Plumbers’ Annual Banquet on Monday, 20th March 2023

Company News

By convention, the Plumbers’ Company seeks to hold its annual banquet at Mansion House on the third Monday in March. Though it had been possible to hold a banquet in 2022, this year, the pandemic seemed to be a distant memory, and the return to normality was a joy, and much anticipated by us all for so long.

Photos of the evening by Marcus Jamieson-Pond are hosted on Snapfish, which is easy to join, free of charge, and from where you can download hi-res images.

A flurry of late bookings ensured that the banquet achieved the respectable number of 208 places being reserved. Efforts by the Clerk, Adrian, and his team have to be applauded in achieving a significant number of late bookings to help the funding of the event and to ensure that the evening was that much more sociable.

Company activity at the Mansion House starts long before the arrival of the attendees. Our Beadle, Clerk, and Clerk’s Assistant arrived at 4.30 p.m. to set up the event. They always have to put in a great deal of work, especially on this occasion, which is an annual set piece. We all much appreciate the essential endeavours of Peter, Adrian, and Sharon.

Under the previous stewarding arrangements, seven Stewards served at any one time with the Senior Steward dropping out at the end of the seventh year. Now, under a new system being trialled, the aim is to offer Stewards a shorter three-year term, with the option of proceeding for a further three years. Consequently, we presently have ten Stewards serving. All Stewards were able to be present for this year’s banquet, and all arrived early to take up their duties. They had travelled from far and wide, including Wales and Yorkshire. All were assigned their respective duties by the Clerk and we thank them for ensuring that the evening ran so smoothly. They were ably assisted by two Stewards’ consorts, Nicola and Liz, who manned the reception desk, handing out menu cards, and directing guests to the receiving line.

The Plumbers’ Company is proud of the extensive range of skills and expertise amongst its ranks, which include several members of the medical profession. This range extends even to the cohort of stewards. Hence, when an medical emergency arose on the stairs early in the evening, Steward Dr. Anthony Lockett was on the scene to attend to the matter. We wish the patient a speedy recovery.

Since The Lord Mayor was away in India representing the City of London, we were welcomed to Mansion House by Alderman Dr. Sir Andrew Parmley as The Lord Mayor Locum Tenens. Many of you will recall Sir Andrew as having been Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians:

Four visiting masters were also present. These were Richard Hill as Master Builders’ Merchant; David Sheehan as Master Constructor; Lucy Atherton as Prime Warden of the Saddlers; and Lindy Whitlam as Master Maker of Playing Cards.

Also on the official guest list were representatives from the Military and Trade Bodies. The Military was represented by Lieutenant Commander John Porter of the Richmond Sea Cadets Corps; Commander Mark Reynolds of HMS Sultan; Lieutenant Colonel Guy Cheesman of RSME; and Group Captain Cameron Gibb of RAF Cosford in Shropshire. The Plumbers’ Company has long-running associations with these military organisations, which it cherishes. The Company will be following up its association with RAF Cosford when the Master, Air Commodore Paul Nash OBE, leads a contingent from the Plumbers to the base in September.

The Trade Bodies were represented by Messrs. Rab Fletcher and Ian McCaskey of BESA; Andrew Crookes as National President of APHC, and Peter White as President of SoPHE. It is essential that our Company maintains strong links with these bodies so as to remain relevant to the trade and ensure its role in fostering education and development in the plumbing industry ad beyond into hydraulics and hydrology. Many of the leaders of these, and connected trade bodies, become Liverymen, bringing with them their knowledge and expertise to the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. Two such notables from the Industry are Past Master Robert Burgon and Steward Melville Gumbs.

Grace was given by our very own Chaplain and Liveryman, the Reverend Philip Warner, who is cardinal rector of the Plumbers’ church St. Magnus the Martyr. Before dinner could be served, the Master thanked the Richmond Sea Scouts, who had entered the Egyptian Hall briefly to hear his words. The Sea Scouts provided the Carpet Guard up the stairs to the reception, which is their custom for each year:

Diners were treated to a four-course feast starting with a smoked duck dish served with an Australian Chardonnay wine. The mains comprised a succulently cooked lamb cannon and dauphinoise potato and green beans. A most delectable quince and blackberry mousse was served for pudding. These courses were followed by a cheese course and then by coffee and petit four.

The loving-cup ceremony, in its reformed post-Covid format with chocolates, preceded the usual toasts and the singing of the National Anthem with its revised form of words to accommodate the accession of His Majesty King Charles III since the last Annual Banquet.

Many of the Livery met many of the Master’s family for the first time. Several members of the Nash family, including the Master’s grown-up children, were able to attend the banquet, having travelled from far-flung corners of the country.

In concluding his speech, the Master made a presentation of the Saint Michael’s Medallion to Past Master Professor Rodney Cartwright. As the Master stated, the medallion is very rarely awarded and has only been awarded thirty-eight times since its inception. He added that the award is only made in very exceptional circumstances. Therefore, it could be considered to be a lifetime achievement award.

The principal speaker for the evening was the Lord Speaker, The Right Honourable the Lord McFall of Alcluith. However, immediately prior to the Lord Speaker rising to speak, a toast to the guests was proposed by Upper Warden David Adams. Having eschewed a chauffeur-driven limousine, the Lord Speaker arrived at Mansion House from Westminster, wearing his official robes, by tube. Lord McFall has lived in the real world, having left school aged fifteen and without qualifications, before training to become a school teacher for twenty-three years prior to entering politics. He obtained two bachelor’s degrees before studying part-time, whilst working as a schoolteacher, for an MBA at the University of Strathclyde. Later he went on to become a visiting professor at the Strathclyde University Business School. Lord McFall is perhaps best remembered for his role as chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee whilst serving as an MP.

Many will recall what may well have been John McFall’s finest hour when he gave the chairman and chief executives of the failed banks a good dressing-down during the select committee’s enquiry in the aftermath of the 2008 Credit Crunch. Through his persistent questioning, Lord McFall was able to articulate that these individuals were not professionally qualified to run a bank. Lord McFall will also be remembered for saving the cheque from the axe or the paper-shredder. Perhaps being in tune with the theme of the Plumbers’ Company’s next annual lecture, Lord McFall stated how important he considered apprenticeships to be for the UK’s future. Being chairman of the Scotch Whisky and Spirits All-Party Parliamentary Group, his lordship was presented with a bottle of Plumbers’ Company whisky at the conclusion of his speech by the Master:

A truly post-Covid annual banquet was enjoyed by all. We look forward to this as setting the precedent for more to come, not withstanding that necessity has demanded changes to the loving-cup ceremony.

Malvern Tipping
Senior Steward