The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Master’s Blog – December 2019

The first official engagement of December was the Court’s Christmas Visit to Hasting on 6th December to visit the resident and tenants of our Almshouses. Following the success of last year all the residents and tenants were invited again to have Christmas lunch with attending Court Members in the Community Centre. There was an excellent turnout and our Warden, Martin Hackett had clearly spent considerable time and effort putting up Christmas Decoration and laying out the tables. The caterer, Food Glorious Food, produced an excellent meal and the Lightermen’s Bar was open all day! As Master I was required to follow the President of the Almshouses to give a brief report on the Company’s activities.
On 10th December, I chaired the Master’s Working Party that is beginning the process of selecting a new Clerk to replace Colin when he retires early next year.

Following the short meeting, was the annual Christmas lunch on with the Port of London Authority (PLA). This year, it was the PLA’s turn to act as hosts and so members of the General Purposes & Finance Committee sat down to lunch with the PLA Board at the top of the Gherkin. As hosts their Chairman, Craft Owning Freeman Christopher Rodrigues spoke first and offered a toast to the Company, I responded offering a toast to the PLA. The PLA Board are warm supporters of the Company sharing as we do, a joint objective of maintaining a safe River Thames.
However, the PLA have suggested removing the use of the terms, waterman and lighterman, from their 1968 Act of Parliament, a suggestion the Company has objected to in the strongest of terms. The Company’s Lighterage Committee started a petition to preserve these terms. The PLA have offered to look again at how the terms might be retained.
In the evening 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 12th December I held a meeting of the Master, Wardens and the Chairman of General Purposes. The meeting is held immediately before the full General Purposes and Finance Committee to look at issues requiring a smaller group. At the General Purposes and Finance Committee there are reports of all the other committees and the General Purposes and Finance Committee 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 8th January meeting.
Before we could break for Christmas, there were the three traditional Freemen’s Christmas Lunches: this year beef, goose and lastly turkey. As Master, I am required to attend all three and can report that it appeared an excellent time was had by all – and that some Freemen attended more than once. As always, the Duke Box singers were a great success and nearly everyone survived the physical exertions of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

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

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