The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Master’s Blog-November

On Friday 1st November, the Clerk and I with our good ladies were invited to the Rochester Bridge Trust’s commemoration of their Founders and Benefactors, held on All Soul’s Day in Rochester Cathedral. The Company connection is through Sir Robert Knollys. The Trust and the Company are linked by his actions in the 14th Century.  He funded the first stone  bridge over the River Medway at Rochester in 1392, the event which the Trust commemorates and his wife built the footbridge over Seething Lane for which the Company still pays the fine of one red rose each year handed to the Lord Mayor at the Knollys Rose Ceremony at Mansion House. Rochester Cathedral has just finished a renovation and looks incredible.The Service was in the St Ithamar Chapel and was mainly sung in Latin which made it, even more,amazing. It was followed by Lunch in the Crypt. I had the pleasure of responding to the Senior Warden’s Toast to the Guests.

The next day, with Sue and the Clerk, I attended the Royal British Legion’s opening of the Garden of Remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral.  After a breakfast and briefing in the Crypt we were directed to the Churchyard Garden where some 110 Masters were invited to line up in order of precedence. I always enjoy the ritual of watching Livery Masters shuffling into order, confident that as Watermen and Lightermen, with no number in the order of precedence, we must just wait until it is finalised and then place ourselves immediately after the 110th along with the Parish Clerks another Company without a number.  Following the arrival of the British Legion standards, a solemn Service of Remembrance was led by the Dean of St Paul’s with music from the Guards Band.  At the end of the service the planting of crosses took place, and, following the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Sheriffs, and representatives of the Armed Forces, the Masters went forward in a line of fives to place our crosses on behalf of the City companies.

In the evening, again Sue, the Clerk and I went to a Thanksgiving Service for the outgoing Lord Mayor, Alderman Peter Estlin at St Stephen’s Walbrook, the Lord Mayor’s Parish Church next door to Mansion House. The Service was conducted by the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain, The Revd Preb Jeremy Crossley. It is an unusual church with a central altar, the congregation sat round in a circle. It was a stirring service followed by drinks and canapes with a lot of Masters and Clerks present. The Canapes were sponsored by the Don Restaurant in St Swithin’s Lane.

Wednesday, 6th November an event was held called “East meets West” aboard the Mercia. The Company has developed a relationship with a Chinese property company, Reignwood Investments who own Seething Lane Gardens, where we have traditionally cut the Knollys rose. They also own the old PLA HQ which now houses the Four Seasons Hotel. We were invited to jointly host an event with the Four Seasons Hotel Chinese restaurant, Mei Ume, supplying canapés. Cheng International provided some strong Chinese Fe Chiew liquors. It was a lovely evening afloat with music, dancing and fabulous food. It really was a great evening.

On Thursday, 7th November, the Clerk and I were invited, in our morning dress, to Trinity House for their City of London Corporation lunch to which the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, some representative Masters and Clerks, and many involved in navigation, shipping and the City, were invited.  The lunch was hosted by the Master of Trinity House, HRH The Princess Royal, to whom we were all presented, and many of the Elder Brethren. It was a most enjoyable lunch not least because of the lack of speeches, just a couple of toasts.

In the evening our Company held its Freemen and Partners dinner, an event to which Freemen can take their wives and partners. It was a lovely occasion with some nice wines and Mark Grove provided three courses and cheese. My guest speaker was the Chairman of our Ladies Committee, Mrs Nicky Smallbone who gave us an overview of the work of her committee.

Saturday, 9th November was Lord Mayor’s Show day. Sue and I along with a couple of friends were kindly invited for an early fish breakfast provided by the Doggett’s Winners who later accompanied the Lord Mayor’s and Sheriffs’ Coaches. Having watched the show, we went to lunch in the Aldermanic Dining Room at Guildhall with other Freemen and their Guests. Later, from the window and balcony we could see the Coaches return to Guildhall Yard.

On the following day, Sunday 10th November, I attended the Remembrance Service organised by the Honourable Company of Master Mariners Service at the Merchant Navy Memorial in Trinity Square Gardens. There were several other Masters/Prime Wardens attending the Water Conservators, Fishmongers’, Shipwrights and Fuellers. Having placed a wreath in the Company’s name, there was a reception after in Trinity House.

On Sunday 11th November, the Company was once again honoured to be invited by Christopher Ryland to be on board the Havengore for the Eleventh Annual River Thames Act of Remembrance at the Houses of Parliament.  This event always takes place at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.  Sue and I, along with the Wardens, Clerk, Bargemaster and six winners of the Doggett’s Wager, boarded the Havengore at St Katherine’s Pier.

With the Bargemaster and Doggett’s men standing at the bow, we joined a flotilla of other vessels carrying representatives of the PLA, Fire Brigade, RNLI and River Police, upstream through Tower Bridge, which was lifted in tribute, to Westminster. As the rest of the solemn procession moved upstream, music on board from the Havengore was provided by a brass band and piper.

At Westminster, with the Havengore at the centre of the fleet, the service was conducted by the Revd Canon Roger Hall, a chaplain to the Queen and Chaplain to HM Tower of London.  He managed to improvise without the benefit of Big Ben so that on the stroke of 1100hrs the bugler could play the last post for the two minutes silence.  Capt. Jim Barclay, Master of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners then laid a wreath on the waters of the Thames and the service concluded with the National Anthem. We then proceed downstream with a very welcome hot lunch served on board.

The second quarterly round of Committees started on 12th November with Kitchen Committee, where the main debate was about involving wives and partners in more of the Company’s events. I am sure you will all notice the change shortly.

On the 13th November, I attended the Doggett’s Presentation Livery Dinner at Fishmongers’ Hall.  This is a fantastic annual event, when the winner of the Doggett’s Wager appears in his Coat and Badge to be presented to the Fishmongers’ Prime Warden, David Jones, to hear the Clerk’s report on the race and to receive a Doggett’s winner’s cup.  It was an evening when I was very proud to be a Journeymen Freeman as well as Master of the Company, on arrival at the Hall, the staircase was lined with former Doggett’s winners who later accompanied Patrick Keech into the Hall for his presentation.  Nearly two hundred attended the dinner so, as Master, I was very honoured to enter with the official guests.  The Hall looked fabulous and was a fitting parade of Doggett’s winners to accompany Patrick. The Prime Warden’s speaker was Robert Gore-Langton. He is a theatre critic and author and he regaled us with the story of Thomas Doggett’s life – an unforgettable evening.

Thursday, 14th November was Library and Heritage Committee chaired on this occasion by Honorary Court Assistant Richard G. Turk.

Tuesday, 19th November, the Apprenticeship and Training Committee met in the morning. This is a busy committee dealing with the technical issues the Company and Freemen face. The Company is responding to a Port of London Authority consultation on a Harbour Revision Order that will make changes to the Port of London Authority Act of 1968. Amongst other changes, it is proposed to remove the terms Lighter and Lighterman. This has provoked a furious reaction from the River leading to a petition being circulated. The Company’s relations with the Thames Skills Academy (TSA) was discussed as the Company is looking for a Level 2 Trailblazer Apprenticeship for crew, but the TSA doubts there is an enough market. The Company and the PLA are collaborating on introducing Continuous Professional Development. The Company has also announced its support for river employers pursuing a zero tolerance to drinks and drugs.

In the afternoon there was the Rowing and River Events Committee where the organising of Doggett’s Wager was the centre of attention. The Fishmongers’ Company had agreed the Company should continue to organise the waterside of the event. The Committee has asked the team of Freemen who managed the Wager this year to undertake the same next year and they had all agreed, for which I personally am very grateful. The Company’s membership of the Thames Traditional Rowing Association was also discussed.

The Company of course is dependent on and very grateful for these groups of Freemen volunteers who contribute their time, experience and skills to make the recommendations and policies that ensure the Company remains viable.  Those members of the Company who would like to know more about these committees can find a summary of the Minutes on the website at www.watermenscompany.com. If you feel you have a skill or experience that you think might be useful to the Company, please do say.

On Wednesday, 20th November, I attended with the Clerk, the Port of London Authority’s Upper River Users Group. This is a briefing and update for those who work on or around the River Thames. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Police, Coastguard, RNLI, TfL, Fire Service, Environment Agency and Port Health all present a report. Most river employers working the upper tidal reaches attend so it is a big meeting that fills our Freemen’s Room. The Company are pleased to be able to provide the space for the PLA to hold this gathering.

Later, I along with the Clerk attended the new Lord Mayor’s Reception at which Alderman William Russell presented the objectives for his year.  A question and answer session followed his brief presentation. We had to go in our Dinner Jackets as we were off to the Shipwrights for Dinner, that evening. The Lord Mayor’s enthusiasm was infectious, so the assembled masters and clerks emerged looking forward to the Lord Mayor’s year ahead. We met several other Masters and Clerks in the Lord Raglan Public House also on their way to Shipwrights Dinner, for a short pit stop.

As mentioned in the evening, I and the Clerk attended the Shipwrights Masters and Clerks Dinner at Ironmongers’ Hall. It was a grand affair. The Shipwrights were founded in 1782 and are a large livery involving lots of our Freemen who are members of both Companies. Ironmongers Hall is a Tudor style Hall built in the 1920s. The Master Mariner, Capt. Jim Barclay spoke in response to the Prime Warden’s Toast to the Guests. But the highlight of the evening was Deoch an Doris, an opera singer waitress who fooled us all when she dropped her tray and we all rush to help whilst she just burst into song.

 

Our Almshouses and Charities Committee took place on Thursday, 21st November with the President, Past Master John Salter in the chair. Discussion covered building another pair of bungalows at Hasting and ensuring that the Charity meets all its legal requirement for letting the bungalows.

 

In the evening I went with the Clerk to a very enjoyable dinner with the Barbers at the Barber Surgeons’ Hall.  The Hall is modern built in the 1960s but enjoys a beautiful spot on a closed square, Monkwell Square, with a garden behind. The interior of the Hall is famous for the Holbein painting of King Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons painted in 1541 which hangs at the end of the Hall. The Company also has a rare collection of books on surgery. This was a dinner for masters and clerks so there were many familiar faces. The Rt. Hon. The Lord William Waldegrave, who many of you will remember as a Tory Government Minister, responded to the Master’s Toast to the Guests.

On Friday, 22nd November, the Membership Committee held its meeting under the chairmanship of Court Assistant Mark Wilson. The Committee discussed how the Company might persuade more Journeymen Freemen to become Craft-Owning. There were 4 candidates who after interview will be recommended for the Craft-Owning Freedom.

On Wednesday, 27th November, I along with the Clerk attended a Memorial Service for Past Master Emeritus, Peter Roberts at St Giles Church, Shipbourne (near Tonbridge, Kent). The Church was full as Peter was both a Waterman and a Shipwright. Right next door to the Church is the Chaser Inn where we all congregated for refreshments both before and after the Service. The Service was conducted by The Revd. Dr Peter Hayler and contained a wonderful mix of eulogies, reading and Hymns. Its strange but often you learn more about people once they have departed this life, Peter’s favourite book was Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Thursday, 28th November was the Lightermen’s Committee’s Christmas Lunch in memory of Freeman John Henry, held at the Union Jack Club.  I have of course attended this event before and taken guests, but it is very different if you are Master Watermen and Lightermen. For a start, you are expected to speak to an audience who almost know you better than yourself! I hope I performed well. The Clerk said it was well received, and no bread rolls were thrown.

In the evening, I took Sue to the Mercers Concert at Mercers’ Hall. The Mercers were merchants and have a large Hall opened in 1958 as their previous Hall was destroyed in the Blitz in 1941. The event started with a reception, then a concert and concluded with dinner. The Mercers’ Livery Company are number one in the order of precedence. This order was created in 1515, when the City Corporation’s Court of Aldermen 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.

Well that was that for the month all in all really enjoyable once again roll on December.

Tony Maynard

Master to The Company of Watermen & Lightermen 2019-2020

The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Watermen's Hall, 16 - 18 St-Mary-at-Hill, London, EC3R 8EF

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