Past Masters

Barrie Torbett

My highlights and lessons learnt:

One weekend during my year as Master particularly stands out. Having installed Lord Mayor Elect Michael Bear as an Honorary Liveryman of the Environmental Cleaners, I had the honour of attending his installation at the Silent Ceremony at Guildhall followed by the blessing at Bevis Marks.

Then on the Saturday Carol and I joined the Lord and Lady Mayor on the balcony at Mansion House to view the Lord Mayors Show. Having walked in the Show for the previous three years in the pouring rain I was delighted for my successors that the sun shone all day this time. Then on the Monday evening Carol and I attended the Lord Mayors Installation Banquet at Guildhall to finish off a memorable weekend.

Traditions: Whilst attending dinner with the Tobacco Pipe Makers I was surprised to see the Master don a smoking cap following the Royal toast as the smoking ban was already in place. Not to be beaten, instead of passing around the pipes and cigars, they now pass around a large snuff box as this is still allowed even though most guests coughed and spluttered. I did not participate as the small gift tin that was placed in front of each attendee is clearly labelled “this tobacco product can damage your health and is addictive”.

People: During your year as Master you get meet a whole range of interesting people. At a dinner with the Worshipful Company of Inn Holders, I found myself sat next to Past Master Christian Brann, the author of what most Masters use as a reference book, Pass the Port. The book chronicles some of the best after dinner stories.

Many people do not know that Christian compiled these books in order to raise money for Oxfam. He was inundated with stories from his extensive network, so when Oxfam needed more funding he published Pass the Port Again!

Lessons learnt: You should always pay attention to the details on any invitation! I received an invitation to the presentation of the Worshipful Company of Launderers Royal Charter banquet and the dress code was Evening Dress or Black tie. Not expecting to be top table I wore Black Tie only to find I was on the top table with everyone else wearing evening dress (white tie).

Staying with the dress code theme, every Past Master will tell you to plan ahead when it comes to costume changes. Having attended a Livery Luncheon I then had a white tie dinner in the evening. Not having a Masters apartment to use like many I resorted to changing in a WC in Paternoster Square which for somebody of my size is not any easy exercise. With all the banging and crashing going on, the attendant was on the brink of calling the police thinking something inappropriate when I appeared in full evening dress. Not Superman, but I know how he must have felt in those phone boxes.

“Not Superman, but I know how he must have felt in those phone boxes.”

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