Today I was honoured to attend the Remembrance Service at St Paul's Cathedral with Maureen and the Renter Warden, Professor John Schofield. This is an occasion when the representatives of the Livery Companies are all gowned, with their medals fully on display, looking quite superb.
The Livery representation had been organised by the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, for which we are all grateful. We took our designated places in the South Transept and waited in anticipation for the Lord Mayor and the procession to arrive, and when they did, we were not disappointed. Everyone looked magnificent, the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and the civic party, plus all the military personnel, the clergy, the choir and of course, the Standards.
There followed a wonderful Service of Remembrance with The Commemoration of the Fallen, led by the Dean, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, with readings by a young Lance Corporal Fiona Osei-Karikari, and the new Lord Mayor, Alderman William Russell. The choir sang beautifully with the whole congregation joining in to sing some well loved hymns. The service ended with the very moving Kohima Epitaph and the sounding of the last post.
Following the service, the Livery representatives marched in formation to the Royal Exchange, for the laying of the wreaths by the Right Honourable The Lord Mayor and other representatives of many organisations. The Master Fruiterer laid the wreath on behalf of all the Livery Companies.
The morning ended with the march past and salute to the Lord Mayor. It was a magnificent sight to see the beautiful horses lead the way, followed by the Military Band of Guards and all the others in the procession. We felt honoured and privileged to have taken part in this wonderful ceremony.
Every year, on the "Friday next preceding the second Saturday in November", The Lord Mayor elect is admitted, i.e. he is sworn into office, at the Guildhall. The ceremony is known as Silent because, apart from the incoming Lord Mayor making his Declaration of Office, it is held in total silence.
The silent ceremony is a hugely popular event and as there are very limited places in the Great Hall, there is a ballot for the seats each year. This year the Tylers and Bricklayers were very fortunate to have won 6 seats in the ballot, a most unusual and happy occurrence. I was accompanied to the ceremony by my wife and consort, Maureen, the Upper Warden, the Renter Warden and his wife and the Clerk.
The ceremony is witnessed by the Aldermen, the City Officers, Masters of Livery Companies and hundreds of their fellow Liverymen. It is full of pageantry and is a great piece of theatre. Following the large procession into the Great Hall and the Declaration of Office by the incoming Lord Mayor, the new Lord Mayor dons his Tricorn hat and simultaneously the late Lord Mayor removes his, thus symbolising the transfer of power. Following this, the officers take it in turn to present their symbols of office; the Sceptre, Seal and Purse by the Chamberlain, the Sword by the Swordbearer, the Mace by the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms and the Collar of SS and Badge by the Swordbearer, each one taking three steps forward, making three reverences, then presenting the symbol.The new Lord Mayor then touches each of the symbols in turn and the officer takes the symbol and walks backwards, making three reverences each time again, essentially reversing the whole process.
This whole scene is very powerful as the gathered audience watch both the power and responsibility of the Lord Mayor being transferred in complete silence. The proceedings end with the procession in reverse order, with the new Lord Mayor leading the way.
On the following day the new Lord Mayor, preceded by a procession, travels to the Royal Courts of Justice at the Strand to swear allegiance to the Sovereign before the Justices of the High Court. This ceremony demands that the Lord Mayor “show” himself at the High Court and so it is named the Lord Mayor’s Show.
It is the pleasant duty of all Masters to attend as many of the Company's Committees as time will allow. Today it was the Finance and Communications Committees which have generally taken place on the same day over the past few years. The Finance Committee, chaired by the Upper Warden, Simon Martin, covered a wide range of items including the Company investment performance, cash flow projections, the progress of quarterage collection for the year, financial policies and procedures and, most importantly, the annual accounts for the Past Master's year. This is the first time that the annual accounts have been completed so quickly after the year end and much thanks for this must go to the chairman of the committee, Simon Martin, for doggedly pursuing this goal. It will be very satisfying to present the most current year's accounts to Common Hall in February of next year.
The Communications Committee followed after lunch, chaired by the Renter Warden Professor John Schofield. We covered a number of issues in connection with membership of the Company and the various events that will be taking place over the next 12 months, including identifying event reporters, to whom I am most grateful. There was also a debate about the website and the continued expansion of use of IT communications methods and how we can make better use of these. It was also agreed that it might be appreciated by Company members if the Master were to communicate a little more frequently with Liverymen, say two or three times per annum and I agreed to try this out for my year.
I was very pleased to attend both meetings which I found interesting and thought provoking.
Following the meetings of the Finance and Communications Committees I met up with Maureen and we made our way to the In and Out Naval and Military Club to join the Royal British Legion at a special event hosted by their new National President, Lt General James Bashall CB CBE.
We were warmly welcomed by staff of the Royal British Legion who gave us very interesting information about the work of the Legion, including showing us a poignant film about the work which moved everyone deeply. For almost 100 years the Legion has been a constant presence, championing the unique contribution of the Armed Forces community, providing life changing support and ensuring that the sacrifice and service of those who have gone before is honoured and remembered.
Lt General Bashall, who has had a distinguished 34 year career, gave a talk about the Legion's strategic objectives and then introduced an amazing war veteran who had been on the HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War. He gave an extremely moving speech about his time in the forces and how he had been chatting to many friends below decks just moments before the Argentinian Exocet missile hit the ship.killing them all. He talked very openly about the mental health problems he and his colleagues have suffered over the years, and was full of praise for the wonderful work of the Royal British Legion in helping so many people like himself.
Maureen and I felt very privileged to be at this important and significant event.
We ended a full but enjoyable day by attending the service of thanksgiving for the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor at St. Stephen Walbrook, the Lord Mayor's Parish Church.
Many Masters and their Consorts were present at this magnificent church and it was lovely to mingle with them prior to the commencement of the service, to catch up. I am very quickly getting to know a number of Masters of my year, which is very pleasing.
The service was conducted by Reverend Stephen Baxter, the Priest-in-Charge and The Reverend Prebendary Jeremy Crossley gave a very amusing sermon in which he told us that his strict orders were to not exceed 5 minutes on pain of being confined to drinking only orange juice at the reception which followed! Six minutes later, Jeremy was anticipating his orange juice! There followed a generous reception in the church, with bubbly donated by the Don Restaurant and very tasty canapés, where we continued chatting to Masters of various Livery Companies for a further hour or so. This was a very enjoyable ending to a busy but wonderful day.