It seems extraordinary that I am already six months into the role – the weeks and months have flown by.
Past Master Hugh is a very hard act to follow. I hope, however, that I am stamping my own approach on the role. I am keen to ensure that engineering is at the forefront of my year, as well as highlighting the importance of including youth and increasing diversity. To that end, I am bringing speakers to the dinners who I feel will reinforce these themes. I am delighted by the response I have had when asking busy people to give up their time to join us.
I approached the installation with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I had been waiting a long time for this moment and the evening was even better than I had hoped. It was lovely to see people back together again, and the growing confidence people are feeling in getting back to normal. I really enjoyed the service and dinner and was very proud to have our children there, as well as my two brothers and some good friends.
John Freestone retired in March, although I am very pleased to say that he is still offering his very valuable assistance. Jenn Athill is doing an excellent job as she continues to grow into her new role whilst facing the battles of upgrading a rather ancient IT system. Her role of advising the Master and keeping him on the straight and narrow whilst the Master wants to stamp his character on his role is challenging, but she is doing an excellent job. I am extremely grateful to both Jenn and John for their support.
The Mistress and I have attended several Mansion House dinners. These are hugely enjoyable and a good opportunity to meet Masters from other Liveries. As the year goes on and we get to know other Masters, it is fascinating to hear how their Livery companies are run and to compare the input from Livery members, the culture within other Companies, their military affiliations and to see how we can combine the benefits from our charitable side. We are also enjoying getting to know the Lord and Lady Mayoress a bit more as our year goes on. The Lady Mayoress, in particular, is very keen to be involved in opportunities to help those less fortunate and is going to be attending a graduation ceremony for our London Construction Academy later this year. She also organised a sleep-out at the Guildhall in support of the Lord Mayor’s charity, as well as the Spitalfields Crypt homeless charity, which the Mistress took part in. It was a freezing cold night and highlighted the dangers homeless people face on the streets every night. The following night we were all in our finery at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Mansion House, which demonstrated the variety of fortunes within the City and the privileged world we live in.
Whilst it is a pity that for much of my year, HMS Argyll will be in refit, the Clerk and I had a wonderful day on her in Devonport. It included a very moving speech by Falklands Veteran Petty Officer Sharkey about his recent trip to Argentina to meet some of the veterans from the Argentine army. He was very grateful for the Paviors’ funding of his travel expenses. The Mistress and I also visited RAF Coningsby, but sadly I didn’t manage to achieve the Upper Warden’s supersonic flight of previous years.
The Mistress, the Upper Warden, his wife, and I all had a fantastic day with the PWRR in Canterbury. They went to enormous lengths to demonstrate their role and include us in a very hands-on day. I was particularly struck by the fact that nearly all of those we met were also holding down full-time jobs (foster mother, paramedic, waitress, police officer, train driver to name a few) as well as devoting so much time to their Reservist positions. They clearly all find it extremely rewarding and have a great bond. We were shown the Remembrance Wall where those of the regiment who have died are remembered. The Paviors contributed to the cost of building this wall. We had a delicious curry with them in the evening and are very grateful to them for spending so much time with us. Amongst the various activites they had us doing, one was a simulated search for the types of very unpleasant booby trap devices currently being used by the Russians in Ukraine. We all missed some devices, so our training is not yet complete!
Also in July, the Mistress and I had a wonderful evening watching the Royal Marines Beating the Retreat on Horseguards Parade. This was a delayed event after the stand collapsed in late May in the run-up to the Trooping the Colour ceremony and I was delighted after so many events have been disrupted by Covid and rail strikes that we were able to attend this moving ceremony.
Past Master Hugh very kindly stepped in at very short notice for the United Guilds Service, as that morning I tested positive for Covid. I gather this is a highlight of the year and I know he had been sad that he had to miss it in his own year. I shall look forward to attending next year.
The Mistress and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Isle of Mull for the Master’s Jolly. We were very fortunate with good weather and fun company, in numbers much larger than I had expected for such a remote location. Many people made a holiday out of it, and I hope there will be return visitors to Mull in the future. The businesses and restaurants we visited in Mull were enormously grateful, not only for a large amount of shopping, eating and drinking the Paviors managed to undertake but also for the interest shown in their businesses.
We had a Spring Livery dinner in April with Tim Chapman being our guest speaker. Tim gave an excellent speech on how the engineering world can improve our environment. We also had my first Court dinner. I am delighted to have had Charlotte Murphy as the guest speaker. Charlotte is a young high-flyer in the world of engineering. She was voted Young Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2017 and she gave us such an interesting insight into the world of engineering from the point of view of a young engineer.
On other matters, our London Construction Academy ran another course in May. We are looking at ways of increasing the number of applicants to go through the course. As you are all aware, this opportunity can really change people’s lives and we should be very proud of the work the LCA does.
With regard to the Construction Youth Trust, which we also support, I presented prizes at their recent training event involving about 40 enthusiastic children. The charity is immensely grateful for our support.
The much-postponed Charity Ball was finally held in May and we were very fortunate that some of you generously took tables and offered sponsorship, as well as being grateful to those who donated or bought prizes in the auction. The highlight was Past Master Terry Last and his daughter’s rendition of Brown Eyed Girl. The Institution of Civil Engineers is an incredible building; the evening was great fun, and we raised a significant amount for charity.
The Masters’ weekend in Sheffield provided the opportunity to meet up with nearly all of the other Masters, some of whom are now familiar faces. We had a busy day being shown Sheffield’s past, present and future industrial highlights. I was particularly interested to see the Bessemer Convertor at the Kelham Island Museum. My great-grandfather, who founded Sandberg in 1860, worked closely with Henry Bessemer to improve the quality of steel used to manufacture rails. In our archive, we have some interesting correspondence between the two of them.
I am looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our Mansion House banquet in September.