An Autumnal missive from the Master

September has come round again, with that a short period of an Indian summer and of course, the evenings drawing in rapidly and reminding us that it is autumn again.

This, of course, signals that the Master’s year is coming to an end – as I write there is just about one month to go. I won’t reflect here about how strange a year it has been for us – as well as undoubtedly for you – but leave that to the Annual Report which we are busily preparing and which should be available in a few months.

This will be my last Master’s Missive: we hope that you have found them a way to keep in touch, as things have been changing rapidly during what has been six months now since lockdown began. It is almost exactly that time since many of us have last been into our offices – and I am sure that the plants that I carefully looked after for many years will not have survived. I do hope that I remembered to throw out the last of the milk I had in the fridge before I left!

However, more importantly, I hope that you have had a good summer – indeed that some have had a good ‘staycation’ (with the e-mails turned off) or been able to explore different parts of these islands. Lesley and I did get a short break to Jersey – thus staying within the British Isles but not the United Kingdom. Their different status has meant the Jersey Government has been able to implement a simple and convenient testing regime for all who arrive, with a follow up by SMS to check on the on-going health of its visitors. I was very impressed with its efficiency and how simple it was, all dependent on advanced scientific instrumentation, of course: and it allowed us to enjoy a break away from home – a ‘selfie’ of Lesley and me with one of the ancient castles in Jersey behind us is attached. One benefit of being away I find is reading for pleasure, rather than speed reading to get the maximum information in the shortest time, and this year in a bookshop in Jersey, I found an excellent book I would recommend to you ‘A Short History of London – the creation of a world capital’ by former Times editor, Simon Jenkins. It is a good read, covering as it does from London in Roman times to the present day (well at least pre-virus but up to Brexit) – a bargain in paperback at £9.99 (or less). There are a number of mentions of the Livery companies and their influence on the development of London.

I hope that you are keeping well and I am very glad that, to the best of my knowledge, those associated with the Livery have been relatively unaffected, in terms of their health, by the virus – and I hope it remains that way and that one way or another, I hope that you have been able to relax a little. Looking at the time ahead, sadly, our tentatively re-planned and scaled down Master’s weekend in September could not go ahead due to the situation – hopefully at some stage in the future we will get an opportunity to see the sights of Northern Ireland that we missed this year. Looking then to the new Livery year and the installation of the new Master, unfortunately we will not be able to hold the Admission Court, or the Dinner that follows it, on October 22nd as we would normally expect to. The recently introduced regulations on the sizes of groups meeting together and the situation with the Livery Hall mean that this will cannot happen in the usual way. However, we do want to make sure that we welcome in the new Master, Martyn Wheatley, in style and to that end we have been thinking about how best to do this. We know that many will be reluctant to travel into London for any event, and in particular return at the time of the evening rush hour, so we are planning a small ceremony with the Master, Deputy Master and new Wardens present to allow the new Master to be sworn in. We have planned the event carefully to ensure careful hygiene with gowns and badges and social distancing of all the people involved. One benefit is that we will be able to have the event on Zoom, so that all who are interested (and not just the Court as usual) can see the short ceremony. There will be an opportunity later in the day for the Master to introduce himself to the Livery and for a short Q&A session – so as many as possible can have the chance to meet the Master, the new Senior and Junior Wardens. This will give Martyn an opportunity to talk about his plans for the year – with the expected caveats – and hopefully it will be possible to have a Master’s weekend again, in 2021. One casualty we already know about in the new Master’s year is lunch planned with the Bridge Ward Club and Professional Bodies in November. We are also unsure of the whether the Annual Carol Service, an important feature of our calendar and the coming of Christmas will be able to be held – we will keep you informed about that as we plan through the restrictions on gatherings.

We hope that all this will work well – it is interesting how the new situation has allowed us to rethink what we have done for many years and enabled us to be more inventive in our approach to a number of our traditions. Our Zoom-based Virtual Admission Ceremonies for new Freemen and Liverymen have worked well and we have had two more in September at which we will still be able award prizes to Apprentices from the Big Bank Fair. We do see it as very important not to delay admission to those who wish to join the Livery and to hold these events virtually in a timely way.

The four Liveries Lecture went ahead by Zoom on 21st September and we very pleased to have an excellent number of people who have signed up for this – Zoom showed over 100 attendees, indeed more than we would have expected if it had been held in the usual way. The lecture was entitled ‘Maxwell, Michelson and Morley’s unwitting contribution to modern ophthalmology’ and was excellently given by Consultant Ophthalmologists Nigel Davies FRCOphth & Kevin Gallagher FRCOphth to shows something of the breadth of the design and use of scientific instrumentation today. One benefit of the situation was that the lecture could be presented from the laboratory itself, and the speakers were able to demonstrate the powerful technique of Optical Coherence Tomography and discuss how it has changed diagnosis in such a major way. I know from the messages received that many who attended enjoyed the lecture very much.

Let us wish you all well and I do hope that you will be able to join us on Zoom on 22nd October (we will send out details in due course) to celebrate Martyn’s installation as Master, with the new Wardens. With best wishes to you all and stay safe.

Ken and Lesley Grattan
September 2020