Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Election of the Sheriffs 2012

The election of the Sheriffs by the Livery took place in Guildhall on June 25. As there were only two candidates this year the election was uncontested. It is one of those wonderful ceremonies that one can experience in the City, full of pomp and fancy dress – ceremonial dress I suppose would be more accurate. 

This election is not always uncontested and last year there were three candidates for the non-aldermanic Sheriff so the hustings were just that.

Our Livery Company calls the head honcho the Master but some use the term Prime Warden or Upper Bailiff.  We all assembled in the Crypt of the Guildhall and put on our robes, chains and badges.  The Great Twelve – the senior livery companies – stand aside while the rest of us line up in reverse order of seniority.  At number 65 we are just past half way of the 108 companies. The rest of the liverymen are already in the Hall and we process in and take our seats in the Hall and the Great 12 on the stage.

The civic procession then enters the Hall and takes their seats and the Common Cryer, who actually does say “Oyez, Oyez”, opens the proceedings.  His voice projection is something to be marvelled at. (I did wonder if Sheriff Wendy Mead behind whom he was standing perhaps was wearing earplugs.)  He also instructs “all those who are not Liverymen to depart the Hall on pain of imprisonment”.

Alderman Jeffrey Evans (Ward of Cheap) and Nigel Pullman were elected. The new Sheriffs will be admitted into office on Friday 28 September ready to preside at the Election of the Lord Mayor on Monday 1 October (we will all be there!).

Some history - the office of Sheriff, a pre-requisite to becoming Lord Mayor, is one of the oldest in existence and dates back to the Middle Ages. Their duties today include attending the Lord Mayor in carrying out his official duties, attending the sessions at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey and presenting petitions from the City to Parliament.

Those not familiar or sympathetic to the rituals of the Civic City may wonder why we need to go through all this rigmarole.  The process of course is hugely important and largely takes place somewhere else but I have come to value the ritual as well.  Yes, it is fun to line up with all the other Masters and process in wearing our finery but it is more than that. There is something about it that roots one, centres one: the individual who holds office is not very consequential but the office and what can be achieved is. 

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