The Company of
Watermen & Lightermen
of the River Thames

The Master’s Blog – May 2020

This Blog will continue to concentrate on Company meetings and exchanges as there is much that has been going on. April finished with some easing of the Government’s Lock-down, but the Company’s Hall and Offices remain closed, with some staff furloughed and others working from home. The return of Company events and Hiring out of the Hall still look someway off.

I chaired the sixth meeting of the Dolphin Group on the 1st May. The meeting was held in two part. The first part was to discuss an invitation from the Thames Skills Academy (TSA) to co-operate to look after apprentices during the Covid-19 crisis. We invited the Company’s TSA Board Representative, Past Master John Redmond, Junior Warden Derek Mann, a member of the Apprenticeship and Training Committee, and Alex Hickman, our Training Officer to join us for this discussion. The TSA were proposing a Joint Working Group chaired by Past Master Chris Livett and the TSA had circulated draft terms of reference.

The TSA Board was due to meet on the 5th May when temporary co-operation for the duration of the crisis was to be on the agenda. It was agreed that the Company’s TSA Board Representative, Past Master John Redmond, should represent the Company as usual. The Dolphin Group agreed the Company would participate in looking at temporary co-operation during the crisis and in return ask TSA to ensure all TSA apprentices were bound to the Company.  The Company did not want to see or be part of form any new sub-group or organisation, feeling this was un-necessary.

The second part dealt with the ordinary business of the Group and covered safety at the Company’s Almshouses at Hastings, storage of the Company’s Barge “Apprentice Lighterman”, the postponement of the 2020 Doggett’s Wager to 16th March 2021 and the holding the 2021 Doggett’s Wager on 8th September 2021, and the letting of flats on the third floor and the Company’s loss of income.

The eight meeting of the Dolphin Group was held on 8th May where again the proposed co-operation with TSA dominated discussions. We invited the Company’s TSA Board Representative, Past Master John Redmond, Junior Warden Derek Mann, a member of the Apprenticeship and Training Committee, and Alex Hickman, our Training Officer to join us for this discussion.

Past Master Redmond reported that the issue of co-operation had been raised at the TSA Board where Past Master Chris Livett said he hoped the Company would recognise the opportunity on offer. Past Master Redmond reported that he had stated that in the current emergency, the Company would co-operate but not on another working group.

Other business for the Group included, agreeing the Gardeners at Hastings Almshouses should return to work on separate days. At the Hastings site, the Trustees had agreed to build two new chalet style bungalows on the footprint of the current garages. The Garage for gardening equipment would be replaced. The President would write to residents and tenants explaining the reason was to speed up the refurbishment of existing bungalows which at present could only be tackled when a resident or tenant vacated. The Group agreed the Court should be invited to adopt a Diversity Policy.

The nineth meeting of the Dolphin Group was held on 15th May. Discussions with the Thames Skills Academy continued with concern that the General Data Protection Regulations to restrict the exchange of information about apprentices. The co-operation was aimed at maintaining contact and helping apprentices train. The Company has two groups those in our classroom and a much wider group who have been bound as apprentices in the last 5 years busy gaining their qualifying service time afloat. Past Master Randall offered to prepare a business strategy for the Company’s training going forward. Equally the Company’s Budget needed to be re-visited to take account of the effects of Covid-19. The Group agreed to hold an online Court of Binding with three apprentices ready to be bound.

On the 18th May, I chaired that first virtual online Court of Bindings where three young boys became bound to the Company. It was different from our normal binding in that whilst we could interview the prospective apprentices, we could not hand over the Indentures. We had agreed that we will when circumstances permit, hold a handing over ceremony for apprentices, their Masters and families. The apprentices and their Masters agreed the binding had been successful and in the current crisis a useful replacement for a physical Court of Bindings.

The tenth meeting of the Dolphin Group was held on 22nd May and again working with the Thames Skills Alliance (TSA) dominated discussion. The TSA wanted to write jointly to apprentices to enquire what help with their training would be useful. The Group reviewed a revised Covid-19 Company Budget noting that Hall hire income had been reduced to nothing and that the only savings the Company could make were on staff costs. It was agreed to make full use of the Government’s furlough scheme. The Group reviewed the agendas for the forthcoming Committee meetings. Senior Warden Master Elect Gina Blair suggested holding a virtual online lecture on a topical subject for Freemen. It was agreed to explore this.

The eleventh meeting of the Dolphin Group was held on 29th May. Whilst the Company in co-operation with Thames Skills Academy (TSA) was prepared to jointly offer help to apprentices and explain to their employers what was intended, TSA wanted to write to all River employers whether they had apprentices or not. The Company felt this was unnecessary and suggested co-operation was more permanent than was intended. It was agreed that I should join the Clerk in any future discussions with the TSA. Past Master Randall’s offer of drawing up a business plan for the Company’s training was to be put to the Apprenticeship and Training Committee which would meet on 9th June. Several of the Company’s Committees were now to meet in early June.

The Month of May ended with the Government loosening its lockdown but keeping it’s advice to employers and their employees to work from home where possible. Meeting one other person from outside your household was permitted in the open air as was as much outside exercise as one wanted, including golf and fishing.

Tony Maynard – The Master 



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

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