Motoring in the Highlands – Master’s Blog

It’s September and Scotland calls. With the promise of good weather and fine roads I joined the rally charity organised by Liverymen Peter Mackay and Alex Bruce. They had come up with the brilliant idea of a drive through some of the most beautiful back roads from the Dumfries border to Speyside and back to visit the new and revived distilleries that have sprung up across the country. Some 600 miles later, having flown to Glasgow to pick up a 1964 Porsche that had been trailered from the south, I had visited seven distilleries from Annandale through Kingbarns at St Andrews, Daftmill on a farm then on to Arberargie near Perth, Ballindalloch on Speyside then back to Edinburgh via Aberfeldy. The hospitality was the stuff of legends, from The Glen House at the Glendronach Distillery to the final dinner at the ancestral home of the Earls of Elgin. An amazing feat for the intrepid crews, and a large cheque for our charity at the end.

Celebrating with the Apothecaries

Distillers were Apothecaries once, when spirits were distilled for medical purposes, to sweeten the air, and to ward off infectious diseases. Having broken away from the Society of Apothecaries to create our own Company by Royal Charter in 1638, I was happy to know that this is not being held against us when I was invited to attend their 400th Anniversary celebration at St Pauls, followed by a tincture at their hall – purely for medicinal purposes of course. It was nteresting to hear of their history and present day connections with the modern pharmaceutical trade. We are comparing notes on our origins and hope to be able to be update our history which needs more depth and detail.

Election time

Common Hall for the election of the new Lord Mayor is a wonderfully elaborate historic ceremony. Held in the Guildhall packed with Liverymen, the various candidates were voted through with a show of order papers. When the candidates appear the cries of “ Aye “ “Next” or “Later” signify the preferred ones and following a brief consultation the winner is declared, this year it will be Charles Bowman, a partner in Price Waterhouse. Now the stage is set for his confirmation, and in November his admittance, before the celebrations of the Lord Mayor’s show, amid much feasting. The poor outgoing Lord Mayor has to go into purdah for six months only being allowed even to enter the square mile with permission from his successor. While saying a fond farewell in November to our good friend Dr Andrew Parmley (soon to re-emerge as Master Vintner (if elected) ) we will welcome his successor and look forward to supporting and working with him in an exciting new year.

Meeting in Line

Processing is something that you get rather used to as a Master and St Paul’s Cathedral features in these events very frequently. As we all line up in order of precedence, from the Mercers as No 1 to the Art Scholars at No 110 you get used to meeting the ones around you, in our case the Gardeners, the Tin Plate Workers, the Wheelwrights, the Pattenmakers and Glassellers. No sooner are you together then off you process to some formal occasion or service. The Mistresses though tend to meet at social occasions, at a visit to Kew Gardens, or over a nice lunch and a glass of wine, so when we all get together they often do the introductions. Funny reversal of roles and really rather nice.

Celebrating the Vintage

The Vintage Festival, which was in danger of being lost, has risen again and now takes place in our local Wren church St James’s Garlickhythe opposite the Vintners Hall.   The new priest in charge Father Tim Handley presided over this year’s service; he was kind to the congregation with the choice of hymns – to which we responded with good lusty singing and firm responses. A delightful lunch followed across the road where generosity was the theme; the order of service had five references to grain, corn and wheat and only a slight nudge towards the grape, which made the assembled Distillers and Brewers feel rather well looked after. Perhaps the warming of the Sussex Downs and refinement of English wines will bring forward English hymn writers to acknowledge the noble grape in the future.

Mansion House Banquet

And so to the Mansion House Banquet, the premier event of the year and the privilege of dining in the magnificence of the Egyptian Room in the home of the Lord Mayor. After the excitement of the induction ceremony of the Gin Guild the guests arrived, smartly turned out in their white ties and tails, or flowing ball gowns. The pipers piped, the musicians played, the food was served and the cocktails and wine flowed. The noise level rose until order was called – the toasts, the loving cup, and then the speeches; first the Lord Mayor with his trademark wit and wisdom, then the Master to introduce the guests, and finally the guest of honour, Air Marshal Sir David Walker, the Honorary Commodore of our new RAF affiliate 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron who spoke of his various exploits with the Master in charity events at Buckingham Palace and Goodwood, before toasting the new relationship. A memorable evening graced with the presence of both new sheriffs and their consorts, guests from Sandringham and the Royal Warrant holders, the Grand Master of the Keepers of the Quaich, Gin Guild members all over the world, even Japan and India and a full house of Liverymen and their consorts and guests.   Thrilling and very special.