First tip for future Feltmakers due to report for the website and magazine – remember to take a pencil and something to write with. I found myself searching in my tiny evening bag for anything at all to jot down the key parts of the speeches, without success. In the end, I had to scurry after the speakers, asking them to send me a copy of their speeches, so I could cannibalise them!
Second tip (this is for the girls) – if you have walked to the Hall in trainers, remember to change into your party shoes before you enter the Hall, because otherwise you might be forced to cross a hallway crowded with smart people on your way to the cloakroom, wishing for a cloak of invisibility.
The evening proper started well when one was greeted at the welcome line-up– a most hearty welcome was extended to all of us, and we all made our way into the reception room, hung with rich colours, and were given a glass of excellent English champagne. (Two adjectives I had not previously thought to see together when applied to that noun). Huddling with old friends, catching up with them, and making some new friends, then into the dining hall, where red brocaded walls surrounded us, and the glass, silverware and china were sparkling in the candlelight. An excellent meal, with good wines, and then the real treat of the evening came with some most enjoyable speeches.
First up was Jeremy Bedford, who remarked that it was curious to be in the position of ‘welcoming the our principal guest, Charles McAndrew, Master Grocer, to what is, effectively, his own home’.
He spoke about the Master Grocer’s early years, and life, and then said ‘It is important that I note that you have followed Kipling’s mantra with you in life, and as you have succeeded in your career and sporting life over the years you have not forgotten those who have struggled and toiled without the same success – you are a lifelong supporter of Southampton Football Club!’
He then welcomed the visiting Masters, and the other distinguished guests, and we toasted them. In response, The Master Grocer made an excellent speech in which he touched on the fact that our Master went to Oundle, which is the Grocers’ school, and therefore is a Freeman of the Grocers, and remarked that the Grocers must have been the obvious choice for us Feltmakers, given that history!
He then went on to give us a little real history of the Grocers, most interestingly saying that nowadays the focus is on education and charity. And not just Oundle, which remains the largest single beneficiary, but also several other connected schools, including ‘Mossbourne Community Academy’ in Hackney.
The Master Grocer mentioned the Mentoring programme that they have, also an annual ‘Academy Awards’ evening for sixth formers of three Academy schools.
He toasted the Feltmakers and our Master, who responded with a speech which touched on how important the Grocers had been to him in his life. He said how much Colin Semper would be missed as Chaplain, as this was to be his last dinner as Chaplain, before Colin hands over to Andrew Pritchard-Keens.
He also thanked the fourth warden, Nigel MacDonald, (Chairman of Lock & Co) who had contributed the new replacement hats that were being worn that day. Rachel Trevor Morgan was also thanked for her work concerning the Competition.
He mentioned a Lecture he had attended at the Horner’s Company, when Professor Poliakoff had refused to treat science with kid gloves and was dealing with a series of lectures and videos, one on each of the 118 elements of the periodic table. They have been viewed on the global internet 81 million times apparently, and are making people all round the world realise that science and technology can be fun. He cited it as an example of how technology can really help in education.
He also mentioned his two charitable events which are coming up later in the year, dinner at the Tower of London, and involvement in the Thames Path Challenge, a sponsored walk from Cookham to Henley.
The Master then told us that it was a record breaking evening in terms of attendance, with over 140 people, including 75 Liverymen.
Our Clerk had certainly organised a most splendid evening for all concerned, and he was thanked by the Master on our behalf.
I am going to leave you with an extract from the Master Grocers’ speech, which I think ties in very nicely with our own Master’s theme for the year, ‘People can make a difference’ – The Master Grocer said ‘There is a theme here which I think is a real strength of the Livery. Back in the early ordinances of the Grocers, the ideal is expressed that we should be “a nursery of charities and a seminary of good citizens”. Such a phrase could well apply to the Livery movement in general. Implicit in it is the suggestion that it is not just our money that we can apply charitably, but our time as well. We are all, effectively, a talent pool; not just our Courts, but also our Liverymen and Freemen, from whom school governors, charity trustees and also younger mentors and fundraisers should and do emerge.’