Master’s Blog – October 2019

If September seemed busy – October was supercharged.  It was undoubtedly the busiest month in the Master’s year.  It began with an invitation to the Glovers’ Mansion House Banquet – during which the Mistress and I were each formally presented with a pair of bespoke leather gloves … which remarkably fitted “like a glove”.  The Master Glover had invited us and the Master and Mistress Cook as his personal guests – and made the point in his speech how food and distilled spirits had been key to his appreciation of the year.

The following day was Common Hall – the election of the next Lord Mayor which took place in the Guildhall.  All Livery Masters are gowned and attend a service at St Lawrence Jewry in the presence of the Lord Mayor before processing, in reverse order of precedence, into the Guildhall.

The election itself is an elaborate and time honoured ceremony, resplendent with medieval costumes, and the Town Crier shouting “OYEZ” and all Aldermen and Common Councilmen  from the City of London Corporation being present.  There were 3 candidates and William Russell was selected in a show of hands to be London’s 692nd Lord Mayor – and Head of the City of London Corporation.

Following this the Clerk, Master Elect and myself attended lunch along with Masters of other Livery Companies at the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall.

At 5 pm all Masters attended Evensong arranged by the Musicians’ Company where we sat in the choir stalls of St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a Reception in the Crypt.

The following day I was honoured to be invited to a private celebration by the Hayman family to celebrate Christopher Hayman’s 50 years as a Distiller.  This took place in the Hayman Distillery in Balham which the Wardens and I had ‘inspected’ in July and which had passed with flying colours.  A special edition ‘Rare Cut’ Hayman’s Gin had been produced to commemorate this milestone.

The following Monday it was back to the Guildhall for an evening reception hosted by the Livery Committee to thank Richard Regan the Past Chairman for all his work.  This was attended by a large number of Masters and City Officials.

The Vintage Festival took place the next day, October 8th, at St James Garlickhythe, followed by lunch in Vintners’ Hall.  The Brewers, Vintners and Distillers get together for this rousing service of thanks for the fruits of the earth, which form the basis of our Company products – and the lunch afterwards is a relaxed affair, thoroughly enjoyed by all. 

Later that day we had our inaugural Founder’s Day Event in the Crypt of St Martin in the Fields, where the Memorial to our Founder, Sir Theodore de Mayerne, is located.

The Service of Rededication was performed by our Chaplain, Rev Canon David Parrott, and attended by over 40 Liverymen and members of the Court.  A history of our Company and the role of our Founder was described in speeches by the Father of the Court, Charles Minoprio, and by Liveryman Malcolm Davis.

A commemorative glass to mark the occasion had been produced by Liveryman Raymond Davidson of Cairngorm Glass.  We also presented a cheque for £2,500 for this year’s Master’s Charity to The Connection at St Martin in the Fields – a charity for the homeless and rough sleepers of London for whom St Martin in the Fields have been providing support for over 100 years.

The Brewers’ Lunch at Brewers’ Hall was a most convivial event hosted by the Master Simon Theakston.  It is traditional for the Loyal Toast to be given with a special brew produced by the Master and served in small glasses.  This year was no exception – a Theakston’s at 7.5% strength had been brewed for the occasion.

That same day I was invited to the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights’ Dinner at Skinners’ Hall – one of the most attractive in the City and which has recently been refurbished.  The Wheelwrights are 68th in order of precedence – we are 69th, and so we have got to know each other well during the year, because as Masters we often stand together when we process.

The following day was our Mansion House Banquet preceded by the Installation of a new Grand Rectifier of the Gin Guild, which I performed, and the installation of new members of the Guild performed by Dr Anne Brock, the new Grand Rectifier.  The Gin Guild now has 366 members.

We were honoured to have the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and the 2 Sheriffs and their Consorts as our guests.  There were 293 people at the Banquet – a record number for our Company which included members of the Gin Guild and guests of our Liverymen.  The Sung Grace and National Anthem were included in our programme.  The Lord Mayor paid tribute to our Company and our charitable activities.  Our Guest Speaker, Kate Robertson, Co-Founder of One Young World, made a speech about this remarkable international organisation – the “Davos for young people” – whose annual conference would be taking place in London later in the month.  I presented the Lord Mayor with the first bottle of this year’s Master’s Cask Armagnac, and each of the Sheriffs with a Quaich bearing our Company Crest.

The following week I attended the Coopers’ Dinner in Coopers’ Hall – one of the smallest Halls in the City, where our Development Director, Clive Bairsto, had been invited to give the speech on the subject of mentoring and the approach that our Company was taking on this subject.

The Worshipful Company of Art Scholars held a Lecture and Reception the following day on the subject of medieval palaces in the City of London.  This was held in the new Bloomberg Building in the City below which the Roman Temple of Mithras is located and a tour of the Temple had been arranged beforehand.

Southwark Cathedral was the location  chosen for the Memorial  Service to Past Master Simon Leschallas (2010).  Many Liverymen and Past Masters from our Company were present, as were Liverymen of the Vintners’ Company.  Simon had also been Master of the Vintners (2016) and was probably unique in holding both roles.  The Cathedral was packed and the service was warm, moving and inclusive as members of Simon’s family and the eulogy read by his great friend, Bertie Gore-Brown, reminded us of Simon’s many qualities which had made him such a popular and well respected figure in the drinks business.  His sense of humour and fun were highlighted and his conviviality illustrated by the opening of a bottle of Bollinger champagne at the end of the eulogy – and as the cork popped we were all encouraged to raise an imaginary glass to toast the life of a great man.

Bollinger champagne was served at the end of the memorial service in the cathedral – a brand that will be forever associated with Simon.

Later that day the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust was held in Vintners’ Hall.  Ian Harris, Honorary Court Assistant and CEO of the WSET, made a speech which highlighted the remarkable performance of the Trust which the Distillers helped to establish 50 years ago and which now educates 100,000 students annually around the world.  Many eminent members of the international wine and spirit business were present.

The following week we held an informal dinner and then visit to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, at which 15 of our Liverymen were present.  Following the ceremony, the oldest continuous military ceremony in the world –when the Tower is safely locked up for the night – we were invited by the Yeoman Warders to drink in their own pub, located within the Tower, ‘The Keys’.  We left just before midnight, when the Tower gate was reopened to allow us to leave discreetly – giving a fresh perspective on the term ‘A Lock In’.

The Master and Wardens Meeting, which reviews all Company business and progress on projects took place on 24 October and was followed by the Freedom Ceremony for 7 new candidates – all of whom had relevant backgrounds and displayed great motivation for participating in the life of our Company.  They will go forward to take the Freedom of the City of London and then be admitted into the Livery at a future Court Meeting.

I was invited to the annual Guild Feast in Basel of the Zunft zu Rebleuten (Guild of Wine Growers).  This takes place during the last weekend of October and celebrates the wine harvest in the region of Basel.  The Guild was established in 1366 and has many traditions – flags, uniforms, a Guild song and initiation ceremonies for new members.  It took place in the Riding School of a magnificent country house just outside the city.  The Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister was Guest of Honour.

We have had an association with the Guild for several years.  The previous Meister, Edi Etter, is a Liveryman of our Company and served as Meister of the Guild for 15 years.  The new Meister, Fabian Bebler, will receive the Freedom of our Company at the Court Meeting on November 21st.

The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers hosted a Reception for Masters of Livery Companies at which the plans for a new Centre for Music were unveiled which would be located next to Ironmongers’ Hall and form part of a ‘Culture Mile’ in the City, starting with the Tate Modern in Southwark.

By contrast the following day a number of Masters had been invited to a Gallery in Homerton, East London, to attend the opening of an exhibition by Vivienne Havell of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers.  She created the altar cloth for St Lawrence Jewry on the back of which are embroidered the crests of the Livery Companies for which St Lawrence Jewry is their Company Church – including our own.  The Master of the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers explained how his Company had evolved over the years.

The following day the Lady Mayoress hosted an ‘At Home’ in the Mansion House for all Masters and Consorts of Livery Companies.  She gave a speech in which she highlighted the key points of their year – with the Lord Mayor at her side and nodding in agreement.  The speech was made from her perspective and it was a chance for her to thank the Livery Companies and members of the Corporation and Mansion House staff for the support she and the Lord Mayor had received during their year, which will end on November 8th.

A quick change into Black Tie at the Caledonian Club before joining the Master Elect, Kenny McKay and Steward James Higgins for the London Scottish Hallowe’en Dinner ‘In the Field’ at the Regimental HQ in Horseferry Road.

This is the most important event of the Regiment’s year which commemorates the First Battle of Ypres (Messines Ridge) on 31st October 1914.  The London Scottish were the first volunteer regiment to see action in the First World War.  The Pipes and Drums of the Regiment, the oldest such volunteer band in the world, formed in 1859, wearing their distinctive Hodden Grey tartan uniform, provided uplifting musical entertainment and speeches by the Colonel, Major General Alastair Bruce, and the Guest of honour, Lt General Richard Nugee, and Commanding Officer Major Jamie Barklem, who gave a ‘State of the Nation’ report, were well received.  The London Scottish is part of the London Regiment of Volunteers, the only reserve regiment in the Guards Division, and is in good spirits, proud of their history and the role they perform today.  The first ‘Great After War Reunion’ of the London Scottish Regiment took place at Olympia on 29th October 1919 – 100 years ago.  Major Barklem will take the Company Livery on 21 November.  STRIKE SURE.