Tuesday, 27 July 2010


My first event outside the Hall as Master is the Worshipful Company of Founders'Court Dinner at their charming Hall next door to the church of St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield. By tradition - probably a decade old by now - the Master Draper responds on behalf of the guests in thanking the Master and Company for the evening.

The Founders' Company as its name implies was the livery company that cast metal and, as a consequence played a part in creating accurate weights and measures. Today it is still linked to its roots but has branched out cover other metallic areas. For more details go to

Dr Tom Rollason, Master Founder, was a most generous host and I was also well looked after by Past Master Ronnie Sichel. As chance would have it I met him for the first time a couple of weeks before as he lives not far from our house in Wiltshire.

I include two parts of my speech of thanks in this blog. The first is entirely self-indulgent. Through the New Scientist I have become acquainted with the one liners centred round things from the world of physics entering a hypothetcal bar. I am also grateful to Brian Malow for these ideas (see him on You Tube for much of this material and a lot else besides).

The second is a couple of slightly more serious points about the value and commitment of the livery companies in the life of the City.

'I am delighted to be with a group tonight that I am certain includes a very good sprinkling of people who understand science but who may not have heard of the Physics Bar were strange visitors drop in:

A neutron walks into the Physics Bar, and after ordering his drink notices he has no bill to pay. He asks why. ‘For you,’ says the barman ‘It’s no charge.’

Or the Infectious Disease that walks into the same bar. The bartender says he doesn’t serve infectious diseases. As he leaves the infectious disease says, ‘You are not a very good host.’

Or a piece of technology that I am sure is of interest to many Founders

A room temperature superconductor walks into a bar. 'We don’t serve any room temperature superconductors in this bar,' says the perpetually curmudgeonly barman. The room temperature superconductor puts up no resistance

An infra-red photon walks into a bar and says, 'Is it hot here tonight or is it just me?'

A neutrino walks into a bar and doesn’t get served as he is just passing through.

(At this point John Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Casting Technology at the University of Birminghan declared this was the first neutrino joke he had ever heard at a court dinner in the City. If this is a record I am proud to have set it. I am sure other sub-atomic particles will now follow!)

And now the one that always turns up late.

Shrodinger’s cat walks into a bar: and doesn’t.

But on the subject of physical laws I think there are couple that apply exclusively to the Livery Companies of London.

The first is the law of continuing relevance. It is good to see that it receives a special mention on the Founders' website. Both our companies are involved in a wide range of worthwhile activities. David Cameron has talked recently yet again about the Big Society. Many commentators say that they are mystified by what he is talking about. I would suggest that the London Livery Companies have been practising the Big Society for centuries. Look no further than around this hall tonight to see individuals who give a great deal of their time, energy and cash to make this world a better place.

The second is the law of friendly rivalry. Our origins are ones where we jealously guard our traditions and responsibilities. I like for instance the depiction of a Draper's shop of five hundred years ago on the Founders' Company website. The picture is on your site because it illustrates weights and measures in use. Of course at the time all the companies engaged in trade kept their own weights and measures. These included the Drapers’ Yard as a standard for measuring cloth. I think we would have gone a long way to deny you had any authority over our trade. However this tension is creative and is part of the dynamism that underpins the City of London through good times and bad. To return to my earlier comments about diseases, we are a collectively a beneficial system that can tackle many of the viruses, such as poverty, sickness and lack of educational opportunity, that enter the body of the City of London from time to time.'

Overall a great evening where I was fortunate to meet an impressive group of individuals with great enthusiasm for the professional side of the Company and its wider interests. It was a great privilege to be invited and I could not have been more generously looked after.

No comments:

Post a Comment