As a Liveryman for 36 years, I felt I understood many aspects of the Turners’ Company. As a Court Assistant, I had seen the linkages between the Company and other parts of the City. It has really only been through the wonderful experience of a year as your Master, however, that I have been able to appreciate the extraordinary reach of the Livery Companies within London and the wider UK.
The Turners’ Company brings together people active in a vibrant historic craft with others working across all the modern businesses of London or serving within the armed services.
The Company had two well-attended trips to see the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers in action during their 75th Anniversary year.
The first was to witness exercise Griffin Spanner in Staffordshire. The army was simulating repelling an invasion from Wales (not by the Welsh, you understand, but an invading army from further afield). REME were tasked to recover and repair equipment damaged in the “battle”, while being ready to fight attackers themselves. We presented prizes to the weekend’s winning Reservist unit.
In August, another group of us visited the Headquarters of REME at MOD Lyneham to see the fantastic facilities for training in the maintenance and mending of weapons, radios and vehicles, including helicopters and tanks.
My wife, Jo, this past year’s Mistress Turner, particularly enjoyed testing their welding simulator.
In April, the Mistress and I visited the home of the Royal Air Force’s No. 4 School of Technical Training for their graduation parade and award of prizes. I presented the Turners’ Cup to a leading aircraftman for his very intricate turning of aluminium to replace broken machine parts.
We were shown around the workshops by Chief Technician Andy Brooks, who 28 years ago had won the same cup. He had recently completed the turning by hand, from wood, brass and aluminium, of the baton being taken around the UK as part of the RAF’s Centenary year with the objectives to Commemorate, Celebrate and Inspire. We came away certainly inspired by the abilities of the turners within the Royal Air Force.
Meanwhile, the company has supported numerous civilian turning events around Britain. Jo and I were enthralled by the Bodgers’ Ball – a remarkably bucolic event with green wood turning, spoon carving and chair making. We particularly enjoyed the egg and spoon race that required contestants first to turn their wooden egg and carve their spoon.
The Lincoln Heritage Craft Fair brought almost thirty City Livery Companies to demonstrate their crafts inside and around the historic Cathedral. The Turners shared a marquee with the Cathedral’s carpenters and we had well-attended demonstrations of both plain lathes and pole lathes. London’s Lord Mayor, Dr. Andrew Parmley, gave an excellent recital on the Cathedral’s newly-restored organ.
Other craft events that stand out include the Freedom from Torture exhibition in Greenwich, the Harrogate Woodworking show, the RPT Craft meeting, our trip to the ever-inspiring Max Carey Trust workshop and the Court visit to the enormous workshop of Past Master Nick Edwards (Vice President SOT). Ann and Nick were very generous in providing lunch for twenty and providing such enthusiastic demonstrators of the versatility of 19th and 20th century machine tools.
All Livery Companies have substantial charitable missions. One highlight of this past year for me was the award of six bursaries to up-and-coming turners and one space at the craft incubator, Cockpit Arts. I was so pleased that all seven were able to join us at the Court lunch in March, when they and their work could be properly recognised and appreciated by visiting Masters and Clerks from other Companies, by our new Liverymen and by the hard-working members of our Committees.
The Certificate in Turning has become an established award of competence and I was delighted to be able to sign the 100th such certificate at the end of my year.
With several members of the Company and on behalf of our charity, I made a trip to hand over a new lathe to Chesham Grammar School, which maintains a very active design studio and workshop as well as achieving excellent academic results. Stuart King provided a mesmerising display for some of the teachers and pupils.
Four of us visited Catterick to see the Help for Heroes recovery centre and its wonderful workshop. Much of the equipment has been provided by the Turners’ charity or from donations at Wizardry in Wood 2016.
We heard extraordinary stories of how soldiers suffering from awful physical or mental injuries had started to re-engage with their families and friends through the medium of working with hands and tools under the eyes of tutors that had also served and suffered.
I am very pleased at the decision by the Company’s charity to sponsor the St Paul’s Bells Appeal, which has also been so widely and generously supported by our members and friends.
The active support of the Company and its objectives has led to an influx of new Freemen and Liverymen. We are most fortunate to have attracted a truly diverse group and I believe that all of them will have much to contribute to the future flourishing of the Turners’ Company.
As Master I was generously invited to many fascinating lectures, guided tours and receptions. There were also many delicious lunches and dinners hosted by other Livery Companies. Three in particular stood out for their very different anniversaries: the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists celebrated 25 years since their Royal Charter with a huge banquet at the Guildhall last May; and the Society of Apothecaries held a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by a reception at their Hall to celebrate their 400th anniversary.
In December, the Musicians’ Company again welcomed us to share their wonderful carol service and supper afterwards. As it fell on my own “big birthday” it was a fantastic way to celebrate.
In December, we were also delighted to be able to welcome the Lord Mayor and both Sheriffs to our own Livery Dinner along with Masters and Clerks from nineteen other companies and representatives of all our Services affiliates.
I finish by thanking:
• My wife, Jo, who has travelled far and wide as part of this year and embraced the role with enthusiasm;
• Alex Robertson and Becca Baker in the office and Stephen Grundy as Beadle, who between them have seamlessly managed to cover the enormous variety of issues that a modern City membership organisation has to grapple with; and
• The Court and the wider Company membership for your support and encouragement and your many kind words on the death of my father, Past Master Sir Brian Neill.
I hope that the new Master and Mistress, David and Lesley Batchelor, have as interesting and joyous a year as we have.