Tuesday, 31 May 2011


On Monday evening Alastair Ross and myself travelled up to Cambridge on a packed commuter train for dinner at Pembroke College.  The two worlds of railways and university could not be more different.  It was a beautiful late spring evening and the onset of dusk amongst the quietness of the Cambridge colleges was in sharp contrast to the elbowing for even the most marginal position of comfort on the Lea Valley line, the constant ringing of mobiles and the hissing of iPods.

This annual event is the formal recognition of the long-standing arrangement where the Company supports Drapers' Fellows at the College.  There are usually three Drapers' Fellows every four years with two fellowships in every four year cycle for science related subjects and the other for humanities.

We were joined at Pembroke College by Junior Warden William Charnley, who is a fellow of the College and a benefactor of the university, and Liveryman Jonathan Trower who is an alumnus.

Sir Richard Dearlove, a past director of SIS - or MI6 to those who do not keep closely abreast of Whitehall reorganisations - and the current Master, made us most welcome and we met a selection of Drapers' Fellows and other members of the College.  The fellowships cover an extraordinarily wide range of subjects: studies of meerkat behaviour in relation to human psychology, reconstructing proto Greek and Latin, consideration of historiography in late second century AD China and considerations of philosophy that I regret to say were well beyond me.  Next year's Fellow is the entirely appropriately named Sky French who is working on particle physics and spending some time at the Large Hadron Collider.

We had a most enjoyable dinner.  It had been decided that Monday's should be a vegetarian day for those dining in College and the only concession to our visit was that there was a fish main course on the top table.  It was a most enjoyable meal and with the prospect of three further dinners that week the lightness of vegetarian cuisine was most welcome.

Sir Richard in welcoming us noted how many Drapers' Fellows had made their mark both within the College and further afield.  Our support over the years had suppored some key first steps for many distinguished scholars of today.  Yet again, as with so many other academic visits this year, it was clear that the Company's consistent contribution over the years had helped individuals grow and develop in exceptional ways. 

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