year to date has been very different to what it might have been, and this has been a discussion point in the livery by a large number of kind and thoughtful individuals.

I quote directly from the Court Committee minutes of 9th June:
The Court is asked to declare the current year as null and void in regard to all those appointed to serve the Livery in the year that began with the installation in March 2020. Those elected will continue until the installation in March 2022. This period will be considered as a single year for all purposes relating to their office and the time limits that are laid down for terms of service will in all cases be extended to reflect this. Should the Court agree there will be no requirement for a vote for Warden in Nomination in 2020. Additionally, for those on the Court currently beneath the Chair the ‘10 year rule’ becomes an ‘11 year rule’. This will revert to 10 years for those elected to the Court going forward.

As a consequence, one of last night’s recommendations from Court Committee to the Court was as follows:
The Court Committee recommends that all those currently in post remain so until March 2022 notwithstanding the need for protocols such as the Election of Master and Wardens to take place.

This recommendation received the unanimous approval of the Court and therefore we will all go forward together for what I hope will be a more normal year in 2021.

I understand from one of the Paviors’ learned archivists, Martin Snaith, that there is historical precedent for a Master serving two terms of office, but not in recent times. Be that as it may, I have had mixed feelings about this proposition. On the one hand, as far as I am personally concerned I am obviously pleased that the Court have faith in me; and I feel it would be remiss of me not to step up to the challenge; on the other hand, I am very sympathetic to the effects that this will have on those in succession, who like me will have made plans accordingly.

We cannot easily forecast the future, but in the meantime thank you for all your support, and let us go forward optimistically and joyfully; and speaking of Professor Neil Ferguson, the Mistress Olivia and I wish you all the very best, and I should say that, unlike the good Professor, I have been lucky enough to spend the lockdown legally under the same roof as my Mistress, so another blessing to count!

Hugh MacDougald, Master ​