Thursday, 31 March 2011


One of Oxford's archetypal views, the Bridge of Sighs that links the college buildings together. 
On Friday Willian Charnley, the Junior Warden, and I were guests of Hertford College for their John Donne Dinner.  Past Master Sir Nicholas Jackson Bt who is also an Honorary Fellow of the college was also present.  The dinner commemorates John Donne, the poet and much else, who was a student at Hart Hall, a predecessor of Hertford College between the ages of 11 and 14.
John Donne seemingly depicted in one of his less metaphysical and rather more sensuous moods. 
The dinner was preceded by a talk in the chapel on John Donne's The Good-Morrow.  We were taken through an explanation that was entirely in keeping with the metaphysical nature of the poem and the poet.  Also in the spirit of early seventeenth century enquiry and curiosity we were exposed to a huge number of references and influences contained in the poem.

Our minds having been given a thorough refreshment we went on to an excellent dinner.  It was amongst other things part of the farewell for Dr John Landers who is standing down as Principal.  He was one of our guests at the Education Dinner the previous evening.  In my talk I noted his departure with regret as he has helped sustain our links with the college most effectively.

Our links with Hertford go back over a century and date from the time when Past Master The Reverend Henry Boyd was Principal.  This was a post he held for forty five years from 1877 to 1922.  Today we support a Drapers' Company Research Fellow at the college, although currently because of an early departure of the last incumbent to study elsewhere, the post is vacant.

John Donne led a quite extraordinary life.  He managed to spend a significant amount of money on good living, travelled widely, went to prison and generally pursued a most precarious life.  He was a member of parliament and despite being a Catholic held various positions in the Church of England, eventually rising to be Dean of St Pauls. In addition, of course, he produced some of the most interesting and memorable poetry and prose in the English language.

Monday, 28 March 2011


The March Court Dinner is traditionally one that commemorates the Company's education links.  These, as regular readers of this blog will know, are very wide ranging.  They involve some twenty five organisations and range from Oxford and Cambridge colleges to an infant school, the Thomas Russell Infant School at Barton-under-Needwood in Staffordshire.  A consequence is that the guest list is very eclectic including chairs of governors, heads, Drapers' governors, Drapers' scholars and fellows as well as head boys and head girls of our various schools.

A record number of one hundred and twenty five attended.  This increase was partially due to the fact that Drapers' Academy is now established.  Incidentally Matthew Slater, the Principal, and others were made most welcome.

One pleasant coincidence is that Professor Michael Moriarty, the husband of Professor Morag Schiach, a vice-principal at Queen Mary and also vice chair of Drapers' Academy, has recently been appointed to the Drapers' Chair of French at Cambridge University.

Our principal guest was Lord Adonis.   When he was leading the academy programme in the last government he gave considerable support to the Company in the early stages in the development of Drapers' Academy. Andrew is a man of considerable interests and energy.  After providing a huge energy in setting keeping the momentum going with the academy movement he then went on to spend a very innovative time in the Department for Transport, latterly as secretary of state, where he was particularly active in promoting the growth of railways including publishing proposals for increased electrification and the building of a high speed railway north of London, known as High Speed 2. 

As I mentioned in my speech a minister who can claim one sucessful initiative that has bought real bebnefit is unusual but to achieve success in two fields, in this case education and transport, is exceptional. Andrew Adonis gave a great speech combining his hallmarks of a lightness of touch and a passionate commitment to improving education.


Lady Victoria Leatham, this year's Second Master Warden, has a great interest in the Olympic movement following on from her father, the Marquess of Exeter.  He won the 400 metre hurdles gold medal at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928.  He was later President of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee and Chairman of the Organising Committee of the 1948 Summer Olympics. He was also the inspiration for the character played by Nigel Havers in Chariots of Fire although the film plays fast and loose with dates and facts

Victoria proposed that the Great XII companies should financially help the excellent work of the Ron Pickering Foundation that supports our young athletic hopefuls by providing much needed financial support for training and equipment.  For more details go to  This year the Foundation is very much focused in supporting those who have a chance to qualify for the Olympics next year

The fund raising amongst the Great XII has gone well.  To celebrate the progress made members of the Ron Pickering Foundation and some of the young athletes they support were invited for a buffet lunch at the hall.  Also invited were those who were likely to be masters and prime wardens of Great XII companies when the Olympics are held next year.

The young athletes were a most impressively modest and dedicated group.  To say that preparation for the Olympics is gruelling is an understatement and when there is also the pressure of school and college work the pressure is very great indeed.  It is clearly a rigorous and mentally demanding process and requires a huge sacrifice from those involved.  This is made even tougher as the selection will not be made until June next year so some who are working really hard today might not get through.

The best image I can find of the medal struck for the IXth Olympiad at Amsterdam.  This one is not in very good condition and the background does not help much.  Lord Burghley's was in beautiful condition.
 Victoria gave a most inspiring talk where she recalled her father's success in 1928 despite a relative lack of interest by his family and hoped that we were doing better.  She had also brought her father's gold medal, the first time it had left Burghley House, since he returned from Amsterdam.

Tom Macnab, a member of the Foundation and a well-known coach, gave an interesting insight into the dedication needed to succeed.

It was also good to see Jean Pickering MBE, who, before she married Ron, was a member of the women's 4x100 metre relay team that won a bronze medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 was present.

It was really heartwarming to meet a most dedicated cross section of our Olympic hopefuls and we wish them every success for next year and can take pride that Victoria's initiative has played a part in helping them succeed.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


On 8 March it was the turn of the Royal Academy of Music to provide the musicians for our second concert in the 2011 series.  Past Master Sir Nicholas Jackson Bt had organised a most interesting programme with the Academy.

This included two harp pieces, Claude Debussy's Danse sacree et Danse profane and Maurice Ravel's Introduction and allegro.  Nicholas reminded the audience that these two pieces had been commissioned by major harp makers in the first decade of the last century to display the versatility of this instrument to best effect.  Akiko Awaki played the Debussy and Elen Hydref the Ravel.  Both performances brought out both the opulence and the slight sadness of the pieces in most interesting ways. 

One can possibly read too much of the fin de siecle element into Debussy and Ravel's music at this time, especially when played on a harp and other string instruments. We know in hindsight that within a few years the life of Europe had brutally changed and it was never the same again.  Be that as it mwy, what we did hear was two most poignant and limpid performances.

A nice piece of symmetry was the Livery Hall decor dates from the period of the music and somehow the marble, gilt and general decoration of the room matched the harp and supporting instruments.

In complete contrast Reinis Zarins took us through Liszt's Nuage Gris and Etude No 8 in C Minor, Chopin's Ballade No 4 in F minor, WildeJagd and Ravel's Miroirs: Alborada del gracioso.  A friend of mine once remarked that Liszt piano pieces where 'there to be played.'  The same applies to Chopin and Ravel.  Reinis did not disappoint and gave a great series of performances combining energy with panache.

Finally Reinis and the Tyburn String Quartet gave a beautifully realised performance of Brahms Piano quintet in F minor, Op 34.

Yet another great evening where a group of young and hugely talented musicians performed to a sell-out and very appreciative audience.

The final concert is on Wednesday 4 May and will feature musicians from the Guildhall School of Music.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Dr Peter Scott
Livery Schools Link is a voluntary organisation that aims to promote support for schools in the Greater London area by Livery Companies of the City of London, helping to prepare young people for the world of work.  For more details go to

I am pleased that Liveryman Dr Peter Scott has agreed to be the Drapers' representative with this organisation.  Peter was the very successful Headmaster of Bancroft's School between 1996 and 2006, covering much of the time when I was Chairman of Governors at the school. He has a huge wealth of experience and since retiring from Bancrofts he has been involved in a number of educational initiatives.  I am certain that he will be able to make a substantial contribution to the work of the Livery Schools Link.


The Rt Rev Nigel Stock.  With acknowledgements to the Ipswich Evening Star.
Each year the Master asks a clergyman to be the Company Chaplain for his year.  The duties are varied.  They include saying grace at dinners, giving a sermon at the Company service at St Michael's, Cornhill in the summer and providing general spiritual guidance.

This year I asked the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, to fulfil this role.  I think chaplain is a rather inappropriate title for a senior member of the Church of England to assume so we are probably happier looking upon him as our spiritual adviser for the year.

I have got to know Bishop Nigel as he is married to Carolyne, a cousin of Rosemary's.  Also another consideration was that, being based in Ipswich, he could get to the Hall reasonably easily.

This week he joined the House of Lords as one of the lords spiritual.  Of the forty-four diocesan bishops in England twenty six have seats in the House of Lords.  Five are always held by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester. The remaining twenty-one are the most senior of the remaining thirty-seven.  This month it was Bishop Nigel's turn to take his place.

I think this is a Company first but what is certain is that Bishop Nigel has proved a popular choice as our chaplain/spiritual adviser. 


On Friday Alastair Ross and myself travelled to Exeter for a dinner held by the Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen of Exeter.  This dinner in March is always by tradition one the Master Draper and Master Clothworker are invited to attend. This year we were also joined  by Simon Hyslop, High Master of the Clothiers' Company of Worcester.

The Exeter guild for the past 540 years has occupied the beautiful Tuckers Hall in Fore Street, Exeter.  The Hall is small and the the membership of the Incorporation's Court is limited  to 27 as this is about the maximum that can dine at any one time. For more details go to

We saw the preparatory work that is now being undertaken to develop the Hall to ensure that it remains at the heart of Exeter life.  We are delighted as a Company to have made a small contribution to this project.
The beautiful barrel-vaulted ceiling of Tuckers Hall, now well over half a millennium old.
The company led by Master Graham Murrin entertained us exceptionally with an outstanding menu prepared by the noted local chef Michael Caines (see for more details).

We much value our links with the Incorporation and it was good to reinforce them and be so generously looked after.


The Loriners' Company's spirited coat of arms.
The Loriners almost certainly held the livery function of the year on Wednesday.  Two highly important anniversaries were celebrated in a way that included almost all of the other masters of livery companies in a celebration of evensong at St Pauls.

This year the Loriners celebrate two significant anniversaries.  These are the 750th anniversary of the first grant of Ordinances to the Worshipful Company in 1261 and the 300th anniversary of the granting by Queen Anne of the Company's Royal Charter in 1711.

The service was beautifully done and the sermon by the Rt Hon and Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop London, he is also a liveryman of the Company, was equally memorable.  Starting with a review of other  notable events of 1261 that included the restoration of the Byzantine Empire under the Palaeologi and the 'founding' of Macclesfield - in fact it was the grant of the first charter.  He then went on to view the Loriners' trade, that involves the making and selling of bits, bridles, spurs, stirrups, saddle trees and the minor metal items of a horse’s harness, as a metaphor of the need for human self control enjoined by St Thomas Aquinas.  Finally he wished the Loriners would 'bit and bridle' flourish for ever.

This was followed by an enjoyable party at Stationers' Hall.  Overall a most impressive evening. It said in the notes attached to the service sheet that in the nineteenth century the Company had a great reputation in the City for its sociability.  This tradition is certainly being sustained in the twenty-first.

For those who find all the various components of horse's tack a bit of a mystery I include a diagram to get you started but it self-evidently does not include some of the more obscure elements.  If you want to find out more go to