The Livery’s year began with a cold clear night outside the Cutlers’ Hall in Warwick Lane, just behind the Old Bailey, but a very warm and friendly atmosphere within it!
The Master generously hosts this occasion and his principal guests were Alderman and Sheriff Charles Bowman, and Sheriff Dr Christine Rigden, Stuart Popham Esq QC who is the Vice Chairman of the Royal National Life Boat Institution (one of the Master’s Charities for the year) along with other guests including Mr Thomas Wheatley-Hubbard, the Master farmer and Mr Graeme Monteith, the Master Constructor, Mr Philip Woodhouse, a Past Master of the Grocers’ Company, and Brigadier Michael Keun, Clerk to the guild of Freemen of the City of London.
The Cutlers’s Hall is not large, but it immediately creates an intimate atmosphere, illustrated by the fact that after the dinner, stirrup-cups were shared in the Dining Room which adjoins and is connected to the Court Room, in which two inviting settees had been placed before a fine log fire.
Our dinner was held in the Livery Hall, under its fine Victorian hammer beam roof. On one end wall above a fine carved canopy hangs a huge Barge Banner of the company which was used 252 years ago, for the Lord Mayor’s procession in 1763, a year when a cutler (Alderman Bridgen) was the Lord Mayor.
The Rev Andrew Pritchard-Keens began our meal together with a brief reminder of the significance of Plough Monday and encouraged the assembled company to sing the song “God speed the plough” before saying grace. Our meal included an excellent beef sirloin and well-chosen wines to complement the different dishes.
Speeches were relevant and to the point and once again we were privileged to have the company of both Sheriff’s on almost their only ‘night-off’ during the year from their regular duties of supporting the Lord Mayor. Alderman Bowman outlined his mission to highlight the importance of the rule of law in our Country, which is often less evident in other Countries, and also the importance and value of the City’s financial services sector to the world as well as to our own Country.
Both he and Sheriff Rigden spoke with humour and warmth and the Master also invited the Captain of HMS Lancaster, Commander Peter Laughton, MBE, RN, to bring the assembled company up to date on the varied and successful activities of the ship over the last year.
This he did with panache, and ended by telling us that he was stepping down from that responsibility in early 2016 and moving on to another role. Commander Laughton was also accompanied at the dinner by Marine Engineer Officer, Lt Commander Mo Magzoub from HMS Lancaster.
The Master’s speech covered a wide range of areas in a short space of time – including acknowledgement for the great and successful effort put in by some members of the Livery at the Red Cross Christmas Fair at Guildhall, congratulating Reverend Andrew Pritchard-Keens on his leading of our Carol Service in December, as part of a transition of responsibilities from our Chaplain, Colin Semper, who will retire later this year. The Master noted that unfortunately, Colin had not been able to join us for the evening, and outlined his own plans for charitable fund raising in 2016. He offered warm congratulation from the company to the immediate past Lord Mayor, now Sir Alan Yarrow, who was honoured in the New Year’s Honours list and to his wife, Gilly, now Lady Yarrow, who is our Senior Assistant, and will become Fourth Warden in October 2016. He also remarked on his pleasure in the swearing in earlier that evening, of Alderman William Russell, a new Assistant on our Court. Finally he congratulated Rear Admiral Ben Key, formerly of HMS Lancaster who has been awarded the CBE, and Paul Chivers, also formerly of that ship who has become a Rear Admiral.
The Master’s toast to the Guests was responded to most effectively by Stuart Popham Esq QC who touched briefly on the major activities of the RNLI in the recent past, including reminding us that it exists to save life but it receives no government funding whatsoever, and telling us that rather than rely on overseas shipyards for their future craft, the Institution has set up a manufacturing unit at Poole to build the newest type of lifeboat (the Shannon class) of which the first example took part in the most recent Lord Mayor’s Show. He did not remark that the truly appalling weather might almost have floated it! His toast to the Master and the Company was well received and the evening moved on to further hospitality in the Court Room and Dining Room as already mentioned above.