Warm Summer greetings to you all and I hope that everyone continues to be fit and well. It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through the year. The month of June continued with good news in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations, with the roll out increasing all the time and now all 18-year-olds and above being eligible. For the first time in over a year, we had a day with no Covid related deaths, excellent news. The great thing is that many vaccination centres are now accepting “walk-ins”, which makes it so much more accessible for everyone, especially the youngsters. That was the very welcome good news – unfortunately there was some bad news this month as well, because the eagerly awaited “unlocking” that was supposed to happen on 21st June was postponed for 4 weeks, mainly due to the spread of the Delta variant. This was a huge blow for many people, especially in the hospitality business because preparations were well advanced for the grand full re-opening of restaurants, bars, theatres and many more. We are now all keeping our fingers tightly crossed for the next announcement by the PM which will hopefully unlock everything on 19th July.
Turning to other, non-Covid matters, June was a fairly busy month with several momentous events, including the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the surprise result of the Chesham and Amersham by election and Matt Hancock’s resignation as Health Secretary, and his replacement with Sajid Javid. And of course, the most important thing by far, England beat Germany 2-0 in the Euro 2020! In the City things were very quiet again. The much awaited “Ironbridge Weekend” for Masters of all Livery Companies was cancelled for the second year, as were many planned “face to face” events. I did, however, attend a couple of very interesting virtual tours. One was called “London’s Lost Rivers”, given by the Upper Warden of the Wheelwrights Company, which gave a fascinating insight into the many old rivers that still flow under the City and which were such an important part of the history of the City. Some well known rivers include the Fleet, which became polluted as Smithfield butchers threw remains of dead animals into the river, and was eventually incorporated into the sewer system, the Tyburn, which flows through Regents Park under Buckingham Palace, and the Walbrook which originally ran under the Roman London Wall.
There was also an interesting talk about Cheapside and its environs, given by Andy Catto, a qualified City of London Guide, which I found fascinating.
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk via Zoom on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. Maureen and I visited Apothecaries’ Hall with the Clerk, and the current and past Chairmen of the Craft Committee to make plans for the forthcoming Triennial Awards Ceremony and Luncheon. It is a beautiful Hall and we are all confident of holding a wonderful event there on 2nd September. I also attended meetings of the Events Support Group and the Charitable Trusts Committee. I was very pleased to attend the City of London Freedom Ceremony for our Company Freeman Roger Booth. Despite having to be held virtually, it was a wonderful ceremony, conducted by Murray Craig, Clerk to the Chamberlain’s Court. As always, Murray made it both a stimulating and fun occasion. Congratulations, Roger, on receiving your Freedom of the City of London.
We held another Meeting of the Court of Assistants virtually this month and I sincerely hope this will be the last virtual Court meeting for a long time. At the meeting we discussed the funding of a further pupil (our Presentee) at Christ’s Hospital School and agreed that the Company would match fund any amounts pledged by Liverymen, up to a sum of £18,000. This would enable a fund of £36,000 to be made available for our next Presentee. I was also delighted to be able to admit Rosemarie Bird and Daniel Clarkson as Freemen of the Company – a huge welcome to them both.
Rosie Bird with proud Father, Past Master Dr George Bird
And last, but by no means least, we held our first face to face luncheon on 22nd June at Trinity House. It was a truly wonderful occasion, despite having to socially distance to an extent. The champagne flowed beautifully with much good conversation, excellent food and wine and great fellowship. We thoroughly enjoyed being in each other’s company once more after such a long time. Plans are now well underway for a non-socially distanced Annual Dinner on 5th August at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall. I am looking forward to seeing many of my freinds and colleagues at this wonderful event, which is going to be a very special occasion after such a long period of absence from each other.
I extend warm Summer greetings to you all and hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
The month of May continued with good news in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations, with the roll out continuing apace - some 40 million UK adults have received a first jab (over 75% of the UK adult population), and around 30 million have received both jabs, such great work by our NHS and volunteers. Although the emergence of new variants means we have to continue being cautious, it does appear that we are on the right path to return to something resembling normality very soon. We are eagerly awaiting the announcement by the Prime Minister on 14th June to see if the Government’s programme of opening up is going to be maintained. I sincerely hope so as we have our wonderful Masters' and Clerks' luncheon planned and ready for 22nd June. Fingers tightly crossed!
Turning to other, non-Covid matters in May, there were several local and regional elections held, with varying results around the country. Also, Leicester City won the FA Cup Final for the first time, and the final Debenhams store closed after 240 years in business.
In the City, things were fairly quiet for a change. Zoom meetings continue to take place on a regular basis, but we have also started to take tentative steps towards holding face to face meetings. I attended our very first face to face T&B Committee meeting in over 15 months - the Treasures Committee, which was held at the home of Past Master Roger Westbrook CMG. Huge thanks to Roger for hosting this first meeting and for kindly supplying the fine champagne to celebrate our first get together. It was good to be in each other's company once more.
I also joined the Renter Warden, Upper Warden, Clerk, Chairman of the Treasures Committee and Liveryman Martin Reading to carry out the Company's annual stock take at Carpenters' Hall. It was really nice to be greeted warmly by the staff at Carpenters' Hall who all seemed as pleased to see us as we were to see them. Very slowly, it certainly feels like things are beginning to take on a form of normality again. We finished off the stock take after several hours and ended the day with a wonderful lunch at a local pub, marvellous!
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk via Zoom on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. I also attended a meeting of the new Membership Committee and interviewed a new candidate for admission to the Company.
The Lord Mayor called together all current Masters to form the Past Masters' Association (PMA) for 2021. This would normally take place over a weekend at Ironbridge, but we contented ourselves with a Zoom session. The most pressing item of business was choosing a name for the PMA and after much deliberation and with over 50 suggestions, the name chosen was "The Unmutables" (not Immutables).
I attended a smaller number of City events in May, but they continue to be most enjoyable. There was a wonderful talk entitled "Bovines and Banquets" given by Past Master Horner, starting with the history of the company which was established in 1234 and outlining the many uses of horn and how important it was for early window panes, drinking vessels, knife handles, combs, reading aids and of course purely decorative items such as snuff boxes and sticks. Horn played an early role in the medical world with measuring vessels and spoons made out of translucent horn.
I also attended a fascinating tour of Hampstead and Highgate where we explored the picturesque streets and green spaces to discover the hidden history of this beautiful part of the London.
Additionally we held our own Company event which was a virtual tour of the "Secret Gardens "of the City of London. Katie Wignall, a qualified Blue Badge Guide took us for a lovely long walk around some of the most beautiful hidden gardens in the City. Many of these are in plain sight, but get overlooked as people hurry past them. It was a most interesting and entertaining event, thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.
I am looking forward to seeing many Company members and guests at our Masters' and Clerks' luncheon at Trinity House on Tuesday 22nd June, and also at my Annual Banquet at Saddlers’ Hall on Wednesday 14th July, which is going to be a very special occasion after such a long period of absence from each other.
I extend warm Spring greetings to all. It is hard to believe that we are already in April - the months seem to pass so quickly despite us all being in lockdown with continued limited activities at our disposal. However the good news is that the Prime Minister's path out of lockdown continues apace, with no adverse changes being announced so far. This, of course, reflects the fantastic progress being made with the vaccination programme. At the latest count, 31 million people in the UK have received their first vaccination and 5.5 million people have received their second vaccination, and most importantly, the numbers of people catching Covid 19 and being hospitalised continues to decrease. This is a fantastic achievement by the NHS, for which we are all immensely grateful.
The first phase of the easing of lockdown commenced in early March with all schools and colleges reopening, weddings being allowed with up to 6 people attending, and a slight easing of restrictions on visits to care homes. And at the end of March, the stay-at-home rule ended and people were allowed to meet outside in groups of up to 6. Everybody is now looking forward to Stage 2 which will hopefully commence on 12th April, with all shops being allowed to open, including hairdressers at long last. Things are certainly looking brighter for the Spring and Summer, let's keep our fingers crossed that we keep making progress with the vaccinations and the consequent reductions in the numbers of people being infected by the virus.
March has been another relatively busy month - it was Census day on the 21st March, when everyone had to complete the online census for the first time. Also, we had the second hottest March day on record, with temperatures reaching 24.5°C on 30th March.
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. There was a meeting of the Court of Assistants in early March, via Zoom, at which many items of business were covered, including the election of Officers for the next year 2021/2022.
I am happy to report the Officers elected were:
Master: Simon Martin
Upper Warden: Prof. John Schofield
Renter Warden: Christopher Causer
Renter Warden in Nomination: Mrs Jenny Rolls
Hearty congratulations and best wishes were extended to them all by the Court.
We also admitted a new Freemen to the Company, Mrs Charlotte Pienaar, who is the daughter of Liveryman Ian Wilson. Charlotte swore the Oath and was warmly welcomed to the Company by everyone.
The court meeting was followed by an interesting talk given by Sean Wilkins, Technical Manager at the Brick Development Association, entitled Build Back Better (in Brick), in which Sean took us through the contribution that good quality bricks have made to the City of London and the world as a whole, displaying some wonderful examples of master craftsman brickwork as shown below. Sean's talk was fascinating and much appreciated by the many Liverymen who took part.
Odder Cemetery Chapel at dusk
I also attended a meeting of the recently established Events Support Group at which we discussed plans for the events for the rest of my year as well as making plans for Simon Martin's events for his year as Master.
In the City I attended several talks, including the "True and Fair" lecture given by the Chartered Accountants' Company and a Fire Service lecture given by the Worshipful Company of Firefighters. There was also a fascinating talk about the life of Samuel Pepys and a seminar on the Future of Transport by the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners.
These were followed by a lecture about the Royal Exchange, and a hilarious talk entitled Dying Laughing, given by a Former Commander of the Metropolitan Police and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals. All very interesting and illuminating as usual.
I am delighted to announce the wonderful news that one of our own Liveryman, Roger Booth, has had a book published. It is his first book, entitled Promised Land, and, although based on historical fact, is a novel.
The novel opens in Burdigala (Bordeaux) in the early fifth century AD, soon after the Emperor Honorius withdraws the legions from Britain. When under Alaric the Visigoths captured Rome they took as hostage the Princess Galla Placidia, half-sister to the Emperor, who has travelled with them ever since. There begins a relationship between Galla Placidia and the new Goth king Athaulf which is an ambiguous mix of personal attraction, political calculation and genuine idealism culminating in marriage and the birth of a son. They hope that their union and in time their son will lead the Western Roman Empire out of the developing chaos. They might have changed the course of history. Except that history is not so easily changed.
I extend warm Spring greetings to all and hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
The month of April passed very quickly with continuing good news on the Covid-19 front. The NHS vaccination programme has moved on apace with 36 million people having received the first vaccination and some 18 million the second. This is a great achievement and the results are beginning to show with decreasing numbers of people catching the virus, being hospitalised and, sadly, losing their lives. The country is slowly beginning to return to some sort of normality, which we are all looking forward to.
Turning to other, non-Covid matters in April, the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was held in Windsor Castle. It was a wonderful event held on a beautifully sunny day and reflected the respect felt for the Duke of Edinburgh by the nation.
Two other important events in April that deserve mention, for very different reasons, are, the quashing of convictions of 39 former Postmasters by the Court of Appeal after "one of the UK's most widespread miscarriages of justice", and the short-lived European Football Super League disaster!
In the City, the Zoom meetings continue to take place on a regular basis, making our diaries fairly busy. However, I have heard several people saying that they are beginning to feel a bit "zoomed out" and are now ready to start meeting in person again. Hopefully this will happen in the very near future - plans are afoot in the Tylers and Bricklayers and many other Livery Companies.
I met with the Lord Mayor for a coffee morning, which was very convivial, and also attended several online events and tours, including a tour of Charles Dickens' City of London, a Jack the Ripper Tour and a tour of Goldsmiths' Hall and its wonderful treasures. There was also a fascinating and entertaining talk given by Alexandra Hayward, Sheriff's Consort, whose City of London career started as a Nurse at Barts’ Hospital in 1983, through to family life and living in the Old Bailey.
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. I attended meetings of the Communications Committee and the Almoner's Support Group and also interviewed two new candidates for admission to the Company.
It is very pleasing to be able to report that we are now fully booked for the Masters' and Clerks' luncheon being held at Trinity House on Tuesday 22nd June. I am really looking forward to this opportunity for us to get together face to face after such a long time - the last T&B event we held "in reality" was the Craft Awards on 5th March 2020. So this is going to be a fantastic occasion for all of us and our guests.
It certainly feels like Spring is in the air now. We experienced some of the coldest days for many years earlier in February, with temperatures as low as -20C in some parts, but things have improved considerably over the past few days and Spring is definitely beginning to show its face, brilliant! And with the recent announcement by the Prime Minister about the ending of lockdown, we have plenty to look forward to.
The big news for this month was the fantastic progress that has been made with the vaccination programme. To date, over 20 million people have had their first vaccine, which is an incredible achievement. The Government has announced their intention to offer a first vaccine to every adult by the end of July and it is this wonderful progress with the vaccination programme that has enabled the Prime Minister to outline the roadmap to end lockdown.
Following the announcement by the Prime Minister, there was a frantic scramble by everyone in the City to rearrange dates and venues for "live events" from July onwards. I am very pleased that our Learned Clerk, Heather Smith, was quick off the blocks and managed to get some key reservations for lunches, dinners and other events for the rest of my year. I am quite optimistic that we will be able to go ahead with these events, which should hopefully ensure that we are able to enjoy each other's company and good fellowship in the not too distant future.
To turn to the events in February, once again I have attended several excellent online events and T&B meetings, including the Craft Committee, the Communications Committee and the Finance Committee. We also held Common Hall virtually, another first for the Company, which was well attended and much appreciated by all those who were present. We extended the invitation to include Freemen this year, in accordance with the recommendations of the Strategic Review, another positive change. There was good feedback from all and a general feeling that more people contributed than usual and we saw a much wider cross section of Company members in attendance than in the past. As a result of this success we have agreed to hold Common Hall virtually again next year to enable more people to participate. The dinner which normally follows Common Hall will be held on a separate day, giving all Liverymen and Freemen the opportunity to attend either one or both.
Other City events I attended included the Lord Mayor's Gresham Lecture, Building Back better - The City's Role in a Green-Led Economic Recovery, in which Mark Carney and other experts gave their views, and a talk hosted by the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners on Reopening Business Premises Safely and Sustainably, both fascinating and thought provoking sessions. I also attended a wonderful tour of Leadenhall Market given by Peter Cave, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Insurers
and a fascinating tour of the Clockmakers' Museum given by Curator Anna Rolls. Both tours gave us a fascinating insight into these wonderful gems in the City.