Welcome to the Master’s Blog. During the year, there will be updates and news of events attended as The Master, as well as news about the charity we’re supporting this year.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.84 – Wednesday 22nd April 2015 – “Wax Chandlers’ Company exclusive; the only one to have a Charter from Richard III”.
The Wax Chandlers’ principal guest this evening is a most interesting Philippa Langley, who is the lady who led the investigation and excavation into the discovery of Richard III under the car park in Leicester, presenting a Channel 4 documentary on the subject in the process. I had the great pleasure of chatting to her for quite some time before we sat down to dinner, which was a rather grand white tie occasion.
It would appear that a great deal of female intuition beforehand confirmed the exact location of the royal remains which was subsequently predicted as the probable site by scientific means.
The establishment of the specific DNA testing which enabled confirmation of the identity was most timely as the female line which allowed this would have died out with the present generation.
Philippa delivered a fascinating and absorbing discussion on the subject – a great evening.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.83 – Wednesday 22nd April 2015 – “The Guildhall Club.”
Whilst preparing my speech for a forthcoming dinner with the Arbitrators’ Company dinner, I become absorbed in the task at hand and allow time to escape from me and suddenly realize that I am late for a working lunch at the Guildhall Club with Nigel Pullman and half a dozen or so Masters and Clerks.
Fortunately Guildhall is close by and so I rush from Master’s Room to the West Wing reception blurting out that I am late for the Guildhall Club, given my pass which I clip onto my breast pocket and told to go to the 3rd floor via security adjacent to the lift.
At security I announce I need the 3rd floor to be told, “No sir, you need the 2nd floor Committee Room.” Me, “Er no, I was told 3rd floor.” Security man, “No sir, I can assure you want the 2nd floor Committee Room.”
So muggins enters 2nd floor Committee Room to see around two dozen confused and puzzled faces, Ald. Alison Gowman’s included, Me – “Please excuse me, I can see that I am obviously in the wrong place.” Ald. Gowman, “Yes, you are Master.” Rapidly extricating myself, I get outside, take off my security pass and read – LONDON ROAD SAFETY COUNCIL, 2nd floor, Committee Room. Realisation dawns, I’ve been given the wrong pass!
Flying up the last flight of stairs, I enquire hopefully, “Guildhall Club?” – “Through here.” And am grateful to see the smiling face of Nigel P who, thankfully, is expecting me.
I go on to have a useful and pleasant working lunch when we discuss several interesting topics including the welcome (for most) increase in events for consorts and mistresses and , separately,the need for livery companies in general to promote themselves particularly to those that work in the City for, whilst there are some who are content to limit numbers and even manage entry by patrimony alone, there are a great number who would very much like to improve their long term viability through increasing membership. Besides which, we have a very good story to tell!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.82 – Tuesday 21st April 2015 – “Barbers’ bowls and a lack of mother-in-law jokes.”
This evening finds me as a guest of the Barbers’ Company at their hall on the opposite side of London Wall from ourselves. Pre dinner I study their superb collection of barbers’ bowls in display cabinets, but little can compare to their wonderful 1541 Holbein of King Henry VIII and the Barber-Surgeons which had been commissioned by the Company to record visually the Union of the Barbers’ Company with the Fellowship of Surgeons by Act of Parliament in 1540.
After dinner I enjoy chatting with Charlie Hobson OBE (retired Brigadier RM) who as a trustee of the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund thanks me for all the Plaisterers have done to support the charity during my year. (see future blog c. no. 96/97 when it appears).
MASTER’S BLOG NO.81 – Saturday 18th April, 2015 – “ A Royal musical occasion.”
Black tie, posh frock and taxi ride to the Royal Albert Hall where Heather and I are personal guests of the Commandant General of the Royal Marines, Major General Martin L Smith MBE, for the Mountbatten Festival of Music.
On arrival we are escorted to a private reception and are greeted warmly by the CG, who I had met last at the RMAG Charity Lunch at our Hall the previous month, together with his charming wife Sue. Next I see the smiling face of Lt. Gen. Sir David Capewell KCB OBE, who I’d chatted to at some length last month and his lovely wife Deborah. Our small sub group was made up by Col. Paul Cautley CMG OBE DL, Colonel Commandant Royal Marines Cadets and Plaisterer! and his delightful wife Liz.
Time was passing very quickly when the call came, “The Duke is on his way!” The CG’s principal guest is HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh KG KT, Captain General Royal Marines. The great man himself came into the room and quickly addressed me by pointing at my badge saying, “What is that?” I replied with a brief courtly bow, saying “That, Your Royal Highness, is the badge of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers.” – HRH, “Oh and I suppose you are the Master.” – Me, “Yes Sir, I do have that honour and privilege for this year. – HRH, “Well, what’s your day job?” – Me, “Well Sir I had been the MD of British Gypsum, but now I am retired.” – HRH, “What, at your age?” and turning to Heather with a smile and mischievous gleam in his eye, “I suppose he expects you to cook him breakfast every morning.” Heather replied by saying, “Oh no, Your Royal Highness, a cooked breakfast every morning would be bad for him.” – HRH (with puzzlement), “Really???” He then moved swiftly on, and, like the consummate professional with many, many years of experience he had ‘worked the room’ in twenty minutes.
Paul Cautley, 74, later told me that the Duke had told him that he could not retire until he had. The Duke being almost thirty years my senior, how could I argue?
We then enjoyed a great programme of music from the Royal Box. In the taxi back to Plaisterers’ Hall, Heather and I agreed that we had had a truly memorable evening.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.80 – Friday 17th April, 2015 – “What, you again !”
Apothecaries’ Hall for the Chartered Surveyors’ lunch with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs. A sunny day for pre lunch drinks in the courtyard after meeting the Master Graham Chase and his wardens in greeting line. Chatting to the many fellow masters who I have come to know rather well when I am spotted by the LM who says that we had said farewell the day before and he expressed that he was looking forward to the next occasion when we would meet, he had not expected it to be quite so soon.
Over lunch I had an interesting chat with a former BBC producer who explained why with hindsight it was easy to understand why so many things had happened in the 80’s that should not have. Interesting discussion also with a lady representing the Prince’s Regeneration Trust who receive a great deal of support from the Chartered Surveyors.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.79 – Thursday 16th April, 2015 – “Hosting the Lord Mayor……..”
After participating in four interviews of prospective new Plaisterers yesterday, I am today at our Hall which is the venue for the City & Guilds AGM and, as their principal guest is the Lord Mayor, they have kindly invited me to personally host him from arrival to departure.
As the C&G chairman, Sir John Armitt, my principal guest and excellent speaker at our Autumn Livery Dinner, and I await the LM’s arrival, we chat over the many issues concerning vocational training. After greeting the Lord Mayor, I hand over to Sir John as, after all, he is his principal guest today.
Whilst Sir John robes, the Lord Mayor and I grab a quick coffee during which I mention my speech from Monday (MB no. 78) on the importance of craft training which I had judged would chime well with a number of similar points made during the year by the Lord Mayor himself.
As is usually the case, the LM had to depart early for his next engagement and on leaving our front door, he mentioned that he would look forward to the next occasion we would meet (see MB no. 80).
MASTER’S BLOG NO.78 – Tuesday 14th April 2015 – ‘Spring Court and Livery Dinner.’
Today sees me chair an extended Court meeting to cover essential issues that have to be dealt with into the medium term – an excellent and purposeful meeting.
Continuing my focus on Industry this year, my principal guest and speaker this evening’s dinner is the managing director of British Gypsum, Mike Chaldecott, who delivers an excellent speech in which he sets the scene for what faces the industry in the short to medium term. My response is focused on the vital issue of youth unemployment with concurrent skills shortages and adequate provision for vocational training and apprenticeships in the construction sector. Both speeches will appear in the Clerk’s next newsletter.
The highlight of the evening for me was presenting Company guest, Jonathan Ball, chief executive of the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund, with further donations totaling over £10,600 from our members.
Since my robing last July, this brings the total amount raised for this, my personal charity, by both Company and Plaisterers’ Lodge members, to over £17K !
MASTER’S BLOG NO.77 – Wednesday 8th April & Thursday 9th April, 2015 – ‘Somewhere in Wales.’
Heather and I are in Cardiff for Easter week to spend time with my mum, except today (Wednesday), Heather is off to London to join the Mistress Master Mariner for her lunch on board HQS Wellington, whilst I drive up to Hereford to join our Learned Clerk for an early start the following morning to spend the day with our Special Forces affiliate.
A beautifully sunny morning heralds a day’s activities for me, somewhere in Wales. The aim is to give me an insight into some of the techniques employed. So I participate in close specialist surveillance training exercises both from ground level and from above. Enough said ! And, a privileged experience.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.76 – Wednesday 1st April, 2015 –
“English Country House Interiors”
After chairing a planning review meeting for the 2015 Plaisterers’ Training Awards earlier in the week, I am now at Carpenters’ Hall for their Annual Craft Lecture entitled “English Country House Interiors”.
The talk is expertly delivered by Jeremy Musson, an architectural historian, author, broadcaster and historic buildings consultant.
His talk takes us on an enjoyable and highly visual tour of some of the great country houses of England from Hatfield via Wilton and Boughton, to Chatsworth, Goodwood and Arundel Castle among others, and trace the history of design, patronage, craftsmanship of these houses their architecture, decoration and furnishing. We marvel at the stunning plasterwork and carved timberwork, all expertly photographed. Reference to Syon House reminds me of the memorable visit led by our Deputy Master, De, during her mastership of the Company last year.
On observing several young people scribbling furiously during the talk I determined to speak to some of them during the ensuing reception to satisfy my curiosity. Catching up with David, from Australia, and Oliver, an Ulsterman from Co. Donegal, they explain that they are students with SPAB (ref. Master’s blog no. 39) . Both were amazed that Plaisterers’ Hall contained reproductions of Robert Adams original design and, in the context of their studies of 18th century plasterwork would very much like to see it, which I volunteered to arrange should they care to contact the Clerk’s office in advance. Really interesting young men who were clearly passionate about their subject – as was Jeremy Musson.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.75 – Friday 27th March, 2015 –
“Lightmongers at Goldsmiths’.”
This evening I am a guest of the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers at their Annual Members & Guests Dinner held, on this occasion, at Goldsmiths’ Hall.
At this dinner, I am one of only four visiting masters, namely Fan Makers, Tallow Chandlers, Wax Chandlers and myself. It was a delight to chat to fellow guest, Ald. Dame Fiona Woolf who told me that it was her first evening out of purdah.
Another exceptionally interesting dinner guest was The Rt. Hon. Baroness Boothroyd OM PC, former Speaker. Over the Stirrup Cup, she recalled that her ‘greatest’ moment as Speaker was in 1994 when she introduced President Nelson Mandela to both Houses of Parliament.
I do think that of all the Livery Halls, Goldsmiths is arguably the grandest especially with its candlelit chandeliers.
After another busy week, my diary now thins out as Easter approaches.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.74 – Thursday 26th March, 2015 –
“Armourers and Brasiers – an evening of discovery……”
A short walk eastwards along London Wall brings me to Armourers’ Hall at the top of Coleman Street where I am a guest of the Armourers’ and Brasiers’ Company at their livery dinner.
Instituted by ordinance of the City of London in 1322 in the reign of Edward ii as the Guild of St. George of the Armourers. King Henry VI presented the Armourers with their first Royal Charter in May 1453.
At this evening’s dinner, prizes for excellence are awarded to young service personnel.
Come the singing of Grace, I am caught out in that, with the Armourers, it is sung only by the singers from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In this instance, the first line was sung by the singers and, with enthusiasm, the Master Plaisterer !
Also, I was especially pleased to discover that in the Loving Cup, they match the Plaisterers practice, in that the person protecting the back of the person drinking, turns inwards.
An excellent evening and then back to Plaisterers’ Hall to ready myself for the following day.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.73 – Thursday 26th March, 2015 –
“ A light lunch……..”
As I had already accepted two engagements today, the Master Elect is deputising for me at RM Tamar to present the LC1 Plaisterers’ Trophy (which I had the pleasure of doing twice in my year thus far). Nigel is accompanying Bill on his trip to Devon and so I am allowed to go ‘solo’ to the Tallow Chandlers’ Masters’ and Clerks’ lunch at their delightful hall on Dowgate Hill.
The starter is half a Lobster mayonnaise followed by tournedos with foie gras and madeira sauce, concluding with spotted dick with ice cream and custard!
Lunch concludes with yet another brilliant speech from the Master Mercer – is there no end to this lady’s exceptional gift for oratory?
Equally exceptional is the Tallow Chandlers’ capacity for hospitality.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.72 – Tuesday 24th March, 2015 –
“Another white tie occasion……”
The Egyptian Hall at Mansion House is this evening the setting for the Worshipful Company of Masons Master’s Banquet. Heather and I are seated virtually at opposite ends of a 31 seat top table. On noticing that masters and their mistresses were all seated relatively close to one another, I commented on whether the relative positioning of myself and Heather was down to the Masons’ Clerk, the Master Chartered Surveyor, Graham Chase remarked that it was probably Heather’s choice!
Some time after an excellent speech from the Lord Mayor, the principal guest, The Most Honourable, the Marquess of Lothian (formerly Michael Ancram MP, minister in Major and Thatcher cabinets), gave a most entertaining, but equally thought provoking speech in his reply to the toast to the guests. In this he observed serious developments in Russia, how placing missile defence in Poland was akin to the Cuban missile crisis of the 60’s, how Western involvement in Ukraine was threatening to Russia and how the present generation of western politicians appear to be ‘sleep walking’ into another cold war era. A really fascinating analysis of the current global political situation.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.71 – Friday 20th March, 2015 –
“United Guilds Service followed by lunch at Plaisterers’.”
This 73rd United Guilds Service is a special one for me as Master as it coincides with one of the 7-8 years that, by rotation, our Company is selected for the Master to be part of the incoming procession down the aisle and so ………… .
Led by the Great Twelve, we ‘alternative 12’ (this year, companies 37 to 48 inc.) follow in two files until the Masters Mercer and Grocer reach the front row of seats. On cue we all stop, turn inwards and step back allowing the choir, clergy and, eventually, Lord Mayor and entourage to process between us. We then turn left, process back until reaching our pews, turn in with courtly bow, and cross to our seats. On arrival our Learned Clerk whispers, “Majestic Master.”
A wonderful service, as they always are, and then we move quickly back to our Hall in readiness for those companies who have elected to lunch with us.
The Learned Clerk gets us off to a fantastic start with an extremely humorous grace and all those assembled are clearly in good mood. Soon our superb Beadle, Jamie Wallis enquires of me, “Are you ready to speak now Master, or shall we let them carry on enjoying themselves for a few minutes more ?”
My speech appears to be very well received and the Master Plumber then replies on behalf of the guests and with an equal measure of humour to conclude proceedings.
What a great day !
MASTER’S BLOG NO.70 – Thursday 19th March, 2015 –
“What a grand affair…………”
It has to be good if you turn down an invitation from Downing Street in order to attend. ( I had earlier declined with regret an invitation from the Waterloo 200 Charity to join them on a short notice invitation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is hosting a reception for them at No. 11 this evening. Instead our Learned Clerk is representing the Company at Downing Street.)
And so this evening as guests of the Lord Mayor for his Dinner to The Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff of the Livery Companies of the City of London, Heather and I are at Mansion House.
It really is a grand and glittering affair with all dignitaries and officers, present and past decked out in ceremonial rig. We are met and greeted on arrival, by the Lord Mayor with the Lady Mayoress, Sheriffs and their Consorts in attendance. Apart from the Lord Mayor no-one shakes hands as, apparently, all are under instruction not to do so in order to speed the process.
By now the vast majority of our counterparts are well known to us and so, despite the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, it really is an incredibly relaxed atmosphere and we greet each other much like old friends.
Conversation flows over an excellent menu accompanied by unsurprisingly fine wines and the wonderful accompaniment of the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra with a selection from ‘South Pacific’ and the striking music of John Barry from ‘Out of Africa’.
Excellent speeches from the Master Mercer and then Master Grocer, are matched in no small part by the Lord Mayor himself.
The evening is rounded off with a very informal Stirrup Cup, which afforded me the opportunity to pass on my grand-daughter Amelia’s best wishes to the Lady Mayoress. In reply, Gilly Yarrow enquired as to whether she knew Amelia and on mentioning her attendance at the Lord Mayor’s children’s party with Heather in January, she recalled her own childhood experience of doing the same.
What an evening just before the United Guilds Service at St. Paul’s.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.69 – Wednesday 18th March, 2015 –
“An extremely interesting lecture and discussion despite an incredibly boring title.”
This evening sees me joining the Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators at Saddlers’ Hall for the 17th Annual Rivers lecture given by Peter Montagnon, Assistant Director of the Institute of Business Ethics. The lecture is entitled – “Governance beyond codes and regulation.”
In the lecture, Peter takes a close look at bad corporate behavior and the response by regulators and questions how we can tackle the failing parts of corporate governance that is harder for regulators to reach.
The most interesting part of the evening centres around the subsequent Q&A and ensuing discussion. This brings out the general dissatisfaction that exists within the business community regarding failures to act on transgressions, particularly in terms of punitive action and bringing transgressors to book. For example:-
• When companies pay out large compensation sums to individuals for illegal acts by their employees eg., hacking and no action is taken by the authorities to pursue those individuals or their employers for those criminal acts.
• With the LIBOR scandal when the evidence is of widespread collusion and only one individual prosecution is taken and then the only sanction for that individual is to be barred from future trading. (Also the individual in question is given anonymity for ‘legal reasons.’)
• With mis-selling of PPI and no action is taken against individuals and the banks seemingly just build in provisions to operating costs to cover future liabilities as if it is apparently a consequential risk of normal trading practice.
I could go on, but you get the general drift I’m sure. What is also apparent is the general lack of confidence in the political establishment to deliver any meaningful improvement.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.68 – Tuesday 17th March, 2015 –
“Blessing the Shamrock.”
St. Patrick’s Day would not be complete without a drop of the black stuff – in this case – a small glass of Black Velvet, or in fact several small glasses.
Heather and I last drank black velvets when we lived in South Africa in our 20’s, in the first five years after we had married. A typical Sunday brunch would consist of inviting friends around, grilling king prawns in garlic butter with black velvets (Guiness:champagne 50:50). The perfect cure after Saturday nights.
In this case it was in St. Vedast’s churchyard at the invitation of The. Revd. Dr. Alan McCormack, the rector, to join him, parishioners and friends for a quiet drink, conversation and to partake in the ceremony of ‘Blessing the Shamrock’. Amongst those gathered were the Master Saddler and Master Wax Chandler and our own court assistant, Richard Hanney,
Anyone who knows Alan will appreciate that he does nothing without a great deal of enthusiasm, and this evening proved no exception.
After singing “Danny Boy” and a ‘rebel’ song, with which I was less familiar, we then engaged in blessing the shamrock, before I bade a farewell and made my way home. What a thoroughly enjoyable early evening and unforgettable experience.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.67 – Tuesday 17th March, 2015 –
“St. Patrick’s Day and a sight impaired English referee……..”
St. Paddy’s Day and Mercers’ Hall for the Lady Day Court luncheon of the Worshipful Company of Masons. The Masons’ Company had invited me to lunch in the first week of January, but due to a severe chest infection at the time and desire to ensure my fitness for our own Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner, I was forced to withdraw and so it was extremely gracious of them to invite me to this lunch just a week before their annual banquet. Still. It was a great opportunity to renew acquaintance with their Master, Bob Morrow.
At the pre-lunch reception I happened to chat to a charming chap and the conversation turned to the ‘six nations’ now in full flow. As a former player and now referee, he asked me if I had played and when I replied in the affirmative, he asked if I was still playing. Having thanked him for giving me such a lift, I added that I had retired some thirty years earlier, to which he replied that he had played until the age of 47 (still almost 20 years younger than myself!). I privately wondered if he attended that Sunshine Home in Twickenham for blind English referees!
A lovely lunch – well done the Mercers!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.66 – weekend of Friday 13th March, 2015 – “Military gatherings and a 90th birthday celebration….”
Friday at the Hall started with breakfast for 300 Royal Marines prior to the Afghan Commemorative Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral and concluded with a regimental dinner for our Special Forces affiliates, which the Learned Clerk and I attended. Our Hall management together with the staff and management of our event partners, Create, did an absolutely sterling job throughout a very long day and are to be warmly commended for such an outstandingly successful effort. Both our affiliates were immensely grateful for the Plaisterers’ support once again.
On Saturday I met the Mistress in Wimbledon before we travelled on to Royal Wimbledon Golf Club for the 90th birthday celebration party for Past Master Emeritus Derek Robinson. A spitfire pilot in the final years of WWII, Derek enjoyed a highly successful career in architecture. He still regularly drives in London, plays golf twice a week in which he can still drive the ball 300 yards + in a straight line. Amongst 90 guests exactly, we shared a table with several past masters and mistresses and our dear clerk emeritus, Hilary.
Sunday involved a 350 mile drive home via Cardiff to fulfill my filial duty on Mothering Sunday with dinner with my 86 year old mum.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.65 – Wednesday 11th March 2015 – “Carpenters’ Spring Dinner.”
This evening, Heather and myself together with the Learned Clerk and Angela, are guests of the Carpenters’ Company at their Spring Livery Dinner at Carpenters’ Hall.
The Carpenters have had a hall on the same site since the 15th Century, having survived the Great Fire due to the happy circumstance of the time of having market gardens on their western boundary which is difficult to envisage in the present day. The present hall has however been extensively renovated after suffering bomb damage in WWII.
I am advised by a Past Mistress Carpenter that the Company is extremely wealthy and that, in 42 years of membership, her husband has never been required to pay for dining nor quarterage which demonstrates just how wide is the cost spectrum of being a member of a livery.
Carpenters’ Hall is also worth a visit and its late 40’s early 50’s paneled walls and sculpted timber ceiling together with an imposing carved ‘Tree of Life’ above an impressive display of silverware behind the Master’s chair is in pleasing, but marked contrast to older interiors such as Vintners’ Hall for example.
The quality of fine wines, excellent menu and warm hospitality does credit to the Company.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.64 -Wednesday 11th March, 2015 – “More meetings, some good news then lunch afloat.”
After attending the Finance and then Industry Committee meetings the previous day I arrive at the Hall and see a thank you letter from Simon Bailey at the Royal Marines Action Group. Apparently, the lunch last Friday topped £95K for funds raised at the event, an increase of around 15% on the year before and they are rightly delighted!
Lunchtime sees me descending Temple Stairs on the Embankment to board HQS Wellington as guests of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and the Master Master Mariner, Captain Sam Judah.
Viewing the vessel from outside, it is a veritable Tardis on moving inside and the Hall comfortably accommodates the 100 or so lunching.
Following HRH The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales as Master, ‘Captain Sam’ is in no way fazed by this and proceeds to make a most entertaining speech.
A very convivial gathering concludes with ‘Splicing the Mainbrace’ rather than a ‘Stirrup Cup’, but the principle is identical.
After a brisk 20 minute walk back to our Hall, I am ready for some work and the evening event.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.63 – Monday 9th March, 2015 – “Some meetings then ‘More Trial and Error’……….”
My day starts with the Membership Committee followed by a working lunch then a candidate interview finishing with a meeting of the Nominations Panel in the afternoon.
Joined by Heather in the evening, we make our way to the Central Criminal Court of the Old Bailey for a reception followed by a performance of ‘More Trial and Error’ in no. 1 Court. The reception is held in the Grand Hall of the Old Bailey which is well worth a visit in itself.
The performance is made up of a collection of sketches with musical accompaniment, at many points reminiscent of Gilbert & Sullivan, the sketches covering many key events and cases that have been tried in the Old Bailey covering its history from 1086, as a Norman gaol known as the ‘Heynhouse’, to the present day.
Whilst some of the players are professional actors, most are drawn from the legal profession, typically judges, barristers and solicitors, but all with a clear bent for ‘amdram’. Musical direction and accompaniment was expertly provided by Alderman & Sheriff Dr. Andrew Parmley. Mention must also be made of late Lord Mayor, Sir Roger Gifford as the Lord Mayor in ‘The Fall of Judge Jeffries’, who clearly demonstrated his undoubted talent for comic opera.
Whilst being entertained, one appreciates the sense of history of the location given the cases tried there and individuals involved such as ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffries, Oscar Wilde, William Joyce also known as Lord ‘Haw Haw’ (hanged at Wandsworth), Ruth Ellis (the last woman to be sentenced to death in 1955) and the trial of James Hanratty who was hanged for the A6 murder.
The performance, which is held annually on three consecutive evenings, is given in support of the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund which has been supporting London’s ex-prisoners and their families since 1808.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.62 – Friday 6th March, 2015-
“The Royal Marines Action Group Fundraising Lunch in aid of the RM Charitable Trust Fund held in Plaisterers’ Hall.”
On arrival in the Hall, I am instantly recognized by Lunch Chairman, Simon Bailey, who incidentally I had not previously met, to be led through to meet the principal guest, Lt-Gen. Sir David Capewell KCB, OBE (most recently Chief of Joint Operations) – you will be unsurprised when I say that I found him to be an incredibly interesting guy – oversaw our strategic withdrawal from Afghanistan, ‘boutique’ bombing in Libya, former military adviser to President Nelson Mandela etc., etc.
Next my hand is warmly shaken by Maj-Gen. Jerry Thomas CB, DSO, (Chairman of the RMCTF) who is effusive in expressing his gratitude to the Plaisterers’ Company as a whole for our support for the Corps, the Charity and in particular for making available our Hall for this event. This firm note of thanks is then repeated in his opening speech in the Hall, which draws widespread applause from the audience.
The third person to greet me warmly is Corporal Snowie Robinson, Corps Master of Ceremonies, who on occasions such as this, I would describe as ‘never knowingly under-dressed.’
Our caterer-partners Create again put on an impressive menu and I’m sure none would be disappointed.
In Sir David’s speech, he made reference to 5 clear areas of concern impacting on our national security. Firstly, that the US is in relative decline in terms of taking on a global policing role. Secondly, extreme Islamism in Africa is forcing a flood of refugees to Europe with Italy bearing the brunt. Thirdly, the drive for an Islamic caiiphate in the Middle East. Fourthly, moves by Russia to re-establish itself as a global force, tearing up the rule book on national sovereignty in the process. And finally, the move by Iran to become a nuclear power.
At a suitable break in the meal, we are given the opportunity to view videos of Corps casualties with life changing injuries and, in their words, what the RMCTF has been able to do and continue to do to support them. This makes me especially grateful to the many ‘Plaisterers’ who have so generously responded to my request to support the RMCTF during my year – once more to all of you, a massive thank you from me.
Once the live charity auction starts I participate in the bidding ‘to help the price move on and upwards’, but tactically withdraw at just the right moment, not necessarily because I was not serious, but rather when the bid level became a little too rich for me.
Finally before leaving, I quickly ‘worked the room’ to say hello to the Commandant-General Martin Smith; the new CO of RMR City of London, Wandsworth, Lt-Col. Edward Moorhouse and a number of other Corps friends I have made along the way.
A great day and clear example of just how much the Corps appreciates our support and how welcome we are as part of the wider Corps family.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.61 – Wednesday 4th March 2015 – “ Goldsmiths then PR, finishing with the Livery Showcase Event. “
The day for me starts when I join the Learned Clerk and Assistant Clerk at the Goldsmiths’ Centre for a project we have undertaken then back to our Hall for the PR Committee before finishing my working day with a visit to Barber Surgeons’ Hall for the Annual Livery Showcase Event.
The Showcase is a key annual event in the City’s calendar where Livery Companies demonstrate their trades and professions to an invited audience of around 500 students from London schools. On this occasion 30 Companies were exhibiting with the Lord Mayor having opened the event in the morning with Sheriffs in attendance.
Masters and Clerks are invited to attend a private view from 4pm onwards to meet the stallholders who come from a wide variety of industries and workplaces.
Giving some thought to the Plaisterers exhibiting, my mind immediately sees the difficulty of presenting a ‘wet’ trade in a richly carpeted livery hall with very high value artwork on the surrounding walls, for example an ultra large canvas of Henry VIII and his court by Holbein.
Maybe one for the Industry Committee to consider ?
MASTER’S BLOG NO.60 – Monday 2nd March 2015 – “When will London flood ?”
Today starts with the Investment Committee chaired by Tim Cooke as it had been anticipated that PM David Holliday, its designated chair, would be on holiday. Given David’s sudden and tragic passing, the meeting opened with an acknowledgement of the massive contribution that David had made. Many of us know that this extends to many aspects of the Company’s activities and he will be much missed in many ways.
I then move on to a meeting of the Charity Trustees before going to a lecture at Launderers’ Hall (aka Glaziers’ Hall aka Scientific Instrument Makers’ Hall) just on the other side of London Bridge.
The lecture is entitled “When will London flood ?” The lecture is in two parts, firstly focusing on the flood prevention and alleviation measures already taken and secondly, on building design and location to help mitigate the impact of flooding. Interesting, but as the Master Framework Knitter illustrated, the question had not really been answered. The closest we got was that London would probably flood at 2 am on a Sunday morning at some time in the future.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.59 – w/c Monday 23rd February, 2015 – “Tastings, interviews, a regimental cocktail party and the historic presentation of a Royal Charter.”
A double tasting session at the Hall to select menu choices and wines for the forthcoming United Guilds Service reception and the April Spring Livery dinner – well, someone has to do it ! It doesn’t just happen you know.
Interviews of prospective members. I am again impressed with the overall calibre of candidates.
This evening finds the Learned Clerk, both our Wardens, Heather and myself underground in the City at a cocktail party hosted by our affiliate regiment based in Hereford. I could not possibly mention who was there, but many interesting people and many friends.
This morning I attend Insurance Hall as a guest of the Master Firefighter on the occasion of the presentation of their Royal Charter by the Lord Mayor. Also attended by both Sheriffs it is a grand event as befitting of such an historic moment. We Masters then gather to study the document and there is no doubt as to the exquisite craftsmanship of the document. It was the Master of the Hackney Carriage Drivers who explained to me that there are a number of highly crafted pages behind the front page, which are never to be seen once the document is framed. He explained this from personal knowledge of their charter presented relatively recently.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.58 – Wednesday 18th February, 2015 – “More oysters, sir ?”
This evening sees Nigel and I as guests of the Worshipful Company of Dyers at their charming hall on Dowgate Hill at their dinner for Masters and Clerks.
Their Prime Warden, James Crockatt proves to be an excellent host and I particularly appreciated his mention of the “Legends of the Plaisterers” in his Toast to the Guests, of which we apparently have a copy in the archives, but of which I had no knowledge. He followed up by emailing me a copy, for which I am extremely grateful.
It is customary, or so Nigel tells me, for the Dyers to offer half a dozen oysters as a starter option at their dinners. This I find to be heavenly as one of my absolute favourite moments when visiting France is to sit down to oysters, a crusty baguette and a chill glass of muscadet, entre deux mers or sancerre. The other option is smoked salmon for which most opt ,leaving seconds or even thirds of oysters for those with stamina. My dining companion on my left availed himself to three lots for which I have nothing but admiration.
My companion on my right was Clerk to the Bakers, Cardiff born, Commodore Martin Westwood RN who having commanded a frigate in his time, started out in the Fleet Air Arm piloting helicopters and, much earlier than anticipated, he had been offered an honorary commission in the RAF Reserve to take command of all air cadet training squadrons in South Wales based at St. Athan which he will do quite soon.
The company present are clearly intent on making it as enjoyable an evening as possible, which is helped along by some spirited piano playing bringing out many music hall favourites and we all readily join in.
Having been requested beforehand to wear something colorful in keeping with the company craft, the Prime Warden proceeds to judge the quality of effort expended in this regard presenting prizes of pale ale from the Master Brewer’s own brewery to those who were judged to merit it. My own contribution of a scarlet bow tie apparently did not.
Nonetheless a very enjoyable and quite memorable evening.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.57 – Tuesday 17th February, 2015 – “Dining around the corner……”
Now that I have completed the Pancake Race and my strict training regime is thankfully at an end and, in need of building myself back up after the exertions of the morning race, I am keenly looking forward to dining with the Pewterers’ Company in Oat Lane.
Gaining their first charter from Edward IV in 1474 (1473 in the calendar of the day), the Pewterers reconnected with their craft in the 1970’s some two centuries after they had last had a prominent role.
Their Hall boasts fine historic examples of their craft and also some contemporary ware. I noted the articles on display from A.R. Wentworth based in Sheffield and from whom I had commissioned the Ladies gifts I had presented at my Ladies Festival Dinner of Plaisterers’ Lodge last year.
Our guest speaker was an entertaining Dr. Loyd Grossman, Liveryman of the Carpenters’ Company who surprised me when mentioning his leisure time activity of playing guitar in a rock band.
A very enjoyable way to end a busy day.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.56 – Shrove Tuesday 17th February, 2015
– “Up against a load of old tossers…….”
A bright and sunny, but chill, crisp morning and despite a very full evening at the Plaisterers’ Lodge Ladies Festival Dinner at our Hall the previous evening, I am feeling sharp and like the proverbial coiled spring and more than ready to face my fellow Masters in the 11th Annual Inter Livery Pancake Race hosted by the Poulters’ Company in Guildhall Yard.
In Nigel’s absence, Ali is our team manager ensuring that we are well breakfasted with croissants, orange juice and coffee in the Court Room beforehand.
The team is made up of myself, Heather as Mistress (Ladies’ race), Philip ‘Fozzy’ Foster (Liverymens’ race) and Liveryman Noel Reid (Novelty race). For the Novelty race each competitor has to don fancy dress in character with some aspect of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. In keeping with the LM’s support for the Royal School of Ballet, Noel was resplendent as the ‘tin soldier’ from the Nutcracker Suite, complete with black tutu. Each competitor wore gown, badge of office (for Masters), chef’s hat in team colours, apron and gloves.
Each section was broken down into five heats, each of five competitors with the five heat winners racing once more in the section final. Each section winner then to compete in a grand finale to decide the ‘Victor Ludorum’.
As I waited for the start gun, the sun on my face, my mind wandered as I thought what a nice day it had turned out to be then BANG! I was brought back to reality as I saw my four competitors race down Guildhall Yard way from me and a female voice, somewhat reminiscent of the Mistress’s, shout “Get going you dozy Welshman!” Despite starting a distant 5th, perfect execution of tossing the pancake twice with expert precision in the designated spots and traversing the traffic cone, coupled with Ferrari like acceleration brought me to a more respectable finish place of 3rd. I really thought I had performed reasonably well until I reflected that I had really only been up against a load of old tossers!
Fozzie’s turn in the Liverymens’ race with the added advantage of family support present. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm was not matched by precision and having dropped his pancake, penalty points pegged him to 3rd place which failed to match the contribution his natural pace would otherwise have achieved.
Next up was the Mistress with the Ladies section proving to be the most diverse in terms of age range. Conceding possible thirty years or more to some of her competitors, Heather managed another very respectable 3rd (the Plaisterers are nothing if not consistent) recalling her ‘glory years’ with Swansea Harriers.
Finally it was up to our ‘Tin Soldier’ to finish in a blaze of glory for the Plaisterers and Noel Reid certainly stepped up to the plate for us. Coming second to the Poulters’ Chicken in the fancy dress judging (I can see what it had to do with Poulters to whom we are most grateful for organizing the event, but the connection with the LM’s appeal did somewhat elude me), he then went on to run a near perfect race coming a very narrow 2nd.
A great day and great fun!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.55 – Thursday 12th February, 2015 – “The Constructors at Drapers’ Hall.”
At the invitation of the Master Constructor, Victoria Russell, her Wardens and Court of Assistants, Nigel and I are dining in the grand surroundings of Drapers’ Hall at this Livery and Awards Dinner of the Constructors’ Company.
In common with all visiting Masters, I am seated at top table on the immediate left of the Master who is as charming as ever.
Music at dinner and later is provided by our very own Edward Dye, who I can listen to on any occasion and at any length, such is his ability and repertoire.
Victoria tells me that Drapers’ Hall is built on the site of Thomas Cromwell’s house (of interest to those recently watching BBC’s excellent Wolf Hall) and the present building has been used for various scenes from “The king’s Speech” and at least one James Bond movie.
Unsurprising given its grandeur and imposing portraits of monarchs from the Hanoverians onwards surrounding the room.
After excellent food, fine wines and superb company, a parting stirrup cup rounded off a great evening.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.54 – Thursday 5th February, 2015 – “ A grand evening with the Architects at Vintners’ Hall.”
This evening’s occasion is the Annual Banquet of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects in the rich surroundings of Vintners’ Hall. This demands full evening dress and very posh frocks. Heater is wearing the posh frock.
As principal guests we were fortunate to be on top table to enjoy the charming company of Master Constructor, Victoria Russell, and her consort, Stephen Lawrence. Our hosts as Master Chartered Architect and Mistress, Canon Dr. Geoffrey and Ann Purves are, as always, incredibly warm and welcoming. Their principal guest and speaker is Lord Shipley OBE who sat immediately next to me. John is a Lib Dem member of the Lords and former Leader of Newcastle City Council.
After some excellent food and fine wines, we were entertained by the Thames Fanfare Brass with some stimulating music especially the dueling post-horns !
MASTER’S BLOG NO.53 – Wednesday 4th February, 2015 – “Coopers do not make barrels !!!”
Coopers’ Hall is the fourth in the Company’s history (which sounds familiar to a Plaisterer). The first like so many, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, the second was demolished after some 200 years of use and the third was destroyed by enemy action in 1940.
Their present Hall is one of the oldest buildings in London used as a Livery Hall. It dates from 1684 when only merchants and people of wealth lived in Devonshire Square.
On arrival, I note a table of volumetric measures pinned to the wall and within this that a barrel is a measure of volume and that “Coopers make casks, not barrels !”
(For those who have the inclination: One Firkin is 9 gallons, one Kilderkin is two Firkins, One Barrel is two Kilderkins (or 36 gallons) and one Hogshead is one and a half barrels (54 gallons)).
Updated to a Georgian façade and décor, the Hall now forms an elegant and fitting home for the Coopers’ Company, its Court and Office and a small museum.
Whilst exceptionally elegant, the size limitations of the Hall means that we are just 32 in number dining for their Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner. This clearly has an upside for the Master Cooper, Dr. Ian Frood, who explains that to reciprocate the hospitality of so many companies, he has to hold at least three M&C dinners at Coopers’ Hall !
MASTER’S BLOG NO.52 – Tuesday 3rd February, 2015 – “Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it………..”
This evening, accompanied by our Learned Clerk, I arrive at Stationers’ Hall as guests of the Worshipful Company of Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers for their Court Dinner.
I have made several visits to this wonderful Hall which nestles at the side of St. Paul’s in Ave Maria Lane, dating from the second half of the seventeenth century, but it is my first occasion to dine in the wonderful surroundings of their Court Room.
I am given to understand that having purchased the first hall on this site in 1606, the Stationers quite spectacularly failed to maintain it so that by 1664 it had become quite unfit for use. The Great Fire, whilst disastrous for most companies, proved to be quite fortuitous for the Stationers to which the Master Mercer did allude in her excellent response to the toast to the guests. She pointed out that as the fire raged and engulfed the City with ferocity and great speed, the Clerk of the Stationers’ managed to walk to his house in Clerkenwell, retrieve a handcart, walk back to Stationers’ Hall and collect all the precious documents and artefacts thus saving all of true value whilst the fire ravaged the remainder, no doubt comprising extra print runs and stocks of unsold and slow moving books and periodicals. And we always blame the Bakers for starting it !
Dinner concluded with grand and amusing musical entertainment entitled “Best of British” by vocalist Richard Bryan accompanied by pianist Matthew Morley. We were superbly regaled and joined in the classics of Noel Coward, Jake Thackray, Tim Rice and Richard Stilgoe, and finally Flanders and Swann, finishing with a rousing rendition of ‘The Hippopotamus Song.’
MASTER’S BLOG NO.51 – Tuesday 3rd February, 2015 – “Lunch with friends and former customers.”
Today I am attending the annual Plaisterers’ Awards lunch organized and hosted by the AISfpdc, the new trade association representing fit out and finishes formed by the merger of the Association of Interior Specialists and the Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors.
Together with Tim Stokes, chair of our Industry Committee, and Nigel Bamping, Learned Clerk, we three are official guests of the association.
The awards are made for projects involving individual members of the association as contractors and are judged on the skill and craftsmanship evident in implementation commensurate with the complexity and intricacy of the demands of the architects’ designs. Amongst the judges I meet former business colleagues and amongst the award candidates many former customers when I was MD of British Gypsum, all of them friends.
When pressed to join the after party at The Lord Raglan, I have to decline explaining that I have to retire to the Master’s Room above the Hall to ready myself for another engagement as Master Plaisterer that evening.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.50 – Monday 2nd February, 2015 – “800 years of Magna Carta and Half a Century of Master’s Blogs ! “
Firstly, may I express my admiration for the stamina of those who’ve managed to stick with me thus far as many might have lost the will to live some time before now.
This evening as Master finds me at Temple Church as a guest of the City of London Guide Lecturers’ Association for the 12th Annual Derek Melluish Memorial Lecture entitled ‘The Temple and Magna Carta.’
First it is preceded by choral evensong at the Anniversary of the Consecration of the Round Church by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Candlemas 1185. Just being here gives one the feeling of immense history and great happenings in the distant past.
After a memorable service, we are entertained by a most enlivening speaker who is giving the lecture, namely the Revd. Robin Griffith-Jones, ‘Vicar and Vailant Master of the Temple Church’. Explaining that King John actually lived for a time in the Temple as it was one of his very few places of genuine safety and refuge and under the effective protection of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, judged to be the most powerful knight in the land at the time. It was at his insistence that John signed Magna Carta.
Much of it deals with seemingly less important matters such as ‘fishing rights on the Thames’ but buried within its many clauses is the one key clause that ‘no man can be judged guilty unless by jury of 12 of his peers’. A massive and totemic statement that forms a cornerstone of criminal justice in so many modern day democracies throughout the whole world. – Fantastic!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.49 – Monday 2nd February, 2015 – “Fourth year of the Master Plasterer Certificate.”
Having introduced the Master Plasterer Certificate into the Company as then Chair of the Industry Committee at the behest of then Master Hubert Lacey and the Court some four years ago, I am now attending this year’s presentation ceremony being held for the first time at Saddlers’ Hall.
‘A full chain and gown event’, Masters and Clerks involved assemble beforehand for tea and coffee and the all important robing of masters.
Led by the Lord Mayor and Master Saddler, we masters process in pairs, peeling off to prearranged seating in the front, before the assembled audience of recipients, their guests, Clerks, liverymen and members of City & Guilds.
Soon it is my turn to advance to the lectern and read the charge which precedes each certificate presentation, and then demand “Do you, Jim McAteer, accept the charge?”, to which a justly proud Jim McAteer replies “I do.” I then invite him to step forward to receive his certificate from the Lord Mayor…photographs…applause… he and I return to our respective seats, and so the process is repeated for each livery present.
Jim, joined by his wife, is over from Northern Ireland where he runs his own fibrous plastering business and so is a practising Master Plasterer. Before returning to the airport, they are treated to a tour of Plaisterers’ Hall by our Learned Clerk.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.48 – Tuesday 13th January, 2015 – “A grand occasion involving a Convocation of Clerks and a Magnificence of Masters…..”
I must duly acknowledge Past Master Peter Baker, for it was his description of the Plaisterers’ Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner of 2012 that I have coined above with this header.
Although this was outwardly a grand and very formal occasion, it is worth noting how many letters of thanks use the terms ‘relaxed’, ‘informal’ and ‘welcoming’ in expressing their appreciation of the event. The Master Mercer’s speech, in response to my Toast to the Guests, was exceptionally entertaining, humorous and very well researched. For example I had no idea that a leading abolitionist of the Transatlantic Slavetrade alongside Wilberforce, Oluadah Equiano, was living at Plaisterers’ Hall in 1796 !
The musical entertainment was a sheer delight in the form of young Welsh tenor Trystan Llyr Griffiths, again very ably accompanied by our very own Edward Dye.
Our Learned Clerk excelled even his own customary high standards of entertaining wit in proposing the Toast to the Company and the Jones-Bamping concluding banter in my Response seemed to bring a highly successful event to an appropriate close.
It is on just such an occasion that the meticulous planning and preparation undertaken by Nigel and Ali is clearly evident in its essential contribution to the successful enjoyment of the event by so many.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.47 – Friday December 19th, 2014 – “Another round of carols and Christmas beckons……..”
After a PHL Board meeting the previous Tuesday, this was a light pre-Christmas week rounding off with the 282 Squadron East Ham Air Cadets carol service. The Mistress and I were joined by our Learned Clerk, Nigel Bamping, Assistant Clerk Ali and Chris Mackey, Upper Warden Bill and Rose Mahoney and Court Assistant Richard Hanney.
We were given a very warm welcome on arrival, a pre-concert vocal cord stretching exercise and then treated to some interesting renditions of traditional carols.
This really is a fantastic affiliation for us and the support we give to these youngsters is clearly appreciated by them, their family and friends. Towards the conclusion of the concert I was please to address the congregation in a very informal way, explaining what we’re about as the Plaisterers, what we do and how pleased we are to be associated with these young people. After which I presented the top music cadet, Corporal Amla, with a new saxophone and Flight-Lieutenant Chris Booty their CO with a cheque from our Charitable Trust to fund additional musical tuition. It was great to see how the Plaisterers could help make Christmas for these superb young people.
As we made our way back to East Ham tube station, it was striking how the street was populated with betting shops, pawn brokers and fast food take-aways – a sad reflection of the challenging environment which these young people have to transcend.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.46 – Thursday December 11th, 2014 – “RFCA Book Presentation and a Tour of the Reform Club.”
Separate solo events for the Mistress Plaisterer and myself today.
At the invitation of Sir David Brewer CMG JP, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, President of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Greater London I attended Merchant Taylors’ Hall to receive a copy of “Stepping Forward” from Field Marshal Sir John Chapple. This book is a formidable City of London related armed forces reference tome, the research for and production of which had been supported by a number of companies, representatives of whom had been invited to be presented with a copy.
A little later in the day, Heather had joined a party tour of the Reform Club in Pall Mall, hosted by the Mistress Turner. Founded in the ferment of ideas, ideals and political activity which in part found expression in the Great Reform Act of 1832. Oozing Victorian charm, the Reform Club today is effectively a dining club for members with interests in current topics of concern in public affairs.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.45 – Tuesday December 9th, 2014 – “Chichester College, WorldSkills 2015 Squad and Student of the Year.”
As our Student of the Year, Ian Magee, had been unable to collect his award at the Training Awards presentation lunch the previous month, Heather and I journeyed down to Chichester where Ian was training with the rest of the WorldSkills 2015 squad under the direction of the Skills Manager and mentor, Peter Moore.
From this training squad of three, just one will be selected to represent the UK in plastering and drylining at WorldSkills 2015 to be held in Sao Paolo, Brazil next June.
After presenting Ian with his award, we chatted at length to the squad members who are all committed young plasterers.
Peter again expressed his appreciation for the ongoing support from, and interest shown by, the Plaisterers’ Company for the UK squad for WorldSkills.
from L to R, Rob Johnson studying at Construction Skills Academy, Redcar; Peter Moore, UK Skills Manager and MD, Construction Skills Academy; Master; Ian Magee, Plaisterers’ Student of the Year 2014, studying at Belfast Metropolitan College; Nathan Roblin, studying at Coleg Sir Gar, Ammanford. (not too difficult to guess who’s the Welsh rugby player!)MASTER’S BLOG NO.44 – Monday December 8th, 2014 – “Sing Choirs of Angels……………”
The Plaisterers’ Carol Service and Annual Christmas Supper is a highlight of the year for Heather and myself and is the signal event that says that Christmas is now truly upon us. It was great to see our friends from Peterborough led by the Dean, Charles Taylor with his wife Catherine, Canon Bruce Ruddock and on his first visit to us as Director of Music, Stephen Grahl. Singing for us for the first time we welcomed the Girl Choristers with the Plaisterers’ Chorister at Peterborough, Katherine Barnes. It was wonderful that her parents could be with us as well.
The girls sang beautifully and we Plaisterers really raised the roof at St. Vedast’s where the service was so ably led once more by our Honorary Chaplain, John Moses after our customary generous welcome from St. Vedast’s Rector, Alan McCormack. We were delighted that this year, John was joined by his lovely wife, Susan.
It was also a great pleasure to welcome back Theo Nisbett, our former St. Paul’s Chorister who was joined by his parents and sister.
On repairing to the Hall we were treated to a wonderfully traditional Christmas meal centering on Butter Roasted Norfolk Turkey followed by Plum Pudding.
A superb time was had by all on an occasion which proved to be a wonderful prelude to the seasonal festivities.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.43 – Thursday 4th to Friday 5th December 2014 – “Bootnecks twice in one week.”
Another leisurely drive from Southwell down to sunny Devon, this time travelling a little further over to the Cornish border and the Tamar. Arriving around 3pm at HMNB Devonport and meeting Maj. Trevor Smith MBE RM, an old friend by now, Heather and I settle into our quarters at HMS Drake before going over to Hasler for an update from Maj. Scotty Mills RM, the CO there. Scotty gave us a run down on recent events including the wonderful Invictus Games inspired and championed by Prince Harry. This led to a follow up visit hosted by Prince Harry to Buckingham Palace described graphically by Scotty including an unexpected impromptu meeting with Her Majesty.
A quick freshen up and change of clothes and together with our Learned Clerk we join the CO of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, Col. Graeme Armour as his guests in the Pembroke Suite of the Drake Wardroom. Graeme is softly spoken with a Northern Ireland brogue, but you know will have the hard edge of an officer in the Corps. We are joined by senior officers of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps as well as others familiar to us from previous visits.
With the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Corps is reverting to its more traditional role as an amphibious force which means a significant increase in landing craft training which is the main reason for our visit to present the trophy for the top student of the LC1 Course (our second this year) the following morning.
After two emergency evacuations due to a faulty fire alarm (02:30h and 03:45h) we join Col. Graeme and others for some excellent presentations at 08:30h following which I present the Plaisterers’ Trophy, his three stripes on promotion to Sergeant, commemorative tankard and cheque to the top student.
Following which the Learned Clerk, the Mistress and myself get to ride in and pilot an ORC (offshore raiding craft.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.42
Tuesday 2nd December, 2014 – “From a chilly early morning alongside the Exe estuary to the welcoming warmth of Vintners’ Hall.”
Having bid farewell to the Mistress as she departs to drive northwards back to Southwell, Nigel and I stand in the chill morning air on the single platform at CTCRM that constitutes a request stop on the country rail line from Exmouth to Exeter. Transiting via Exeter St. David’s station we catch the Plymouth – Paddington train which regulars advise me is perpetually late and it was. Arriving even later than schedule at Paddington, we grab the District line to Barbican and back to the office.
Change into full evening dress and down to Vintners’, which is a lovely historic hall to visit as guests of the Upper Bailiff and Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Company of Weavers. The Weavers are the oldest livery company dating from 1130 with their master being the only one to hold the title of Upper Bailiff. A number of Weavers’ members descend from Huguenots including the present Upper Bailiff, Edward Martineau, who delivered a thought provoking speech in which he urged livery companies to be wary of and prepared to withstand any future government attempt to effectively seize assets such as occurred with the Wison govt. who effectively attempted to ‘nationalise’ livery companies in the 60’s.
Again celebrity spotting I noticed that one of the guests was Lars Tharp, the porcelain expert who frequently appears on Antiques Roadshow.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.41
Sunday 30th November to Tuesday 2nd December 2014 – Commando Training Centre RM, Lympstone S1 Signallers’ Course.
After a leisurely Sunday drive from Nottinghamshire to Devon and then safely establishing ourselves as guests of the Commandant in the Officers’ Mess, Heather and I meet up with Maj. Mark Latham RM and his charming wife who we are hosting to dinner at the Puffing Billy in Topsham (to be recommended to anyone staying locally).
On a brisk Monday December morning we join again with Lt. Col. Carl Harris MBE, CO of the specialist training wing and then receive presentations from groups of three course members on various aspects of specialist signaling within the Corps.
During the afternoon Heather and I meet with the Commandant, Col. Dave Kassapian who gave us a warm welcome back to Lympstone and once more demonstrated the genuine esteem in which the Corps hold the Plaisterers’ Company and the value they place on the relationship, which is clearly mutual. The conversation quickly turns to rugby and the forthcoming six nations and world cup (Col. Dave is President of Royal Marines Rugby and I learn later in the week at Devonport “a very fine, silky smooth running former centre”).
In the evening we are hosted to dinner in the Sergeants’ Mess where I present the top student with the Plaisterers’ Trophy, commemorative tankard and cheque and Heather receives a reciprocal bouquet of flowers).
MASTER’S BLOG NO.40
Wednesday 26th November, 2014 – “Boutique dining with the Information Technologists.”
A ‘modern’ company, no. 100 in the Order of Precedence, includes the inventor of the worldwide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, amongst its members. Their hall which sits on the edge of the Barts’ complex, was once a slaughterhouse and then a pub, prior to becoming their hall. Close to capacity with 40 dining, the IT’s as I call them, refer to their hall as ‘boutique’ but the relatively small number belies the warmth, scale and generosity of their welcome and hospitality.
Knowing that a number of companies do not charge quarterage with at least one not even charging members to dine, the IT’s stand at the other end of the spectrum with annual subscription of c. £800, half of which goes to the charity, and one IT liveryman asking my opinion of lunch at £130, to which I replied that it would be inappropriate for me to comment. However it did make me realize that in many respects, we Plaisterers enjoy our membership ‘on the cheap’.
The Master Mercer, Debby Ounsted CBE, gave a very amusing and well delivered speech which delighted me as I had previously successfully asked her to be my principal guest and speaker at our Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner in the new year.
Worth noting that the Mercers and IT’s had jointly contributed £2m recently to found a new school!
A superb evening was nicely rounded of with some less usual musical entertainment in the form of a brilliant classical guitarist.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.39
Wednesday 26th November, 2014 – “The William Morris Craft Fellowship.”
After my first ever visit to Ironmongers’ Hall, I return there at the invitation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). William Morris founded SPAB in 1877 leading the movement to revive an appreciation of craftsmen (in a gender neutral sense) and fine craftsmanship.
I note that only two Livery Masters are in attendance in the form of Mike Felton of the Carpenters and, of course, myself.
Following an introduction by Lord Cormack, Chairman of the Fellowship Founding Committee, we are addressed by Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust. Following the granting of fellowships to four young craftsmen, I take the opportunity of chatting to John David, Master Mason of York Minster (you may recall John from an earlier blog when I visited the Mister). John kindly introduced me to Carol Heidschuster, Works Manger, Lincoln Cathedral. After mention of heritage plastering apprenticeships in the context of the Plaisterers, Carol is keen to allow young plastering craftsmen to work in the outbuildings in the Cathedral close in Lincoln and so I ‘close the loop’ with our Clerk’s office to make sure we take advantage of any opportunity that might arise.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.38
Monday 24th November 2014 – “He who shouts loudest………”
This time for me a solo event as I arrive early evening at Ironmongers’ Hall for the Installation Ceremony and Official Launch of the Guild of Entrepreneurs. Donning my Master’s badge I am approached by the Master ironmonger who enquires as to whether I had visited this Hall before. Saying that I had not, he then kindly gave me a personal tour. Noticing a certain amount of maritime artefacts I was prompted to enquire as to the connection to which he explained that the Shipwrights’ Company also shares their hall.
I soon meet the Master Upholder, Derek Thornton with whom I often share a joke and we sit in readiness for the proceedings. First the Lord Mayor’s address which is followed by both Sheriffs, the civic party then departing.
The Installation Ceremony commences with the Founding Master, immediate past sheriff Sir Paul Judge and I note that one of the Founding Members is TV chef Cyrus Todiwalla.
As part of the Official Launch of the Guild we are all expected, in turn to shout ‘Welcome Entrepreneurs!’. First chorus comes from the Great Twelve whose response is somewhat muted, then us ranked nos. 13 to 50 – slightly louder, then those nos. 51 to 77 – a little louder still, then “the Moderns and other Guilds” – positively raucous.
In reply to the Master Upholder who asked why this might be so, I said that it is clear that the lower one is down the pecking order, the louder one has to shout to be heard!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.37
Thursday 20th November 2014 – “ Dining with the Learned Profession………”
Earlier in the day, Heather as Mistress Plaisterer had joined 29 other Mistresses and Consorts for lunch at Innholders’ Hall as guests of the Mistress Tax Adviser.
Myself and Nigel spend the evening as guests of the Solicitors’ Company for their Livery Dinner at Stationers’ Hall.
Before dinner I was hosted by Past Master Ronnie Fox, a former colleague and mentor of our Learned Clerk, who proved to be a most amiable and welcoming host. In the process I met another guest, a solicitor, who described his daily work as “defending white collared gentlemen who have been a little naughty”.
The Master Solicitor, Ald. Vincent Keaveney, gave a most entertaining speech, several parts of which I pinched to repeat in a later speech of my own (not as Master Plaisterer I might add).
For our Learned Clerk, this dinner was a ‘home from home’ because of course he is a Past Master Solicitor.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.36
Wednesday 19th November 2014 – “At the cutting edge of dining….”
This evening sees the Learned Clerk and myself join the Cutlers’ Company for dinner at their splendid hall in Warwick Lane EC4. The Cutlers received their first Royal Charter from Henry V in 1416. Their craft base relates to the making of knives and swords, in fact anything with a ‘cutting edge’. The Company consists of 100 members, most of whom have been admitted by patrimony.
Their first Hall dated from 1285 or before and was rebuilt and extensively modernized from 1660 and just completed in June 1666. Clearly the Cutlers are gifted with impeccable timing as this was razed to the ground in the Great Fire a few months later.
Their present Hall dates from the nineteenth century exuding Victorian splendor and exceptionally impressive wood panelling.
The lady who oversees the catering certainly believes in ‘feeding her lads’ delivering superb quality in the process. The Cutlers also keep a rather fine cellar, the red, a Chateau Lynch-Bages 2001 being especially memorable.
Finally I embarked on a brisk walk back to Plaisterers’ Hall as I readied myself to face the challenges of another day, reflecting on the wonderful hospitality of the Master, Wardens and Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.35
Wednesday 19th November 2014 –“Creating, Giving, Supporting. – the Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2014-15”
This afternoon is the occasion for the new Lord Mayor’s Annual Address to Masters and Clerks which is followed by a general discussion and refreshments. It is his opportunity to spell out the theme for his year, particularly so far as charitable fund raising is concerned, although the discussion proves to be significantly wider than that.
Given that the liveries as a whole give £40m + in a calendar year tp charitable causes, the question was asked whether or not we could do more to make society more aware of what we do in this regard to which the Master Marketor offered his Company’s expertise in the matter, which seemed to me to be an eminently sensible suggestion. Whilst some may not consider us to be a livery movement, describing us as 100 disparate and distinct companies, I perceive that we nonetheless havemany common elements e.g., charitable giving, supporting education, military affiliations, heritage etc., etc.
On the most important charity front, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal this year will be “Creating, Giving, Supporting” focusing on support for disabled people their family and carers, in particular supporting Scope and Mencap, celebrating natural talent in the Royal Academy of Arts, the City & Guilds of London Art School and the Royal Ballet School.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.34
Tuesday 18th November 2014 – “A Master is never knowingly underfed!”
My thanks to our Learned Clerk for the above quote in which I have substituted master for clerk!
Starting with a delightful lunch in our Hall which was the annual reunion lunch for Past Masters it augers well for the future as I remark on the apparent fitness of several who are now approaching their ninth decade on this mortal coil. It would appear that whilst having served as master cannot confer immortality it at least seems to suggest some longevity. It was wonderful to see and chat with so many of my predecessors. I hope they invite me as from next year. Still a long way to go in the meantime!
Come the evening I am joined by Nigel at Saddlers’ Hall where we are guests of the Saddlers and their Master Mark Farmar, who I had met before at a Paviors’ function. A warm welcome and stunningly good dinner.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.33
Monday 17th November 2014 – “A Chance to meet our Student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.”
This evening Heather and I arrive at Milton Court the recently opened new facility of the GSMD. This is a ‘drinks and nibbles’ event arranged by the School to showpiece their new facility (which is fantastic) and to provide an occasion for their students to meet some of their sponsors. It had been arranged for us to meet our new music student for this year who is Julian Clef a gifted pianist who hails from India.
We spent a happy and immensely interesting hour chatting to a number of students whose sponsors had failed to show, but for whom they had dutifully turned up. For us the converse was true in that Julian never showed much to the embarrassment of a sponsor relationship manager who apologized profusely. However the dedication and appreciation of the students we did talk to was readily apparent.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.32
Friday November 14th 2014 – “The largest Gothic cathedral in Europe”.
By prior arrangement between Terry and Rebecca Thompson, Superintendent of Works, York Minster, Terry and Christine Wright, Heather and myself are treated to a personalized tour of the Minster starting at design and craft workshops in the Stonegate which supports all the continuously ongoing restoration work on this magnificent building.
(In addition to this day job, Rebecca is currently Clerk of the York Guild of Building and its Immediate Past Master).
Our extremely expert personal Guide for this visit is Steve Bielby (also a PM of the Guild).
Starting in the design area we meet John David, Master Mason, who oversees all masonry aspects from detailed design to personally clambering all over the building at all sorts of dizzy heights to personally check that all the pieces of the amazingly detailed and complex aspects of this three dimensional jigsaw that is the Minster. John started to train as an architect, but graduated to what he does now, loves best and was clearly born to do.
Moving into the stonemasons’ workshop it is striking that the majority of craftsmen are women whose delicacy of touch clearly comes to the fore. Given the number of women plasterers we had in the seventeenth century, we should not be surprised.
A stunning example of the restoration work is the eroded original statue of St. Peter and the plaster cast model of its replacement, the stone replacement is now already in situ.
Leaving the workshops we entered the Minster itself through a side door to observe the magnificence within.
A major project currently being undertaken is the restoration of the South window. Over 3,000 sections are being taken down, cleaned and replaced using modern lead and epoxy resin techniques, but carefully reproducing the original refractive index of the glass so as to reduce the width of lead to vastly increase the luminosity of the glass and increase the natural light within the cathedral. Magnificent and stunning!
Saying our farewells and thanks to Steve, we emerge into the open and one of the wettest days in Yorkshire and, indeed, the whole of Christendom reflecting on the fact that whether it be plastering, stonemasonry, glazing, painter staining or whatever, the true passion that a master craftsman has for his and her craft is truly universal.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.31
Thursday November 13th 2014 “The Plaisterers’ Play and a Lord Mayor whose office predates that of the City of London.”
Today finds Heather and myself in the erstwhile Viking settlement of Yorvik and even earlier Roman centre of Eboracum. Yes, we are in York as guests of the York Guild of Building for their 60th anniversaty dinner to be held at the 14th century Merchant Taylors’ Hall.
We meet up with Renter Warden Terry Wright and his charming wife Christine who have attended this particular dinner over a number of years.
Greeted warmly by the Master Neil Shouksmith we four are seated alongside the student award recipients for the evening.
Neil later told me that every few years, the Guild take part in a re-enactment of the medieval York Mystery Plays originally performed by the ancient guilds. Plays 1 to 4 (out of 100+) deal with the Creation and no. 4 has traditionally been called the Plaisterers’ Play (presumably because it was originally performed by the Plaisterers’ Guild ?).
The dinner was also attended by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of the City of York. Indeed, a number of justifiably proud local liverymen told me that this particular institution predates that of our own Lord Mayor of London by a considerable number of years.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.30
Wednesday 12th November – “Numbers, more numbers and the low down on ‘Strictly’………”
This evening’s lecture is to be given at Staple Inn Hall on High Holborn. An absolutely fabulous Tudor building that escaped the Great Fire and the Blitz, but what remains of the Hall today is largely a reconstruction as it did succumb to a V1 flying bomb in 1944. Staple refers to the tax collected on wool which was the original purpose of the building. The Worshipful Company of Actuaries are this evening’s hosts and the talk given by Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter is entitled ‘Tails you lose. Shabby Statistics and the Risks of Everyday Life.’
A very entertaining and humorous presentation is followed by very interesting supper conversation as my dining companion is Johnny ‘Think of a number’ Ball who I found to be absolutely passionate about youth education and development. He is an Honorary Freeman of the Actuaries, past participant on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, declined to take part in ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and maintains a connection with ‘Strictly’ through his daughter Zoe. It was fascinating to gain a first hand insight into the shows from a behind the scene perspective.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.29
Tuesday 11th November – “School days Chemistry and Physics recalled….”
After another Tasting Session the day before, this time for the Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner next January, Our Learned Clerk often advises that ‘a clerk is never knowingly underfed,’ and I now realize that this equally applies to masters.
Heather joins me at the Hall to ready ourselves to attend the annual Horners’ Company lecture scheduled for early evening. I am concerned to note the prior advice that dress is to be lounge suit is incorrect as on checking the invitation it states ‘black tie’ and both my dinner suits happen to be at home. Whilst I have my evening dress at the Hall, this clearly does not help. Therefore a quick shopping session is demanded. First for Heather as she believes her ‘Day Dress’ is no longer appropriate if I’m wearing black tie. Having tried on 8 dresses, she buys 2 as she remains undecided as to which she prefers for that evening! I rush up to Oxford Street and buy the one dinner suit I tried on.
We arrive bang on time at the Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street. Almost the first person I meet is Past Master Cook with his wife Julie. Peter seems disappointed to see me, but it transpires that his disappointment is confined to seeing me in black tie as he had been expecting to ridicule my appearance as the only man not to be wearing black tie having heard of my predicament a little earlier at our Hall.
The 17th Horners’ Company Ralph Anderson Memorial Lecture entitled
“The livery companies and education: a scientific perspective” is delivered in entertaining and thought provoking style by Sir John Holman FRSC. I am delighted that on each occasion the audience is asked to predict the outcome of an experiment, I am correct eg., pour liquid nitrogen onto a balloon filled with helium and what will happen? It will sink (as the helium cools the balloon shrinks as it contracts becoming heavier than the surrounding air) and then expand and rise again ( as it warms back to room temperature, it expands and again becomes lighter than the surrounding air).
Thought provoking – contrast the efficacy of the British versus German education systems – average unemployment in both countries in 2013 was 7%; youth unemployment (18 to 24 years) in Britain 18% (two and a half times the national average) whilst in Germany it is 6% (below the national average). What a contrast!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.28
Saturday 8th November – ‘The Lord Mayor’s Show and Plaisterers’ Lunch.’
Held each year usually on the second Saturday in November, the new Lord Mayor processes to the Royal Courts of Justice to swear an oath to the Sovereign. This annual, unrehearsed pageant is believed to be the largest of its kind, winding its way along a three and a half mile course and comprises marching bands, military units, Livery Company, schools and educational institution, corporate, charity and civic floats (so called because the event was originally water-borne on the Thames).
Heather and I witness participants gathering in preparation from c. 7am in the City streets. Well positioned on Cheapside in readiness for the parade, we hear the sound of bands marching towards us. Very soon I am prodded in the midriff with a plastic sword brandished by a passing `Viking (old friend Katharine Williams of Bridge Ward), then the Glass Sellers float from which Gwen Rhys, Upper Warden, shouts down, “Sut ‘ychi, Mike?” (How are you?) – pointing to the rear, “Welsh Guards coming!” Gwen bach, bless her, doesn’t often get the chance to look down at me. She’ll be robed as their Master this coming December. Then the Master Fruiterer, Paul Cooper, shouts a hurried hello as he processes past.
Then Sheriff Fiona Adler waves from her passing coach and recognizing Heather and myself, shouts an hello.
Then the pikemen of the Honourable Artllery Company come into view indicating that the Lord Mayors’ coach, pulled by six horses are close behind. It’s with us, passed and then back to the Hall to host lunch.
It’s a great family occasion and Heather and I are joined by our daughter Karen, her partner Andre, and our three grandchildren Alex (12), Poppy (10) and Amelia (6). All children have a wonderful time entertained first by Uncle Billy (aka Bill Mahony, Upper Warden) who kept them entertained until the professional childrens entertainer, JoJo arrived. Under the Learned Clerk’s ‘baton’, the assembled room sang “Happy Birthday’ to me – I hadn’t breathed a word of it, but someone had. The occasion puts me in mind of a song on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. For those of you who’ve bothered to work that out, I bet you’re sat there thinking, ‘Gosh, I thought he was years older than that!’
This ceremony takes place on the second Friday in November, which this year, Heather and I are privileged to attend. This is when the present Lord Mayor effectively hands over to the Lord Mayor-elect. The ceremony is conducted in silence with the sole exception of the declaration sworn by the Lord Mayor-elect. We saw Ald. Fiona Woolf CBE hand over her badge of office and other City ceremonial regalia. After the ceremony, the City Swordbearer passes the key to the City seal to the Late Lord Mayor, as he/she is now referred to, who passes it to the newly installed Lord Mayor, who then returns it to the City Swordbearer who agrees to ‘keep it under his hat’.
It is amazing to witness this carefully choreographed this centuries old ceremony.
Afterwards we all emerge into Guildhall Yard to gaze in tacit congratulatory silence at our new Lord Mayor accompanied by his Sheriffs who dutifully pause for photographs before departing in their official convoy, The Lord Mayor’s official car is a Rolls Royce Phantom ( V I think ? ) which displays the registration no. LM 0.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.26
Tuesday 4th November – “16th Plaisterers’ Training Awards – the Best Ever !”
My day starts as I arrive in the Hall at 7am and witness the stage being rapidly assembled. I am soon joined by Stuart Brown who is also keen to see everything proceed smoothly. Returning to the office, Nigel is there and a little later Avril Blanchot is engaging with the production team together with Michael Hall. Nigel calls me for a sound check, speech run through, last minute adjustments then full run through with John Inverdale there and ready to go. Michael Hall takes the role of Lord Mayor and we two with John do a ‘dry run’. We agree some last minute adjustments then I move to informally greet guests as Michael and John join the reception.
At 11.45am I am posted with the Beadle and Wardens at the front door in readiness to greet the Lord Mayor, Sheriff and Sheriff’s Consort on their arrival. Led by the beadle, I take the mayoral party down into the Humber Room and introduce the Industry Committee Chairman, Tim Stokes, who in turn introduces each member of the Industry and Awards Committees.
Meanwhile, the drinks reception proceeds in the Livery Hall then all are summoned to lunch in the Great Hall. The Lord Mayor and I process in together with Sheriff Fiona Adler and our Honorary Chaplain, John Moses.
A delightful lunch ensues then the main business starts as our Beadle announces John Inverdale who tells us that after covering 22 Wimbledons, 7 Rugby World Cups and 5 Summer Olympics, just how much he has been looking forward to compering the Plaisterers’ Awards!
Time for my speech. I start by thanking the Lord Mayor for being with us as she concludes ‘ a magnificent year in office’; I pause for what becomes a lengthy, warm and heartfelt round of applause from the whole audience. Turning to glance at her, seated to my right she graciously whispers a ‘thank you.’ Concluding by presenting her with our cheque contribution to her 2014 Appeal I introduce her to the lectern and sit myself. The Lord Mayor then confidently rounds off proceedings presenting me with a polished pewter commemorative candlestick holder (she is Alderman of Candlewick Ward) no doubt a reflection of the extended hours I keep on behalf of the Company and the Learned Clerk with an engraved commemorative coffee spoon, group photographs are taken and I bid farewell to the VIP party at the front door.
On return to the Hall I am quickly approached by several visiting Masters, award recipients, other guests and fellow liverymen who are all most complimentary about proceedings. Many letters of thanks and congratulations then come in over the next few days, including those from the Lord Mayor, Sheriff and Masters of construction liveries.
Declining several invitations to join others at the Lord Raglan, I return to my room to meet Past Master Gary Morley for a prearranged meeting on Company finances. Whilst in some respects another day at the office, I retire reflecting on a wonderfully successful showcase event that shows off our Company so brilliantly, the success of which is due to the very hard work of Nigel, Ali, Michael Hall, Stuart Brown, Tim Stokes and Avril Blanchot. The 16th and ‘Best Ever!’
MASTER’S BLOG NO.25
Monday 3rd November – ‘A Sombre Day, Time for Reflection.’
I arrive with the Clerk at 9am at the Crypt of St. Paul’s in preparation for the Service and opening of the Garden of Remembrance later that morning. Chatting with numerous Masters and Clerks and consuming a bacon roll and tea, collecting the poppy Remembrance Cross which bears our Company name and move outside in readiness for 11am.
The rain is thankfully holding off as we Masters are marshaled by an extremely imposing Welsh Guards RSM. ( I make a mental note that I had better get this right. ) We are ushered into rank and file grouped, as ever, in order of precedence. The service starts and proceeds with the ritual with which I am so very familiar. I had considered wearing my late son’s medals, but decided against because I fear it would risk the emotion of the experience becoming just a little too much.
Led by the Lord Mayor , the crosses are laid. Masters proceed in ranks of four at a time, I lead our group nos. 46 to 49, Plaisterers, Stationers, Broderers and Upholders, march smartly, head held high, stop… left turn… step slowly forward,…place cross… step slowly backwards… quick check we are all in line… synchronized bow of the heads, then slowly march away.
The service concludes, we chat, disperse, and back to the Hall for a welcome cuppa.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.24
Friday 31st October – “Anonymity Returns”
As the Learned Clerk and I are about to leave for Mansion House he tells me that breaking news from the BBC is that Fiona Woolf has been summoned again to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday next. I immediately grasp the implications – Tuesday next week we hold our Training Awards presentation and the Lord Mayor, Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE should be with us to present the prizes, but with this news, probably will not be.
We arrive at Mansion House to meet award recipients of the Lord mayor’s 800th Anniversary Awards Trust. I chatted to some inspiring young people including a young man who had kayaked in Uganda. On enquiring if he was good at kayaking he modestly advised me that he was in the GB team! Then met some girls who had been counting Arabian leopards in Oman as part of an endangered species course for the WWF before concluding with two young men who had separately taught in different schools in Uganda.
Meanwhile, Nigel had made discreet enquiries and whilst no details had been divulged, had been advised that the BBC had just left and that we could be confident that the Lord Mayor would be with us the following week as planned. On leaving Mansion House, I faced bright lights and TV cameras and as a young reporter approached me, microphone in hand, the cameraman turned to her and said, “don’t worry, it’s nobody!”.
Arriving home I caught the tail end of a BBC TV interview in which Fiona Woolf had informed them that she had withdrawn herself from chairing the enquiry – and who could blame her.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.23
“The Corps 350th Anniversary Dinner”
Nigel and I arrive at Guildhall amid very high security which releases a little when one RM Corporal at security immediately recognises us and with a broad smile greets us with “The Plaisterers have arrived!”
My personal host for the evening was Lt Col Richard Thurstan RN, Chief of Staff, 1 Assault Group whilst Nigel was taken care of by WO1 (RSM) Tony Wright RM. Prior to dinner we ventured back into Guildhall Yard to observe the drum display. As the “VIPs” marched across lead by the Commandant General, Major-General Martin Smith, accompanied by our Lord Mayor, Lt-General Ed Davis now Deputy Commander Land Forces NATO broke rank and walked up to me and warmly shook my hand expressing his pleasure on seeing me again (Gen Ed had responded to my Toast to the Guests at our Annual Banquet last May as Upper Warden when he had been Principal Guest and Speaker as then Major-General and CG to the Corps).
We then retired to an excellent dinner at which the Captain General, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, provided full value in his response to the Toast tot he Guests in a most amusing and thoroughly entertaining speech, telling us that he had resolved to recall a humorous story involving his attendance at the Corps 300th dinner some fifty years earlier “but could not remember a bally thing about it!”
Declining many invitations from a host of my Corps friends to join them for a post-prandial drink and bitterly regretting an earlier decision to catch the last train North, I jumped into a taxi in Gresham Street at 11.12pm asking the driver to try to get me to Kings Cross for the 11.30pm last train. Arriving at 11.25pm I sped across the station, jumping in the train at 11.27pm with the doors immediately locking behind me. What an evening!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.22
“Another White Tie and Posh Frock Do!”
Heather and I bump into Past Master Ernie Pilgrim on Cheapside, on his way to a City Livery Club dinner, prior to arriving at Mansion House for the Installation Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants. A great evening for catching up with many old friends.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.21
Monday 20th October – “A Guest in One’s Own Hall”
This evening I attended the Chartered Surveyors’ Company Installation Dinner held at Plaisterers’ Hall. Such a novel experience to be a guest and Master in one’s own Hall – a strange experience. The evening went well as I sat on top table next to Immediate Past Master, Elizabeth Edwards, who I had met several times in recent months. The guest speaker was Nigel Wray as he and the newly installed Master, Graham Chase, go back a long way with Saracens. Graham Chase was most effusive in his praise for and gratitude to the Plaisterers for the use of the Hall.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.20
Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th October – “Winning the Green Beret – a Privilege to Witness”
After a day’s drive, Heather and I arrive at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, Devon. The security officer asks for confirmation of my name, to which he replies, “you are expected, Sir”. On receipt of my car pass I am directed to drive to the Officers’ Mess where we are checked into our room with absolute efficiency. We are here as Master & Mistress Plaisterer to attend the King’s Squad Passing Out the next day, but first we must prepare to be hosted to dinner.
In the absence of the Commandant, Col David Kassapian RM who has sent me his prior apology, our host is Chief of Staff, Lt Col Robert Forster RM, supported by his wife, Julie. Also attending are the senior officers commanding each of the main sections at Lympstone, together with their wives, the troop commander of the squad to pass out the next day and the visiting inspecting officer, Brig Rob Macgowan CBE currently Commodore Naval Personnel Strategy. After dinner we retire to the bar and Col Rob and I embark on a lengthy discussion on economics (he has a degree in the subject!). Conscious that we have a long and full day ahead, Heather and I decide to call it a night and retire.
After breakfasting with Col Rob, we assemble at 08.00 for a formal briefing and them move off for the presentation of berets.
Lt Col Chris Ordway RM, CO of the basic training section addresses the assembled audience of “VIPs” together with the families and close friends of those about to pass out. Col Chris starts by announcing the presence of two “VIPs” introducing Brig Rob as the first VIP and describing his CV – “Kabul….Afghanistan….etc.” – and then with personal growing unease, I heard him say “and our second VIP is…” and yes, it was me and he did quote my CV in full and, like Brig Rob before me, I rose from my seat in the front, turned and raised my hand to the crowd behind with a more than embarrassed smile. Although I was impressed and delighted with the way Col Chris acknowledged the many ways in which the Plaisterers support the Corps. Later at the buffet lunch, a lady alongside turned and said to me, “impressive CV!”, I said, “thank you, no medals though!”
After presentation of each green beret, which was a privilege to witness, we adjourn to the parade ground where the King’s Squad perform a drill display together with the Band of the Royal Marines.
Then it was lunch and the long drive home. Whilst here husband performed his duty as Acting Commandant, Julie Forster had looked after us superbly.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.19
Thursday 9th and Tuesday 15th October – “More meetings……”
Our last Training Awards review prior to the big event day. Stuart Brown is there (liaison with judging panel), alongside Avril Blanchot (Signature Events – competition and event management), Past Master Michael Hall (senior advisor and overall guru), Nigel (master administrator and budget controller), myself (chairman and ensurer that all angles are covered by others) and Tim Stokes (chair of industry committee). All agree everything is on track with Nigel, Michael and Avril to have a final pre-event session with MCL, the contractor we engage to professionally deliver the event on the day – 4th November is looming!
The following Tuesday I attend my first Nominatons Panel which is chaired by each Deputy Master in turn. The full remit of the Panel is described in the Year Book, the focus today being on succession to Steward, plans for return to the Court of those granted leave of absence and succession planning of Master and Wardens through to 2020. recommendations will then be put to the next meeting of the Past Masters in November.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.18
Wednesday 8th October – “A musical evening – and will the chandeliers take it?”
This evening sees the Learned Clerk and myself as guests of the Musicians’ Company at their Masters & Clerks’ dinner at Painters’ Hall. The Master Musician, Sir Anthony Cleaver, welcomed the ’eminent and distinguished’ people present expressing his pleasure that so many of them had been able to bring their Masters with them! We then listened to a brilliant mezzo-soprano with an extremely polished piano accompaniment. My only fear at one point was the safety of the crystal chandeliers as the soprano hit some amazingly high notes.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.17
Tuesday 7th October – “October Court & Autumn Livery Dinner”
Today I chaired my first meeting of the Court of Assistants followed by my first full Plaisterers Livery Dinner as Master. The time and care taken over the tasting session a month earlier certainly paid off as there were numerous congratulatory comments regarding menu choice, quality of food and wine, general enjoyment of the speeches and overall good ambience of the event that came in afterwards. The theme of the dinner was our Company’s support for education and training in the craft of plastering and drylining. I directed my comments towards what we had done historically, what we are doing now and would be doing in the future. Our guest speaker was Sir John Armitt, current Chairman of City & Guilds, who proved to be excellent value as he delivered a stimulating and thought provoking speech. I was delighted that he clearly also enjoyed the occasion.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.16
Monday 6th October – “Back to Bunhill Field”
This evening the Learned Clerk and I walk up the City Road to dine as guests of the Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers’ Company in Armoury House, home of the Honourable Artillery Company. My attention wanders around the room taking in late royalty, past Princes of Wales notably George V and his first born son, Edward, Duke of Windsor, in military garb. The militaria is stunning including an antique suit of armour.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.15
Friday 3rd October – “Tallow Chandlers’ Hall – an absolute delight”
Today sees Nigel and I as guests of the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers at their Masters & Clerks’ luncheon held at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall. Gazing through the stunning stained glass windows I now understand Heather’s enthusiasm with this magnificent hall from earlier in the week. An excellent lunch was rounded off by a very humorous speech on behalf of the guests by the Master Spectacle Maker, Christine Tomkins, and her partner, the Master Feltmaker, Simon Bartley on a hermaphrodite theme. An early train home heralded a welcome weekend break.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.14
Thursday 2nd October – “Another day, another lunch (and dinner!)”
This time solo as our Learned Clerk, Nigel, and I have decided to split forces – I stay in London whilst he travels to the provinces to attend a regimental dinner with one of our affiliates which I and Heather had visited the month before. For me it is lunch at the Furniture Makers’ Company at their Hall in Austin Friars. More Masters with whom to engage, some I had met before.
A brisk walk back to our Hall then change into dinner jacket and a gentle stroll across the City to arrive in good time to dine with the Makers of Playing Cards at Clothworkers’ Hall. Their Master, Anthony Carter, is a fine fellow and, as a former rugby union referee, conversation flows easily between us. I process in with the Master and am seated on his immediate right and immediately relieved to see confirmation in the Order of Proceedings that his personal guest and speaker is on his left. Excellent dinner and very entertaining speeches.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.13
Wednesday 1st October – “More to it than meets the eye!”
Whilst Heather attends the Mistress Tallow Chandlers’ lunch at their hall, the Clerk and I attend the Installation lunch of the incoming Master Spectacle Maker at Apothecaries’ Hall for which I process in with the Master, Dr Christine Tomkins, an eye surgeon who hails from my past of the UK, Swansea. Good speeches in which the Master welcomed me in our native Welsh language! The Company, formed in the 17th century, have a basic mission statement that their aim is the provision of eye care. I am surprised to learn that a good proportion of their members are medical eye care specialists.
Heather and I meet up afterwards, quickly compare noes and move on to the Musicians’ Company Evensong and Reception at St Paul’s. Another evening of supping something, this time apple and cucumber juice, a refreshing and somewhat unusual combination, whilst standing and chatting to other Masters and Mistresses between two national heroes, namely Nelson and Wellington!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.12
“Now! Next! Later!”
A memorable day is about to unfold as I am escorted by our Beadle, Jamie Wallis, to the Crypt of Guildhall where we are greeted by numerous Masters all with their Beadles who are there to ensure each Master is properly dressed and well turned out. Jamie satisfies himself that my gown hangs properly and that my badge hangs centrally and ties my chain onto the the shoulders of my gown.
Ushers gather us Masters in reverse order of precedence to process out to St Lawrence Jewry for the divine service which precedes the Election of the Lord Mayor. I pair up with Ian Locks, the Master Stationer (no.47) with Peter Cooper, Fruiterer(no.48) immediately in front. The paired procession is then led across Guildhall Yard and into church, within which each pair separates left and right, filling the pews from back to front, placing the ‘Great Twelve’ in front.
We then process out, leading from the front, each original pair seamlessly re-pairing to process back into Guildhall all now in order of precedence. Perfect!
Within Guildhall we re-assemble, again in reverse order and repeat the process into the Great Hall as we had done for the Church, thus again leaving the ‘Great Twelve’ in front.
In due ceremony the three prospective candidates are introduced to us. The Senior Alderman Below the Chair, who for sake of argument we shall call ‘No.1’, the Next in Line, ‘No.2’. and the most recent Past Aldermanic Sheriff, ‘No.3’.
The Court of Aldermen, including the ‘candidates’ then depart to await the stated preference of the assembled body. The name of No.1 is displayed to which we all shout ‘Now!’ with right arm raised,. No.2 – ‘Next!’ And No.3 – ‘Later!’. The Sheriff’s confer and then the outcome is conveyed to the departed Court of Aldermen, who then return having made their ‘decision’.
The newly made ‘Lord Mayor Elect’ then makes a short speech, proceedings concluded and we all process out in order of precedence.
Back to Plaisterers’ Hall for a relaxed sandwich lunch. A memorable occasion and a part in history!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.11
Friday 26th September – “From Chelsea Pensioners to White Ties and Posh Frocks”
Heather and I spent the afternoon on a pre-planned exploratory tour of the Royal Hospital Chelsea joining, by prior arrangement, a WI group from the South East. For those wishing to know more please make sure that you book your place(s) on the Master’s Summer Outing on June 19th 2015.
After a quick change, Heather and I joined by Nigel and Angela Bamping set off for Mansion House, guests of the Paviors for their Annual Banquet demanding full evening dress. A glittering occasion attended by our Lord Mayor, Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE and her consort Nicholas. It was a memorable event with appropriate thanks extended to the Paviors. On leaving, I noticed Martyn Lewis, the former TV newsreader and presenter. It had been a week of celebrity spotting!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.10
Wednesday 24th September – “Up, Up and Away”
On this occasion, Heather and I attended the Hon. Co. of Air Pilots Sir Frederick Tymms Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society off Piccadilly, where the roof garden overlooks Hyde Park. The lecture covered the contribution made by the men and women of Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. Although there were far more men pilots than women, virtually all media coverage involves the women as they seem to have provided all the information on which lectures and documentaries base there source material. Men, for some reason, appear to have been much more reluctant to recount their experiences. After the lecture we retired to the roof garden for a glass of wine and nibbles where I spotted Johnny Ball of ‘Think of a Number’ and ‘Strictly’ fame. More of Johnny in a later blog!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.9
23rd September – “The £34K necklace that got away”
The evening started with a private viewing of the annual Goldsmiths’ Trade Fair at their Hall. Heather and I were taken into a champagne reception and greeted warmly by the Master, William Parente. Mindful of time, we could not linger and quickly moved on to see the exhibition which displayed stunning designer jewellery made by young craftsmen. Heather was very impressed with a tanzanite and diamond pendant. I tentatively enquired what the damage might be to be advised that the pendant would be a snip at £14k and the accompanying diamond necklace from which it hung would be a further £20k. Sadly, time was passing and we had to move to Mercers’ Hall. On leaving we spotted Bargain Hunt’s Tim Wonnacott, who looked trim and in training for ‘Strictly’.
Later the same evening, as guests of the Mercers’ Company, we attended their Concert in aid of Treloar’s School followed by a buffet supper. Entertained by a stunning young German baritone, we were then enthralled by a virtuoso performance from a young lady pianist, one a winner of the BBC’s Cardiff Young Singer of the Year’ and the other ‘Young Musician of the Year’.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.8
Saturday 20th September – “The Mistress goes solo!”
After my charity walk exploit, Heather was not to be outdone and joined the Mistress Basketmaker for a day’s creative basketmaking for Mistresses and Consorts at the Dutch Church, Austin Friars. She arrived home in the evening with a woven platter, suitable for cheese, biscuits or fruit. I was suitably impressed!
MASTER’S BLOG NO.7
Thursday 18th September
At 7.30am a knock on my door reveals our Renter Warden, Terry Wright who has travelled in via Paddington and, like a proverbial ‘coiled spring’ joins me, gowned and badged, in walling across to Armourers’ Hall in readiness for the start of the annual Inter-Livery Halls charity walk. The Learned Clerk accompanies us, camera in hand, to record the start of this memorable event. Joined by the Masters and a Warden from each of 19 other companies, we call on 40 Livery Halls in the course of the day ahead. With a group photo taken outside each one most, if not all of which, finds me positioned centre front (a fact not gone unnoticed by the Master Water Conservator, Roger North) just to evidence the fact that we really did do it. After a welcome coffee break at Furniture Makers’ Hall , we enjoyed a wholesome buffet lunch at bakers’ Hall where the Master, David Bentley, made us very welcome. The lunch was so good that I almost felt like forgiving them for our first Hall burning down in 1666!
Suitably fed and refreshed we emerged into very warm sunshine. Glancing around at my companions, I noted that many had ‘dressed down’ under their gowns including wearing walking boots or trainers. But not us, oh no! In the interests of maintaining standards, Terry and I were fully suited and booted underneath our gowns and badges and me in stiffly polished black shoes (what a mistake!). The high point of the afternoon was tea on HQS Wellington, home of the Master Mariners’ Company.
Arriving back at Plaisterers’ Hall at around 4.30pm, on removing our jackets, Terry and I resembled two contestants in a wet tee-shirt competition. In the interests of health & safety we repaired to the Lord raglan for a couple of pints each of London Pride to regain our fluid balance, hoping that we had made at least £2k for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund
MASTER’S BLOG NO. 6
Monday 15th to Wednesday 17th September
Starting with the Public Relations Committee, we then move onto the Master’s & Wardens Committee when we are joined by Heather, Rose Mahony and Christine Wright plus, of course, the Deputy Master. Here the focus is on planning for forthcoming events over this year and tentatively to consider Master & Mistress events for the next two years beyond. Several key discussions emerge one of which is that Heather and I will pay an exploratory visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea as a potential venue for my Master’s Summer Outing.
On Tuesday, I attend my first board meeting of Plaisterers Hall Limited and begin to learn about the events management business.
Wednesday, I walk across to St Botolph’s without Bishopsgate at the invitation of the Rector of St Vedast’s, our parish church, the Revd Dr Alan McCormack to attend a lunchtime Eucharist. The experience was delightful and I was made most welcome by members of the congregation. Coffee followed and then Alan and I had a late lunch at a small Italian restaurant just off Devonshire Place. Alan is a lovely guy and lunch gave me a superb opportunity to know Alan better, gain a better understanding of the breadth of his role in pastoral are in the City and of St Vedast’s in our local community. His enthusiasm is almost unbounded and were it to be bottled, it would be a potent mixture indeed.
I then have to conclude quickly with a brisk walk back to the Hall to interview a candidate for the Freedom and Livery who turns our to be an excellent prospect. Evening beckons and sees me at St Paul’s for Evensong followed by a recital by the Choir for supporters of choristers. at which I meet our new chorister, Benjamin Irvine-Capel who turns our to be a confident, personable young man with, I feel sure, a bright future ahead. A champagne and canape reception followed during which I chat to several City folk, notably Sir David Wootton, late Lord Mayor, where we discuss charitable giving and matters Masonic. A glass or two of Pol Roger really does set one up for the day ahead.
MASTER’S BLOG NO.5
Friday 12th and Saturday 13th September 2015
Heather and I have arrived for a day’s activities with one of our military affiliates. We are joined by PM Peter Baker as guests of their ‘in-house’ charity. This is a thank you to the Charity’s supporters, in our case, as representatives of the Plaisterers and for Peter, in recognition of his support both within and outside the Livery. After experiences with fast cars, guns and intrusive surveillance we concluded with a black tie dinner. Whilst yours truly was the only one not to keep his car on the skidpan, Heather is now a whizz at handbrake turns, doughnuts, lock picking and, don’t get on her wrong side as she is a demon with either a Glock 9mm or mini-me LMG! Peter, as you might expect of a Past Master Plaisterer, was brilliant at everything!
MASTER’S BLOG NO. 4
Monday 8th to Thursday 11th September
A week dominated by meetings, but first starting with the ‘tasting’ for the Autumn Livery Dinner at the Hall to select menu choices and wines to complement them, Tough job, but someone has to do it!
Following the tasting we have the Charity Trustees meeting where the focus is on selection of the student to receive our annual bursary at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama – choice made – a brilliant young concert pianist from India called Julian Clef, and yes, it is his real name, well real middle name – Google him for full details.
On Tuesday we have the Membership Committee and I’m really impressed with the quality of candidates in the pipeline. Wednesday we have back to back meetings of the Finance Committee followed by Industry Committee. Finally on Thursday, I chair the Training Awards management group as we enter the closing judging stage of this year’s competition and final planning towards the Awards Presentation event on 4th November with the Lord Mayor, Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE and BBC’s John Inverdale as our star attraction.
Thursday evening sees me arrive at Drapers’ Hall as a guest of the Fuellers’ Company at their annual lecture. On arrival I meet Sir Anthony Reardon Smith Bt, their clerk and fellow Welshman, catching the tail end of Lord Ezra’s book launch – those of a certain age will remember Derek Ezra as Chairman of the National Coal Board under the Callaghan Labour government of the 1970s. Now in his 90s, wheelchair bound, but still very sharp.
MASTER’S BLOG No.3
Monday 28th July
On this occasion joined by the Learned Clerk, for the Worshipful Company of Founders Summer Court Dinner at Founders’ Hall. Starting with preprandial drinks in the adjacent churchyard it was most certainly a precedent for me to have a ‘tipple’ amongst the gravestones to initiate proceedings for the evening. Nonetheless it proved another welcome opportunity to get to know my fellow masters better and vice versa.
In many ways, I should have a natural affinity for the Founders as I do have an honours degree in Metallurgy on which my early career was founded and, in fact, I did, but it also helped me realize how much I appreciate the more varied professional backgrounds of we ‘Plaisterers’. I did however particularly enjoy my chat with a fellow guest, Professor Jon Binner, with whom I shared reminiscences of my former tutors at Swansea University renowned for the quality of its graduates (always one exception to prove the rule!) and excellence of its research.
After dinner we retired to the churchyard and gravestones for post prandial drinks, but I managed to stay away from the spirits and catch my train home in good time.
Thursday 31st July & Friday 1st August
After a long drive down from the Midlands, Heather and I arrived early afternoon at HM Naval Base Devonport to be joined shortly later by Nigel.
Safely ensconced in the officers’ quarters in HMS Drake, we three were then conducted to Hasler Company, the specialist treatment unit within the base under the command of Maj. Scott (‘Scotty’) Mills RM. This unit focuses on the ‘Recovery Pathway’ which helps severely injured e.g., multiple amputees or with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or both) through the mental as well as physical recovery processes. After a detailed explanation of the structure and methodology of the unit together with examples of some of the cases with whom it deals, ‘Scotty’ then guided us through the new state of the art facilities recently opened by Prince Harry accompanied by the Duke of York (an opening ceremony which the Deputy Master had attended earlier in the year whilst Master). These facilities were seriously impressive and essentially funded by ‘Help for Heroes’.
That evening we were hosted to a 1 Assault Group Royal Marines Dinner in the Wardroom of HMS Drake by its CO, Col. Garth Manger. Joined by his senior officers and WO1 (RSM) together with two visiting officers from the Royal Netherlands Marines Corps. The quality of fayre and hospitality were first class. Col. Garth gave us a very warm welcome in a relaxed speech to which I responded, briefly explaining the history of our Company, the background to our association with the Corps and how greatly we valued it including my personal charity being the RMCTF.
After breakfast the following morning we met Col. Garth at 08:00 when he told me that he had written to the new Commandant General appraising him of our relationship with the Corps and also to the CO of CTCRM Lympstone advising him that he should invite us as soon as reasonably possible.
We then met the officers and men who had participated in the Landing Craft Assault Courses during which I responded to an invitation to introduce myself to the assembly and explain our association with the Corps and a little of the Company’s history which I duly did. We then listened to a 90 year old veteran of D-Day explain how he had brought his stricken landing craft away from Normandy back to Portsmouth. Another veteran ‘bootneck’ then described how he had landed on Juno beach augmenting the Winnipeg Rifles. I was immediately grateful that my words preceded those of heroes rather than having to follow them.
Following dispersal, we regathered outside by the Falklands Memorial alongside the River Tamar at which I had the privilege of presenting certificates to all those passing out on the LC1 Course together with the Plaisterers’ trophy and cheque to the top student as well as an extremely large RM trophy.
This rounded off an incredible first few weeks of my year as your Master and now for a few weeks off!
MASTER’S BLOG No.2
Tuesday 22nd July
Our first joint engagement as Master and Mistress Plaisterer! The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects Election Service followed by dinner. Firstly at St. Andrews by the Wardrobe. Sounds like something out of C.S.Lewis, doesn’t it? Apparently whilst the Crown Jewels remained at the Tower, it was decided a few hundred years ago, to rehouse the Crown Robes in a building near to St. Andrew’s church ie., the Wardrobe. Two very familiar and welcome faces greeted us on arrival in the form of the Deputy Master and Stephen Upperdine who were personal guests of the Master Chartered Architect, Jaki Howes.
After an enjoyable service which included a magnificent choral piece by Thomas Tallis, superbly executed by the English Chamber Choir, we were addressed by the Honorary Chaplain Canon David Parrott who most will identify with St. Lawrence Jewry.
Dinner was held at Apothecaries’ Hall where, flanked each side of the Master were myself and the Principal Guest and Speaker, Ald. Alan Yarrow, Senior Alderman-Below-the-Chair. As an aside to me he recalled an earlier visit to our Hall as Sheriff for the Training Awards, praising the event greatly and lauding our Company for its ongoing efforts in supporting trade education and training.
Thursday 24th July
Not an official engagement, but a quick opportunity to take in some evening light musical entertainment whilst listening to mixed bands of the Princess of Wales Regt. and the City Yeomanry in Guildhall Yard. Coincidentally Heather and I met up with Past Master Robin and Rosemary Doran, Graham Withers, Margaret Coates and De Bradshaw. Whilst the Dorans sensibly elected to retire, we remaining stalwarts decided to set off for the Lord Raglan to ready ourselves for the demands of the following day.
Friday 25th July
A day for the Royal Marines. Starting with the 350th Anniversary Drumhead Service conducted by the Chaplain of 42 Commando, The Reverend D. Wylie RN and the, seemingly ubiquitous, Reverend David Parrott. Joining a number of Plaisterers and 282 Squadron Air Cadets, we were entertained by the combined bands of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth and Collingwood. We joined in singing ‘Cwm Rhondda’, but not ‘Delilah’, on this more sombre occasion and were then greatly impressed by the crisp drill precision of ‘42’. It was especially appropriate that we should all be assembled at the birthplace of the Corps in 1664, the Artillery Garden, Bunhill Fields, in the presence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Fiona Woolf.
At the conclusion of the Service, the Learned Clerk then led the way, hurriedly followed by Mrs. Angela Bamping, Heather and myself to gain a vantage point outside the Mansion House to view the ensuing Freedom March past on its way to further drill display in Guildhall yard where we four joined them.
We then made our way into the Great Hall as VIP guests for the official City of London Corporation reception, which afforded me the planned opportunity of presenting Jonathan Ball, Chief Executive of the RM Charitable Trust Fund, with a cheque for just over £3,500 from the Plaisterers’ Lodge as the RMCTF had been one of my two personal charities whilst Worshipful Master in 2013/14. Jonathan and Maj.Gen. Jerry Thomas RM, Chairman of Trustees, thanked me greatly and I know that Jonathan has subsequently written to the Lodge Charity Steward. I then ‘circulated’ and met many Marines and officers that I would meet again in the months to come.
MASTER’S BLOG No.1
TUESDAY 15th JULY
The big day at last! Watching De welcome in the new Freemen and robe the new Liverymen with such relaxed and consumate ease and then ‘I’m in the Chair and hit the ground running’. Superb service in St. Vedast’s then photos, many, many congratulations, big speech, zero nerves (I was frankly elated, excited, to say euphoric is no exaggeration with virtually no alcohol to fuel it). It was like Wales winning another Grand Slam and Christmas combined, with my wife Heather and our daughter Karen to share it. Yet, at the same time, a consciousness of the immense privilege, honour and responsibility that comes with it. Still today was for enjoying and savouring!
Wednesday 16th July
I did say ‘hit the ground running’. My first engagement as Master. A combined 350th anniversary celebration of the Needlemakers’ and Glass Sellers Companies granting of their respective charters with evensong at St. Paul’s followed by Beating Retreat in Guildhall Yard and a reception in the old Library of Guildhall.
As a new master you have ‘novelty value’ and are in high demand to be introduced to as many masters as possible in as short a time as possible. My predecessor De is (unsurprisingly) spoken of highly and already in much missed terms. The Master Baker enquires as ‘what I have done with De and whether I have buried her out the back of Plaisterers’ Hall,’ to which I replied, with a wink, “Certainly not, if you must know, she’s in the Thames!”
Thursday 17th July
Still hitting the ground and running with a morning engagement attending the Imperial Society of Knights bachelor for their Annual Service of Dedication for new Knights Bachelor in St. Faith’s Chapel in the Crypt of St. Paul’s. Wonderful address by our Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. Very formal with most wearing Morning Coat whilst I went for the alternative and less formal option of dark lounge suit. A reception followed in the courtyard of Apothecaries’ Hall. Chatted to several eminent knights, mostly politicians, with one former Scottish minister in a Thatcher cabinet expressing his frustrated concern at the prospect of Scottish independence. The Master Barber Surgeon, Lord Ribero, apparently in his 80’s, intended to cycle to the House of Lords still in full morning attire on what was turning out to be one of the hottest days of a very warm Summer. (I saw him later that evening in a televised debate from the Lords and so he made it, however he got there).