Via Thames Clipper to Tea Clipper

Via Thames Clipper to Tea Clipper

The Master’s Charitable Event 8 July 2022 at Cutty Sark

The sun was not quite over the yardarm on a glorious summer evening at Westminster Pier as our Thames Clipper slipped its moorings and headed downstream towards Greenwich where our Master, Nigel Macdonald, had invited us to a formal Dinner under Cutty Sark to raise funds for the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity.

After disembarking at Greenwich, we went on board Cutty Sark. Magnificent to behold with her raked back masts, she is one of only three remaining 19th century clippers of “composite” construction (ie a wooden hull on an iron frame). These were the fastest sailing ships of that century thanks partly to their narrow hulls which, being concave, slipped through the water easily.

Cutty Sark originally carried tea from Shanghai to London via the Cape of Good Hope but, in response to economic and technological changes, she then enjoyed a pretty varied range of deployments. Paddy Rogers, Director of Royal Museums Greenwich, recounted her history and what made her so special in a most absorbing presentation during dinner. Now in a prominent dry dock position by the Thames, Cutty Sark is listed as part of the National Historic Fleet (the nautical equivalent of a Grade 1 Listed Building).

During a tour of the upper and the main decks, we viewed many interesting artefacts and displays before descending to the lower deck to enjoy a very welcome and glamorous drinks reception and to peruse some of the attractive and varied lots which we were able to bid for in the silent auction.

We were then called to our tables for dinner directly under the stunningly beautiful copper-bottomed hull of Cutty Sark. What a wonderful and imaginative venue! The food we enjoyed over dinner was first class and, in another thought-provoking touch by the Master, was prepared and served, together with delicious wines, by young staff of The Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton (https://theclinkcharity.org/restaurants/brixton

During dinner, Andy Cook CEO of Helen Arkell talked to us compellingly about how the charity has been able to improve the life prospects of an increasing number of children, young people and adults by helping them to develop coping strategies for their dyslexia. Together with a powerful short film, it was clear to us that this, the Feltmakers’ Company’s chosen charity, was very worthwhile and one where our support could make a radical difference. Our written bids for the lots in the silent auction were then collected; at the last count just over £13,000 had been raised for Helen Arkell.

Towards the end of the evening, we were once again treated to something rather special, this time a taste of 1811 Grande Armée Napoleon Fine Champagne Cognac. It did not disappoint!

A selection of memories of the evening:

“To travel to Greenwich on a modern day clipper and then to dine under a copper bottomed clipper from days gone by plus wonderful food and Feltmakers friendship made for a very special evening.”

“We all shared an enthusiasm for purpose of the evening. There was a real sense of companionship, friendship, renewal of friendships and common purpose all with a sunny disposition as the late evening sun set West across the City. If the spirit of 1811 was let out of the bottle that evening then the spirit of 8th July 2022 should be bottled to be reopened again and again when the Livery meets.”

“We were extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to dine underneath the hull of Cutty Sark, the national treasure which dominates the Greenwich waterfront. The evening passed very quickly and all too soon we were getting ready to leave, reflecting over the success of the evening and richer in our knowledge of both the remarkable venue and our chosen charity.”

All in all, the Master’s Charitable Event 2022 was a very special evening, on a very special ship, for a very special charity. We were promised “an evening to remember” and that is what we got, and in spades. The planning, the care and attention to detail were simply amazing. So, many congratulations to the Master and his team including the Clerk, Major General Aidan Smyth and, on their behalf, many thanks to all.

Edward Hutton

Past Master 2014-15.

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