The last time I looked at the Livery list of over 200 Feltmakers was before Christmas when I endeavoured to send you all a Christmas card. It was a reminder of what a special community we are and how privileged I feel to be your Master for a year. Then, I was looking forward to the events that would bring us together throughout the year and a number of those events we have already enjoyed: the Installation dinner, the Lord Mayors show, the Carol service and the Atherstone and Luton lunches. Thank heavens we did, because now there are many of our get togethers that have had to be cancelled: the Spring Dinner, the visit to Zurich for the Sechslauten, the Hatting Competition, and a visit to HMS Lancaster. And it may be that the Summer Banquet, the Livery golf day and the Inter Livery tennis will not be possible either, we will have to wait and see.
I have been so touched by the calls, letters and e mails I have received from Livery members expressing sympathy to me for this happening during my year as Master. I appreciate their thoughts, but the truth is we are facing something far more important than the cancellation of a few dinners. The challenge of the corona virus pandemic affects every person in our Livery. We are in a fight for survival against a deadly virus that will be targeting many of our members. It is an unpleasant realisation for many of us that we ARE the old and vulnerable! As we wait for the numbers affected to peak, all of us are gripped by the fear of uncertainty and worries about our friends and loved ones. And, as Feltmakers, we should be sparing a thought for the hatters and milliners whose businesses will be affected by the disruption to our economy.
However, I don’t want this letter to dwell too much on the negative. We may not be able to meet together for a while, but anyone feeling anxious or lonely and isolated should draw comfort from the friendships and support that your Livery can offer. The business of the Livery goes on thanks to modern technology. We have made an additional charitable donation to the Providence Row charity doing fantastic work for the homeless who are particularly vulnerable at this time. We are also looking to the future: our Clerk, Jollyon Coombs’ call to recruit younger members to join the Livery comes at a particularly pertinent moment, and the search for his replacement is progressing well with a talented field of applicants being processed by the selection committee; the candidates are being assessed by conference call.
The truth is we know this period of isolation will end, and although the world may well be very different the Feltmakers will still stand for fellowship and tradition.We must believe that good and positive things will come out of all this. To quote our new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak
” When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back on this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us. Now more than at any time in our history we will be judged by our capacity for compassion.”
On a rather stormy day on 20th February, over 50 Feltmakers and friends gathered at Luton Hoo for the annual Luton Lunch. We were greeted in the beautiful Romanov Suite with a glass of rum punch and a stunning, and very appropriate, display of carnival costumes depicting hats. These dramatic costumes had been created by the St Kitts & Nevis & Friends Luton Carnival Group for their theme for the 2019 Carnival “Hats off to Luton”.
The meal was delicious and once again had a Caribbean flavour. We began with saltfish stuffed fried dumplings, followed by jerk marinated chicken supreme, pea & coconut rice, crushed sweet potatoes, crispy chicken skin and rum sauce and we finished with rum and raisin cheesecake.
As we relaxed after the meal, John Horn thanked everyone for attending with special mention to Vivianne Vayssieres for her help in organising the day. He introduced Margaret Matthews, the Chair of the St Kitts & Nevis Group, who entertained us as she outlined her long association and enthusiasm for the Carnival and the Group. She explained how the ideas become reality and how the costumes are created in a real atmosphere of inclusion from all ages. Her talk was followed by a short speech from Maureen Drummond, the St Kitts & Nevis Carnival Queen who then demonstrated how her Top Hat costume was worn as she sashayed her way round the room to our delight.
The Master Gilly Yarrow then stood to thank our speakers and thanked John for organising and hosting such an entertaining lunch.
The lunch finished with a fantastic Hat Show by the very talented Ian Wright from his Hats Philip Wright 2020 Collection. “Maureen’s Angels”, volunteers persuaded by Maureen Drummond to take part, modelled these for fun. They modelled with increasing enjoyment and displayed the hats very professionally under Vivienne’s watchful eye. The collection was beautiful and a very fitting end to a lunch celebrating hatting in Luton.
Hat’s off to John Horn for once again organising a convivial and entertaining Luton Lunch.
It felt a great honour to be invited to the Oriental Club, first established in 1824, for our first Livery Society Dinner of the year. A building that still retains its Grade 1 Listing, with its President the 1st Duke of Wellington. This unique club also houses a fabulous art collection, including pictures by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the great masterpiece of Tippu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, there in the dining room.
Twenty two Livery attended the diner, during which three important speeches were made.
To begin with Steve Jones, a member here for many years, who had arranged the event (with Simon Wood?), gave a short history of the building, and invited members to a tour of the building either later that evening or at a convenient time in the future.
Next our Clerk, Jollyon Coombs, stood to talk about his retirement at the end of this year following 20 years of service to the Feltmakers. He also spoke about the decision to bring in a younger generation to the Feltmakers, inviting sons and daughters of current Liverymen to join at a considerably lower fee. There would also be special events for the newcomers to encourage a younger vibe throughout the Livery.
Then Simon Millar spoke about the Livery Society, and his enjoyment of the informal events such as shooting, tennis and golf.
Then finally Lady Gilly Yarrow, our Master, thanked Livery Society for our special invite, thanked the chefs for a delicious meal, and spoke of the events she would be running this year for her charity MENCAP
Out of the chaos came order! Assembling in Aldersgate St., it never seemed likely that such a collection of colours, movement, noise and dress (whether costume or fancy dress) could be fused into a single parade.
Following excellent briefings from Adrian and the Parade Marshall, the cry of “we’re off!” went up. The three vintage cars in front belched into life, bands broke into rhythm and the steam whistle on the traction engine behind went off at full throttle.
At first, we were timid with the crowds lining the pavements but before long we were exchanging “high fives”, shouts of “good morning” and doffing hats randomly, or by way of acknowledgement, to fellow hat wearers in the crowd.
My favourite moment (moments!) was managing to catch that unlikely person in the public, who must have been standing and watching for hours, managing to catch their eye with a wave and a smile, and getting a wave or smile back. Also the high fives going on behind me!
Arriving at our assembly venue, it was clear exactly how much thought and personal effort by many had gone into our float. The “commander” already dressed and directing the ranks, our float leader very much in control, and a huge plan unfolding.
But best of all was entering the dressing room where the “Hatting Team” distributed cloaks and beautiful hats for the ladies from boxes, labelled with size of head, hair colour, height, designer and so on. So, so professional and clearly a massive amount of detail.
We boys were guided to get our act together ourselves, but the ladies looked particularly fantastic thanks to the Hatting Team. It was quite clear at that point that our Livery is no ordinary one. We didn’t just order placards off the internet and wander through the City streets; our Livery was there, writ large, with a fabulous float and Model T Fords to take the less mobile, in force with the WAAG!
Amid a joyous cacophony of sound, both musical and applause, the Lord Mayor’s procession wound its way around the City. We Feltmakers were delighted and proud to have one of our own Liverymen, Alderman William Russell, as Lord Mayor this year. The enjoyment and fun of being involved was unmissable – a very memorable day!
My overarching memory of the day was that the Feltmakers’ float was, once again, a “class act”, way ahead of any of the other livery company floats, with beautiful vehicles and banners serving as a stage for we, elegantly-attired, walkers to strut our stuff in front of the Lord Mayor and thousands of spectators looking on appreciatively.
I have a series of mini memories, including walking alongside Ian Wright, to my left, with his fearsome gauntlets, and Nick Lee, to my right, who quipped, when I observed that all the hand-waving was no good for my golf drive, that maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing! Adrian Gubby was magnificent as our commander, bringing serene order where there could so easily have been chaos, and Gilly, our Master, so warmly articulate in everything she said in getting us underway and thanking the Waag in M Restaurant for their magnificent hospitality. Finally, who could forget our agile photographer who seemed to be in about four places all at once?
It was absolutely incredible that such a huge show can run so smoothly without any obvious hitches – the planning that goes into organising such an event is phenomenal.
As well as being great fun, it is and was a huge privilege to be able take part in something so special as the Lord Mayor’s Show. As one of back row of marchers, who happened to be placed on the outside, it was a real pleasure to be able to greet some of those who had come to watch the procession with ‘Good morning’, sometimes to ‘touch hands’ with youngsters holding out theirs in greeting, and of course waving one’s hat to one and all in salutation. Located where we were, we could see all of our own float, our fellow marchers preceded by the three Model T Fords, and ahead of us, our friends from the Waag and their band.
I was later surprised and delighted by the coincidence of friends at home turning on the television news at just the right time, and seeing us all marching together, even recognising me waving my Tricorn!
But the most special moment, which really highlighted to me the privilege of being part of the day, was immediately after the march was over and we were walking back to refresh ourselves, and change. For a blind Asian girl and her ‘minder’, an older Englishman, asked me to stop so that she could actually touch my dark blue woollen cape, and its badge, and so experience at first hand just a tiny part of what her colleague had been telling her as the day progressed. I then leant forwards and invited her to touch my Tricorn hat, and she exclaimed with joy when she felt the feather in it, as well as remarking on the shape and texture. I asked her name and where she was from and learned that she came from South Korea, although her English was excellent. In response to my next question she confirmed that she belonged to the Presbyterian Church of Korea. We parted friends, acknowledging our common faith, and I felt humbled that we, who have so much and had enjoyed ourselves so hugely, can be taking part in something that is so special that someone from another land who cannot see, also wants to share in it so much.
What a great coming together of the Feltmakers and Waag kindred spirits. It was a superb weekend and a great thank you to all the organising committee.
Experiences such as Saturday, make up my collage of ‘happy thoughts’. I was most definitely privileged to be a beneficiary of the efforts made by the organising committee and the hospitality of the Waag, who’s energy was magnificent. A wonderful day indeed.
My most treasured memory [says Lady Gilly Yarrow MasterFeltmaker]was probably being interviewed by the BBC and being able to put the Feltmakers and their support for hatting on the telly! Also marching along the streets of London to the jolly Waag band, which somehow put a spring in our steps and meant my feet didn’t hurt as much as I thought they would
Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of London
An outstanding candidate is sought, as our existing Clerk of nearly 20 years is retiring. The Individual:
Experienced and charismatic leader with stature and poise. Exceptional organisational, administrative and interpersonal skills dealing with our membership of 200, along with contact with other Livery companies. Financially astute.
Proven at a significant level of responsibility gained in the commercial, public or voluntary sectors or the armed forces.
Developed diplomatic and social skills. Courteous, persuasive and unflappable. At ease and effective at all levels.
Clear empathy for the traditions and ceremony of the City of London.
Provides support to an elected leader of the Livery (the Master) and enhances their authority but must be able to lead where necessary.
Loyal, discreet and endowed with sound judgement and a sense of humour. Mentally agile and strategically sound.
Good IT skills, enabling electronic record keeping, communications and financial arrangements.
Experience or knowledge of the feltmaking and hatting industry is desirable but not essential but an interest in these matters most certainly is.
Occupies on average about three days per week (21 hours), requiring some flexibility to accommodate the seasonal variations in workload typical to this role. Much of the work will be done ‘at home’.
Leading the administration of every aspect of the Company’s activities and supporting/managing agreed changes in direction.
Managing the Company’s day-to-day finances, and supporting the Company’s advisers on investment and property matters, and working with our Charity Trustees in connection with the conduct of our charitable work and managing those resources.
Promoting the interests of the Company within the City and with other Livery Companies.
Supporting the Master, Wardens and Court.
Supporting the Company’s Committees.
Attending, with the Master, a variety of formal, and less formal, City and social occasions in the evenings and sometimes at lunchtime.
[Oversight/of digital media communications and website ]
A competitive salary and benefits package is offered.
A more detailed Job Description (of which the above is a summary) is available for applicants. The closing date for written applications is Friday 13 March 2020, and following careful assessment of all applications received, we shall hold the first round of interviews from Tuesday 19 May 2020 onwards on a date to be agreed. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to submit applications.
To misquote T.S. Eliot, a wet coming we had of it, as Feltmakers, families and friends, gathered for our annual Carols by Candlelight. This year, we were joined by staff and supporters of Mencap, a charity with whom our Master, Gilly Yarrow, has had a long and significant association, and which is her chosen charity for her year in office.
This year’s service was a delightful combination of the traditional and modern. Much-loved and well-known carols and Gospel readings were interspersed with comic, yet reverential poems, such as Benjamin Zephaniah’s “Talking Turkeys”, delivered with great panache by actor, Tim Bentinck, and “Christmas Thank Yous”, by Mick Gower and read by Mencap volunteer, Lloyd Page. Richenda Carey delivered The Annunication from St Luke’s Gospel and The Master gave the final reading from St John’s Gospel.
After steaming cups of mulled wine, we crossed Smithfield Square to enjoy a hearty supper of Shepherd’s Pie at Haberdashers’ Hall which was full to overflowing and ringing with conversation. A truly magical and appropriate Christmas evening.
Michael Stafford passed away peacefully on 13th December.
His son, Liveryman Andrew Stafford, writes: I think I am right in saying that my father holds the double distinction of having been, at the time of his death, the oldest living Feltmaker, and also having been the head of the last felt hat manufacturing company in England.
The family are very proud of the history of Wilson & Stafford Ltd, and the place it holds in the history of our industry. Having lost the wife he adored, Lorna, in 2015, he continued to be a wonderful father to 5 children, and a much loved grandfather to 7 grandchildren. He will be sorely missed by family and friends
HMS LANCASTER returned from her last foreign trip in December 2015, after this the Ship was placed in extended readiness in Portsmouth harbour. In 2017 the ship was towed to Plymouth to start a refit period; due to the amount of structural work this was extended to two years. During this time the Ship has had over 2000 new steel inserts put into her hull to make her structurally sound again. This has been no easy refit, at one stage they had to stop cutting steel out as LANC was becoming structurally unsound and so they had to put more inserts back in before they could carry on with all of the work.
However, two years later in April 2019 HMS LANCASTER saw her first six crew members join, since then the crew has grown in numbers to over 130 to meet the first milestone of Ship Staff Move On Board. The Ships Company rose to the challenge and we successfully moved back on board HMS LANCASTER on the 14 August 2019. This success was down to the hard work and dedication of all the parties involved in the regeneration of the Ship.
The next challenge is Ready For Sea Date currently planned for the 13 December 2019, between now and then we have to re-commission all of the Marine and Weapon Engineering systems to ensure we can safely proceed to sea to carry out the basic trials. Many of the systems have laid dormant for four years and we also have to integrate all of the new equipment which includes new navigational radar, sea captor missile system, RT997 radar, communications equipment and other systems. This will involve departmental training to ensure that the Ship’s crew know how to safely operate this and also the limitations of the new equipment. On top of all this we have to ensure that each member of the crew is safe to proceed to sea and so basic firefighting and damage control exercises are taking place daily to enhance the basic knowledge of the crew.
Our new Captain, Cdr William Blackett RN joins on the 3 December 2019 just prior to taking the Ship to sea. This is an ideal time for him to join as he will get to know the Ship inside and out during the trials period in early 2020; prior to this HMS LANCASTER will enter Portsmouth under her own power for the first time in nearly four years.