The Master’s Blog – December 2018
5The first official engagement of December was the annual lunch with the Port of London Authority. This year, it was the Company’s turn to act as hosts and so twenty-five of us sat down to lunch: The Company represented by members of the General Purposes & Finance Committee; the PLA by their Board headed up by their chairman, Craft Owning Freeman Christopher Rodrigues, and their CEO, Robin Mortimer. This annual lunch proves a good opportunity for both organisations to reiterate their priorities for the coming year and the speeches confirmed our co-operation with shared objectives.
On Thursday, the Court made its Christmas visit to the Almshouses in Hastings. As an innovation it had been arranged that all the residents were invited to have Christmas lunch with the Court in the Community Centre. This was deemed a huge success and it is hoped to repeat the arrangement in coming years. As Master I was required to give a brief report on the Company’s activities so it was good to be able to report the success of our Training Officer, Alex Hickman, in preparing apprentices for the very demanding Boat Masters Licence examination: the previous week five candidates had been presented and all had passed.
A clash of dates required that I left the Hastings lunch early to get back to London because I had been invited by Craft Owning Ted Jackson to attend the Wheelwrights Dinner at Drapers’ Hall. Drapers’ Hall (which seats nearly 300) was filled to capacity but Ted had, as always, assembled a very amusing party and we had a splendid evening.
The following week, after an afternoon signing Christmas cards on behalf of the Company, Susan and I attended the Watermen’s Carol Service which, as in recent years, we celebrated jointly with the Bakers’ Company at All Hallows by the Tower. The Court were invited to a pre-service reception at Bakers’ Hall and from there we processed to All Hallows where, between the carols, the lessons were read by the Masters and Senior Wardens. Afterwards each company returned to its respective Hall for supper.
On Wednesday 12th, I was invited to join the Hall staff for their Christmas Dinner which was held, arranged by our caterer, Mark Grove, in a private dining room at the Guildhall Club. Before the dinner, Mark kindly showed us around Guildhall so we had a private viewing of areas rarely seen by the public. The meeting of the General Purposes Committee was the next morning so a clear head was required. This meeting pulls together the reports of all the other committees and decides what recommendations shall be put to the Court. Nothing discussed proved too contentious, so it was left to the Clerk to draft them all into a logical format ready for the Court’s January meeting. An excellent task for the Christmas break!
But, before we could break for Christmas, there were the three traditional Freemen’s Christmas Lunches: this year beef, pork and lastly turkey. As Master, I attend all three and can report that it appeared an excellent time was had by all – and that some Freemen attended twice! As always, the Duke Box singers were a great success and nearly everyone survived the physical exertions of the Twelve Days of Christmas…
As if three successive Christmas lunches were not sufficient test of my stamina and appetite, on the first night I also attended the Billingsgate Ward Club Christmas Dinner. As our own Clerk is this year’s Master of the Ward Club, the dinner was held at Watermen’s Hall and I was fortunate to sit next to the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin who had earlier led the Carols by Candlelight service in St Mary-at-Hill. Knowing that she had been doing Prayer for Today each morning on Radio 4, I had taken care to listen in at 5.45am so we would have something to discuss. However, this just meant that I was extremely weary by the time we got to dinner, whereas the Revd Rose admitted she had pre-recorded them all the previous week.
The third Christmas lunch was my last official duty of the year. Susan and I left for two weeks of sun in Bangalore.