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The St. George's Day Ladies Banquet

The Lord Mayor, The Sheriffs and The Lord Bishop of London together with their consorts and our Ladies plus our guests enjoy an excellent dinner and evening at Vintners' Hall on 26th April 2012

The Master had chosen a number of months earlier that Vintners' Hall was to be the venue for his Ladies' Banquet in celebration of the Feast of St. George. Belonging to one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies the Hall, situated in Upper Thames Street, is a magnificent building and the Livery Hall an exceptional setting for a dinner. The original medieval hall had been burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. It was not until 1675 that the then Clerk was able to report that the now larger and extended hall was near completion. Over the years there have been minor alterations, restoration work and some re-modelling internally but the building escaped major damage during the blitz in the Second World War.

Attendance at the Banquet was in excess of 150 members and their guests. One of the largest Bowyer functions in recent years. The Master had the great privilege of welcoming The Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and their consorts to the Hall , plus The Bishop of London, Mrs Richard Chartres, Master Tobacco Pipe Maker (Mrs Fiona Adler) and Master Gunmaker (Clive Richards, OBE).

At the appointed time the Beadle called everyone into the Livery Hall for dinner. Prior to Grace the Clerk requested a minutes silence in remembrance of two members of the Mercian Regiment who had fallen in active service recently. Private Matthew Haseldin and Captain Rupert Bowers, both of 2 Mercian, were duly remembered in respectful silence. Subsequently the Company Chaplain, Rev Dr Alan McCormack, gave an eloquent Grace most apt for the occasion.

As always the Master and Catering Committee had given considerable thought and some practical tasting in determining the menu. Salad of smoked trout, roasted rump of English lamb and summer berries were the core of an excellent meal, accompanied by those additional touches that top chefs are so adept at producing. At the reception earlier J & B 250th Anniversary Celebration Champagne had been served. The wines served with the dinner proved no less acceptable. It was evident that Montagny, Le Vieux Chateau, 2010; Chateau Greysac, Cru Bourgeois Medoc, 2005, and finally a Taylors' 10 Year Old Tawny Port more than satisfied most palates.

After the traditional toasts to the Queen, the Royal Family, The Lord Mayor and Corporation, and The Pious Memory of James Wood, the guests were treated to a musical recital. Miss Samantha Crawford (soprano) and Miss Berrak Dyer (piano), both from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, totally captivated their audience with three short arias. It was indeed a pity that time did not allow a longer performance.

With coffee and chocolates served the Beadle gavelled and asked for silence for the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor, Alderman David Wootton. In response to the Civic Toast the Lord Mayor, on behalf of the Sheriffs and himself, said what a pleasure it was to be present and doubly so being a Liveryman of the Bowyers. He thanked the Company for their support in entering a float into the Lord Mayor's Show and for his charity 'Fit for the Future'. He said what a privilege it was to be Mayor during both Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics. Added to these he found himself Chairman of Trustees of the Charles Dickens Museum, Bloomsbury, during Dickens' bicentenary. Dickens had written in one of his short stories, that features in 'Master Humphrey's Clock', of Hugh Graham 'apprenticed to an honest Bowyer'. Mention was also made of his role as ambassador for the City and its importance in the economy today. Finally as a Bowyer he proposed the toast to the guests, describing the Bishop of London as 'a great friend of the City and a cleric who rivals the Lord Mayor in the nuances and range of his dress'. All the Members of the Company rose and joined in the toast to our guests.

The Bishop of London was called upon to respond on behalf of the guests. This he did with consummate ease thanking the Master and Wardens for their hospitality, and wishing the Company good fortune in the years to come. He pointed out the importance of St George, and of St George's Day, not only to England but also other countries. Comment was made of the Bowyer's motto and in underlying the basic antipathy between the English and French he made mention of a piece of misleading translation from French into English. It received the loudest laugh of the evening.

Finally it was the turn of the Master not only to thank our guests, speakers, and all present but to take stock of his two years as Master Bowyer. This was preceded by presenting the Lord Mayor with a cheque being a donation to the Lord Mayor's Appeal. As this was the last function over which he would preside before stepping down in July he wished to thank all Committee Members who had given him such support over the past months. There were exciting times ahead. Of particular note were the recent initiatives by the Charity Committee's with regard to a scholarship at the City of Freemen's School and bursaries at Corpus Christi Cambridge. In conclusion the Master invited all to join him in a stirrup cup and wished everyone a safe journey home.

Further images are available on Michael O'Sullivan's Website and from where they can be purchased.

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