The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Masters Blog – 9th to 11th November

The weekend of 11th November was dominated by the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, and my activities started on Friday 9th at a service of Remembrance at St Olave’s, just off Seething Lane.
My year as Master has been full of revelations, and this was another because the service was organised by the Corynthians, an association of past employees of Corys, to commemorates those employees lost in the First and Secord World Wars. In the First War, the Royal Navy requisitioned the company’s tugs and fifteen were lost in action with the loss of 94 seafarers whose names appear on the company’s WW1 memorial in St Olave’s. The other names include those who died with the 6th Bn the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs); a pals regiment in which Cory’s employees made up one rifle company. During the Second World War, thirteen Cory colliers were lost in coastal convoys and so more names are recorded on the WW2 memorial.

Memorial to Cory’s employees
On Sunday 11th November, the Company was once again honoured to be invited by Christopher Ryland to be on board the Havengore for the tenth 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, so it was especially significant that this year it coincided with the national services of Remembrance Sunday. Susan and I, along with the Wardens, Clerk, Beadle and six winners of the Doggett’s Wager, boarded the Havengore at HMS President.
With the Bargemaster and Doggett’s men at the bow, we joined a flotilla of Livery cutters, led by the royal barge Gloriana, upstream through Tower Bridge, which was lifted in tribute, to Westminster. Those rowing in the cutters had a particular challenge. It’s possible there may have been a miscalculation with the tide calculations because the slack water at Tower Bridge soon became the tail end of the ebb as they rowed upstream into a stiff head wind; several had to accept a tow to avoid missing the service at 11 o’clock.
As the rest of the solemn procession moved upstream, music on board from the Havengore was provided by two pipers, alternating with an excellent soprano, Miss Nazan Fikret, accompanied by ten musicians of the GMT Band.

The  Master and Doggetts men aboard the Havengore.

At Westminster, with the Havengore and Gloriana at the centre of the fleet, the service was conducted by the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker. She improvised perfectly to ensure that at precisely 11am, as Big Ben chimed above us, the bugler could play the last post for the two minutes silence. Cdr Chatwin RN Rtd then laid a wreath and the service concluded with the National Anthem. We then proceed downstream and a very welcome hot lunch was served on board; the weather had been brilliantly sunny – but cold.
I should also record our thanks to Court Assistant John Potter who represented the Company at the concurrent service at the Merchant Navy Memorial Garden where he laid a wreath on our behalf.

The annual Lord Mayor’s Show took place the same weekend. This year the Company did not have a float in the Show but, as always, the Watermen were represented by the Doggett’s men who provide the escort to the Lord Mayor. Susan and I were delighted to be invited to join the Doggett’s for breakfast at the Hall before they set out for their official duties.

This year it had been arranged through our caterers, Cook & Butler, that the Company would have lunch at the Guildhall. After a welcoming coffee, we were able to watch from a privileged vantage point, an enclosure immediately alongside the Courtyard, as the Lord Mayor was greeted by the Aldermen and mounted his coach. Our Watermen’s party then moved to Gresham Street to watch the floats pass by on their way to the Lord Mayor’s saluting base. Being ‘upstream’ of the Mansion House we weren’t going to see the Doggett’s in the procession so one of our number had to do a hasty dash through to Queen Victoria Street to watch her husband pass!
We returned to Guildhall for a splendid lunch in the Aldermen’s Dining Room which we shared with our friends from the Billingsgate Ward Club, before moving to a balcony to watch the Lord Mayor’s return.

The Lord Mayor’s Show 2018

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

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