The pace has certainly picked up during February and March. Shrove Tuesday saw me taking part in the inter-livery Pancake Races in Guildhall Yard, always a fun and well run event. The Company continued its success of recent years. James Hockley was our star, winning the coveted frying pan in the novelty race. The team much appreciated the members and friends who turned up to support the runners, and thanks to generous sponsorship around £750 was raised for the Company's charities, which is really pleasing.
Common Hall and the Book Launch on 10th February came next. I thought Dr James Campbell launched Dr Penny Hunting's fascinating history of the Company in real style with an intriguing and amusing talk. I am delighted to report that he has generously offered to host a visit by the Company in the autumn to Queens' College, Cambridge, where he works, and the Upper Warden plans to incorporate it into his year.
From there, I had two visits to the Brompton Barracks in Chatham. The RSME bricklaying day organised by the Craft Committee was a great experience. It has left me with an even healthier respect for the bricklayer’s art.
A week later and I was back with the Clerk for the Corps of Royal Engineers' Guest Night in their magnificent Officers’ Mess. The Corps are warm and welcoming hosts. Pre-dinner drinks in the Brigadier’s house was followed by a sumptuous dinner, presided over by Lieutenant General Sir Mark Mans, the Chief Royal and one of our honorary Liverymen. I was honoured to be sat at the top table between two Major Generals. The Corps band played and we were treated to the officers singing the Corps song with real gusto. It was a memorable evening.
In between those visits, Caroline and I were guests of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects at their Livery Dinner at Goldsmiths’ Hall. It was an enjoyable evening and the Hall looked magnificent with the four hanging candelabra all lit.
This year marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. The City Corporation have commissioned Artichoke to organise celebratory events on a grand scale across the City in early September. Artichoke are keen to elicit support from the livery movement and I have attended two meetings to hear about their plans. I should be able to report more soon. This has also led to the creation of an informal grouping made up of several construction group Company Masters. We meet every six weeks at the City Livery Club for a fish and chips lunch. A series of City walks tracing the route of the fire are being scheduled for the summer. Again, you will be hearing more about this shortly.
March began with our own Craft Awards lunch at Trinity House (reported separately), which I much enjoyed. That evening, Caroline and I were guests at a private viewing of the exhibition organised by the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers at the Mall Galleries, when the annual Lynn Painter-Stainers’ prize was awarded. The standard of painting was hugely impressive and it was enjoyable to wander round the exhibition with a glass of wine in hand chatting as we went with fellow Masters.
Later that week, we were guests at the Lord Mayor’s dinner at the Mansion House for all the Livery Masters and their partners. There was plenty of pomp and ceremony, with trumpeters and musketeers, and fine speeches by Master Mercer, Master Grocer and the Lord Mayor.
The next day was the United Guilds Service in St Paul’s Cathedral, a major event in the Civic year (reported separately), when the Bishop of London gave what I felt was a particularly thought-provoking but amusing sermon. After it, those attending from the Company were treated, along with several other Companies, to a buffet lunch at Carpenters’ Hall. This informal occasion is great fun and a good chance to catch up with people.
I was back at Carpenters’ Hall with Caroline the following Tuesday as guests of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters for their Livery Spring Dinner. Caroline and I have got to know their Master, Michael Neal, and his wife well over the past few months. The food and wine were excellent and we were treated to a programme of music with ‘the Blue Brothers’ from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
The next evening, the Upper Warden and I attended the inaugural lecture of the Royal Fusiliers Memorial Chapel Committee at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, when Mr Christopher Donnelly spoke about “The nature of conflict in the 21st century”. As a specialist adviser to various NATO and governmental committees, he was hugely knowledgeable and gave a fascinating, almost academic, macro view of security threats and forms of conflict currently facing the world.
The evening after that I attended the Lord-Lieutenant’s Awards Ceremony at Yeomanry House, an event organised by the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association of Greater London. All the winners were volunteers and the pride they demonstrated when marching up to and saluting the Lord-Lieutenant was both inspiring and tangible.
My final event in March was a visit with Caroline and the Clerk to Christ’s Hospital, near Horsham, where we were guests of the Headmaster and met up with Onyinye Udokporo, the Company’s Presentee, who instigated our visit. We lunched with the students in their magnificent dining hall and watched the students march into lunch with the school band playing. Onyinye gave us a tour. It is an amazing school with much of which to be proud.