Friday, 12 October 2012

Readings and Bells

As I haven’t quite decided what to do with this blog now that my year as Master has ended I thought I would prolong its demise – at least in this format – for a little longer.

The Installation of the new Master takes place at the dinner in the first week of October – this year, as I have already written, on October 3 at the Skinners’ Hall. Some companies admit their new Master at their Court meeting or just in front of the Livery.  I am delighted that the Needlemakers is one of those companies that welcomes guests at all functions that are open to the Livery. It makes for a very friendly and warm atmosphere and introduces a wider audience to the work of the Company.  The current Lord Mayor charged the Liveries during his year (which ends in November) to publicise the good work that their companies support and I believe that this just one route to doing that.

The dinner is preceded by a meeting of the Court, followed by the Annual Service.  So, after the Court meeting we processed a few yards to our church – St James Garlickhythe for the Annual Service and a most interesting sermon by the Priest-in-Charge, Reverent Guy Treweek.  I attended a Church of England girls’ high school in Johannesburg so many of the traditional hymns are familiar to me – including all the ones selected for the service. This is probably slightly heretical but I don’t think it matters what place of worship you are in – it is a time for thought and meditation and if the words of the lesson (I chose The Book of Job, Chapter 28 verses 12 – 28 for my reading) or the sermon help – so much the better. 

We left the church to the sound of the Jubilee Bells ringing out across the City for the short walk back to the Hall and for the reception and dinner. I have had the luxury of choosing all the menus this year – so have included all my favourites.  I may never be forgiven for choosing fish at the Butchers’ Hall (!) but it was very good fish too.....

We installed three new Liverymen – Susan Young, Dan Doherty and Harry Mill.  We also welcomed three new Assistants to the Court meeting – Martyn Chase, Mike Lee and John Mill – so it was a very full evening.

After the installation ceremony, with the new Master in his place at the top of the table I had the opportunity to reflect briefly on my year before proposing the toast to the Master.  Here is an extract from my speech:

“I am not going to dwell on the past year - I have written on my blog about everything I have done and readers will be aware that it has been an amazing year with a diverse range of events and activities. Suffice to say - I attended over 80 engagements some grand and full of pomp - mostly not - but all of interest.

This was apart from our fascinating, enjoyable and chocolate-filled trip to Berlin and Dresden and, with the wardens, to Stratford-on-Avon and the Needle Museum in Redditch.  We also had a very interesting day at Bletchley Park and last month we visited the 140th Anniversary Exhibition at the Royal School of Needlework with the Chief Executive, Liveryman, Dr Susan Kay Williams.

If you would indulge me with a quick trip back in history - the year 1656 is significant for us because it was the year that we were granted our Commonwealth Charter from Oliver Cromwell - it was also the year that Oliver Cromwell granted a petition from Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel from Amsterdam to allow the Jews back into London with freedom to practice their religion – this after an expulsion lasting 366 years. I am very proud that we now live in such a diverse city that it is unthinkable that these freedoms could be denied to anyone.

And now some thank you’s. 

Firstly – my consort, John.  He has been patient (more difficult than you can imagine) understanding (sometimes a challenge) ready with advice (when asked for): but always enthusiastic, supportive and interested.  Fortunately his duties did not interfere too much with his golf – to the extent that he won the Golf Club’s Senior of the Year competition last month.

I would like to thank the Wardens, the Court, the committees and all the Livery for their support during the year. Special mention for Assistant Bryan Knight without whom the visits to Berlin and Redditch would not have been as successful, stress free (for me anyway) or enjoyable.

Thank you to those Liverymen who generously supported my appeal for Breast Cancer Campaign - a cheque for three thousand one hundred and forty five pounds went to the charity last week.

Last year when I stood where you are standing now, Master, and looked down the centre table my first thought was terror at the all the expectations for the year but the Clerk at the end of the table gave me an encouraging smile and it began a relationship where he has done all the work and I have taken all the credit.  Something which suited me well – and we had a few laughs along the way. Thank you Philip.

I was at the Election of the Lord Mayor on Monday.  The (current) Lord Mayor spoke about how it was the office that was important and what one brings to it rather than takes from it. Being Master of this Company is no different - one Master goes and the next one arrives but what is most important is the health and wellbeing of the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers.  Like all Past Masters, the good of the company has been in the front of my mind throughout my year and I know is central to everything that you, Master, have planned for your year.

It is impossible for me to do justice here to the Master’s stellar career and the many awards he has received.  In brief, George was born in Glasgow, is a Chartered Engineer and a graduate of Strathclyde University. He was with Ethicon for 33 years; appointed Managing Director in 1988 and president of Ethicon Europe from 1996 until 2002.  He is still actively involved with a number of biotech companies and very much with education, medicine and surgery through the Royal Colleges and the University. 

Apart from his CBE, which he received in 1994 for services to industry and the community in Scotland, he has (if I have counted correctly - two honorary doctorates and five honorary fellowships).

In Milly he has a partner who will not only share the year with elegance and grace but, if - just if - he should feel too important – will bring him back down to earth. 

Seriously though – George you have both wisdom and understanding and I know that you are held in the highest regard by all those who know you - I can think of no one better qualified to lead this company successfully into the next stage of its history.

Liverymen, guests I ask you to rise and charge your glasses and drink a toast – The Master.”

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