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The Master’s Voice – June 2014

Recent weeks have been the most busy of my year so far.

The first triangular schools` sports tournament was held in the magnificent 30 acres of grounds of Colston`s School at Stapleton. Happily, at the dinner in the evening at Merchants` Hall, attended by 80 exuberant 15 year olds, I was delighted to present a cup each to Merchants` Academy for football, Colston`s Girls` School for netball, and Colston`s School for rugby. A most satisfactory and fortuitous outcome.

The Princess Royal, who is an Honorary Member of the Society, visited Colston`s Girls` School. She then travelled to St Anne`s in Bristol to unveil a plaque commemorating the opening of the Kingfisher School, a primary school in an often forgotten part of the City, which is now part of the Colston`s Girls` School Trust. The change at the school over recent months was clearly evident as HRH visited each of the classrooms and following her tour I was pleased to be able to update her on the other work of the Society. We are indeed fortunate to have a member of the Royal Family who takes such a keen interest year after year in the progress of the Merchant Venturers.

There have been many visits to other livery companies in my year as Master, during which I have been treated to great hospitality. An unusual luncheon was held at Goldsmiths` Hall in London. It followed the Trial of the Pyx, an ancient tradition in which the coin of the realm is tested for its purity and weight. The satisfactory judgment delivered by the Queen`s Remembrancer ranged from the stone currency of South Sea islands, to precious metals, Bitcoin and a rumination on quantitative easing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne wasa remarkably fluent and exceptionally amusing speaker at the luncheon.

My wife, Gabrielle, and I enjoyed a splendid trip to Sheffield for the Cutlers` Feast in the massive Cutlers`Hall. 400 guests were entertained in these impressive surroundings and it was made very clear in the customary speech by the Senior Warden that manufacturing is part and parcel of Cutlers` membership for which they will fight strongly for closer governmental focus. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had the somewhat unequal task of responding. On the following day we were treated to a tour of Sheffield Forgemasters, truly impressive and it certainly gave a sense of pride that, as a nation, we are still capable of the highest quality of engineering, in this case mainly for the massive structures that are the oil rigs in the Norwegian Sea.

On the subject of Norway, my mother is Norwegian, and I had wanted to bring that country into focus during my year. Accordingly at the Spring Banquet I was delighted that His Excellency, The Norwegian Ambassador Mr Kim Traavik agreed to be the main speaker and it was notable that the Banquet was attended by eight Masters of the Great Twelve livery companies from London.

Through the good offices of the Lord Lieutenant of Bristol, Mary Prior, who is herself a member of the Society, we were very pleased to welcome the Count and Countess of Wessex to Merchants` Hall for a luncheon in support of Wessex Reserve Forces and their engagement with employers. It was a most happy occasion with over 40 people, many from the armed services and local employers, and with the High Sheriff also in attendance.

On a fine Saturday morning over 50 Merchants and their spouses headed off from Merchants` Hall in two groups. One was led by our member Francis Greenacre and made a tour around Clifton, the Suspension Bridge and Observatory. They benefited from Francis`s huge knowledge of history and great eye for detail. I led the second group along the cliff edge of the Downs, descending through the Gully, where we observed the six Kashmiri goats munching helpfully on the invasive brambles and ground ivy, and emerging onto the Portway. We then visited the Great Quarry before ascending the New Zig Zag and returning to the Hall where both group reconvened to compare notes and enjoy a finger buffet lunch. It had a proven a good opportunity for members to observe in greater detail the remarkable lands which still belong to the Society but which are also greatly valued by the citizens of our City.

Anthony Brown

Master, Society of Merchant Venturers