On a noteworthy evening, some 126 Broderers and their guests dined at Mercers’ Hall on Wednesday 18th October. The evening was special on a number of counts; starting with an historic number of Freedom Declarations and finishing with a rather special rendition of the Master’s Song.
With some deft choreography from our Beadle, John Oakley, 2 sets of three prospective Freemen (Ladies first: Dr Ruth Holt, Michelle Humphries and Sophia Sladden, followed by the gentlemen: Nigel Birks, Colonel Peter Merriman and Alastair Rudin Macleod) jointly made their Declarations to the Court. As if six new Freemen were not enough, four Past Mistresses (Mrs Cynthia Buchanan, Mrs Margot Chaundler, Mrs Delia Hart and Mrs Sarah Mosse) then took the first - and historic - opportunity to become Honorary Freemen of the Company (suitably marked by the initial presentation of Past Mistresses badges and, perhaps slightly less suitably, by the presentation of personal copies of ‘Plain Dealing Fellows’ by the Clerk – just in case their husbands had lost their copy). To round off the proceedings, and to give her barely time to languish in the role of Freeman, Ruth Holt (already an Apothecary Liveryman) was clothed in the Livery; all just in time for the champagne reception before dinner.
With Masters and Wardens present from the other 3 Associated Companies as well as a number of other Masters and Past Masters from various other Companies, the Master and Renter Warden had their work cut out greeting all the guests before the arrival of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs.
As a result of careful cajoling by Past Masters Mosse and Toler, unusually both of our affiliated military units (849 Naval Air Squadron and 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment) were present and represented by their Liaison Officer (Lieutenant Commander Serena Davidson RN) and the new Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lewis), respectively. The military made their presence known a little more markedly with a Bugler playing the Dinner Call and a Piper leading the Master and Guests to Dinner; nothing to do with grand-standing, but all to do with an excuse to display to the serried ranks of the City the Pipe Banner (Regimental crest embroidered on one side; Broderers’ on the other) recently presented by the Company to the Regiment. (Well, the show might have had some impact, too.)
Dinner was the excellent sort of fare that we have, perhaps, come to expect from Mercers, whose extremely attentive and efficient staff look after us especially well. With an unusually large number of Loving Cups (9) it was always going to be a convivial evening, but things quietened down when the Jazz Trio from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama interrupted proceedings. Those who are possibly more used to entertainment of a more traditional, operatic style might initially have been taken aback but pretty quickly everyone was fully taken up with the various melodies; all complementing the light-hearted mood of the evening. The Master had certainly done his homework well in identifying the Lord Mayor’s appreciation of jazz, as he definitely enjoyed himself, as was amply evident in his speech. In his turn the Master gave a summary of what the Company has achieved recently, dispensing largesse widely: including the initial £25k to the Royal College of Art through the Broderers’ Textile Innovation Fund; a donation to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal and £1776 to Lincoln Cathedral to balance their books after the summer’s highly enjoyable Heritage Skills Festival – to get a far better idea of what was actually said, the Master’s speech is attached (as, indeed, is the one from the Election Dinner in June). Appropriately, the Company’s present to the Lord Mayor was an embroidered cushion of the London skyline produced specifically by one of our supported charities: Fine Cell Work.
Notwithstanding the delights of the speeches, I suspect what most people – Broderers, certainly – were waiting for was the Master’s Song. Led with due ceremony to the piano by the Beadle (the result of much deliberate planning and coordination between him and the Clerk, all of 30 seconds before the dinner), the Lord Mayor accompanied the Master on the grand piano – and if busy diaries had precluded any rehearsal this was not evident in the performance (perhaps both are looking for a Music Hall career at the end of their respective year of office…?). To end the Dinner, the Royal Irish Piper ensured that there was little chance for quiet conversation by piping out the Master and senior guests; it was then down to the Clerk to attempt to persuade everyone to leave the bar before their carriages turned into pumpkins. The Lord Mayor, at least, was heard to say how very much he had enjoyed the evening – perhaps he had not been to a Broderers’ evening before?