Past Assistant Clerk, Honorary Liveryman Eileen Lilley MBE
Past Master and Past Clerk, Lt Col Antony Paterson-Fox has kindly provided this tribute to our Past Assistant Clerk Eileen Lilley, who passed away in July.
When I joined the Livery as Clerk in April 1995, I was met by a formidable lady, Eileen Lilley. She had already been the Company’s Assistant Clerk for many years and had educated two Clerks before me. She was awarded the MBE for services to the Livery and the City – probably the first Assistant Clerk to hold such an honour. At her investiture, Eileen remembers that Her Majesty was quick to point out to her on that occasion that “you are a Liveryman” regardless of gender.
I soon came to realise what a kind and helpful person she was. Without her guidance there is little doubt that I should not have lasted long, as I had never even set foot in the City before being appointed.
Eileen had three main interests, first of which was the Company and all “her” Liverymen.
This included a encyclopaedic knowledge not only of the Liverymen but also their spouses and children (and in some cases grandchildren).
This enduring passion was followed by her family and her beloved cats, although I was never sure in which order. She had two sons and a daughter, Paul, Mark and Fiona although Fiona was to die tragically before her time. She doted on her grandchildren and was so proud of them all.
Indeed, she expected all of them to get first class honours degrees – nothing less would do. Her enthusiasm for rugby probably stemmed from her time with Colonel Michael Hardy, her first Clerk who had been an international player.
When I was appointed, the office was in Queen Victoria Street above a well-known restaurant and Eileen looked after me, told me what to do, did all the typing, kept all the accounts and a myriad of other things. She also chose, organised, and attended, all the visits now run so competently by our Stewards. Court and Committee meetings were held in the office, liberally lubricated by sherry and sandwiches which she always somehow managed to provide. Eileen was very protective of the Company’s money, so much so that she never ever used a first class stamp and could be seen occasionally hurrying to the kettle to steam off unfranked stamps from incoming mail to be used again on outgoing letters. One of the frequent tasks for us was to create the seating plan for each function. This was where her detailed knowledge really came into its own. As we sat together in my office, I was often told that you cannot sit this Liveryman next to that Liveryman as they do not get on. It made for many happy and uncontentious functions.
It is difficult to imagine now but the office did not have a computer – only two electric typewriters. Eileen had previously worked for a Swedish company and was an extremely competent PA/secretary. She was always immaculately turned out, having a hairdresser immediately below the office (used also by the Lady Mayoress). She came in early in the mornings but left at about 4pm so that she was assured a seat on the train home to Wimbledon and her two cats.
However, unless they were Liverymen whom she adored, she did not suffer fools gladly and was well known throughout the City. Not even the Mansion House staff would dare to turn down her requests. I am so glad that she was “old school”, and a stickler for getting things right.
Eileen was the first to admit that she had little sense of humour. This was well known by one Past Master who always managed to get a rise out of her although it was always taken in good part. I have very fond memories of the seven or eight years I spent in her company and the years after she retired when we would meet regularly for lunch and a glass of Chablis. We continued to keep in touch after she moved to Cheltenham to be near her family.
This is the end of a very special era for the Company.
My thanks also to photographer and company Freeman Michael O’Sullivan for providing the photographs from his archive.