Master’s Blog: Third Quarter 2015

Whoosh! My year as Master is hurtling headlong towards its conclusion – a matter of absolutely no significance, however, to the Society of Merchant Venturers itself, which has appointed a new Master every year for 460 years. The change of Master takes place on 10 November each year, as specified by Charles I in the Society’s Royal Charter of 1639.

This day is called Charter Day, and the programme for Charter Day follows long tradition. It starts with a magnificent service in Bristol Cathedral in the morning, attended by Merchants and their partners and some 400 students from our Merchant schools, the singing being led by a combined choir of the three secondary schools in the Merchants’ stable. After the service, a bun and a 10p piece (formerly it was a shilling but inflation has had its impact here as well!) is given to each student. The Merchants and their partners then go to Merchants’ Hall in Clifton for lunch, following which the new Master, Wardens and members of the Standing Committee (the management board of the Society) are formally sworn in.

This year has added piquancy because Richard Morris, who has been the Society’s Treasurer (in effect its Chief Executive Officer) for 13 years, is retiring, to be succeeded by Caroline Duckworth, who was until recently the Director of Quartet Community Foundation. Richard will rank highly in the pantheon of those who have helped and guided the Society these past 460 years.

It seems appropriate that my last blog as Master should make reference to these historical traditions of the Society, traditions which hopefully add just a little colour to Bristol’s rich heritage and sit alongside the Society’s charitable work in education, care of older people, support for social enterprises, our shared custodianship of the Downs, and the other areas of activity which I have described in my previous blogs.

Chris Curling

16 October 2015