The Master, Wardens, Court and Livery gathered for Common Hall at 6pm on Thursday 8th February 2018 in Cutlers Hall.
The Master opened proceedings in the Court room with the Company Prayer.
Chairman of the Finance Committee, Court Assistant Simon Martin reported on the Company’s accounts which are in fine shape. The Company sent its best wishes to our honorary accountant, Court Assistant Adrian Houston, who is not well. Simon tabled audited accounts to September 2016, explaining that because of timing of Common Hall, audited accounts for 2017 were not yet available. In the year in question, assets of the company had risen by nearly 20% in the audited accounts and were described as healthy. As previously determined in the Governance review, quarterage revenue continued to exceed administration costs. Unaudited accounts for the year up to September 2017 show a further 9% increase in the General Fund. Simon thanked the Clerk, John Brooks, Adrian Houston and members of the Finance committee for their support.
Honorary Secretary to the Trustees, the Upper Warden Mrs Lesley Day, reported on the support of our charity of the year, The Clink Charity, by various means including a sponsored cycle ride, attendance at “The Clink Ball” and money raised through the Pancake race. Noting that only half of members of the Company currently make a regular donation to the Charitable funds, she launched our latest event to support The Clink Charity, the 1568 Challenge, to commemorate the signing of our charter by Queen Elizabeth I. Each member of the Company is asked to donate £15.68 toward the charity which will result in a handsome sum to be handed over to this excellent cause. Lesley also described the three contenders for this year’s Charity of the Year, St Michael’s Fellowship, Red Balloon, and Friends of Meldreth Manor and Orchard Manor.
Following the introduction of the new Court Assistants, Alex Maclean-Bather & Colonel Ian Ogden, the Master outlined our “450” celebrations, with three key events. Firstly, the exhibition of Company treasures at the Guildhall Library, with thanks to Silver Steward David Allen and Deputy Master Roger Westbrook, which will be launched in the presence of the Lord Mayor on 24 May, with a private viewing for the Company on 5 July. Next, the Annual Guest Banquet which will be held on 10 May at Merchant Taylors Hall, when the Company’s restored mace head will be displayed on its newly commissioned centerpiece base for the first time. Finally, the Charter day visit which will be to Queen Elizabeth’s hunting lodge in Epping forest.
Progress was being made with respect to the presentee to Christ’s Hospital, with three schools now interested. Membership stood at record levels with 201 members, hopefully soon to be 205 after the March Court meeting. These comprise 158 Liverymen, 37 Freemen, 4 Companions and 2 Apprentices. Liaison with the Royal Engineers was flourishing, and links with their cadets re-established. We will award a new Master Craftsman at the Annual Craft Awards Luncheon at Trinity House on 5 March, which is fully booked, and our support of all three crafts was ongoing with the appointment of the new Chairman of the Craft committee, Court Assistant Christopher Causer. Following the sad death of our much-loved Almoner Sarah Stroud shortly before Christmas, a new Almoner will be appointed in the near future.
The Master reflected that financially the Company was as strong as it has ever been, but it was important to avoid complacency, as there will be many challenges in the coming years.
A question and answer session chaired by the Master covered a range of topics including the balance between Company funds and Charitable funds, with the suggestion of transfer of additional revenues to the Charitable fund; a suggestion that white tie/black tie optional dress should be considered for the annual guest banquet in view of its importance this year; the identity of the guest speaker at the banquet, who will be His Honour Judge William Kennedy; the possibility of entertaining a greater number of Masters of other Companies in this historic year; and thanks expressed to the Clerk and Beadle for their superb service, which was strongly endorsed by all those present. At this fitting moment, there being no further questions the Master closed the meeting, and after a brief recess, the Company enjoyed a refreshing drinks reception in the Court room.
Following this convivial reception, the company made its way upstairs for the Court and Livery dinner, past cabinets containing many large and rather sharp implements, for dinner in the Livery Hall with its spectacular Victorian hammer beam roof decorated with elephantine corbels. Mounted on the end wall is a large barge banner used in the Lord Mayor’s procession in 1763, when the Lord Mayor was a Cutler.
A splendid candlelit dinner with fine company, food and wine (expertly chosen by our wine committee) concluded with the loyal and civic toasts and Master’s welcome address. He announced that our Charity of the Year selected by ballot of those attending the dinner is Red Balloon, much to the delight of nominator, Past Master Nick Carter. Red Balloon supports young people who self-exclude from school and are missing education because of bullying or other trauma. They provide an academic and therapeutic programme to enable students to get back on track and reconnect with society. www.redballoonlearner.org
In response, the Toast to the Company was proposed by Liveryman Alan Dodd, and of course good health to the Master!
The assembled Company filtered happily away after an invigorating Stirrup Cup, reflecting that the staff at Cutlers Hall always do such a wonderful job when we are there.
John Schofield 11 February 2018