As I sit here writing what is my final blog, I have now been in post for a year and three days, and have only one more event to attend as Master before I chair the Court meeting and then hand over to Miles Ashley. I recall Past Master Terry Last giving me his request that he hoped I would continue his fledgling blogs, and also my response of ‘maybe’! Well, after seven blogs, I have to say I am really glad that Terry started this form of communication and that, somewhat unwillingly, I have continued with them. Over my time as Master, the blogs have given me the chance to share, with anyone who cares to read them, all about my activities during my year, perhaps sometimes in too much detail. Nevertheless, I really hope that it has given you all a flavour of what the Master gets up to in this wonderful company of ours.
My last blog, just before Christmas, finished by telling you all about the planning going on for the visit to the Palace of Westminster being arranged by the Mistress, the Charity Burns Night and our Summer(!) event. We returned from a magical family Christmas, spent with nine of us around the table and a few thousand lights on the house, bringing the spirit of our Christmas to the village (whether they wanted it or not). We came back to the real world in January and, thankfully, had a relatively quiet time – apart from the aforementioned planning and organization going on between the Clerk, the Mistress and myself.
The first function of the year was on 10 January, with an excellent Master and Clerks’ dinner at Plaisterers’ Hall. The Hall had been recently refurbished after a disastrous flood had put it out of use for almost all of 2016. It really does look splendid now, and this proved to be a lovely evening in the company of many old friends. On Thursday 12 January, Paviors met at Vintners’ for our annual Common Hall. This is a really special place, but is too small for our very large livery dinners. The various committee chairmen were asked to explain what had been happening during past the year and, after some interesting questions, we enjoyed a delicious dinner. Then, after some time for thought, we had some further lively questions. I think it was a positive evening and thank all the contributors and those who attended. We do need however to get many more liverymen to Common Hall as it is aimed at them, rather than members of the committees and the Court. This is perhaps an issue for the new Master to consider. The following week was one of Paviors’ internal meetings, with the Charity, Marketing and Admissions Committees all taking place.
On the Friday, however, the Mistress held her consorts’ event, starting with what I am told was a wonderful meal at the Escoffier Rooms at the Westminster College in Vincent Square (I was allowed to assist but not attend). After lunch, but in time for a glass or two I noticed, they were joined by the two ‘Door-keepers’ from Black Rod’s Department in the House of Lords to explain what they had in store for them. I snuck in as well, and sampled a glass (or two) of very fine wine! The consorts then walked to the Palace of Westminster and toured the entire establishment for around three hours. From various notes the Mistress has received, it seems to have been a very successful day, so we’ll done to you, Tessa.
The following week was all about finalizing arrangements for our Burns Night Charity Supper at Guildhall. I must say here that John Freestone, his able assistant for the event, Beatrice, and various of their family members who helped on the night really do deserve our thanks for the extraordinary effort and time that they gave to getting it ‘right on the night’. The event took place on Saturday 28 January, and we were there from early afternoon to help (or was that get in the way) the organizing team. I believe that everyone had a great evening and I enjoyed the Red Hot Chilli Pipers band – so much that I am going to see them again soon. Thanks to all those who came, who bid or donated prizes to make the evening not only great fun, but also a huge financial success.
The next week started with me joining the first day of the latest course for the newly named ‘London Construction Academy’, our own charity. Sixteen young people arrived and I spent a couple of hours with them as they started on the two-week programme. I have been able to attend the end of all the courses that have taken place during my year, so meeting the students on Day-One certainly helped me understand the challenges and amazing progress they all make in the two weeks.
Later in the week, there was a Finance Committee and then a Court Committee meeting, followed by lunch at Guildhall. There was then a wake-up call that the end of my year-of-office was near, as we went to St Martin’s Church for a rehearsal for the forthcoming installation (‘can it really be that near the end already’, I thought?). The same evening, the Mistress and I attended a supper at the Travellers’ Club as guests of the Paviors Lodge, whose Master Alex Malmaeus hosted in fine style.
The week commencing 6 February began with the Paviors’ Lecture at Imperial College. As always, this was a great evening. A most interesting lecture from Dana Skelley on ‘The Streets of London’ was followed by some really interesting questions from the audience in the full lecture theatre. The Lecture was followed by a dinner in the Dean’s House at the College. I have been to many of these lectures, but never realized how much the Master has to do that evening: Miles, be warned!
On the Thursday, I was invited to attend an event at Charterhouse to say ‘goodbye’ to the retiring Master, Charlie Hobson, and ‘hello’ to the new Master, Ann Kenrick. It was a lovely event and was held in some of their newly created space that has resulted from building work in the last year, intended to open up the building more to the public. This includes a new museum that is well worth a visit. On Friday, I was back at the finalization of the London Construction Academy course, and pleased to say that there were another 15 highly enthused and qualified people to congratulate and to be awarded certificates. I have said it before, but this is one of the best bits of the job of being Master: Please remember it is all down to you and your generosity in giving to our charity. Please keep it up and get ready to be approached for work-placements or apprenticeships for the students as they complete the courses.
The following Monday I was at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, arriving just in time to process-in with the Lord Mayor and eight other Masters to award Apprentice and Journeyman certificates to successful candidates of our Craftsman scheme. Both award-recipients were from the Tarmac organization. This is a really good way to promote excellence in our industry, and has clearly visible beneficial effects on the winners and, no doubt, the organizations as well. It would be wonderful to get more of our of our liverymen’s companies signed up to participate in the scheme.
On Wednesday 15 February, I attended the Constructors’ Dinner at Goldsmiths’ Hall – always a favourite with anyone for the splendid surroundings. I was placed at the top table and, luckily, with nothing to do but enjoy the evening. I did just that and met some really interesting people including, of course, a few of our own members. Miles has booked the Hall for our forthcoming Spring Livery Dinner, and I am sure that we will all enjoy the experience.
Moving on now to 8 March, I attended a lecture by the Architects Company and heard of the continued pressure on the City expansion (ever upwards and ever higher) and learnt some interesting things relating to the long-term plans for our great city: all of these needed to enable us to retain our position as the foremost financial centre of the world. However, the pressure on developers to build more complicated buildings for multi-tenant use, set against the slowly deteriorating rental values, seems like a situation that needs reversing.
On the Thursday of this week, our ‘Summer Party’ finally took place at the House of Magic in Kennington. Over 70 of us eventually fought the terrible traffic and transport difficulties (it would happen that night), and arrived to have our senses assaulted by a veritable feast of good old-fashioned magic. From the comments the Mistress and I have received, it seems like it was an evening enjoyed by those who attended, and certainly by us and our personal guests. At the end of the event, and with a certain amount of relief, we boarded the coach home and enjoyed rather too much wine in the company of many of our local friends who have helped us with the logistics of our various engagements. We eventually arrived home at 1.30am. I was all great fun – at least it was until having to get up at 6.15am the next morning!
So I entered my final full week of possessing the Master’s badge. I attended the Golfing Society’s AGM aboard HQS Wellington, moored off the Embankment. There was a detailed review of last year, the appointment of a new Captain, and a description of plans for the year to come, including our attendance at the many Inter-Livery golf days that now exist. The Society is in good health and is looking forward to the coming year. We then moved in to the dining room and had a splendid meal with some very amusing (I think that is the right word) speeches. On the Thursday evening, I travelled to the RAC Country Club in Epsom to support our five swimmers in the Inter-Livery Swimathon. The event had a little less support this year, with just nine livery companies participating. But all teams swam their hearts out, and the Paviors were no exception, with our team including our Clerk’s son at only 11 years old. Everyone enjoyed a very good roast dinner afterwards in the sumptuous clubhouse. The charitable funds raised seem to make the event really worthwhile and deserving of great support. We think that the Paviors may well have raised the most money for the event this year, but we have not heard the result of the charitable donations just yet.
So, I enter my the final week and will attend my final event. This is another Inter-Livery evening, this time at Drapers’ Hall for the Bridge Challenge. New liverymen Ian Andrews (an accomplished bridge player) and our very own Learned Clerk (a ‘sort of’ bridge player) will no doubt provide a report for you to read – hopefully describing their triumph. My very last official duty will be to chair the Court meeting at Stationers’ Hall on Wednesday. I am pleased that, at this event, not only will I welcome a new Court member and two new Liverymen, but also Belinda Burt and Dorian Greer as Honorary Freemen in recognition of their time spent as Mistress. I look forward to this last act of my year and then very much to installing my friend and your new Master, Miles Ashley.
I have said many times what a privilege it has been to serve you as Master, but I also want to say that Tessa and myself have had a great time. It’s been hectic, fun, amazing, tiring; and has made us at all times very proud of our Livery Company. I hope that the blogs have helped in understanding what the year of a Master is like. A rough count suggests that I have attended just over 150 engagements of one sort or another, and I have to say that all of them have been fun, even if some are more fun than others.
So thank you all for allowing me to enjoy this very special year as your Master. For those of you considering how far to go in the Company, don’t miss the chance if you get it to sit in the ‘big chair’: it really is a worthwhile position, and you will enjoy the whole thing. I look forward to seeing you at Stationers’ Hall and, hopefully, at events in the future where I may well have much more time to catch up and talk. All the very best from both Mistress Tessa and your Master (at least for a few more days!)