All hail the Royal Engineers!

I had the honour of being invited to the inaugural Royal Engineer Awards at the Institute of Civil Engineers on 28thNovember.  The Awards celebrated the work of the Engineers and were split into several categories; individual endeavour, trade skills, academic achievements and support to operations.

As l listened to the citations, I was reminded of the work of this very special part of the Army which not only included construction, but also operations such as the nerve agent incident in Salisbury, ordinance disposal and rebuilding in the Caribbean post Hurricane Irma.

The highest Award of the evening was the Kitchener Award presented to Major Marsh, 39 Engineer Regiment for supporting his subordinates and being a role model during an 18-month continuous deployment to a remote part of the Falkland Islands.

The Award with the most intriguing name was the Windy Notchy Award, which commemorated the Royal Engineers Corps song.  The award itself was presented to the top instructor in the Corps by the USA Chief of Engineers.  I had to ask the young Captains who were sitting next to me why “windy notchy” and they were eventually coerced in to revealing the words and an explanation, which it turned out was thought to brought back to the UK by one of the RE Units which served in the Anglo-Boer War.

The dinner closed with a full rendition of the Windy Notchy Song by all the Sappers in the room and I shall remember the singing and the dinner with joy for many years to come.

The Paviors Autumn Dinner

In my working days the Paviours were always considered by some to be a competitor in the flooring industry, however to those of us in the know, it was simply a different element of the construction industry.

The dinner took place in the Livery Hall in the beautiful Drapers’ Hall and was a full house of some 240 guests, most of whom came from the paving industry.

The guest speaker was Ian Wilson, CEO of Alzheimer’s Research the Pavior’s charity who reminded all of the dreadful effects of this awful illness.  It is hoped that a cure will be found eventually.

Plaisterers’ Company Training Awards Lunch

The beautiful livery Hall of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers’ played host to the annual Training Awards Luncheon on 20thNovember 2018.  Awards were presented to colleges, trainees and apprentices. A lifetime achievement award was also presented.

The event was hosted by Master Plaisterer and awards presented by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor Peter Estlin.  MC for the event was Alan Deadicoat who was presented with his own copy of the Plaisterers’ Company “bible” on plastering as a souvenir of the occasion.

Lord Mayor’s Address 

All Livery Masters were called to Mansion House on 21stNovember to hear an address by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor Peter Estlin.

Rather than an address, this year’s event took the form of a question and answer session hosted by Chairman of the Livery Committee Vicky Russell.  Also taking part was the Town Clerk.

The Lord Mayor talked about his hopes for his term of office. He said he would promote his 'shaping tomorrow's City today' programme, which promotes three key areas – innovation and technology, digital skills, and addressing social inclusion.

A New Freeman of the City

Malcolm and I were invited to attend the installation of John Szymanski as a Freeman of the City of London on 22 November.

This is a very special ceremony that takes place in the Chamberlains Room at Guildhall.  John Szymanski had been a Freeman of the Company for quite some time, but living in Melbourne Australia meant arranging the Ceremony a bit difficult.  John has now returned to the UK and we joined Deputy Master David and Hilary Szymanksi, Upper Warden Michel and Maureen Saminaden, family and friends.

After swearing an Oath and signing the declaration John was given an introduction to other Freemen of the City past and present.

The Circle of Life!

Whilst it may be only two months since the Sheriffs were installed, the election process for their replacements is already underway.  Chris Hayward, Past Master Pattern Maker, had announced he would seek election as Non-Aldermanic Sheriff at Common Hall in June 2019.

The first of his Hustings took place at Armourers’ Hall where Chris, his wife and chairman of his election team spoke to all present.

As I write this piece for the blog there are rumours of a second person seeking election; time will tell!

Building Crafts College Prize Giving

Immediately after the Hustings I departed for Carpenters’ Hall to attend the annual Graduation and Prize Giving for students from the Building Craft College.

In the past eighteen months a bricklaying course had been re-instated so the Company had donated a prize of £250 to the College for one of their bricklaying students.  Naseem Larosi was awarded Bricklaying Apprentice of the Year and Chris Causer, Chairman of the Craft Committee, were delighted to meet Naseem after the Ceremony.  Naseem told us that he was already working as a Bricklayer, but hoped to complete NVQ Level 2 very soon, and return to BCC to take NVQ Level 3.  

September began with the Court Meeting at Wax Chandlers’ Hall followed by a Court Luncheon with the Stewards and consorts which was a most enjoyable event and a good opportunity for me to extend my thanks for the support of the Court and Stewards and all their hard work over the course of my year and also to thank the Learned Clerk and the other Officers of the Company. It was a particular pleasure to be able to use the wonderful port decanters given to the Company by my Father and Past Master Hugh Fuller. As ever Mark Grove’s food and service were superb and I very much hope that this luncheon will become a more regular event.

After interviewing four more prospective new members in the first 12 days of September membership continues to grow and it is good to see Liverymen wishing to bring friends and colleagues into the Company in such numbers. I am also delighted to advise that the outgoing Chief Royal Engineer is to transfer his Honorary Liveryman status into full membership at the December Court.

A flurry of events followed with two trips to St Paul’s for Evensong including processing at the Musicians’ Company Evensong both services were followed by Receptions in the evocative Nelson Room in the crypt. Next came the Painter Stainers’ Dinner in their newly decorated Hall. This was a most enjoyable evening where the Master Painter Stainer welcomed the principal guests by comparing them to characters from Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers – I was somewhat flattered to have been selected as D’Artagnan!

Another busy week followed beginning with welcoming the Sheriffs and their consorts back to dry land after their row from Chelsea Pier to HMS President at St Katherine’s Dock which raised an excellent £14,000 for the Sheriff and Recorder’s Fund. That evening Catherine and I found ourselves at Guildhall for the Vintry and Dowgate Ward Club AGM and Dinner. 

A hectic day next with a Reception to celebrate the presentation of the Hon Liz Green’s Shrieval Badge and Chain of Office before heading off to Essendon Golf Club for the Company’s Golf Day. Many congratulations and thanks to our joint Golf Captains Court Assistant Simon Martin and Deputy Master David Szymanski for arranging such an excellent day and congratulations too to all the golfers who braved the windy conditions.

Sadly the following Monday saw the funeral for Past Master Michael Christopher and it was a testament to the high esteem in which he was held that so many Tylers and Bricklayers were in attendance and thank you to all those who travelled to Essex to be there. This was the start of an extremely busy week as I headed to Glaziers Hall that evening for the Glaziers’ Autumn Dinner and Catherine and I then had an early start for Heathrow as we headed to Bologna at the kind invitation of the Tile Association. We visited the Cersaie exhibition and met representatives from the US Tiling industry before attending the European Tile Fixers’ Board Meeting where it was not only a pleasure to catch up with some old friends but also to learn of the challenges facing the European industry which amongst others include the difficulty of encouraging people into the profession. Huge thanks to the Tile Association for their hospitality and we managed to enjoy two excellent dinners amongst the work in what is rightly regarded as the food capital of Italy.

On returning to London I attended the Admission of The Sheriffs at Guildhall and was privileged to be invited to the Sheriffs’ Breakfast which followed. Congratulations to the Hon. Liz Green and Alderman Vincent Keaveny and their consorts Peter and Amanda who will I’m sure make an excellent Shrieval team. Congratulations also to outgoing Sheriffs Tim Hailes and Neil Redcliffe and their consorts Fiona and Emma with whom we have had so much fun this year.

More civic events on the following Monday with the supporters Breakfast and Election of the Lord Mayor followed by lunch at Stationers’ Hall where I was mistakenly seated with the Framework Knitters! However as their table was next to ours it mattered little. After a day’s respite Catherine and I attended the Fit for the Future Conference at the University of East London. This was one of a series of ongoing consultations about how to deliver better training and education in the post GCSE age groups and to encourage vocational training. The Master Builders Merchant and Past Master Educator were also in attendance and it is good that the Livery movement now have a voice on this body which is already seeing results - not least in construction with two East London colleges now actively seeking input from micro businesses and designing courses to suit their specific requirements incorporating day release courses as opposed to the Government’s standard two year full time training. The three of us intend to continue to attend these events and will report progress back to the Livery movement in due course.

After the conference we headed to St Paul’s for the Musicians’ Company Evensong and Reception which was a fabulous event with which to end my year in office as the following morning saw the Installation Court and Service and the election of our first lady Master. Congratulations to Lesley and together with Malcolm I hope you both have as enjoyable a year as Catherine and I although hopefully it will not go quite as quickly as ours seems to have!

Not that this was an end to events as aside of my role as Deputy Master and attending the Company’s excellent 450thanniversary Dinner at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall, I received a number of other invitations and the 1stNovember saw us at Mansion House for the Lady Mayoress’ Reception and the 5than invitation to join the Master Cook for a moving Remembrance Luncheon - the last event in Mark Grove’s Mastership year. Catherine and I were also privileged to receive an invitation to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at Guildhall with all the associated ceremony and splendour. It was a particular delight to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury speak with some passion on the need for vocational training and the importance of ‘T’ levels.

All in all a superb way in which to finish an exhausting but hugely enjoyable year.

The Barber’s Pole

Malcolm and I accepted an invitation from the Master of the Worshipful Company of Barbers’ to attend the 36thSir Lionel Denny Lecture.

The speaker on this occasion was Dr Margaret Pelling, retired Reader in the Social History of Medicine in the History Faculty at Oxford University. She had worked primarily on English history between 1500 and 1700.

In her lecture she reminded us that the majority could not read in those years and so signage on commercial buildings had to be very obvious.  The Barbers’ pole usually red, white and blue, was displayed outside the home of a Barber and a bowl was usually hung from the pole. The colours red and white referred to the blood and bandages, however and sadly, there was no explanation for the blue.  Dr Pelling hypothesised that the three colours could represent the colours of the Union Flag, but it was unlikely that we would never know the true reason.

World Skills UK

Chris Causer and I, along with our spouses visited World Skills UK, which took place at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham on Saturday, 17 November.

We had been invited to visit by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, and as I had visited many times during my working life, I was interested to see the competition again.

As well as roof slating and tiling, there were competitions for wall and floor tilers, bricklayers and many other crafts in the construction industry.  It was interesting also to see many other skills on show such as robotics, automotive, fitness and beauty on display.

Each of the competitors in the three crafts of interest to us had been given diagrams from which to work and had 18 hours to complete the project.  At the end of the 18 hours each piece was then marked by judges.

The winners were Morgan Chambers from Barnsley College for bricklaying, Joseph Turner from Leeds College of Building for roof slating and tiling, and Odhran Connolly from Southern Regional College for wall and floor tiling.  Each will be invited to our Craft Awards in March 2019 to receive Awards.

Lest we forget!

Eleven o’clock on 11thNovember 2018 marked the 100thanniversary of the end of the first World War, and as part of the commemorations, Masters of the Livery Companies were invited, for the first time, to take part in the Service of Remembrance at St. Pauls Cathedral, London.   Michel Saminaden, Upper Warden, and our Consorts Maureen and Malcolm joined me to attend the Service.

The Upper Warden and I wearing our gowns joined other Masters in the North Transept, whilst Malcolm and Maureen sat in the West Transept.  The Service was attended by the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen and Common Councillors, together with many from the Armed Service and the Royal British Legion.

A few minutes before 11 a.m. the Dean remembered the Fallen and the Last Post was sounded.  There followed a two-minute silence and then Reveille was sounded.  In those two minutes I remembered my own Grandfathers George and Frank, both of whom had served in the “war to end all wars” but I had never met, and all those who had fought for us, many of whom never came home.  

Following the Service, we marched to the Royal Exchange Building for the wreath laying ceremony. As well as wreaths laid by the Lord Mayor, wreaths were laid by the Armed Services, local cubs and scouts and other organisations.  A wreath was laid on behalf of the City of London Livery Companies, by Master Fruiterer, the first time this had ever happened.

Following the Ceremony, the Masters moved to Mansion House to salute and applaud the Old Comrades as they marched past.