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Scottish Court & Livery Dinner – the Signet Library Edinburgh

On the 22nd September Liverymen and their guests met at the Signet Library for the annual Scottish dinner at this unique and splendid venue in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town completed in 1822 in time for the celebrated visit to Edinburgh of King George IV, who described the upper library, where we enjoyed dinner, as “the finest drawing room in Europe”

This is our fifth dinner at the Signet Library, and we received unprecedented demand for tickets so much so we were at near capacity of the venue with 218 Liverymen and Guests attending.

Prior to dinner, guests were welcomed by the Master and Wardens followed by a drinks reception where we enjoyed a Pickering’s Gin & Tonic or a Arbikie Highland Rye.

After catching up with friends and colleagues, we moved to the upstairs library to enjoy a three-course dinner along with wines selected by the Spirit and Wine Committee and we thank them for their splendid choices. After dinner Immediate past Master Driver introduced us to the new “alternative’ loving cup celebrated with a dram of Drambuie with each diner pouring the contents of their miniature into the glass of their neighbour in the interests of fellowship. With coffee we enjoyed a dram of Tamdhu 15 year old.

And so to the speeches. First off, Liveryman Annabel Meikle proposed the toast to our Guests.

Highlighting the Court meeting earlier in the afternoon, she introduced the three new Liverymen, five new Corporate Freemen, and three new Freemen of the Company who all swore their various oaths at the Court meeting. She also introduced the visiting Masters Alan Robertson, Master of the Royal Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh, Graeme Kidd, Deacon of the Incorporation of Coopers of Glasgow and David Moore, Visitor of the Incorporation of Maltmen of Glasgow. Last, but by no means least, our principal speaker, Mark Kent CMG, CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association. Before making the toast, Annabel reflected that this is the 21st anniversary of her entering the Scotch Whisky Industry. Throughout her career she has been impressed by the collegiate nature of the industry which she hadn’t experienced before and her guests were those that had helped her throughout her career. “Whilst all attending this evening might be competitors in the marketplace tonight we are here as Liverymen; we leave our swords at the door and break bread”.

Mark Kent CMG had the unenviable task of responding. A diplomat by trade and a past ambassador to the likes of Argentina, Thailand and Vietnam he has seen first-hand the “soft power” that Scotch can have in international markets. Being relatively new to the industry (joining the SWA in January this year) it was clear to him the importance of community and collaboration that the Scotch Whisky Industry has. Whilst individual companies and organisations have their own identities there is also a collective identity, Scotch Whisky and distilling extending to the ancillary trades that make the industry work, and the link to communities where distilling and bottling takes place. The sense of community and giving back is encompassed in the Distillers 1 of 1 Auction and its support of the Youth Impact Fund. He thanked the Worshipful Company of Distillers and Distillers Ventures for all their work to strengthen the bonds between us and our collective community of distilling and the wider home communities in Scotland which is so important in strengthening our sense of responsibility and reputation. In closing he proposed the toast to the Worshipful Company of Distillers and The Master.

Our Master, in responding, first had the pleasurable duty of announcing the winners and runners up of this year’s golf competition in Scotland. In the Plate competition Brian Morrison was runner up to Nigel Mills and in the Championship Gordon Doctor (a previous winner on several occasions) was runner up to winner Neil Turnbull. Congratulations to the winners and all those that took part in the competition.

The Master had many thank yous to make; the staff at the Signet Library for a delicious meal and service, the Spirit & Wine Committee, especially David Hunter, for their work in selecting and sourcing splendid wines for the dinner, the Scottish Committee for all their efforts in organising various aspects (from Beadle to photography and many other roles), Kim Lyons, our Assistant Clerk, for all her hard work in making sure all aspects of the dinner ran smoothly, and last, but not least, to all those in the hall for attending and making the dinner such a great success.

We then returned to the lower library for a Stirrup Cup, including some refreshing ales from Barney’s and Bellfield Beers, before heading for home after a most enjoyable evening meeting old friends and making new acquaintances.

Michael Urquhart CBE
Chair of the Scottish Committee