This year’s February Livery lunch was held on Wednesday, 13th February at the magnificent Vintners’ Hall. It followed a morning Court meeting where The Master presented the Livery to David Croll, Paul Hick, Iain Stirling and John Stirling. Major Jamie Barklem (Commanding Officer of London Scottish), Commander Duncan Thomas (825 Naval Air Squadron), and Dr Dawn Maskell (Head of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University) each received the Freedom of the Company by Presentation. Gary Horsfield of William Grant & Sons, was made a Corporate Freeman, Trevor Stirling was appointed as Steward and Garvin Brown IV and Justin Hicklin were appointed Court Assistants.
In proposing a toast to the guests, in a speech peppered with multiple puns, Mr Nicholas Cook introduced the former Lord Mayor Sir Roger Gifford, as well as the Master of The Worshipful Company of Innholders the Reverend Canon Bill Christianson, who attended with his Clerk, Mr Charles Henty. Nicholas also introduced The Master’s personal guests: Amanda Garnham from the National Armagnac Bureau in France (who is also a Mousquetaire with the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac) and Christopher Hayward (a Past Master of the Patten Makers and a Candidate for non-Aldermanic Sheriff in the elections in June).
He also welcomed the guest speaker, Mr Tony Hales, CBE. Tony was the CEO of Allied Domecq for eight years, at a time when it was one of the biggest British companies and had a large spirits portfolio. Outside the world of spirits, Tony has a wide range of business and artistic interests, including Chair of the NAAFI Pension Fund, Workspace, and British Waterways and Canal and River Trust as well as being a director of Welsh National Opera. He was also a director of Aston Villa for 10 years while they were in the Premiership! Tony currently Chairs the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, the Greenwich Foundation and is an Honorary Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is a liveryman of the Brewers Company and when time permits, he plays the saxophone.
In his speech, Tony ranged widely, including the disputes between The Brewers and the Lord Mayor Dick Whittington, who persistently fined the Brewers or threatened the Master and Wardens with imprisonment for, among other things taking too much water from the Chepe Conduit, artificially increasing the price of malt and overcharging for beer, disputes which may have cost the Brewers 10 places in the order of precedence. He also reminisced about the challenges of being CEO of a global spirits company at a time when many emerging markets were even less stable than they are today and norms of responsible marketing were different.
In his closing speech, The Master, Mr Martin Riley, picked up on several of the themes of Tony’s speech, in particular the challenges and rewards of doing business in Russia just after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Master also recognised Nicholas Cook for his very generous donation of Gin Guild tasting fees to the Charitable Fund and the appointment of former Air Vice Marshal Clive Bairsto, CBE as Development Director for the Livery.
The Master concluded the lunch by presenting the Livery golf prizes and the Distillers’ Company’s Scholarship Award to Ms Diana Lyalle (Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s Diploma).
Following generous quantities of Taylor’s Vargellas 2001 Port, Chivas 18 Years Old and Janneau Armagnac VSOP, the guests retired for a restorative stirrup cup with the Master, where they were joined by the consorts of Liverymen who had dined with the Mistress at a separate lunch at The Innholders’ Hall.