May began with the annual City Debate, the trend of gin being the theme, which was very well attended by Liverymen and people from the City and press. I was pleased to see a number of Masters from other Livery Companies attending. It is an event that has become a key fixture on the City and Livery calendar.
I was a guest of the Gin Guild for the annual Gin Industry dinner held in Guildhall the following week. The new Installations of members takes the total to 330 – a remarkable achievement in seven years.
I attended my first Old Codgers lunch… as a new member. This organisation brings together former executives from the drinks industry and it was an opportunity to catch up with industry luminaries I had not seen for some years. Our senior Liverymen occupy key positions in this August body.
On 15 May I attended the Royal Gala Dinner to celebrate the reopening of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich. This was in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal who spoke about the important role the Royal Naval College has played through history and its importance to the Royal Family – especially her father who was made Baron Greenwich on the morning of his wedding and who spent time there as an officer.
The following day the ancient Guildable Manor of Southwark held a “Legal”! dinner for senior members of the legal profession to which the Mistress and I were invited. The guest speaker was Lady Hale President Head of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The dinner was held in Southwark at Amigo Hall and followed their ancient tradition including the sought after roles of Ale taster and Flesh taster (the latter referring to meat and the responsibility to sample what we were about to receive as a main course in full view of all present to ensure it was of good quality and bore no trace of poison.).
During the weekend if the 18th May the Mistress and I were invited to join the Anglo Normand Squadron of the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac who were holding their annual event for the first time in Cambridge at Christ’s College.
This was the chance for me to represent the British Squadron of Les Mousquetaires which was formed last year and to walk through the streets of Cambridge in the cloak and sash of the Compagnie alongside other Capitaine Lieutenants from countries such as Belgium Switzerland Holland and Turkey.
The 21st May was the afternoon of the Buckingham Palace Garden Party to which we with other Masters and Mistresses were invited. This was preceded by a lunch organised by the Master Actuary which as his profession would suggest had been planned well in advance of the date!
A most convivial event from which we all moved effortlessly into the gardens of the Palace and awaited Her Majesty who appeared on the stroke of 4pm along with other prominent members of the Royal Family. It was a glorious early summer afternoon the supplies of tea and sandwiches were plentiful and militarybands accompanied the festivities.
The Master Baker invited the Learned Clerk and myself to a Master and Clerks lunch at Bakers Hall during which witty speeches between the Master and Clerk were exchanged – based on the traditional mutual respect between the two roles!
Sides in the exchanges were taken by those present with the Masters of course being correct in all their observations about the irreplaceable and ancient role of the Clerk and the way it is (occasionally) undertaken today. All agreed that the Masters are always right….
The Master Baker reminded me that yeast was a key component in the production of spirits and that perhaps the Bakers should be considered as potential Cask Group Members. We are keen to revive The Cask Group of drinks related Liveries, so this may be an opportunity.
The Master Baker generously served Jameson Irish Whiskey at his convivial Stirrup cup during the afternoon and as an Ulsterman he was also keen on Bushmills a whiskey whose iconic location by the Giants Causeway is legendary.
We were invited by the Master and Mistress of the Cutlers of Hallamshire to their annual Feast in Sheffield in their magnificent Cutlers Hall. This imposing Victorian Hall in the central historic part of the city directly opposite the Cathedral contains treasures and artefacts gathered over the centuries including many items of Sheffield hall marked silver and silver plate.
It also contains Art Deco doors and light fittings from the ocean going liner and sister ship to the Titanic – the Olympic.
The Guest Speaker was David Liddington number two in the government to Theresa May, who made the journey on the eve of her resignation as Prime Minister. Leading figures from business industry and the public sector as well as 25 Masters and Consorts of London Livery Companies were present.
The following day a visit to a steel producer in Rotherham had been organised. We witnessed a very mechanised and computer driven process.
This gave a fascinating insight into heavy industry and why its continuing role remains important to the UK and the development of our infrastructure.
An invitation to attend the Major General’s Review at Horse Guards Parade from the London Regiment A Company (London Scottish) our Military Affiliate rounded off the month very well. This is a dress rehearsal for the Trooping of the Colour with everyone present except the Queen.
The music choreography and horsemanship on display from the servicemen and women on parade was of the highest standard and fiercely impressive when one considers they practice their roles in this Ceremony for only six weeks and the rest of the time they are defending our country.
Our London Scottish Liaison Liveryman James Higgins and I attended a lunch afterwards as the guests of London Scottish at their historic HQ in Victoria where pipers entertained us and mortar and machine gun crews explained in detail the reality of life in the field after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Their motto “Strike Sure” is one they live and fight by and as a part of the London Reserve Regiment they come from all walks of life and professions and are ready to serve when the call comes.
Inspiring and impressive.