Dear Wardens, Court Assistants and members of the Livery and Freedom,

The theme of my year as Master is, ‘Reflection; Celebration and Re-dedication’ and in the very depth of winter with short days and long nights this is perfect time for reflection. Past Master Gordon Masterton’s skilful editing has created an uplifting record of our late Honorary Chaplain, Peter Hartley. It was a lovely opportunity for reflection on how lucky the Company has been to have known Peter and benefitted from his commitment to the membership. Since it is over a year that Peter passed away, the Company has been extremely lucky to appoint Jonathan Lee KC MIET as Peter’s successor Honorary Chaplain. Jonathan will make his declaration and be sworn in at the January Court meeting. Jonathan is the brother of a past business colleague of mine, and after a chance meeting at a Livery Lunch hosted by the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers one thing led to another!

There has been some re-organisation in the office during the year following Sandra’s wish to reduce her hours. Alison Byne was recruited with effect from 1 October as the new events manager. She has been coming to grips with the demands of planning events, with the assistance of Sandra, for the October Court and lunch, the 40th anniversary Banquet at Mansion House and the Carol Service and Dinner at the Tower Hotel. The forthcoming January Court and Livery Dinner will be managed entirely by Alison. Going forward, Sandra remains responsible for finance for the Company and the Trust, and general membership matters. Clerk Peter celebrated his first anniversary as Clerk on 1 October and he has grown into the role and made it his own. I have much to thank him for in ensuring that my year and Company organisation has run smoothly.

Our own Honorary Liveryman, Alderman Michael Mainelli, was elected as the new Lord Mayor on 10 November. I have attached the Lord Mayor’s Christmas message to the Livery. We have also established close links this year with Alderman Sheriff Bronek Masojada, who started life as a civil engineer and became CEO of Hiscox Group listed in the FTSE 250.

Of course, we have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Company, the pinnacle of which was the Banquet in Mansion House on 1 November attended by over 260 members and guests. Among the attendees were Lady Belinda, widow of Sir Peter Gadsen, the Company’s founder, Liveryman HRH Princess Royal, the Lord Mayor and Sheriff Bronek Masojada. 

My personal highlight in 2023 as Master, was the Out of Town in Birmingham and Lichfield, which represented the culmination of 18 months of detailed planning to showcase and confound preconceived ideas about Birmingham! Peter Blair-Fish the current editor of the Swordsman produced a full report in the November 2023 edition that covers all the technical and cultural activities undertaken by those who attended.

The balance between good and bad news at home and abroad has probably been no worse or better in 2023 than in many other years, and in that sense, I am struck by the relentless and consistent rhythm of the City as the ceremonies and traditions mark the progress of a year. There has been much good news for the Livery and our Company in 2023. Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla were crowned in May and the Livery Companies’ contribution to the Coronation Ceremony in providing the Anointing Screen was repaid by the King and Queen visiting the City at Mansion House for a State Banquet. Almost all the Livery Masters attended, including myself, which was huge privilege.

I am always so pleased when I hear members remark, or say to potential members, that we are a friendly Company. Such sentiments are not hollow and to attend any of the Company’s dinners is to experience the fellowship of good conversation over good food and wine at inspiring Livery halls. Why not make a New Year Resolution that 2024 will be when you make new friendships at one of the Livery Dinners.

Our first event of the New Year is a Court Meeting with a dinner reserved for Court and Committee members. In addition to the installation of Jonathan Lee as the new Honorary Chaplain at the Court meeting, we will be clothing our latest Honorary Liveryman, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard KnightonKCB FREng ADC, Chief of the Air Staff.  

The Company is in good health, but we should not be complacent and therefore, we must re-dedicate ourselves as to why we are members of a Livery Company: fellowship, charity and service to the City of London. If you have not been to one of the Company’s events in the City I hope that you resolve in the New Year to experience the fellowship of the Company and attend one of our signature dinners. 

And so, as the holiday season is nearly upon us, I want to take this opportunity to extend my personal warm wishes to each of you, regardless of your beliefs or faith traditions, Yvonne and I wish each of you, peace, prosperity and good health for 2024.

Raymond Joyce 

Master 2023-24