I was advised by several seasoned liverymen that August would be a quiet month and so headed to Jersey with the family, returning to the UK just before the Bank Holiday.
A few highlights to report on what’s happened since:
Saturday 1st September
And what a way to begin the late summer season! All Masters and Consorts had been invited to a drumhead service at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea to commemorate the role of the London Division in the actions around Amiens in 1918 that proved so decisive in destroying the morale of the German army. Gathered in warm sunshine, the congregation heard the distant sound of a pipe band parading through Chelsea with the Pensioners of the Royal Hospital marching behind in their red frock coats and tricorne hats. The units on parade filled the fourth side of the open square and were stood at ease before the former Bishop of London, now Lord Chartres, conducted the service.
A reception was held afterwards when you could tell where fellow guests had been sitting in relation to the sun from the high colour on one side of their face!
Thursday, 6th September
Tourists in the City of London were treated to the spectacle of 40 members of various livery companies in full rig, including Tudor style hats in some cases, on a sponsored walk around the halls. It is a fine way to get to know other Masters and Renter Wardens, and I was delighted that Margaret Coates, our very own RW, was with me to provide moral support as we trudged on our 8 mile walk around the City.
Mid afternoon tea was becoming a beacon for many as the walk entered its sixth mile. Alas, a breakdown in communication resulted in no tea being available and be-gowned shoulders visibly slumping!
But some of us were carrying the expectation of those who had sponsored us – for the Plaisterers duo with over £2,000.00 being pledged for Shaw Trust, my charity of the year, thanks to the generosity of many members of the Company.
Wednesday, 12th September
After evensong at St Paul’s the Dean hosted a reception to thank those companies who support the choir, in our case by sponsoring a chorister. Oliver Davies has recently been nominated by his headmaster as the new Plaisterer’s Chorister. The Clerk and I met Oliver who at 8 is new to the choir but benefits from two elder brothers in senior years and so is familiar with the weekly routine and the limited amount of time he will be spending at home – just Sunday night, before returning to St Paul’s by 7am on Monday morning.
The photograph evidences Oliver’s zest for his new life, and also the skill of our Clerk in accommodating Oliver and me in a single photograph!
‘’Put the glass down, Master!’’ may become a familiar retort this year. On Wednesday it was necessary as the Clerk and I needed to leave the reception early in order to catch the train for our visit to HMS Dragon the following day.
Thursday, 13th September
Our affiliation with HMS Dragon is long established and the Clerk and I were glad to be able to visit her before she sails on a 7 month assignment to the Middle East. After breakfast with the captain and his senior team we toured the vessel in glorious weather as more visitors arrived, coachloads in fact – the families of the ship’s company who will on Monday wave goodbye as Dragon sails from Portsmouth. Plans are in hand for the ship to be in Dubai for the Christmas period allowing some families time together.
We hope that the Captain will be able to join us at the banquet in May when I will present the Navy Cup to a member of the ship’s company who has demonstrated leadership and commitment during the tour.
Our liaison officer has offered to send regular bulletins if time allows which we’ll include in the Clerk’s monthly newsletter.
It’s just a week since Common Hall and my subsequent installation as Master and already the rich experience of representing the Company means that the role is happily on my mind for part of each day.
And what a fine start to the year with a memorable service at St Vedast’s conducted by our Hon. Chaplain, The Very Revd Charles Taylor, and the livery responding in full voice to my cheeky exhortation to join in the hymns. With more than a nod to our wedding day both the processional music and first hymn were lifted from the 1987 order of service. Chilled champagne – hurrah! – was waiting for us as we returned to the Hall. The menu choices for our first dinner as Master & Mistress seemed to please – another tick in the box – and having laid out my three objectives for the year I was glad to call out two veteran liverymen whose presence meant a great deal to me : PM Derek Robinson, the doyen of the company, who undertook his wartime training with the RAF at the same time as my Father, and PM Ron Jordan who was celebrating his 95th birthday on the following day.
Thursday, 19th July
Having celebrated with two senior members it was a delight to join PM Jones and his granddaughter, Poppy, at Guildhall for her registration as an apprentice bound to the Company.
The Clerk and I provided book ends to the family photo in our morning coats. Collecting the Mistress at the Hall we set off through stifling City streets for St Paul’s and the annual service of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor when an old friend, Lancaster Herald from the College of Arms was on duty resplendent in red and gold uniform and carrying his wand of office.
At the subsequent reception at Apothecaries’ Hall I was greeted as the youngest Master, a title that will quickly disappear given the clutch of installations at the end of July and into August: but nice to have the accolade and interest, if only for a brief moment.
Tuesday, 24th July
For a number of years The Distillers have held a reception where guests sample hundreds of award-winning spirits – for a new master a great mixer so to speak!
I was particularly glad to meet the Master Distiller who is combining his role in the livery with being High Sheriff of Essex – an extraordinary achievement and one that will demand very careful logistics every day. It was great to see a group from our near neighbours, the Barbers, including the incoming Master and their new clerk, Colonel Malachy Doran formerly of The Rifles and old friend of the Director of the National Army Museum. Malachy persuaded us to choose a number at random and then sample whichever spirit it matched. I blame him for my first experience of a buff coloured gin from West Virginia which had the appearance and taste of a bourbon!
Thursday, 26th July
I met the Mistress at Plymouth railway station. I was on the train from Paddington whilst Sara had been visiting her sister in Exeter. In a scene reminiscent of Thomas the tank engine train and car had tracked one another through Devon, arriving at Plymouth within 5 minutes of one another.
Our hosts at RM Tamar were as solicitous as ever, inviting us to a Mess Dinner with a band rehearsing on the lawns outside the open window. As a sergeant was being dined out, we indulged in the tradition of the friendship cup not dissimilar to our own Loving Cup but containing far more alcohol and with the expectation that you down it one and invert the cup over your head to demonstrate it’s empty. I suspect that as a guest I was given a double shot – 8 measures of port and 4 of rum – more than I consume in a month! But my student years must have helped and I was on parade the following morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and determined to confound the sergeant.
It was a huge pleasure to present tankards and cheques to the top students on four very competitive courses and then be shown around the dock where an array of landing craft is moored, some highly agile with capacity for six marines whilst others are reminiscent of the vessels used in June, 1944 to storm beaches on D Day.