The Master’s Blog

The Master of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames – Mr Simon McCarthy.

McCarthy, Simon

I have been persuaded to write a Master’s Blog describing where I go as Master and what I get up to. I will add to it from time to time.

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For previous blogs click on the relevant links below


February 2018

February Master’s Blog

7th – Attended the Worshipful Carpenter’s Company lunch where they presented their annual apprentice of the year award.  The history of the Carpenters‘ Company goes back over 700 years, with the first written reference mentioning a Master Carpenter was in the City of London’s records of 1271.

13th – The Clerk and I attended the Pewterer’s Livery Dinner in the grand surroundings of Pewterers Hall in Oat Lane. The Pewterers’ Company are 16th in order of precedence out of 110. It is one of the oldest Livery Companies and it’s first charter was granted by King Edward IV in 1473, though the Company’s records go back to 1451. It’s charter was unusual in that it awarded trade rights throughout the kingdom, unlike the powers granted to the majority of other companies, whose jurisdiction was limited to the City of London.

14th – Dyer’s Company Annual Dinner .

It is always a pleasure to attend the Dyers Company, with whom we have close links through the many company freeman who take part in Swan Upping. Dyers gained their first Royal Charter under Henry IV in 1471.
The are just outside the Great 12, at number 13, in order of precedence of the 110 Livery companies in the City of London.

20th – Annual Dinner at Fishmongers Hall . This is the highlight of the year for the Company, and it certainly lived up to expectations. The magnificent banqueting hall at Fishmongers looks out over the River Thames at London Bridge, which is the start of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge.  Many Doggett’s winners were there to line the stairs.

200 guests heard guest speaker, John Hayes MP, give a very fitting speech about the importance of apprenticeships and how valuable they are to keep the River Thames a safe and working river. He also commended the company on the training of our apprentices.
I have been invited to the House of Commons to talk to him regarding how he can help us in our continuing quest to become a recognised centre for providing training for the BML and Local Knowledge exams.


January 2018

10th January – First function of 2018 a Court meeting followed by the Court lunch. It was with great sadness that the Court said au revoir to my our dear friend and Company Chaplain, the Rev’d Bertrand Olivier.  Bertrand is off to pastures new, beginning his post as Dean of Montreal in February. He has played a vital role in the religious and ceremonial events of the Company and has supported Watermen and their families through joyous and sad times.

16th – We held the second Junior Freeman working party. As Master my aim is to encourage Junior Freemen to become more  involved with the company and its activities. We had about 12 young men and women turn up for drinks and sandwiches and, following a very constructive chat, are organising an Apprentice and Master’s dinner, with the hope that a regular calendar of events for Junior Freemen will follow.

18th – I was privileged to be a guest together with the Clerk at the Shipwrights election dinner held at Ironmongers Hall .

This is a grand event with 185 Shipwrights attending . The Original purpose of the company, established 700 years ago and one of the oldest liveries, was to safeguard the quality of shipbuilding in London.

23rd –  The Burns Night supper was one of the highlights of my year so far.  65 guests witnessed the arrival of the haggis piped in by two pipers. The Master of Ceremonies regaled us with poems and ritual before addressing the haggis. As always, a joyous occasion.

24th – I was a guest at The Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers awards to industry at Vintners Hall.  This was a grand affair.  This Company, through its charitable trust, supports training and education for young people in the modern automotive and aerospace industries while continuing to support activities and traditional coach and harness making.

25th – The Clerk and I attended the annual dinner for the Port Health at The Barbers-Surgeon’s Hall.

This is an elegant hall dominated by a magnificent Holbein painting of Henry VIII uniting the Barbers’ and Surgeons.

The Port Health work closely with the PLA which is responsible for navigational safety and related matters on the 150K (95) miles of the tidal Thames from the sea to Teddington. It is responsible for all port health functions on the Thames, including

  • infectious disease controls
  • food safety and hygiene including water quality
  • shellfish controls
  • vessel inspections and issue of ship sanitation documentation
  • environmental controls

26th – The Company Bindings …… 16 young people were bound to the Company. One of the main roles of the Company today is to facilitate and co-ordinate an apprenticeship scheme for individuals wishing to become Journeyman Freeman, and to provide training opportunities for apprentices and other young people in Watermenship and rowing in particular.


In the evening Company members attended an Evensong at All Hallows by the Tower to mark the eve of the Feast of Candlemass. In the presence of the Bishop of London we also said farewell to the Company’s Chaplin Rev’d Bertrand Olivier, after 13 years supporting The Company of Watermen and Lightermen.  He will be greatly missed by us all and we wish him well.


29th – The Emblem evening.

Sculling has always been an important part of the Company’s history with many of our Freemen being International and Olympic representatives. We saw a great turn out for the presentation of Sculling awards given to those Apprentices who participated in the training weekend at Henley.  We also presented the 2017 Doggett’s Coat and Badge competitors with their medals. We hope that with support and encouragement from us all our Apprentices will go on to compete in the coveted Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race.

November 2017

October 31st, the Clerk and I attended the Trinity House Civic Lunch hosted by Princess Royal, who is Prime Warden.

The safety of shipping and the wellbeing of seafarers has been the prime concerns of Trinity House since being incorporated by Royal Charter in 1514 (the same year the Watermen’s Company) by King Henry VIII.

master nov 2

November began in earnest with Sally and I attending the All Souls’ Day service for the Rochester Bridge Trust in Rochester Cathedral.

Since Roman times a bridge has crossed the RiverMedway, in Rochester. The Rochester Bridge Trust continues to maintain this strategic river crossing.

Monday 6th November proved busy, beginning with a wonderfully moving service at Saint Paul’s for the opening of the Garden of Remembrance. This saw all livery companies laying a wreath in the garden.

Following the service we invited, in conjunction with our caterer The Cook and Butler, all livery companies without a hall to lunch at Watermen’s Hall. A great opportunity to showcase the Hall and its caterer to potential hirers.

Do remember that Freeman receive a discount on the hire of the Hall, Courtroom and the Parlor.

The day ended with a service at my favorite church, St Stephen Walbrook for a thanks-giving service hosted by the Lord Mayor.

St Stephen Walbrook was designed by Wren in 1672 and was his prototype for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was the first classical dome to be built in England at the time.

At the heart of the church is the large altar by Henry Moore commissioned by Lord Palumbo.

maste blod 22

Wednesday 8th November – Annual Doggett’s Presentation at Fishmongers Hall.

After 34 years of attending this event as a Doggett’s winner, it was a privilege to be attending as Master of the Company to witness Jack Keetch, the 303rd winner, receive his uniform and cup from HRH Princess Royal. Jack paraded into the Grand Hall, led by past winners, to the sound of Hail the Conquering Hero played by the Queen’s trumpeters.

On Saturday 11th November, Armistice Day, we had an early start departing from Westminster Boating basin at 8am to escort the incoming Lord Mayor of London down river aboard the Gloriana to begin his Parade.

master f

The Lord Mayor’s Parade dates back to 1215 when Bad King John was persuaded to issue a Royal Charter that allowed the City of London to elect its own Mayor. We presume that he gave his blessing to the commune in order to keep the City on his side, but there was an important condition. Every year the newly elected Mayor must leave the safety of the City, travel upriver to the small town of Westminster and swear loyalty to the Crown. The Lord Mayor has now made that journey for 800 years, despite plagues and fires and countless wars, and pledged his (and her) loyalty to 34 kings and queens of England.


After safely delivering the Lord Mayor to HMS President, we hotfooted it to board the Havengoreat St Katherine’s Dock (the boat that in 1965 took Sir Winston Churchill to his funeral) for the Armistice Day Service and to lay a wreath upon the Thames, in memory of watermen and seafarers, alongside the Houses of Parliament.

On Sunday 12th November, I attended Tower Hill for the Merchant Navy Memorial Service for Remembrance.  The Company was one of 150 nautical institutions laying wreaths that day.

On 23rd November, I attended the annual dinner ofthe Barber and Surgeons, one of the oldest livery companies in the city .The Barbers’ Company have had a Hall on the edge of the City, in the area of the north-west corner of the Roman Fort of London, since the 1440s.

The dining hall is dominated by a magnificent Holbein painting of Henry VIII uniting the Barbers’ and Surgeons.

On Friday 24th November, I left the City of London for the City of Westminster, to attend the newly named John Henry Lighterage Committee Lunch.

John setup the committee 15 years ago with the idea of senior journeymen helping apprentices with their training.  The company is grateful for the committee and its members’ participation in experiential days on the Thames, sail training, andBarge driving events.

Thursday 30th November.  Sally and I together with the Clerk and his wife were delighted to attend the Worshipful Company of Vintner’s Swan Fest at Vintner’s Hall.  One of the most ancient Livery Companies, its motto, translated from Latin, is ‘Wine cheers the spirit’.  This certainly proved to be the case on what was an evening marked by tradition and spectacle.

Simon J McCarthy HMW
Master of the Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames




The Master’s October Blog.

The Master’s Blog July 2017




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