My year started before it began when I represented the Ward Club as a guest of Bishopsgate Ward Club at their Civic Lunch at Guildhall 2 weeks before I became Master.. This was followed very quickly by our Annual Dinner and AGM, which thanks to the support of Upper Warden Stanley Liu was held for the 2nd year running at the Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall.
The next event and an annual event was held at ‘The Bunch of Grapes’ a favourite watering hole for the Ward Club on the 12th March was the Members Evening and I was pleased to have the opportunity of meeting a number of prospective new members and many existing members. Some 30 people were present. A very good social event. This was to be followed by another annual event albeit usually held later in the year, namely the wine tasting evening. This year it was entitled ‘Wine tasting with a difference’ at St Botolph’s without Bishopsgate Church Hall on the 2nd April but unfortunately this event had to be cancelled at the very last moment on the advice of the police by reason of the G20 demonstrations taking place the same day and very close indeed to the planned location.
The 19th May saw me once again at Guildhall representing the Ward Club at the Aldgate Ward Club’s Civic Lunch at which the principal guest was the Lord Mayor. My second visit and this time in the newly refurbished Livery Hall forming part of the Crypt but not previously used for functions but as storage facilities. What a stunning room and what a very enjoyable lunch a chance for a rehearsal for our own Civic Lunch the very next day.
The next event in the calendar the Club’s own Civic Lunch and this year we were back at Guildhall on the 20th May for what turned out to be a very memorable occasion with an unforeseen incident. This was a very well attended event (170) and a most enjoyable occasion which I thoroughly enjoyed, myself. Earlier that morning we had held the Club’s Annual Service at St Peter-upon-Cornhill at which The President and I read the lessons and The Honorary Chaplain gave the address. Our Ward Club has a very good name at Mansion House as one of the few who always get the Lord Mayor out on time and this year was to be no exception .To ensure this I not only had strict instructions from the Honorary Secretary, Ann Benson but also the toastmaster, Jamie Wallis a personal friend and a fellow member of the P&M with extensive military experience, and my guest speaker Colonel Geoffrey Godbold. The Common Cryer and Serjeant at Arms and a former CO of the HAC.
How could this plan with such military might go wrong?
We had not bargained for the ‘fifth column’ in the shape of the Guildhall’s fire alarm system. An excellent meal had been served by Mark Grove’s wonderful team (Cook and Butler) and we were about to get down to the sweet when the Crypt had to be evacuated.
We found ourselves in Guildhall Yard in the sunshine!
The Lord Mayor agreed that we should give our speeches in the open air thus creating another first not only for the Ward Club but I anticipate for the City when we were given the all clear.
But what of our timings and our reputation? Shot to pieces!
All credit to the Lord Mayor and the Civic Party – they stayed until the end of the formalities despite the event running over by the best part of 45 minutes. Not our fault Governor!
I was however able to present the Lord Mayor with a cheque for his charities and he in turn gave me the gift of a silver photo frame, which I am sure should not be in my custody but that of the Club?
On the 17th June some 32 members and there guests forgathered in Chelsea for a lunchtime visit to The Royal Hospital the home of the famous IN pensioners. We had an excellent tour lasting nearly two hours which was conducted by an In pensioner. This gentleman’s knowledge of the history of the hospital was marvellous and he took the trouble to spend sometime with us after the tour to have a cup of tea in the pensioner’s tea room before rejoining his colleagues who were engaged in a game of bowls. A thoroughly enjoyable and educational day.
The 26th June saw me dine again representing the Ward Club at our neighbour Langbourne Ward Club’s Civic Lunch held this year at Ironmongers Hall in Shaftesbury Place just off London Wall at which the Lord Mayor was the principal guest and Lord Sheikh of Cornhill responded to the toast to the guests. Again another memorable occasion and very much a success for our fellow Lime Street Ward Club members Peter Hill the Chairman and his wife Sally-Ann.
Because the Wine Merchant, Paul Champness, who was to have conducted the abortive wine tasting on the 2nd April is also the present Captain commanding the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers he suggested we should resurrect the wine tasting to take place together with the next event, A Visit to the home of the Lord Mayor’s bodyguard which took place on the 6th July at Armoury House in City Road just outside the City walls. I know I am biased about the place and the event but from all the accounts I have heard this event was not only very well attended (70) but also enjoyed immensely by all those present. We enjoyed a spectacular tour of Armoury House conducted by the IPM of the Guild of Art Scholars Dealers and Collectors and also the Elder Drum Beater of the P&M Jonathan Horne followed by a display of 17th century drill by the Company and concluding with the wine tasting with a difference conducted by Paul Champness.
On the 16th July saw me again representing the Ward Club at another Ward Club’s Civic occasion. This time Castle Baynard, the Lord Mayor’s Ward and this time at Mansion House for their centenary dinner. I was there ostensibly on duty for the Lord Mayor as a member of his bodyguard but as happens from time to time a member of the guard is invited to dine and on this occasion the lot fell on me and enabled me to represent the Ward Club in P&M uniform but sporting the Master’s badge.
The summer months of August and September are historically the quiet time for the City as it was the period the Lord Mayor traditionally undertook his foreign trips and so it was for the Ward Clubs. Alas no more. The Lord Mayor now travels extensively throughout his year and the Ward Club continues to be active. I am indebted to Peter and Daphne Cave for their tremendous work in organising and making a success of the first Inter Ward Quiz even though I was not present which took place on the 7th September. £170 was raised for charity, the winning Ward Club donating their 50% to Help for Heroes and our 50% going to my chosen charity The Royal Hospital Chelsea. There has been very positive feedback following the event with the likelihood of this becoming an annual City event. Latter in the month of September the 22nd to be precise saw some 31 members of the Ward Club and guests assemble south of the river for a city walk around Southwark ‘The Ward Without’ lead by David Thompson MITG the Blue Badge Guide. A tale of pilgrims playwrights prostitutes and gouls. The walk started at The Mug House under London Bridge and concluded at The Anchor at Bankside. In the middle we learnt so much about this part of London that it would take too long to recount save to say that the words of the nursery rhyme ‘Goosey goosey gander’ will never ever have the same meaning again.
Hard on the heels of the City walk came the visit to HM Tower of London by courtesy of Yeoman Warder Ken McGrath on the evening of the 5th October. We had a maximum turn out of 45 who enjoyed a very personalised tour of the Tower, a buffet reception in the Yeoman Warder’s Club and followed by ring side seats for the Ceremony of the Keys. In between we enjoyed excellent hospitality from the Yeoman Warders and a very successful raffle.
One of the highlights of my year as Master must surely be the Black Tie Dinner held on the 19th November at The Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks by courtesy of the Curator Andrew Wallis, a personal friend and colleague in the P&M. Andrew did us proud not only in the venue, the food, the wine but also in his ‘entertainment’. An informal reception allowed those attending to have a look around the museum prior to dining and to view some of its many artefacts and to wet one’s appetite for a proper in depth future visit. An outstanding short talk towards the end of the evening by Andrew about the museum and the Guards was thoroughly enjoyed by all those attending concluding with a recitation of Sam’s Pudding that knocked Stanley
Holloway’s prior effort into a cocked hat! 60 members and their guests attended, another full house, and judging by the comments I received on the evening and the letters and other communications I received after the event an evening to be remembered.
The biennial Red Cross Fayre was held at Guildhall on the 1st and 2nd December at which the Club hosted a stand with the aim of promoting the concept of Ward Clubs. Our stand was one of the few stands not selling anything which gave all those who manned the stall a few challenges, whilst meeting a huge range of visitors who seemed genuinely interested in the Ward Clubs. I and the Club are hugely indebted to Roseanne Bowman without whose involvement this opportunity would not have arisen and I am grateful to all those who manned the stall over the two days. And as a
result we have admitted two new members.
The Club’s Annual Carol Service took place on the 3rd December at St Peter upon Cornhill and was very well attended by members and their guests (102). This year we were joined by members of the Worshipful Company of Poulters, whose current whose current Master (David Bridges) is also a Member of the Ward Club. Once again we were delighted to have the choir of St Mary the Virgin, Shoebury with us and to hear their wonderful voices. The President, I and the Upper Warden and Master Poulter read traditional lessons and the Hon Chaplain gave the address. Over 8 sacks of presents were placed under the colourful Christmas Tree for delivery to the Good Shepherd Mission in East London and I would like to express my personal thanks to all those who donated gifts so generously. The evening concluded with a glass or two of wine, mince pies and other traditional seasonal foods. This was again a very enjoyable evening indeed and one to put one very much in the mood for the festive season to come.
On the 14th December I was again back at Guildhall, where I was one of the many guests of The Master of the Guild of Freeman, His Honour Judge Sir Gavyn Arthur at their Annual Banquet. My official role on this occasion was as President of the HAC Mess Club, and so I was kitted out in Mess Kit but I took the opportunity of representing the Ward Club and wore the Master’s Badge. This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and was attended by no less than a dozen members of European Royalty, sundry Ambassadors and many others from the ‘great and the good’.
The final planned event of my year was a return visit to The College of Arms in Queen Victoria Street on the evening of the 25th January 2010, the Ward Club having visited the College previously some years ago. This was a very cold night but the maximum number of 20 stout and hardy Members attended. They were richly rewarded by a tour and very informative talk from Windsor Herald Major William Hunt TD and a brief look at a number of their more interesting archives followed by wine and a Buffet.
Once again I am hugely indebted to Peter Cave who was able to secure the attendance of The Assistant Town Clerk, Peter Nelson at St Botolph’s Church Hall on the evening of the 12th February to talk to us about How the City of London and its Corporation operates. (Our first City Briefing ? – a regular feature in coming years)
This event was well attended (60) by both members of the Ward Club and a few from other Ward Clubs. Again this was a very informative evening and enjoyed by all those attending. As usual followed by a glass of wine and buffet.
And so we are back where we started. I have had a ball. I thank you for supporting me as your Master over the past 12 months and attending the events that I have organised. I know from all the various communications that I have received from so many of you throughout the year that you have enjoyed each and every event almost as much as I have!. Thank you all very much. My particular thanks go to Ann Benson – the Hon Secretary for all her support and guidance, Chris Otter the Hon Treasurer for balancing the books so well and also to Daphne Cave the Honorary Assistant Hon Secretary.