BILL MAHONY 2015-2016
This has been a challenging, exhilarating and exciting year for the Mistress and me. I have been so impressed by the regard with which our Company is held within the City and because of that I received an invitation to the Top Table at many of the functions attended on your behalf this year.
The Plaisterers and our Trade
As is so often the case, one of the highlights of my year was the Plaisterers’ Company Training Awards held in style at Plaisterers’ Hall in November 2015. We welcomed the Lord Mayor, Alderman Sir Alan Yarrow and the Lady Mayoress and Sheriff Charles Bowman and Mrs Bowman to this prestigious event which Alan Dedicoat compered with great style.
The rewarding of excellence within our trade must always be a high priority for our Company and the encouragement to young apprentices and trainees provided by this event is recognised and appreciated within both the City and our industry.
Our Industry Committee has worked tirelessly this year to consider how it might better relate to the various stakeholders within our trade and the incoming chair of that Committee, John Telling, presented their findings and proposals at Common Hall in July 2016. Whilst we will continue to recognise and reward excellence in the way that we have always done we will target our approach toward different sectors with a more focussed approach in the coming months and years. This will enhance our Company’s relevance and develop new relationships in a strong and lasting way.
Increasingly, our charity gets nearer to home and the pledge that I made at the start of my year to get closer to 282 (East Ham) Air Cadet Squadron has worked for them and for us. Group Captain Mike Neville, their Honorary President has worked more closely with us. Using the musical instruments which the Plaisterers’ Charity bought for them they won first place at the London and South East Wing Band Competition – subsequently coming second at the National competition. The Mistress and I were there, and what a cold day it was in the aircraft hangar that hosted the event! Our cadets also won the Inness Sword for Excellence, beating the best around, shortly after which we Plaisterers funded five places for them on the Aerospace Leadership Course.
My Master’s Charity for the year has been Barnarado’s, celebrating its 150th year and with our Honorary Liveryman, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as its Royal Patron. With the help of members, not least Squadron Leader ‘Fozzie’ Foster with his London Marathon run (see Front Cover), and others, we raised over £16,000. A piece on the work of Barnardo’s appears on page 40.
The Company made an important decision about the future use of the Humber Music Bursary. With the support and guidance of our Charity Steward we have taken a step toward the more community based charity at the Gresham Centre - Voces Cantabiles Music.
We are now helping them with their programme. Voces8 and Apollo5 are two ensembles who deliver education programmes as well as perform. We are supporting their work at Sheringham Primary School in Newham which is proving to be very rewarding, as I have witnessed first-hand. Apollo5 performed at our Master and Clerks’ Dinner in January to great acclaim and have been ‘booked’ by other Livery Companies. A full report on VCM’s activities will be found on page 44 of the Yearbook.
Our strong connections with Peterborough Cathedral continue with their choir, including our chorister Thomas L’Estrange, leading our Christmas Carol Service in St Vedast. This was an uplifting start to Christmas with the excellence of the choir both in church and later in the Hall impressing everyone who attended.
One of my last and most pleasurable outings was to attend Eucharist and Evensong in Peterborough Cathedral with lunch in between provided by the Dean, Charles Taylor and his wife Catherine. A most enjoyable and uplifting day.
We also sponsor a member of the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, our chorister Benjamin Irvine-Capel is doing very well and I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing him perform as part of the choir at many Services during the year.
Away from the City
We made a new connection this year with the village of Chelsham in Surrey when we followed in the footsteps of Thomas Kelly, Lord Mayor and Master Plaisterer who was born in the village. A group from the Company attended a service in July 2016 in the local Church called ‘The Kelly Service’. They still distribute bread at this Service in memory of his work within their community in days of old – a memorable connection for us, which I hope will continue in the future as an example to us all.
During the last year I travelled widely on the Company’s behalf. This included visits to Glasgow for the Incorporation of Mason’s Choosing Dinner, to York for the York Guild of Building Annual Dinner and Durham to see the Peterborough Cathedral organ repair work in progress.
It was as important as ever to strengthen our links with our Military affiliates and the Clerk and I visited the Special Reconnaissance Regiment; they are working harder than ever to guarantee our safety and security.
The Mistress and I visited Lympstone, the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre, where I awarded the leading signallers for their excellence in training. Whilst we were there we were honoured to be invited to dinner at Zeebrugge House by Major General Martin Smith MBE the then Commandant General of the Royal Marines.
The next day we attended the Young Officers’ Passing Out Parade which culminated in an invitation to inspect the parade alongside the Commandant General. This exceptionally proud moment was marked by a fly past of two low flying military helicopters - this was certainly one of the high points of my year. Our sponsorship of the Landing Craft Training Course at Devonport is greatly appreciated and we are looking at ways of increasing our involvement with 1 Assault Group, Royal Marines.
A ‘first’ for members of the Company was the opportunity for me to experience the thrill and challenge of crewing ORCS and RIBS and submerged Landrovers and Tractors at the Royal Marines base at Instow in North Devon, close to the beaches where training for D Day took place (see page 61 of the Yearbook).
We continued our support of the Royal Marines Reserves at Wandsworth. Colonel Ed Moorhouse, their CO, invited me to attend their ‘Business Briefing Evening’ recently. The important expansion in the area of Reserved Forces is part of the future plan for our armed forces; it is important that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
My theme of ‘Youth, Community, Training and Development’ continued through Master’s outings which Livery Members loyally supported, to Barnardo’s Building Hub and Bomber Command Memorial.
Of course after the evening of 24th/25th March and the flood which hit our Hall, life was made more complicated for all of us. New venues had to be arranged. The Spring Dinner due the following week took place at Stationers’ Hall and our key note speaker was Melvyn Hayes – “Gunner Gloria Beaumont” from ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ a Barnardo’s ambassador who himself, with his wife Jayne, has fostered over fifty children. His after dinner speech was most entertaining and amusing.
At our Annual Banquet at Drapers’ Hall (left) in May, Alderman and Sheriff Charles Bowman spoke, along with retired Chief Magistrate, Timothy Workman CBE. We were pleased to welcome Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s and his wife amongst our other guests.
The Mistress’ Tea Party was moved to Cutlers’ Hall where champagne, sandwiches and cakes were greatly enjoyed as was the top class entertainment provided by a lady barbershop quartet ‘Hotnote’.
Another rearranged venue was Armourers’ Hall (below) where our Court Dinner took place. Our Learned Clerk performed ‘This Helmet I suppose’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Princess Ida’ – a wonderful performance by him and his equally talented wife Angela.
We are all very grateful to the Clerk’s Office for dealing with all the extra work that has been involved whilst the Plaisterers have been homeless.
At our Robing Ceremony on July 19th, again at Stationers’ Hall, we welcomed four new Freemen and 15 new Liverymen. We hope that this pace will accelerate with the New Members’ Evening initiatives which have already begun.
We as a Court are also becoming more accountable and our Minutes and also the Company Accounts are available on our website to the Membership. Our database, too, has expanded with the co-operation of our Members and the voluntary help of our own Liveryman Phillip Foster.
The website is our future – I have enjoyed making my visits and experiences available through the ‘Master’s Blog’.
This has been an unforgettable year and one of the highlights of my life. It has been an honour and a privilege to be our Company’s representative at so many interesting and wonderful events.
I am often asked what I consider to have been the highlight of my year but it is impossible to choose between events such as the Royal Garden Party, The Lord Mayor’s Dinner at the Mansion House, being introduced to The Duke of Edinburgh at the Mountbatten Music Festival and hosting our Masters and Clerks’ Dinner at our own Hall. I can only answer by saying that every event has been special because of the support of the Liverymen within our Company.
Wherever I have been I have been absolutely knocked out by the reputation that went before me, thanks to my predecessors as Master. The support of the Livery, Officers and Court, throughout difficult times has been wonderful and I would like to thank them all. Rose and I wish the new Master well and look forward to seeing him return to the newly refurbished Plaisterers’ Hall soon.
My experiences over the past year have convinced me that the future is very bright for our Company and I look forward to being a part of it.