Tonight it was my pleasure to chair the annual meeting of Common Hall at Cutlers' Hall. Common Hall is, effectively, the Company's AGM, where all liverymen are invited to attend. This is the main opportunity for liverymen to discuss any matters they wish to raise with the Master, Wardens, Court Assistants and their fellow liverymen.
Proceedings commenced with the Company Prayer, after which the Upper Warden reported on the Company Accounts and Finances and Hon. Secretary to the Trustees, Court Assistant Alan Dodd reported on the finances of the Charitable Trusts. It was very pleasing to see the accounts for the year just closed being presented to Common Hall and the Upper Warden was congratulated for making this happen for the first time in many years. Common Hall noted the healthy financial position of the Company and the Charitable Trusts and thanks were extended to all involved in maintaining this position.
It was noted that the Charity of the Year for 2019/20 was YouthBuildUK and the voting process for the Charity of the Year 2020/21 was outlined by Court Assistant Alan Dodd.
The three new Court Assistants, Tom Christopherson, Alan Dodd and David White introduced themselves to their fellow liverymen, givng a short resumé of themselves. Past Master David Szymanski gave an update on the Strategic Review and Past Master Piers Nicholson updated Common Hall on his new Heritage Sun Dial Project in Fleet Street.
Following an open forum for discussion there was a champagne reception with canapés prior to dinner.
As has become the custom, the seating was allocated to ensure that all Liverymen were given the opportunity to meet with Members of the Court. We started with smoked salmon, atlantic prawns and crême fraiche, followed by Fillet Steak Waterloo with paté and vegetables and vanilla panna cotta for dessert. The Chairman of the Wine Committee had reserved some extra special red wines for us tonight, which were much appreciated by all.
I was pleased to announce the winner of the poll for Charity of the Year 2020/21, which was St Edmunds, an educational establishment that provides vocational training for young people excluded from mainstream education.
We all retired downstairs for a stirrup cup, coffee and cheese and more good fellowship to end another wonderful Tyler and Bricklayer event.
I was delighted to be invited, to a special Civic Dinner, by the Chief Commoner tonight. This was a very small, intimate dinner hosted by the Chief Commoner and Remembrancer, in the Chief Commoner's Parlour.
On arrival at Guildhall I was escorted to the Art Gallery where our hosts were waiting to welcome the guests with a glass or two of champagne. I joined the small group which included Liveryman and Past Sheriff Dr Christine Rigden and Liveryman His Honour John Bevan QC.
I was introduced to several other guests who came from various different professions and backgrounds, which I found most interesting. At 7.15 pm we made our way to the Chief Commoner's Parlour for dinner, a beautiful room with a magnificent vaulted ceiling.
Following grace we all sat down to enjoy an extremely delicious meal, starting with a beautiful Scottish Spider Crab with Halibut, Lobster and Sea Bass, followed by Roast Loin of Highland Venison with Organic Vegetables and Bryon Potatoes. For dessert we were treated to a wonderful Baby Pineapple Crème Brûlée with a Piña Colada Shot and Coconut Ice Cream, truly delightful. All accompanied by some excellent wines.
To make things more interesting, we all changed places after the main course which gave everyone the opportunity to talk to and get to know more guests. This worked very well indeed. Following dinner, and the Loyal Toasts, the Chief Commoner and Remembrancer both gave brief and interesting speeches about their positions in the City of London.
The evening ended with a delightful performance by Cellist Benedict Swindells of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. An excellent ending to yet another wonderful evening.
The year commenced with a short but much appreciated break to visit friends in Perth and Melbourne. After a wonderful time in sunny Perth with some very good friends, Maureen and I were delighted to meet up with Liveryman Brenda Upton Kemp in Melbourne, who generously invited us for dinner one evening at her beautiful condominium. Needless to say Brenda was a brilliant host, treating us to a wonderful home-made dinner with plenty of champagne and wine. We had a lovely evening catching up on what Brenda had been doing in Melbourne and planning our activities for the forthcoming year.
The first event of the year was the annual meeting of the Master, Wardens and Clerk, where important items of business planning are discussed covering the current and future years. We met at the Tappit Hen, one of the Davey's Wine Bars, where they were kind enough to let us have a private area downstairs to ourselves. We covered a large agenda of business, with twenty eight items to discuss, including the progress with planning events and venues for the next two years, the strategic review, items to discuss at the forthcoming meeting of Common Hall, the Triennial Awards, the Installation protocols, the Upper Warden's newsletter plus many more items. We had a very pleasant lunch while working through the agenda and all agreed that good progress had been made. A good start to the New Year 2020.
Today I was delighted to attend, together with the Learned Clerk, the Blacksmith's Company Epiphany luncheon at the beautiful Trinity House, one of my favourite venues in the City. On arrival we were greeted by a Past Prime Warden and introduced to several other Assistants and Past Prime Wardens with whom we had very interesting conversations whilst taking in some wonderful glasses of champagne.
I was privileged to be invited to process in with the Prime Warden Blacksmith, Dr Nicholas Land, and to be seated to his right hand side as the principal guest. It was indeed a great honour to be sitting between both Dr Lands as the Prime Warden's wife is a GP!
Lunch consisted of a delicious filo pastry tart of wild mushroom with cumin hollandaise sauce followed by an exquisite confit of old Gloucester suckling pig with all the trimmings, and for dessert apple and blackberry crumble with custard sauce and clotted cream ice cream. A veritable feast all accompanied by excellent wines.
The Prime Warden made the loyal and civic toasts and the welcome to the guests was proposed by Court assistant Mr John Richardson. I was privileged to be asked to respond on behalf of the guests, which I was very happy to do.
The Prime Warden made a wonderful final speech to round off a truly excellent Epiphany luncheon. This was a superb way to start of the New Year 2020.
The afternoon started with the interview of an applicant for membership of our Worshipful Company. The interviews are conducted by the Master, Wardens and Clerk and are always interesting because they allow an opportunity for the candidates to provide as much information about their careers, aims and aspirations as they feel appropriate. This gives the panel excellent information on which to base their decision about the candidate.
Following the interview, I chaired my first meeting of the Court as Master. We started the meeting with a minute's silence in memory of Past Master Jeremy Stokes who was much loved by us all.
There was a full agenda to get through with lots of essential business, the first of which was the pleasurable installation of a new Court Assistant, Liveryman David White. David pledged his declaration of intent and then took his place at the table. We discussed the Company finances and statements of account, which were the most up to date we have had for many years. Congratulations to Upper Warden Simon Martin for making this happen. There were also, inter alia, reports from the Craft Committee, Communications Committee, and Treasures Committee. An important item of business discussed was the replacement Renter Warden's medal and a way forward was agreed. Thanks to Past Master Roger Westbrook for his wonderful ideas and his work in this connection.
Following the meeting of the Court, we proceeded to the Trading House to join the Mistress and other consorts and partners. The Mistress had organised a lovely pre-Christmas drinks reception for everyone, which was greatly appreciated by all who attended.
There then followed the wonderful Christmas Carol Service at St Margaret Lothbury, by kind permission of the Rector, the Reverend Prebendary Jeremy Crossley and led by our own Chaplain, The Reverend John Cook. This is always the highlight of my Christmas events, with wonderful music and singing by the Lothbury Singers, organised so marvellously by the Director of Music, Honorary Freeman Richard Townend. It is a truly wonderful event that cannot fail to get everyone into the Christmas spirit.
To finish the evening off we all made our way to the Guildhall Club for a delicious Christmas supper of stroganoff of beef and lamb fillet with saffron rice and a selection of vegetables followed by an exquisite Christmas pudding cheesecake, all accompanied by excellent wines chosen by the Wine Committee. A wonderful end to a marvellous day and a great way to start the Christmas period.
A Very Happy Christmas and New Year to all.