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.”

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Master – Past – Immediate......

I am reminded of when I left my full-time job (for this hybrid, so-called portfolio career).  I sent an email to a colleague the following day, after my leaving party, with a message of thanks to put on the office intranet.  There was no response.  I telephoned to see if the email had been received and the response was “no, I haven’t ..... hold on a moment .... oh yes, it is in the spam filter”.  Hero to zero in 24 hours!

The Livery lets you down a little more lightly.  You put the chain of office on your successor, relinquish your seat at the top of the table and move to the side of the table where your first responsibility as “Immediate Past Master” (IPM) is to congratulate your successor – in my case something I did with great enthusiasm as the Master, for the first time in very many years, is a real needlemaker!  The IPM has a small role in the ensuing year:  to deputise for the Master if necessary and to act as unofficial almoner to the Company.  Then after a year you join the Past Masters – past but certainly not past it!

The Installation of the new Master was held on October 3 at the Skinners Hall.  The Skinners is an interesting company – you may have heard the phrase “at sixes and sevens”: this arises from a dispute between the Skinners and Merchant Taylors which came to a head in 1484 in lethal violence about who should take precedence in the Mayoral river procession.  The Mayor, Robert Billesdon, proposed that the companies take it in turns and when a fixed order for the Livery Companies was laid down in 1516 the two companies alternated between numbers six and seven – which they still do.

We held our Court meeting in the beautiful Court Room.  If you click the link you will see the magnificent Master’s Chair at the head of the table.  Like our Master’s gown - which was clearly made for someone great of height – so was this chair and my feet swung free a good few inches off the floor. 

I will write separately about the Annual Service that followed and the dinner. 

In the mean time – congratulations to our Master, George Borthwick CBE FRSE, CEng, DEng, DBA, BSc(Hons), FIMechE, FIET, CCMI, FRCSEd(Hon), FRCPS (Glas), FRCOphth(Hon), FRCOG(Hon).  We look forward with great excitement to his year of office.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Election of the Lord Mayor 2012

It is rather nice that my last official function before handing over to my successor is to participate in the election of the Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor is elected by Common Hall, all Liverymen of the City’s Livery Companies. The sitting Lord Mayor summons Liverymen to the Guildhall for the election. The Masters of the Livery Companies, in their robes and chains process through the packed Hall and all the (civic) City dignitaries and officials then process in.

Common Hall is opened by the Common Cryer and Sergeant at Arms (who does shout Oyez, Oyez – and sitting close to the front the volume of his voice is quite terrifying!).

After a bit of ceremony the Lord Mayor and the senior Alderman (who have already been Lord Mayor) leave the Hall and go to the Print Room with the Recorder. Town Clerk. the City Marshall  and the Sword Bearer  (an old photo but the only one I could find – the uniforms are wonderful).  The Marshal closes the door.

The Sheriffs and the Common Sergeant then present the list of those Aldermen “below the chair” ie have not yet been Lord Mayor, who have served as Sheriff. Three Aldermen are named as potential candidates and two are required to go forward. The voting is by a show of hands.  Traditionally the first candidate is accepted with a show of hands and also a shout from the Liverymen of “All”, the second with “Next” and the third with “Later”.  After a bit of faux conferring they then deliver the two names to the Lord Mayor.

The Assistant Town Clerk addresses the Livery.  Although the subject of his speech was fairly serious – about the facility at Heathrow, which the Corporation of London manages, for the supervision of animals being imported into the UK, it is delivered in a very light-hearted way and punctuated with jokes.

The Mayoral party return to the Hall – the Lord Mayor Elect assents to take up office and then he speaks to the Hall, followed by the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs.

I have not given the full detail – it is largely ceremonial but very enjoyable and an interesting thought that one is participating in a ritual that has gone on since the 12th Century.

A group of Needlemakers then repaired to the Butchers’ Hall for an excellent lunch of – oh yes - Roast beef!

The Lord Mayor Elect - the 685th Lord Mayor will be Alderman Roger Gifford. He takes office on 9 November in the Silent Ceremony at the Guildhall.

Sunday 30 September 2012

460th Anniversary of the Foundation of Christ’s Hospital

As the school I attended in South Africa was only 25 years old at that stage I am somewhat in awe of schools that have survived for hundreds of years.

September 21 saw me back at St Paul’s for the second time that week for the celebration of the 460th Anniversary of the Foundation of Christ’s Hospital School.  For my overseas readers – hospital in this context was closer to its earlier meaning  charitable institution to house and maintain the needy” rather than place for the sick.

The school was the result of the vision of King Edward VI, assisted by Nicholas Ridley the Bishop of London and the Lord Mayor of the City of London. King Henry VIII had already granted the use of Greyfriars to the City for the relief of the poor. Edward granted the Palace of Bridewell, his lands at the Savoy and "rents and other chattels" to create three Royal ‘Hospitals’ — including Christ's Hospital, which was for the education of poor children. The first boys and girls entered the school in Newgate in 1552.
The school is very unusual for a British independent school as a proportion of the pupils are educated free and most at a reduced rate. Pupils are means tested and the fees adjusted accordingly so that children from all walks of life are able to have a high quality education.  It is therefore no surprise that the school is enthusiastically supported by City of London institutions, (including the Needlemakers).
The service was most impressive with a school choir and orchestra.  The pupils still wear the traditional dress with their long coats (it was originally known as the Bluecoat School) and I am assured that when regularly asked about the uniform they have no desire to change.  Do look at the website Christ's Hospital and an interesting cutting Local pupils vote to keep their uniform!

St Paul’s Cathedral – and the choir school

One of the great joys of this year has been listening to wonderful music: not only at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama but also at several churches, especially St Pauls.

On September 19 I attended Evensong at St Pauls which included the installation of a new Minor Canon and it was a feast of organ and choral music. This was followed by a short recital by the choristers and a talk on the choir school and some brief interviews with some of the choristers. 

All the Livery Companies that sponsor choristers then lined up with their choristers for a group photo and we had the opportunity to meet them and talk to them.  Some are so young  (seven!) and yet appeared so confident. 

The choristers then departed and we repaired to the Crypt for drinks and canapés. 

It is difficult to see very much but the overall view is stunning. I am standing in the middle my head barely showing above our chorister – look for the very tall man and I am on his left. 

The photo is copyright of St Paul’s Cathedral and the photographer is Mark Laing.