Past Masters

Stephen Wright

Highlights of my year:

So many Masters will say that their year was ”filled with unique and special events” and they would be right. The very nature of being Master is that there are many unique events just in that one year. Mine was no exception and the major event which has great memories for me was the Queen’s 80th birthday lunch held at Mansion House; particularly topical as she has just celebrated her 90th!

Ellen and I were honoured and privileged to be invited to the lunch but it was so much more. For those blessed with a decent memory you may recall that the BBC held a competition amongst chef’s in the UK to provide a “menu fit for a Queen” and the recipes/menus were actually chosen by the viewers. Once the final menu was selected that became the “lunch fit for a Queen” which Ellen and I devoured and enjoyed.

There were, at that time, just 104 Livery Companies and only 10 were chosen to attend, one of which was the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners. It was a mystery as to why we were chosen until the Master Engineer of my year who was also in attendance calculated that the 10 Companies chosen all had The Duke of Edinburgh as an Honorary Freeman. The event itself was memorable for a number of reasons. The lunch was held at Mansion House and the Queen had been to a church service at St Paul’s Cathedral and was due to arrive at Mansion House.

When Ellen and I arrived in Morning Dress we were greeted by crowds of 15 deep and trying to get through was almost impossible. We explained out predicament to a Police Office who escorted us to the “rear” entrance of Mansion House and we are taken by staff through the basement and up into the reception. I wasn’t sure if that made me feel special or a nuisance!

steve-wright1The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and there were so many dignitaries from around the UK and from the Commonwealth.  Tony Blair was the Prime Minister then, David Cameron as leader of the opposition and many other politicians attended, along with celebrities including Sir Cliff Richard, Eric Clapton, Shirley Bassey and magnates of industry and commerce.  There were heads of state from overseas territories, senior armed forces personnel and religious leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Obviously the Lord and Lady Mayoress, the now Sir David Brewer, attended accompanied by the Sheriffs.

The actual menu was fantastic and whether by coincidence or by design the four courses were provided by an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman and an Irishman. The food was delicious and we all received a commemorative menu and a ‘programme’ with wonderful photos of the Queen and her family. Being in the room to hear the Queen speak after lunch was a joy and the whole event seemed surreal in many ways. One of the lasting memories of many was after the lunch had finished and the Queen departed we were all asked to remain seated for five minutes to allow the Queen to meet with all the chefs and then for her to depart the building.

steve-wright2Once the main doors were opened we started to drift out and in the Salon of Mansion House stood the four chefs waiting to speak to anybody who cared to stop by. There was nobody speaking to them so Ellen and I decided to go and speak with them ourselves and thank them for their delicious creations. Just as we were approaching them a young man stepped in from of us and said “would you mind if Baroness Thatcher went before you?” to which I replied of course not. With that a very small frail lady in the trademark blue dress came towards me held out her hand and said “hello I am Margaret Thatcher” to which I relied “pleased to meet you, I am Steve Wright, Master Environmental Cleaner”. She then spoke with each the chefs and we followed along and spoke to them each in turn. The whole event was wonderful from start to finish and probably was the highlight of my year amongst so many others.

I was fortunate to attend 136 events during my year and can honestly say there were none I really didn’t enjoy, some I enjoyed more than others but there was not one I regretted attending.

Sadly due to a flood at my home in 2104 I lost almost all my memorabilia from my year as Master but floods can’t take away the memories.

“I wasn’t sure if that made me feel special or a nuisance!”

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