A Week in the Life of a Master

For this week’s blog I want to revert to the diary format because the pace of the Master & Clerk’s circuit has accelerated.

Monday 7th March. First a meeting with James Irving, Head of Operations at St Bride’s Church, to discuss the Thanksgiving and Rededication Service followed by Beating the Bounds on Ascension Day, Thursday 5th May. St Bride’s is known as the Fleet St church and only two days before had been the scene of much press attention as the scene of the blessing of the marriage of Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch. James showed me the Order of Service which had been conducted by our own Chaplain, the Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce.

In the evening it was to another church, the City of London Church, St Lawrence Jewry where, back in the 1980s, I had acted as Best Man to one of my closest Oxford friends. This time it hosted the Derek Melluish Memorial Lecture organised by the City Guides and delivered by Sharon Ament, the Director of the Museum of London, on the Great Fire of London in 1666. This year marks the 350th anniversary and there will be many events to commemorate the occasion including an exhibition in the Museum.

The Great Fire is now taught in the national curriculum and provides a study which poses questions such as what would you try to keep in such a crisis when you might lose your records, deeds, contracts, photos, birth certificates etc. What would you build if following such a catastrophe you had the chance to start from scratch with a clean sheet of paper? As to the narrative Sharon was somewhat critical of the Lord Mayor of the day who did little to deal with the crisis while King Charles II and his brother, the Duke of York, once alerted by Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist but also naval administrator, took the militia to the scene and blew up houses with gunpowder to make fire breaks and bring the blaze under control. The key difference is that if the Lord Mayor had commissioned such acts he would have been liable personally while all property is held of the Crown and so the monarch could order destruction and deal with compensation afterwards.

Tuesday 8th March. The Learned Clerk and I were guests of the Guild of Entrepreneurs for lunch on the HQS Wellington, the ‘hall’ of the Master Mariners, the first of the modern Livery Companies. This was a somewhat poignant occasion as it should have been presided over by the Guild’s Master, Dan Doherty, a Liveryman of our Company, but, sadly, he is gravely ill so instead the Foundation Master and also Past Master of our Company, Sir Paul Judge presided. The Guild was only granted status in 2014 and it was fascinating to imagine how our own Company might have looked at such a stage in its development.

In the evening there was a meeting of the Communications & PR Committee chaired by Court Assistant Roz Morris at Guildhall. This Committee has come on leaps and bounds in the last two years and has opened up several new channels for the Marketors to distribute our content.

Wednesday 9th March. By an odd coincidence it was back to HQS Wellington for lunch, this time as a guest of the host company, the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. They like to describe their Hall as the only Floating Livery Hall. The ship has a truly honourable tradition as during World War II it provided escort to 103 convoys on the eastern side of the Atlantic, rescuing many survivors from sunken ships in the process. The Company was the first Guild to be given Livery status in 1932 after an interval of more than two centuries. It includes Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne among its Past Masters and the Queen is its Patron.

Thursday 10th March. This marked one of the highlights of any Master’s year when together with my Lady I was invited as guest of The Lord Mayor and The Lady Mayoress for dinner at Mansion House with all the other Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff and their consorts. Including those of Guilds and out-of-London Companies over 110 Masters were present. The Egyptian room looked its magnificent best and the Lord Mayor pursued his maritime theme with menus in scarlet illustrated by a painting of the Prince Royal, built in 1637. The sight of 280 such menus laid out gave wonderful colour to what is already a fabulous room. The food, wine and speeches all lived up to the occasion which traditionally is held the night before the United Guilds Service.

Friday 11th March. And so to St Paul’s for that service. Carmen and I stayed at the Guildhall the night before, one of the privileges of being Master. The service was first held on 25th March, 1943, Lady Day, being the first day of the year according to the Julian calendar. It was the first occasion on which all the Livery Companies and Guilds of the City combined to hold a religious service. The idea behind the service was to help lift the spirits of the City following the blitz during the Second World War. Since then, it has become an annual event and remains one of the few occasions in the calendar at which the Livery Companies and Guilds of the City can gather together as a whole.

This was the 74th such service and was conducted by the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Richard Chartres, KVCO, Bishop of London, who has to be my favourite bishop. He told us of various attempts to provide guides to good conduct but wanted to give us just four easy-to-remember lessons which he patterned in the style of a cross. These were Excellence, Generosity, Humility and to Make Friends. This seemed to me to chime almost exactly with our Four Aims. Aim Four, Fellowship equates to ‘Making Friends’; Aim Three, ‘Giving Back’ to Generosity’; Aim Two,’ Promoting the Profession’ to ‘Excellence’. That leaves Aim One, ‘Supporting the City’ and Humility. Are these comparable? Well, I think so because we need to be humble in understanding that we are fortunate to hold the positions we do. These come from centuries of tradition and living up to the other values rather than from our own efforts. One can succeed on one’s own in business or whatever walk of life one chooses but to succeed in the Livery and in the City requires collaboration, respect, and, yes, humility.

We then repaired to our host hall, Plaisterers’ for an excellent lunch. In this my wife and I asked our companions to drink a toast to mark an occasion that with respect to the Marketors, the other livery companies, the City of London corporation, the Lord Mayor and the Bishop of London was far more important; this week marked the birth of our first grandchild, Bibiana, a beautiful baby girl born in Spain to our son Andrew and his partner, Laura.

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