The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Master’s Blog – February 2020

Master’s Blog February 

On Monday 3rd February, I attended the fourth annual PQs lunch when thirty-nine of the seventy-two PQ subscribers attended. The PQs, or to give it, it’s full name, the Postquincentennial Fund, is the successor to the 500 Club which funded the celebration of the Company’s 500 Anniversary.  The PQ subscribers are Freemen who have volunteered to subscribe £15 per month to improve the financial health of the Company and develop its assets. The PQs meet at an annual lunch to vote on the next project to support from a list of three the Company supplies. Last year, the project supported was the refurbishment of the Freemen’s Room. Craft Owning Freeman Robert Moore, a member of the Company’s Fundraising Working Party, reported on the almost completed refurbishment of the Freemen’s Room in which the annual lunch was held.  After lunch, those present voted unanimously to support the refurbishment for a second year, a decision confirmed by the postal votes from those unable to attend the lunch. If any Freeman would like to join the PQs they would be very welcome.

In afternoon, I chaired a meeting of the Master’s Working Party. This is a small group that has taken on the difficult task of searching for a new Clerk to take over from Colin when he retires in January 2021.

On Tuesday, 4th February I attended the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights Service of Celebration at St Paul’s. The Wheelwrights are celebrating 350 years since Charles ll granted them a Royal Charter in 1670. A Service at St Paul’s is always provides the feel good factor.

HMS Westminster held an Affiliates day at Portsmouth on Wednesday, 5th February. The Company has for some time been affiliated to HMS Westminster. I had already accepted a couple of invitations for that day so,I asked the Senior Warden, Mrs Gina Blair, Past Master Jeremy Randall and the Clerk to represent the Company. They tell they were well looked after and were treated to a voyage on HMS Westminster out into the English Channel. I must admit I was disappointed to miss the ship getting underway.

Whilst they were at Portsmouth, I attended a Court Lunch at the Worshipful Company of Carpenters in their fantastic hall. As you can imagine, their Hall in Throgmorton Avenue, features a lot of carved wood. They are one of the Hall-owning group of Companies still close to their trade. They run a Building Craft College in Strafford and are 26 in the order of precedence. This order was established in 1515, when the Court of Aldermen of the City of London settled an order of precedence for the 48 livery companies then in existence, based on those companies’ contemporary economic or political power. The 12 highest-ranked companies remain known as the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. Today there are 110 City livery companies, all post-1515 companies being ranked by seniority of creation.

That evening I attended a Court dinner with the Worshipful Company of Coopers, number 36 in the order of precedence.  These days the Coopers focus on charity and education. They have the Coborn School at Upminster. It was a Masters’ & Clerks’ dinner so there were lots of familiar faces. They have a very small Hall in Devonshire Square and so hold several Master and Clerks events. It really was a fantastic evening.

On Wednesday, 6th February, the Company’s Lighterage Committee met. The Committee supports the Company’s apprentices by organising River Trips to learn the Thames Local Knowledge, and by sponsoring barge driving, Sail Barge and other Sail Training Days. The Committee’s other role to put on social events for retired Lightermen to help them keep in touch with each other.

Some of you may, at least I hope will have signed our petition to the Port of London Authority (PLA) demanding the retention of the terms Waterman and Lighterman in their 1968 Act of Parliament which they are proposing to amend. On Friday, 7th February, a meeting was held with the PLA to agree how this objective might be achieved. The PLA were surprised to receive a petition and are now supportive. They invited the Company to draft wording to achieve this. Wording has been submitted and we await further news.

That evening, I enjoyed attending, the now annual Journeymen Freemen’s Dinner with 29 Journeymen Freemen present with their guests. It is such a wonderful feeling as a Journeyman Freeman myself, to be Master, and attend a gathering such as this to demonstrate that you can start as an apprentice as I did in 1983, and end up in the Master’s chair. I was supported on the night as host by Senior Warden Gina Blair, Junior Warden Derek Mann, and Immediate Past Master Dr Iain Reid. Past Master Kenny Dwan came as both Court Member and Journeyman Freeman, a really good evening with a few beers after in the Pub.

On the Tuesday, 11th February the Hall was given over to a Maritime Engineering Apprentice Day, along with the Thames Skills Academy and South Essex College, a Government funded Maritime Engineering Apprenticeship is on offer. This is the first course aimed at Thames Based marine engineers. Over 50, employers, potential and existing apprentices came to encourage others to take up a career as a marine engineer.

Later that evening I attended the Worshipful Company of Pewterers’ Livery Dinner – another Livery Hall that I had not visited before. The Pewterers are number 16 and another of the Hall owning group. Several other Masters and Clerks were also invited so there was the inevitable catching up on who had been where in the previous few days. These days the Pewterers’ activities involve encouraging design in pewter through their annual awards and exhibition Pewter Live.

On Friday, 14th February, St Valentines Day, our caterer, Mark Grove, laid on a special River Thames Lunch Club (RTLC) featuring the colour pink! If you have never been to a RTLC, you should try it, a 5 courses taster menu with accompanying wines at £60, such good value.

Next up was our Company Annual Dinner held, as always, at Fishmongers’ Hall. The Annual Dinner is the major event of the Company’s year with over 180 Freemen and their guests attending – and so probably the most daunting for any Master. On the night, everything went very well thanks to the organisation of the Company’s staff and the Fishmongers catering crew. I was fortunate to secure as principal speaking guest, Alderman Vincent Keaveny. Vincent is the Senior Alderman below the Chair (SABTAC) and election pending likely to be Lord Mayor next year. He was an excellent speaker and I was grateful that together with his wife Amanda, he could spare the time. We also had the Prime Warden of the Fishmongers’ Company, David Jones and his wife Elizabeth as guests, so I could thank them for allowing us the use of their fabulous Banqueting Hall.

It turned into a busy week, as the next night, Wednesday 19th February, I attended a Masters’ & Clerks’ Dinner with the Worshipful Company of Dyers held not in their own Hall, which was undergoing some reconstruction, but at the Innholders’ Hall.  The invitation instructed guests to wear some item of clothing demonstrating the dyers’ art. Being short of time to shop, I borrowed a coloured bow tie from the Clerk. Others had chosen coloured jackets, ties, handkerchiefs all in garish shades.

On Tuesday, 25th February, our Fundraiser, Craft-Owning Freeman David Beard had organise a trip for 13 of us the Thames River Police Museum in Wapping. At the last Christmas Freemen’s Lunch as Master, I had drawn 13 Tickets for the visit. Freeman had been invited to submit an envelope with £20 to enter the draw. Some £3700 was raised. From the money raised a donation of £250 was to be paid to a Police Charity. A both interesting and entertaining night was had by those attending. The curator, Rob Jeffries, told some wonderful tales about the River Police and some of those Freemen present recognised Rob from his days as a Police Officer! I for one definitely did, but I don’t go into detail on that one. We adjourned to the Captain Kidd Public House for a session with Rob where more stories were swapped. What in marine terms would be called “Swinging the Lamp”.

My last engagement of the month was a meeting with Richard Everitt, Chairman and Katherine Rigg, Chief Executive of the Thames Skills Academy (TSA). This might have been a difficult meeting as the Company competes with TSA to provide training for apprentices but we both share the view that we should work together. TSA has only a few members, and all are larger employers on the River. It is part funded by the Tideway project. TSA has secured a Level 3 apprenticeship which they hope will include the Boatmaster’s Licence. The Company is looking for a Level 2 which has a lower set of entry qualifications and would be aimed at crew and mates. Discussions will continue as to how we can co-operate more closely in the future.

A busy but really enjoyable month, with quite a few highlights to remember in relation to my year as Master.

Tony Maynard

Master to The Company of Watermen & Lightermen 2019-2020

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