I am honoured to be your new Master. I greatly appreciated your expressions of support at my Installation on 1st October and at the luncheon afterwards. Many thanks; they helped to settle my nerves! I thought Grocers’ Hall was a wonderful location and they made us most welcome. I was extremely grateful to Bishop Knowles, my guest of honour, for his clever and amusing reply on behalf of the guests.
Since being installed, I have been busy attending a range of events and getting to know a number of my fellow Masters, particularly in the Constructors’ group. My first was the Installation lunch for Master Mason at Mercers’ Hall, where the Clerk and I dined on grouse and the Master’s chaplain gave a thought-provoking speech about the importance of spirituality in modern times.
This was followed over the next fortnight by the Installation dinners for Master Building Constructor at Carpenters’ Hall and Master Builders Merchant at Goldsmiths’ Hall. Both had a distinctly celtic theme: Master Building Constructor had a piper playing the bagpipes from the gallery; and singers greeted Master Builders Merchant with a moving rendition of ‘Danny Boy’, which Caroline much enjoyed, followed by a speech from the Irish Ambassador to the UK.
In between the dinners, Caroline and I attended the Art in the City exhibition put on by the Painter-Stainers for their sponsored young artists. The event in their impressive hall, with its wonderful stained glass windows, was well supported. It was a great opportunity for meeting people as we walked around with a glass of wine in hand. One picture caught Caroline’s eye but my credit card stayed in my wallet!
The Masons hosted an equally well supported Awards ceremony at St Stephen Walbrook, where His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester presented an award bearing his name to a young stonemason, originally from Iran, for his work at Winchester Cathedral. It was my first visit to this Wren church and I was struck by its design, with its domed ceiling, and central, circular stone altar. Well worth having a look if you are in the neighbourhood.
Later that evening, I attended the Annual Jurors’ Dinner of the Court Leet of the King’s Manor in Southwark, where I was the guest of Past Master David Cole-Adams, one of the jurors. It was held in the splendour of the Lord Mayor’s and Sheriffs’ Dining Room at the Old Bailey, where the judges lunch each day. I had the honour of sitting opposite the Lord Mayor Elect, Lord Mountevans. The ancient Courts Leet, manorial courts, performed a trading standards’ type role. The Recorder of London presided at the dinner and the Ale Conner and Flesh Taster tested the wine and food before we ate!
Towards the end of October, I was invited to the London’s Air Ambulance reception at Plaisterers’Hall. The Company’s General Charitable Trust made a donation to this amazing organisation in 2014. The demonstration by one of their crews showed us what vital work they do in the capital and that fully deserve our support.
The following Monday, I attended the annual prize-giving of the City of London School in Guildhall, where Alderman and Sheriff Charles Bowman represented the Lord Mayor and handed out the prizes. Amongst them were the Noreen Dickins’ Prizes. The Company gives these prizes through Noreen’s endowment to the Company, which our charitable trustees administer.
In terms of pure pomp and circumstance, the service at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt has been the highlight thus far, with Master Cutler carrying the sword of King Henry V and supported by the Masters of the other ‘warrior’ companies. The service conducted by the Dean of Westminster and the Bishop of London was attended by their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent, as well as the Lord Mayor and many dignitaries. The Masters and Clerks of the many other livery companies represented led the early part of the procession through the packed Abbey.
And that evening, I was the guest of the Lord Mayor at a dinner that he gave for Christ’s Hospital School in one of the private dining rooms at the Mansion House. I had the honour of sitting next to the Lady Mayoress. I met the Head Master, who spoke highly of the achievements of our Presentee, Onyinye Udokporo, who is in her final year at the School.
It has been a fascinating and varied introduction to my Year. I am looking forward to what comes next!