Master’s Blog – March 2020

Master’s Blog – March 2020

The beginning of March doesn’t seem a month ago.

It seems more like a different age on another planet.

Although Covid 19 was already beginning to raise it’s ugly head and wreak havoc on our Livery plans (more on that later), it seemed still distant and something that was happening elsewhere in the world.

Life in the City of London was more or less normal, other than a few curious individuals who were touching elbows rather than shaking hands.

In fact, the first week of March was one of my busiest so far in this Livery year!!

On Monday 3rd I attended the Derek Melluish Memorial Lecture in St Lawrence Jewry Church given by Blondel Cluff CBE. Blondel is CEO of the West India Committee and her lecture “London The West Indian City” was incredibly informative and focussed on the role The West Indies played in the development of The City of London.

A quick supper with The Upper Warden and the last train home to my Sister in Law’s before a 6.30 next day departure for The West Country! The early morning drive to Plymouth was in the most beautiful early Spring day and we arrived at HMS Devonport with time to spare.

As guests of Commander Ollie Hucker and the Port crew of HMS Montrose, the Liverymen and guests attending as well as The Mistress and I had the most memorable day. We were treated to some great hospitality at lunch in their shore based headquarters and dinner in The HMS Drake Wardroom, but the highlight was , without doubt, being able to witness the sheer professionalism of the young people in the crew first hand as they went about their training exercises. Ollie gave us a presentation before dinner and as well as outlining the capabilities of HMS Montrose he concluded by confirming that The Royal Navy is in good heart and that the addition of our two new carriers, and their extraordinary capabilities, is sending a statement around the world as to Britain’s re-emergence as a maritime power. Encouraging indeed!

A double header lunch and dinner the next day meant that drive back to Ascot after dinner was necessary and thanks must go to The Mistress for her offer drive both ways!!!

Lunch with The Master Mariners on HQS Wellington on the Thames was most enjoyable and again one has to pinch oneself at the sheer privilege of the experiences we enjoy as Masters. Standing on deck with a glass of fizz on a Wednesday lunchtime watching the world go by is a wonderful experience and followed by a splendid lunch it would have been easy to think all was well in the world!  

 Dinner with the Brewers was equally enjoyable and convivial as they entertained a number of other Master’s and their Clerks. Another excellent meal with great food, wines and of course beers!

 It may only have been a day later but one could sense that the mood, as regards Coronavirus, was beginning to change as we met for The Master and Wardens meeting but, even then, we decided on a ”wait and see” approach to future functions and in particular our April Dinner.

Despite the impending crisis, of which we were still unaware of it’s severity, we had a most enjoyable dinner at The Innholders as we entertained the Vintners Master and Wardens and General Manager (Their Clerk unavailable at the last due to an impromptu visit to hospital which I am glad to say he has recovered from). Our Beadle, showing remarkable commitment, needed no second asking to join us for the most exquisite dinner with some cracking wines chosen by our Spirits and Wine team. Our relationship with the Vintners goes from strength to strength.

The next day saw us driving North again and a marathon journey home (10 hours plus) to Scotland.

The Mistress and I were both looking forward to a week at home and a rest over the weekend to re charge the batteries after a full-on week.

You will all know by now I am a fan of Robert Burns and for some reason the events of the following weeks remind me of one of the last verses in his epic poem Tam o Shanter.

Tam tint his reason a’ thegither,
And roars out, ‘Weel done, Cutty-sark!’
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied.
When out the hellish legion sallied.

From a period of socialising to one of our greatest challenges as society in the space of 14 days is barely believable but that was that!!

I did say I would cover more on the impact on my year.

The first huge disappointment was the ultimate cancellation of the Japan Court trip in the early part of the month. A huge disappointment to me and the rest of the Court , as well  as our hosts in Japan.

The second was the cancellation of the April Court and Dinner in Vintners which I was really looking forward to.

From the cancellation of The Lord Mayors Banquet to The United Guilds Service, The Mistress and I received a number cancellation notices from within the City and it would have been very easy to become very sorry for ourselves.

A sense of perspective was however definitely required as we saw the number of Covid cases rise and the death toll increase quickly.

What also became clear was the number of people in our trade (particularly the young) whose employment would be seriously affected.

To that end I was  delighted we were  able to set up a Task Force consisting of the Clerks Office, the Dev Director ,the Charity Committee Chairman, the Wardens, Paul Finch and myself with a view to supporting these individuals through our chosen charity partner The  Drinks Trust (Formerly The Benevolent) who are experiencing an unprecedented level of demand for their services.

Over the last three weeks that group has worked tirelessly in pulling together three separate initiatives in support of The Drinks Trust:

  1. A Charity appeal which at the time of writing has raised over £30k from within our Livery to help contribute to a grant of £50k we will be making to them.
  2. An on-line auction which will take place from  June 7th– 16th with all proceeds going to them. 
  3. The creation of a volunteering support network to help the Drinks Trust.

I have been truly humbled by the level of support and commitment shown by the group and our Livery in these difficult times and am hugely grateful to you all.

I had intended Charity to be a main theme of my year but could never have envisaged the way it is playing out.

I hope you and your families are all staying safe.

God Bless.

Master’s Blog – February 2020

First up in February was a road and boat trip to Alkmaar in The Netherlands where I had been asked as Master to open the 10th Anniversary of The Hielander Whisky Festival. This whisky festival has raised substantial funds over the years for a local Cancer Hospice/Charity The Praethuys in Alkmaar. Having opened the event dressed in Masters Gown, it was a quick change to take my place in the band for the opening event.  Seamless!! I am very much hoping that some of the organising team will travel from Holland to be with us for the drinks party planned later this year on HQS Wellington.

Although Hurricane Ciara was to play havoc with many of the next week’s travel arrangements, we managed to fly out of Amsterdam just ahead of her and made it to Edinburgh for the Informal Lunch at 603 Squadron prior to The Calcutta Cup. Excellently organised by Hon Steward Michael Urquhart , the lunch was a relaxed an jovial affair with 18 attending consisting of Liverymen, families and guests. Thanks, as always, to 603 for generously hosting.

The aforementioned travel havoc started with my car, which was being driven home by other band members, being trapped on board a North Sea ferry for 10 hours longer than anticipated. The delay to our travel south and unavailability of any alternative transport meant the Mistress unfortunately was unable to attend the CLINKS visit to HM Brixton Prison.

I was pleased to make it to London, however in time for Michael Druitt’s memorial service, with a good number of other Liverymen, which was an excellent send off for someone I had known for most of my business life. He will be missed by many.

Later that week I had the slightly nerve wracking pleasure of chairing my first Court meeting as Master before moving on to the February lunch at Girdlers Hall, which proved to be an excellent venue.

The “Burns Night” theme seemed to be well accepted (If not universally understood by those from South of the border!) and I have to say I was delighted with the phenomenal turnout of over 120. It was also an amazing experience to witness the World Premier of the new Distillers song written and composed by The Learned Clerk and expertly sung by Hon Assistant Harris. At a personal level I was delighted to be able to catch up with The Master Brewer, Simon Theakston, on a number of mutual acquaintances and colleagues from our time in S&N

The Mistress and Consorts  enjoyed a splendid parallel lunch in The Vintners Courtroom where they were entertained to  an excellent tour by Steve Marcham who, on completion, high tailed it to The Girdlers to attend the Livery lunch. Commitment indeed!

The Mistress continued to enjoy the City life the following week as guest of The Mistress brewer an I was the happy recipient of a bottle of Theakstons Old Peculiar following the lunch!!

On the 20th of February we entertained Commander Ollie Hucker and three of the crew of HMS Montrose to lunch in Vintners Boardroom where IPM Martin Reilly presented The Sailor of the Year trophies for 2019 and 2020. Ollie also gave a fantastic insight of what it was like in The Gulf, as the ship became the first RN ship to be at full “battle stations” since the Falklands conflict. To say we were “In awe” would be a huge understatement!!

On the 21st February The Mistress and I attended The Mansion House Banquet of The Worshipful Company of Gardeners. A very nice evening with very friendly hosts.

An early morning start on Saturday meant that we were able to drive home in time for (at least) the second half of the rugby!

3 days at home for changes of clothes washing and the Long Distance Master and Mistress (with dog Rosa) were on their way back to London again for a Whisky tasting for our Corporate Freemen Mappin and Webb and members of The Royal Household including The Governor of The Tower of London. The two Master’s casks showed up superbly and were thoroughly enjoyed by all. Thanks to Karl and Mark for inviting us!!

The last event of the month left a deep impression on The Mistress and me. We visited Treloar’s School with The Lord Mayor ,Lady Mayoress and a group of other Livery Masters and Mistresses. Treloar’s is run by The Treolar Trust a Charity set up in 1907 by the then Lord Mayor. It cares for young people with physical disabilities and helps prepare them for adult life, providing education, care therapy and independence training. The young people and their teachers and care assistants were an absolute inspiration and its no surprise that the establishment is rated as ”Outstanding” by both Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. A very uplifting end to the month, made even more memorable by finding that the current Chair of Trustees is a friend of Kathy’s family!

Master’s Blog – January 2020

As I mentioned in the newsletter, it is scarcely believable that I write this with over a quarter of my Master’s year gone already. Time does fly when one is enjoying oneself.

As regards the newsletter, I feel I must mention the quality of the content and production of that publication and thank and congratulate the production team led by Paul Finch for a fantastic job.

After a frenetic December and a lovely Christmas and New Year back home, January started slowly by comparison but still involved two weeks in London.

The first week in town started with internal meetings with the Dev. Director, Assistant Clerk and the Industry Committee and highlighted just how much is going on in our very vibrant Livery..

As the week progressed with a food tasting in Canary Wharf for the February lunch accompanied by Kim and the hugely supportive & knowledgeable Jonathan Orr Ewing I did reflect on the slightly surreal nature of the role. (Thanks also to Jonathan for his excellent jar of marmalade. I may become quite Paddington -like!! What with the marmalade and living out of a suitcase! Ironically Paddington one of the few stations I haven’t visited this month.)

Next up was lunch in the Cavalry and Guards Club hosted by Alan Montague-Dennis with Clive Bairsto, Richard Watling and a prospective Corporate Freeman.

This was followed, after a record-breaking taxi journey to The Sanctuary, by a Interview/Presentation and Freedom Ceremony for a group of new Freemen, again highlighting the Vibrancy and appeal of our Livery.

The next week in London included our Charity meeting, where , amongst other major developments, we discussed the excellent response to our appeal for Charity Volunteering.

Thank you to everyone who responded. This initiative will build on all of the excellent Charity initiatives that are being discussed and continue to boost our Charitable profile.

Last meeting of the week was with Fortnum and Masons and The Dev Director where we discussed the possibility of a Livery visit which we hope will take place over the summer months.

We both left with the legendary F&M Scotch egg (they are delicious!) as a gift and I managed to avoid the very real temptation of eating it on the way to City Airport and the flight home.

The end of January saw The Mistress and I head for the West Coast of Scotland and some of the windiest weather I have encountered. Relaxing nonetheless.

Master’s Blog – December 2019

May I wish all our readers a Happy New Year and trust that everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

Having picked up the pen , so to speak, from IPM Martin Riley immediately after the Installation Dinner in November, this December blog is a bit of a bumper edition with content from the end of November too!

The new Master’s year always starts the day before the Installation Dinner and this year was no exception with 4 functions/events attended in the day!

The morning saw us attending The Festival of St Cecilia at Westminster Abbey followed by a wonderful lunch with the other Wardens hosted by Martin and Nicola, who looked much more relaxed than the Master and Mistress Elect. The revelry was cut short as we left for The Lord Mayors briefing and the Lady Mayors afternoon tea respectively!

That would normally be that but the evening saw an invite to a reception hosted by The Lord Mayor for the launch of The Big Curry Lunch at the HAC headquarters on City Road. A journey made by bus in the absence of any taxis!!

Installation day starts with a rehearsal then a Court meeting followed by the Installation Ceremony before the Dinner and then the Dinner itself.

One is swept along during the day and although nervous one is struck by the sheer feeling of goodwill amongst our Livery.

Without the need for an inaugural speech I would have enjoyed the excellent food, wine and spirits so much more but I was fortunate to have the great company of the Master Vintner Chris Davey and chat about some very old times!!

A Post Prandial as guests of The Master Vintner and the inimitable Steve Marcham topped off and amazing day!

A truly memorable day for which I will be always grateful to The Clerks Office, The Vintners Hall and our Spirit and Wine Committee (who jumped through hoops to ensure my choice of wine arrived!).

Kathy my family and my guests had a wonderful time and were all made most welcome!

On the 26th November I attended the Distillers Icicle Golf Day at Beaconsfield. I use the term attended because I would never claim to have “played golf” that day as my long suffering team-mates/partners will attest!

A birdie at the last hole was definitely “ the one that brings you back” and was witnessed by the IPM who had made his way out to present the prizes!

Bryan Burrough was the runaway winner and I sure he will be looking forward to his new handicap!!!

The day was another triumph for the remarkable Golf organising cohort of Keith and Graham who again delivered another excellent year in 2019. We are indeed fortunate to have them both!

The IWSC banquet on 28th November had been  postponed from earlier this year because of a diary clash at The Guild Hall and as such fell into the early part of my year rather than Martin’s. 

The Banquet is a magnificent affair with prize and trophy winners receiving their awards. It never fails to amaze me just how diverse and truly global our industry is, yet, founded on people with remarkably similar values and outlook! Kathy and I were Royaly entertained!!

The IWSC Directors Dinner at Mossimans , the night before, fell into the same category where I was privileged to sit beside the President Sir George Fistonich, founder of Villa Maria!!!!

On the 2nd of December I attended the Admiralty Carol Service in St Martins in The Fields and, after a wonderful service where I sat beside the Australian Military attache, and met a number of other Master’s there for the first time. The familiar looking Master Glover (Wearing white gloves!!) turned  out to be none other than Roger de Courcey, the creator of Nookie Bear!!

The following evening James Higgins and I attended the London Regiment Boxing Tournament ,witnessed the London Scottish contingent acquit themselves very well especially as some were complete novices! I’m delighted to report that the relationship with London Scottish is in excellent health due in no small part to James’s commitment! Afterwards an Uber to the Piccadilly Line, 45 minutes on the tube , sleeper to Glasgow then train to Auchterarder highlights the life of the Long Distance Master!

The next week saw me back at The Mansion House and attending a reception and presentation by CLINKS who are a body looking after Charities operating within the prison system. The harrowing, but also uplifting, stories on display were a very good reminder that the all-out party approach to Christmas, that we sometimes enjoy, is not universal!!

On the 10th December I was invited, along with our Learned Clerk , to the Installation Dinner of  the new Master of The Glass Sellers of London, Richard Katz. The Glass Sellers are fellow members of our “Cask group”. Sitting at the top table I was again was struck by the huge privilege of being Master and with the close links and potential within the “Cask Group”. The dinner was most enjoyable with Christmas carols sung during the dinner.

11th December and I was on my way back North again  (More from the Long Distance Master) and due to attend the Annual Dinner of The Perth High Constables. Sadly, my third cancellation in a row on way North by train meant abandonment in Newcastle, a very indirect journey home via Carlisle and Glasgow, and missing the dinner!

No chances were taken for the Carol Service and we drove south on 14th!!!!!

Two days early, who says I leave things to last minute?!!!!

The Carol Service is one of my favourite events of the year and again this year didn’t disappoint. Rev David Parrott opened a few eyes with his unexpected “body show” but as always conveyed a thought provoking Christmas message. Our Minister from Auchterarder Rev Dr Lynn MacChlery came down as my guest,helped with the service, and was really overwhelmed by the “warm welcome” she received.

We drove home again on the 18th of December to get ready for Christmas and catch up with friends and family at home, amazed at how quickly everything had gone in December!

Christmas and New Year at home seemed like one big party with fair sprinkling of training runs on my bike. Blew the cobwebs away but challenging with some of the weather over the Festive period!!!

I’m back in London now and looking forward to a vey busy January as I write! 

Master’s Blog – November 2019

The month began with the Glass Sellers Mansion House Banquet to which the Mistress and I were invited. A splendid evening where the Master’s guests were accompanied by a brass band playing “Bring Me Sunshine“ on entering the Egyptian Hall.

The week of Remembrance began on Monday 4 November with a service in the garden behind St Paul’s Cathedral. Each Master placed a cross in the field of remembrance on behalf of his or her Company.  The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs were present and the band of the Grenadier Guards accompanied us. The Last Post was sounded and a 2 minute silence observed at 11.00 am as the great bell of the Cathedral tolled. 

In the evening there was a Service of Thanksgiving at St Stephen Walbrook for the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress in recognition of their year of service to the City. This was followed by a reception in the magnificent Wren church with its contemporary round altar. The Church where the Samaritans were founded in 1953.

The following day we had our Joint Event with the Worshipful Company of Marketors held in the Crane  Building in Southwark. The theme was “Alchemy … are we Distillers and Marketors the Alchemists of today ?“

We both take core ingredients – in our case grain or grape and through the magic and mystery of distilling produce exquisite spirit drinks … and Marketors take brands and add value to them thorough original creative ideas and targeted communication.

The guest panel to discuss this was chaired by David Wethey whom I have known for 30 years and is very well known in the marketing and advertising world, having written several business books.

The panel included Diageo Corporate  Freeman Mark Sandys, Global Brand Director for Smirnoff and Baileys, who also very generously provided the Tanqueray Gin and tonic bar for the event. Also Anthony Wilson, a Liveryman who owns a new product development company with the appropriate name of Alkemista.

Andrew Marsden, Past Master Marketor and marketing consultant with a lifetime career in marketing, and Rory Sutherland, Vice President of Ogilvy UK and a well known journalist and author, completed the panel.

The event was sold out and the reception afterwards was an opportunity to talk to each of the panellists. We had a very good presence of our Liverymen and feedback has been positive from attendees from both Companies. We are talking to the Marketors about the possibility of holding a similar event next year.

Later that week I was invited with several other members of our Livery to the Mappin and Webb Royal Household Dinner in Vintners’ Hall. Mappin and Webb are one of our Corporate Associates.

Mark Appleby, Master Craftsman, who was installed as Corporate Freeman at the November 21 Court meeting, is the Crown Jeweller to HM The Queen.  He joins Corporate Freeman Karl Bailey who is Royal Warrant Holder for the Company.

That dinner had been preceded by a Reception at the House of Lords hosted by Helena Conibear and the Alcohol Education Trust celebrating their 10th anniversary.  This is one of the Charities which we support and the Livery was thanked for our continuing commitment and contribution.

The following day was the Silent Ceremony  at the Guildhall. The new Lord Mayor, William Russell, and his entourage were greeted by the assembled  Masters, Aldermen and Liverymen in total silence. The only words spoken were his, when he swore his oath.

The following day was the Lord Mayor’s Show and the Mistress and I had a bird’s eye view from the stand outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Over 100 floats and groups formed the parade with marching bands, military units and representatives of European Guilds.  The Lord Mayor’s coach stopped outside the Cathedral where he stepped outside with the Sword and Mace Bearers and entered the Cathedral by a side door to swear before God.

Following this I had been invited to join the Guard of Honour outside the Mansion House to greet the Lord Mayor on his return from the Royal Courts of Justice. We lined up and the new Lord Mayor descended from his lavishly decorated coach and inspected this line removing his tricorn hat to greet the Masters.

All Masters in the Guard of Honour returned the compliment by doffing their caps to the Lord Mayor. There was one exception.  The Master Distiller. We do not have a cap as part of our formal Livery dress and appear to be unique in this regard. I have discussed this with the Court and I intend to work on a proposal as IPM so that future Masters can doff their caps at appropriate occasions … and not simply nod as I was obliged to
do !

The Mistress and I attended lunch at the Mansion House afterwards and spoke to Alderman Vincent Keaveny who was Sheriff until September this year and is on track to become Lord Mayor in November 2020.

Vincent is an Honorary Liveryman in our Company. If elected as Lord Mayor he will be the first Distiller to do so since 1813 when George Scholey served as Lord Mayor. That is before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815!

The following day is Remembrance Sunday and the Masters of all Livery Companies are invited to attend the Service of Remembrance at St Paul’s and to attend the wreath laying on behalf of all Liveries at the Cenotaph in front of the Royal Exchange.

That privilege is given to the Master Fruiterer as he organised the first official attendance at the service and wreath laying last year on the anniversary of the end of the Great War. This is the second year and the intention is that the tradition will be maintained. It was followed by a lunch at the Guildhall.

Later that week I went to the city of Louvain in Belgium where the Mistress and I were to spend two days in the Company of the Belgian/Swiss Squadron of the Mousquetaires d’Armagnac. It is a lively university city full of medieval buildings and bicycles. Several lavish dinners and receptions were held there before we moved to Brussels for the official grand dinner at the splendid Art Deco hotel La Plaza.

There Leaders of different Squadrons from around the world were present for the installation of 9 new Mousquetaires and a grand dinner was followed by dancing, extensive tasting of Armagnacs and a beer bar serving excellent Belgian beer to be savoured between Armagnacs.

The event finished at 4.00 am but fortunately we didn’t have far to go as we were staying in the same hotel.

The following week there was an important meeting with the Development Director and the Master Elect. This was an opportunity for us to review the projects that the Development Director had undertaken since his appointment earlier in the year.

The Service of St Cecilia, the patron saint of Musicians, took place this year in Westminster Abbey and the choirs of the 3 great London Cathedrals performed.

The service is organised by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and is a highlight of the year as Masters, Wardens and Clerks process in the Cathedral in full Livery dress.

This year it was held in Westminster Abbey and it alternates between there, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s. 

Following this the Master invited the Wardens and Consorts, the Clerk and Assistant Clerk to a lunch at a well established French restaurant specialising  in the cuisine of  SW France ….And  where armagnac champagne cocktails were the order of the day.

The last day of my year as Master was November 21 and on that day with PM Raines and PM Watling we hosted a lunch for the new Meister of the Zunft zu Rebleuten in Basel, Fabian Bebler, and the previous Meister Edi Etter who is now a Liveryman.  We also welcomed Willeke Vester,  Dekon (Master) of the Guild of the Golden Glass in Schiedam in Holland. Both Fabian and Willeke would receive their Freedom of the Company at the Court Meeting later that afternoon along with Amanda Garnham of the National Armagnac Bureau in France. 

The Installation Ceremony of our new Master Kenny MacKay took place after the Court Meeting and preceded the excellent Installation Dinner. But I will put down my pen now and pass it on to our Master to follow on from here as he writes his first blog. I wish both the Master and Mistress a most enjoyable, fulfilling and memorable year full of yet to be announced events.

Nicola and I have been privileged this year to experience the many fascinating, prestigious  and unique events in the Livery World  and the City and to meet such a wide range of people from varied backgrounds.

We were proud to represent our flourishing Company.

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.

Master’s Blog – September 2019

Lunch with High Court Judges at the Old Bailey is an invitation extended to all Masters of Livery Companies during the course of their year. The conversation gives an insight into the work of the Judges and the type of trials undertaken at the Central Criminal Court.. principally murder and terrorist offences. For their part one of the key questions they put to me was why sherry had declined so dramatically ?

Afterwards I was able to sit in on a trial and listen to the prosecution outlining the details of a murder case in meticulous detail. The ability to track conversations using text message on mobile phones is now clearly a key element in establishing a case.

The Worshipful Company of Fuellers organised a lecture on energy by the former  CEO of BP Tony Hayward. This was an Insightful speech about the importance of gas in our future energy supplies to keep the lights on until renewables become more established.

I visited Pam Orchard the CEO of the charity “The Connection at St Martin in the Fields” which supports those who are homeless or rough sleepers on the streets of London. This is the charity that I have chosen to support during my year as Master and her explanation of the work they do convinced me that this a worthy and deserving charity.

St Martin in the Fields, where our Founder is buried and which has an imposing memorial to him in the Crypt, has been concerned with helping the homeless in London since  the First World War.

Many servicemen returning from fighting at the Front were disorientated and in need of  support when finding themselves back in London. St Martin opened its doors to them then and has not closed them to the homeless ever since. Pam Orchard will attend our Founder’s Day event on October 8 where the cheque from the Company will be presented.

I attended a Reception for the Worshipful Company of International Bankers in Furniture Makers’ Hall in the City.  The International Bankers are a Modern Livery Company and the Mother Company of the current Lord Mayor.

The Court Meeting and Scottish Dinner both took place in the Signet Library in the heart of Edinburgh. A magnificent Georgian building constructed for the visit of King George IV who declared it to be “the finest drawing room in Europe”.

The guest speaker was Sir Roger Gifford, a previous Lord Mayor of London and of Scottish heritage, who spoke of his experience in Japan where he had lived for 6 years and entertained us in song! Robert Burns no less!

From there I travelled  to Schiedam in Holland with Past Masters Raines and Watling for the  annual Jenever Festival in the capital of Jenever.
I had the honour of being installed as a Knight of the Golden Glass, joining the elevated ranks of our two Past Masters in a ceremony complete with sword with which  to be dubbed as a Knight,  oath, a wax sealed certificate and wooden medal.

Much celebration ensued afterwards and the following day we walked on the red carpet through the picturesque town of canals working windmills and 17th century houses to open the Festival in a 16th century church. All manner of spirits were present!

The Worshipful Company of Farmers held a lunch in their Hall  to which many Masters and Clerks were invited. British food was celebrated and savoured.

The speaker presented the Master Farmer with a bottle of gin made from grains that had been cultivated “hands free” using only technology.

The Dean of St Paul’s held an autumn Evensong and Reception attended by many Liveries where we drank next to the tomb of Nelson and imbued his spirit.

The Sheriffs’ Ball held in the Guildhall is a relaxed and convivial event where the Distillers took a table this year. As Sheriff Vincent Keaveny, a Distiller, and Liz Green, the non-aldermanic Sheriff, were signing off after a most successful year for both of them, it was an opportunity for us all to thank them for their support, enthusiasm and hard work.

There were many Distillers dancing – especially to Whiskey in the Jar.

At the Worshipful Company of Actuaries lecture on inclusivity in the City and supper I was impressed to see they were serving a 1979 Castarède Armagnac as digestif.

I congratulated the Master and Clerk on their excellent choice. They promptly donated a bottle to the Worshipful Company of Distillers and signed the label. A fraternal gesture which was greatly appreciated. The Actuaries after all predict the future. Good news for Armagnac.

A gin tasting for the Mortar Platoon of A Company (London Scottish), our military affiliate, was undertaken by Nicholas Cook and greatly appreciated by the CO and Reservists.

The month ended with an opportunity to drive sheep over London Bridge which the Mistress and I enjoyed before joining the Pearly Kings and Queens of London for their annual Harvest Festival in Guildhall Yard.

Master’s Blog – July 2019

July is a busy month and  there were a number of key events in the month starting with the Innholders’ Dinner in Innholders’ Hall where the Master gave a short history of the Company that is a fellow member of the Cask Group. After all, Inns are where our products were and are sold. 

The Annual Inspection of a Distillery in London “or up to 31 miles radius from the Cities of London and Westminster” granted in our Charter was undertaken by the Master and Wardens. This year it was Hayman’s Distillery, now located in Balham and easily within the bounds set out by the Charter. The report of the visit is a separate item on the website, but suffice to say the Master and Wardens were more than satisfied with the quality of the stills and the spirit produced and presented the certificate of Inspection to PM Christopher Hayman and  Liverymen James and Miranda Hayman in a Ceremony at the Distillery witnessed by over 35 other Liverymen and guests. 

A visit to the House of Lords for drinks on the famous terrace and lunch in a room overlooking the Thames had been arranged by the Master Framework Knitter. An excellent tour which after lunch gave us the opportunity to visit both the House of Lords and the House of Commons during debates and questions. 

The Master Constructor and Master Plumber organised a day long walk around City churches which was well attended by Masters of different Livery Companies. The highlight for me was the Swordstand with the Coat of Arms of the Lord Mayor of London 1813. 

This is where the Sword of the Lord Mayor would be placed during the Sunday church service. The Lord Mayor and his entourage would visit each City Church during his tenure. 

George Scholey who was a Liveryman in the Distillers and whose Sword stand is located in St Mary Abchurch has been our only Lord Mayor to date.  Watch this space. 

The Installation Dinner for the new Master Vintner also took place this month. Christopher Davies takes over from Sir Andrew Parmley.  An excellent dinner with outstanding wines and Hine 1975 Cognac served in the Stirrup Cup.  A rare spirit. 

The Mistress and I joined the Distillers’ Car Club event, visiting Liveryman Julian Temperley in his Somerset Cider Distillery  and then staying at the very comfortable and imposing Stone Easton Hotel where on Saturday evening Liveryman Alan Montague- Dennis gave us a tutored tasting of Bollinger champagnes including Rosé Vintages. 

The Car Club Outing had been very well organised by Court Assistant Nick Carr and PM Watling and is reported separately. 

This followed a visit to the International Air Day in Yeovilton organised by the Fleet Air Arm and 825 NAS Squadron. 

Commander Duncan Thomas hosted the Mistress and myself in the VIP Enclosure which also received many visiting Senior Naval Officers and foreign dignitaries. 

The following week I was Guest Speaker at the lunch of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners held in Salters’ Hall. 
This gave me an opportunity to talk about the global spirits industry and the history of our Company and the Gin Guild. 

The same evening I had been invited to the newly restored Painted Hall in Greenwich for the dinner hosted by the Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. 

The annual dedication service for the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor took place in the Chapel of St Faith in the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral for three new Knights Bachelor appointed by the HM The Queen. The Bishop of London officiated. 

The Knights wore their red cloaks and were preceded by the Sword Spurs and the Pennons bearing the heraldic Badge of the Imperial Society which are the symbols of this ancient order dating from medieval times. The word “Bachelor“ is a corruption of the French word “Bataille” as this award was often made on the Field of Battle. 

Afterwards an informal meeting with the Master and Clerk of the Marketors was held with Clive Bairsto our Development Director and myself to start planning a joint event planned for early November. More details to follow. 

That evening the Summer Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries was held in Apothecaries’ Hall. The Master gave an amusing speech in which he warmly welcomed the Distillers’ Master and Mistress and said that any past ill feeling concerning our break away from the Apothecaries has now been (mostly) forgotten. 

The Sheriffs organised a tour and dinner at the Old Bailey one evening which many Masters and Mistresses attended. The tour included stepping into a cold stark cell. Not a place where you would want to spend a lot of time. 

No prisoner is held there overnight and so if you accidentally lock yourself inside the keys are held some distance away and you would be spending the night in solitary confinement. Fortunately this did not happen and the dinner took place under the impressive dome of the Hall of the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court). 

The annual summer event of the Brigantes – the Association of London Liverymen with Northern connections – took place in Manchester at the impressive Victorian Whitworth Hall situated within the University  of Manchester. 400 people attended. 

Rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire Liveryman was briefly put to one side and the War of the Roses forgotten (Lancashire won) as the Brigantes come from all regions of the North of England. 

Yorkshire was represented by Sir David Wooton and Lancashire by Dr Sir Andrew Parmley, both of whom had been recent Lord Mayors of London. The current Lord Mayor Peter Estlin and both Sheriffs were also present. 

After their respective witty speeches which extolled the virtues and superiority of each of their counties, there followed a highly symbolic gesture in which the white rose of Yorkshire worn by Sir David was exchanged with the red rose worn by Sir Andrew. 

Sir Andrew had entertained us on the organ and played for the Sung Grace and National Anthem for which a bottle of Master’s Cask Whisky was given by our Company as a mark of our gratitude. 

The month ended with the IWSC Medal Winners Tasting at Vintners’ Hall. This event is eagerly awaited by our Liverymen and Masters of other Companies and is reported separately on the website. 

Thanks to Court Assistant Allen Gibbons for organising this so professionally with the help of Liveryman and Assistant Clerk Kim Lyons. 

The Fleet Air Arm Wildcat Helicopter Wings Parade at 825 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton rounded off the month very well where with PM Raines and Cheesman, and accompanied by Liveryman Ewan Lacey who is our Liaison Officer with the Squadron, we were invited to participate in this very important day. 

6 Naval airmen received their Flying Badges “ Wings “ from the Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd as they graduated the Wildcat helicopter Course 3 as Observers and 3 as Pilots. This ceremony took place in front of their family members, friends and colleagues and was followed by a Flying Display. 

I was honoured to present the Distillers prize for the LAET (Leading Air Engineering Technician) who had achieved the strongest result for Certificate of Competence to supervise aircraft maintenance. 

I also presented a signed and framed Memorandum of Understanding to Commanding Officer Duncan Thomas which both of us had signed.It will cement the relationship between 825 NAS and our Company and which will hang in pride of place in their Mess on the base in Yeovilton.”

Master’s Blog – June 2019

June began with the Court visit to Armagnac in gloriously sunny weather. 47 of us including consorts assembled in Barbotan les Thermes in Gascony – a spa town in the Bas Armagnac region.

The visit is the subject of a separate report by PM Watling so I will not dwell on this now except to say that it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with members of the Livery and their wives and to introduce them to an area which the Mistress and I have come to know well.

We are great enthusiasts for this part of France and appreciate the warmth and generosity of the local people – which was very much in evidence during our visit. They expressed great pride in being selected as the place for the Court visit of the Worshipful Company of Distillers and saw it as an chance to present and promote the different styles of Armagnac and the wines  from the Cotes de Gascogne region.  

We arrived back to very wet weather and drove up to Ironbridge in Shropshire for the annual gathering of Masters and Consorts of all Livery Companies. This event is hosted by the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs including Sheriff Vincent Keaveny, a Liveryman in the Distillers, and Ironbridge is selected every year as it is the cradle of the Industrial Revolution which brought so much rapid prosperity to the country in the 18 and 19 centuries. 

The City Corporation and Livery Companies have contributed to the development of the many museums on the site and indeed our own Company crest is proudly displayed on the wall alongside other Liveries in recognition of the contribution we have made over the years. 

This year the Lord Mayor used the occasion to organise a working session on the Friday afternoon to discuss the future of Livery Companies and the role we can play in today’s post industrial society. 

He reminded us that the City and Guilds of London Colleges and Qualifications were set up by 16 Livery Companies in 1878 in reaction to a challenge by the then Prime Minister Gladstone who had questioned the relevance of Livery Companies in the Industrial Age. 

A meeting with Liveryman Malcolm Davis in Meson Don Felipe a traditional Spanish bodega offered a perfect opportunity to drink Dry Manzanilla sherry on a very wet Monday afternoon and at the same time discuss the history of our Company and in particular the role of our Founder Sir Theodore de Mayerne. 

A large book by the renowned historian Hugh Trevor Roper tells the story of Sir Theodore and is entitled “Europe’s Physician” reflecting the remarkable fact that Sir Theodore was physician to King Henri IV of France and then to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of the British King Charles 1. This belongs to PM Sills who kindly lent it to the Company. 

Malcolm has done a lot of work in researching the Founder which we hope to bring together in a revised history of the Company and a celebration of the Founder on October 8 this year. Please note the date in your diary.

A Summer drinks party of our Affiliated Regiment, the London Scottish, took place in their historic HQ in Horseferry Road and was very well attended by other Masters. We were all treated to a stirring performance by their pipers and drummers (one of the oldest pipe bands in the world). 

The band and Regiment were founded in 1859 and still wear the distinctive Hodden Grey tartan from that time – a tartan that has no pattern and was therefore good for camouflage.   

A meeting of the Military Affiliation Liaison Team under the Chairmanship of PM Raines reviewed the activities and future planning for all our Military Affiliates and the role we will play in their activities. 

There is undoubtedly more interest from our Military Affiliates in getting to know the Livery better and we have the chance to find out more about them and the work they do. This is something the MALT will focus on over the coming months.  

We welcomed 4 new Freemen into the Company at a  Freedom Ceremony in The Sanctuary all of whom have different but direct links with our industry and who no doubt will make an enthusiastic contribution to Livery life. 

The Court Meeting and lunch took place in Pewterers’ Hall. I had been keen to use this Hall for an event as I felt there was a  link between what they have done over the centuries in providing drinking vessels and plates and our role in providing spirits as part of the conviviality of the Livery Companies. 

The Pewterers gained their Royal Charter in 1473 and are 16th in order of precedence. Their current Hall was built in 1962 and contains features from the second Pewterers’ Hall such as the panelling on the first floor dating from after the Great Fire in 1666. There is also a collection of old pewter artefacts on display. 

Here we welcomed Air Marshal Sir David Walker to our ranks as a Liveryman by Presentation and also 2 Liverymen, Richard Forsyth and Richard Quellyn-Roberts, by Redemption before the Court all of whom were then introduced to individual members of the Court. 

PM Garrard presented the book on which he and other Livery members have laboured for some time to produce a photographic record of Past Masters and Clerks from 1958 to 2018. A remarkable piece of work for which the Company is grateful. 

A menu from 1932 of a Distillers’ Banquet in Cutlers’ Hall has kindly been donated  to the Company by Steward James Higgins. It is clear that Liverymen in the Past were made of stronger stuff with 8 courses and accompanying wines – finished off with a Boulestin 1865 brandy (Cognac) and a Benedictine liqueur. 

The Sung Grace was a feature as was the National Anthem and God Bless the Prince of Wales. Musical entertainment was provided by a pianist and 4 artistes male and female who sang popular and traditional songs. The Court lunch provided an opportunity to remind Court members that we have a strong tradition to maintain…in the selection of excellent wines and spirits which is certainly the case today and in musical content where we may be somewhat lacking!

A visit to the Crypt of St Martin in the Fields with the Clerk, PM Watling and Clive Bairsto, the Development Director, was helpful in planning for the Founder’s Day Commemoration. We noted that the Latin inscription on the Founder’s memorial is translated as “May the Reader of this always be in good health.“

The election of Sheriffs of the City of London takes place on Midsummers day in the Guildhall. All Liverymen can vote by raising hands during this ancient Ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and  members of the City Corporation.  

The Masters proceed in reverse order of precedence ( Distillers are number 69 with Patten Makers 70 and Wheelwrights 68 ) and take their allotted seats at the front of the Guildhall. 

The Aldermanic Sheriff elected unopposed is Professor Michael Mainelli, an American who has worked in the City for many years and the non Aldermanic Sheriff who received 72 % of the votes in a contested election was Chris Hayward / PM Patten Maker and the candidate whom I had supported. He attended our February lunch as my guest. They will take up their roles officially on September 27. 

The Clerk and I attended a lunch afterwards at Wax Chandlers Hall a long established Livery Company ( no 20 in precedence ). 

The Clerk and I attended an Evensong service at St Stephen Walbrook in the City where the choir of St Martin in the Fields were performing. Afterwards at The Reception in the gardens behind the Church we met the daughter of Rev Chad Varah who founded the Samaritans’ when he was Vicar there in 1953.  

The 400th anniversary of the Royal Charter granted by King James 1 to the Tobacco Pipe Makers and Blenders rounded  off the month in style. 

The Service of Thanksgiving was held in Temple Church followed by a Reception in Middle Temple Hall at which we were offered Cuban cigars and a gift of The Master’s Snuff to commemorate the event. 

Some Livery Companies still offer snuff at their formal dinners. However this is not a tradition we are planning to reintroduce!