The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Master’s Blog – April 2019

The first engagement of the month was on 1st April, a lecture organised by the Educators Company on ‘The Defence Education Revolution: ‘How the UK Military Must Lead the Way’.  The speaker was Air Vice-Marshall Chris Luck, Commandant Joint Services Command and Staff College.  It was an interesting lecture although I was left unsure quite how much education and thus independent decision making one can tolerate in a military hierarchy.

The next day the Watermen & Lightermen organised their own ‘Big Curry Lunch’.  The Lord Mayor’s formal Big Curry Lunch in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund was to be held at Guildhall on April 4th  but, for various reasons, that didn’t fit our timetable.  Court Assistant Ted Grad therefore organised a Watermen’s lunch at the nearby Rajasthan Restaurant and ten of us enjoyed a very convivial meal together.  Craft Owning Freeman David Beard, who sits on the Lord Mayor’s official Big Curry Lunch committee, had arranged the collection of a donation from each of us and this did ensure that the Company was acknowledged as one of the official supporters of the main event – even though we weren’t there!

One of my objectives of my year as Master has been to make the workings of the Court more open to all members of the Company, so – with the Court’s approval – I have already reported the conclusions of that week’s Court Meeting in a separate email to all Freemen.  Rather than clutter this blog, but for completeness, that report on the proceedings is appended below.   At the lunch that followed the meeting we entertained the Court of the Innholders’ Company, continuing the annual exchange initiated in 2014 when both companies celebrated their 500th year.  The guest speaker was Chris Baines, an environmentalist who spoke enthusiastically of the work done by the Thames Estuary Partnership.  Just one example Chris gave of their invaluable work was their successful liaison between the constructors of the new Tideway structures who were trying to ensure an uninhibited tidal water flow, and the environmentalists who had highlighted the need for eddies and static water to encourage spawning fish.

That evening the Clerk and I attended the installation of the new vicar, the Rev’d Katherine Hedderly, at All Hallows by the Tower.  The service was attended by the Bishop of London, the Archdeacon of London, the Aldermen and Common Councillors of the Tower Ward plus the Masters of those companies that are affiliated with All Hallows: the Bakers, World Traders and ourselves.  All of us processed in for a delightful Choral Evensong service followed by the official licencing and installation.  I was pleased to see the Rev’d Sophia Acland, who has looked after the Company so well during the interregnum, taking part in the service and I understand she will continue to be associated with All Hallows.  The Rev’d Katherine Hedderly comes to All Hallows from St Martin-in-the-Fields and had a previous career in film and television; we look forward to welcoming her to the Hall.

After the service, I walked back to a reception at Watermen’s Hall being held by the Westminster Abbey Stewards.  Because of my late arrival, the formal welcome had already been made by Senior Warden, Master Elect Tony Maynard but I was still asked to say a few words.  Obviously, Tony’s introduction must have been rather better because he was acknowledged in the report in the next day’s Daily Telegraph whereas I didn’t get a mention!

On Thursday 4th April I attended the yearly meeting of the City & Guilds of London at Draper’s Hall.  Other organisations AGMs are always a mystery and, despite the Company being a member, this was no exception.  After a welcoming reception we whizzed though reports, elections, presentations of Fellowships and other miscellaneous items.  The formal meeting then closed with an inspiring presentation from the Managing Director of Brompton Bicycles, Will Butler-Adams: one soon understood why Brompton bikes are so popular given such enthusiastic leadership.

Following the City & Guilds buffet lunch, I went straight to a Service of Thanksgiving for the 25th Anniversary of the Marine Volunteer Service at All Hallows.  I didn’t know anything beforehand about the Marine Volunteer Service but gather it was created after the disbandment of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service in 1994.  The Service today are nearly all volunteers who provide education about maritime environmental issues and support services afloat to protect and preserve life and property.  It was a very rousing service with many representatives of their regional units present.

The next event in a busy week was a livery dinner of the Worshipful Company of Insurers at the Mansion House.  The Insurers are a modern company created in 1979, and I couldn’t fail to be impressed by the number of Freemen present – and their youth!  I felt positively geriatric but fortunately was befriended by some of the older members present, most of whom had been involved in the company’s inception.

Although I didn’t go to Putney to watch the Boat Race that weekend, it must be a highlight of my year because it was a clean sweep for the Cambridge crews!

The following week I was sorry to miss the Memorial Service for Past Master Lionel Barrow.  Sadly, because it had been scheduled as a free weekend, I had booked a few days abroad and Senior Warden Tony Maynard kindly stood in for me.  Lionel was admitted to the Company as a Craft Owning Freemen in 1970 and joined the Court in July 1994.   He was Master of the Company for the Millennium Year 2000.  His service to the Company thus covered many decades and Tony reported that the memorial service was very well attended. The Service included tributes from Lionel’s daughter Emma Clark, niece Sofia Clark and a City Chum, Harry McKenna. Junior Warden Gina Blair gave a tribute from the Company. After the Service a Reception was held at Watermen’s Hall where Senior Warden Tony Maynard welcomed guests.

The following week was Easter therefore the City and Company diaries were blank, but we returned immediately from the Easter break for the Masters’ & Clerks’ lunch, always held on 23rd April, St George’s Day.  When the diary for the year was being drawn up last summer it had been a concern that a date so close to the Easter weekend might discourage attendance.  We need not have worried!  Such is the reputation the lunch has attained around the City that over forty companies were represented with Masters and Clerks all packed slightly more tightly than at a Christmas lunch!  Given I had a captive audience for my after-lunch speech, I took the opportunity to answer the question I have been asked most frequently during my year: “Why aren’t the Watermen a Livery company?”.  It may be that I baffled them with dates and detail, but no-one has asked the question since…

As confirmation that it was indeed St George’s Day, that evening Susan and I were invited by Craft-Owning Freemen Ted Jackson to attend a St George’s Day Banquet at Guildhall. This was a very splendid affair organised by the Royal Society of St George, with over 500 attending in the presence of the Lord Mayor and the Duke & Duchess of Gloucester. The English Roast Beef was paraded around the Hall by a military bearer party and we sang a number of patriotic songs. Susan, being Norwegian, felt a little out of place, but she coped.

After a day of festivities, it was back to reality the next morning with a meeting of the Doggett’s Wager Working Party.  For 2019, the Company has offered to organise the race and a group of volunteers has been convened under the chairmanship of Craft-Owning Freeman Greg Gregory-Jones.  While we have all attended the race over many years, there are many small details that now require attention, definition, organisation – and costing.

That evening I attended the dinner for the Master, Prime Wardens and Clerks of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers.  Every Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner brings together a slightly different combination of companies so there were a few new faces.  The musical entertainment was provided by a string quartet from the Guildhall School of Music and the very amusing speaker was the Archdeacon of London, Luke Miller.

The speaker at the St George’s Freemen’s Lunch at Watermen’s Hall the next day was Simon Clarke of the Thames Explorer Trust. This proved to be a very popular event: Martin squeezed in 82 for lunch – and there was a waiting list!  Eighty plus Freemen and guests packed into the Freemen’s Room guarantees a noisy, boisterous event and this certainly lived up to expectations.

The Master’s River Inspection took place on Monday 29th April.  The inspecting party embarked on MV Mercia at Crown Pier, thanks to the generosity of Senior Warden, Master Elect Tony Maynard (and Sue Maynard!).  The idea was that we would go upstream to the Emanuel School Boathouse at Barnes Bridge (where I learnt to row) but the clearance at Hammersmith Bridge was not quite enough so we returned to Putney Pier where, thanks to the Clerk’s organisation, we were able to visit the Tideway excavation site.  We had a very good briefing and a Q&A session from Tom Brown, the Site Agent, and were able to look ‘down the hole’.  Sadly, we were too big a party to go further – but we have been invited back later in the year when the underground workings will be more accessible.

The party then walked along the Embankment to London Rowing Club going past the new, ‘relief’ slipway which seems much better than the old one (Tideway asked us to use our influence to NOT have it removed when they have finished).  After a quick wander around the Club, an excellent lunch was provided in the Members’ Room by the LRC approved caterer, Shona Pollock.  Several of the party had not been to LRC before so were interested to see the pictures and artefacts which Craft-Owning Freemen Julian Ebsworth had selected for us – including several with a Watermen’s connection.

My last event of the month was a Two Cities Lunch held in the City of Westminster Lord Mayor’s Parlour on the top floor of Westminster City Hall.  The location means that there are splendid views over Buckingham Place and that area of London, although sadly I couldn’t see much of the river.  The lunch was attended by the Lord Mayors of Westminster and London and both spoke about their year in office. Those dining were mainly involved with local charities or organisations associated with Westminster but the only connection I could identify for my invitation was that the Westminster Barge Master is Court Assistant Tim Keech.

Meeting of the Court of the Watermen & Lightermen – 3rd April 2019

The meeting started with a look back, and a look forward: we stood in memory of Past Master Emeritus Lionel Barrow who died in February; and the Court then unanimously elected Senior Warden Tony Maynard as the Master Elect. Tony was bound as an apprentice to his Father and to the Company in 1983 and will take office on 10th July.

The Court then took its usual format in reviewing the proceedings of the various committees, starting with the General Purposes & Finance Committee, chaired by Past Master Jeremy Randall. Among the items reported was the first Journeymen Freemen’s Dinner held in February (there will be another in the autumn), our affiliation with HMS Westminster (a type 23 frigate) and that the new format of a Doggett’s Emblem Dinner in January had been a huge success.

Junior Warden Sean Collins then presented a report on the Company’s finances for the year to date which were satisfactory, but not brilliant.  We need more members to support events!

The Almshouses and Charities report was given by the President, Past Master John Salter, and concentrated mainly on the planning for continuous improvement of the Hastings site and the Almshouses.  The Court approved a proposal for renewing the street lighting’s underground cabling.

Senior Warden, Master Elect Tony Maynard, presented a report from the Apprenticeship and Training Committee. The main item was the proposed syllabus for the new Boatmaster Level 3 Trailblazer Apprenticeship: is the entry level (Maths and English GCE) set too high?  Is the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal qualification appropriate? Should not all the modules be assessed by a recognised standard?  These views had been passed back to the Thames Skills Alliance.  On the positive side, congratulations were sent to the Training Officer and five candidates who had qualified for their BML.

A short Kitchen Committee report was given by Court Assistant Powell. He was delighted to report that the kitchen had received a 5-star rating from the Environmental Health Officer and that the catering from Cook & Butler continued to receive praise. There had been some discussion about an event for new and potential Freemen and this would be promoted in due course.  The monthly River Thames Lunches continued to be very popular – often a sell-out.

Court Assistant Annamarie Phelps covered the activities of the Library and Heritage Committee.  These included the on-going review of book restoration and possible digitisation of some of the Company’s more valuable assets, the refurbishment of the Freemen’s Room and repairs to paintings.  She could also report that we now knew why the Company possessed a silver dog collar (currently on loan to Leeds Castle): it had been awarded to “Roger” in 1896 for saving the lives of the captain and mate of the sailing barge “Eliza”.   Past Master Richard Goddard reported on the progress of Volume 6 of the Company’s history.  Lastly, the Court approved acceptance of the list of gifts given to the Company in the last quarter.

The Membership Committee, led by Junior Warden Sir David Wootton, reported on the reduced joining fee and subscription for young Journeymen Freemen transferring to Craft Owning Status and reported on the interviewed candidates who, while all linked to the Thames, represented a wide range of age, professional interests and backgrounds. The committee recommended them all.

Past Master Simon McCarthy presented for the Rowing and River Events Committee. The most significant item was the organisation of the 2019 Doggett’s Wager because, after meetings with the Fishmongers, it had been agreed that the Company would organise the “river and race” elements for 2019, with Fishmongers meeting the costs.  An organising committee coordinated by Craft-Owning Freeman Greg Gregory Jones was now recruiting appropriate people to meet this task.  All eligible apprentices had been asked if they would like to row Doggett’s Wager (to be held on 4 September at 1400 hours) and eight have indicated their interest.   The Thames Festival film of the 2018 wager had been a great success and can be viewed at

Honorary Court Assistant John Potter was asked to speak on behalf of the Thames Barge Driving Trust.  The Apprentices’ Race was scheduled for 11 May and the main race will be on Saturday 6 July. The Trust was still seeking race sponsors.

The formal reports concluded, the Court then approved the admission of four candidates who took the oath and were admitted to the Company as Craft-Owing Freemen: Tony Hales, Lambros Vanavides, Pru Beard and Elizabeth Spill.


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

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