Saturday 5th November, 2005
at THE TOWER HOTEL, TOWER BRIDGE
Report by Ann Wilby
(Click image to enlarge)
|The College Youths Dinner is,
for many of us, one of the major social events in the ringing calendar, along with the 12
bell contest and the Central Council reception. So it was with a frisson of excitement
that the 296 members, guests and friends of the Ancient Society who were due to attend the
dinner awoke on the morning of the 5th November 2005, the day of the 368th Annual Feast.
Who else will be there? Who else will be on our table? What will the Senior Steward be
wearing? Will the speeches be good? Will the hotel have got to grips with serving that
much beer in a short space of time? Will Andrew Stubbs be there and well enough to
undertake his customary Toastmaster duties? We would have to wait and see.
The day dawned bright and mild, perfect conditions for those who accompanied Jim Philips on his walking tour of the City towers. This was a great success and we hope that Jim will do something similar next year so that those of us who missed it this time round can join in. There were peal attempts for the enthusiasts, but it was soon time to check into our rooms and get ourselves done up in our finery for the evening's festivities.
When we entered the banqueting suite of the (recently re-named) Guoman Tower Hotel, there was already a good crowd of folk there. It is always a challenge to see how many of them you can get to speak to over the course of the evening. There was, again, a real crush at the bar, despite the best efforts of the officers and Janet Hill (the Society's chief negotiator) to persuade the hotel management to understand that yes, we really do drink that much! Still, I didn't see anyone going without, the crush does add something to the general ambience and there are always going to be those who are not happy unless they have something to complain about! And the view over a floodlit Tower Bridge while waiting is breathtaking!
Finally we were called into dinner and took our places at the tables to await the ceremonial entrance of our guests and officers. Everyone was delighted to see the Hon Treasurer, present and on form following his recent bout of ill health, announcing the arrival of the top table. An excellent meal of chargrilled vegetable terrine, roast lamb shanks and wild strawberry mousse was served with impressive efficiency by the waiting staff, who were organised to serve everyone on the same table at once; thus avoiding the eternal question of whether or not etiquette demands that you start or wait for your fellow diners to be served.
During the meal the Master took wine with a (amongst others) Jim Bullock, Jeff Birt and Don Price who have been members for 60 years or more and Philip Hudson, Bill Butler, David Kingston, Jim Phillips, Basil Jones, Brian Bladon, Clem Jose and George Pipe who have been members for over 50 years.
After the loyal toast and the usual physical needs break to replenish the supplies of beer, it was time to sit back and enjoy the speeches. The Master (Simon Linford) kicked off proceedings with the traditional toast to the Church. Not always an easy topic, but Simon did have an advantage in growing up the son of a clergyman and spoke entertainingly about some of the things which he felt that the church had done for him. These included a solid upbringing, a sense of community, wonderful architecture, church music and, of course, ringing. Simon concluded by pointing out that, whilst the Society is not itself a Sunday Service ringing organisation, most of the 1000 plus members are loyal Sunday service ringers, of which possibly hundreds are Tower Captains or run ringing on Sundays. He then invited the assembled company to rise and toast the Church.
The Toastmaster then invited Canon Andrew Nunn, Sub Dean of Southwark Cathedral, to respond. Andrew spoke apparently effortlessly and with great humour, reminding us that he was entitled to refer to Southwark as the Cathedral as it was significantly older than the modern edifice across the river (St Paul's). He told us of his response to an American tourist who asked him why the Cathedral was built so close to London Bridge railway station. He was able to point out that not only was the Cathedral older than the station, it was also older than America! Much of the detail of Andrew's speech was lost in gales of laughter, but I do remember him complimenting one of our American members on his taste in jumpers.
The toast to the Society was proposed by Bernard Taylor of Worcester. Bernard gave us an insight into what the Society has meant to him over the years, both before and since being elected. He managed to drop in many famous names, a lot of whom were present, which always goes down well. A Google search for "Simon Linford" had revealed that the Master was apparently wanted by the Bermudan police. He finished with an oblique reference to local ringing politics - we ringers really are all the same!
The new Hon Secretary, John Hughes-D'Aeth, responded and summarised the Society's activities over the past year. Simon has been a particularly active Master and it was with misplaced optimism that John suggested he could achieve this in 10 minutes. That brief interlude could not begin to do justice to what had been achieved during Simon's year in the chair. So, missing lots out, there was the spectacular success of UK05, the stand at the Ringing Roadshow, Peal Weekend with 45 out of 58 attempts scored and peal weekends in Manchester, Scotland and the Channel Islands.
The crazy but incredibly talented handbell trio from Cambridge had scored peals in 729 and 1053 methods, but sadly their attempt for 72,000 had come to grief after over 17 hours' ringing. Other records had included 100 all the work Spliced Surprise Major and 4 peals of Surprise Maximus in a day in the City of London.
It has been a year of striking competitions. The 12 Bell Contest at Towcester, the new format Society only contest in May at Evesham and the friendly against the Cumberlands. The Brummies didn't win the last one.
On the social side there had been two informal dinners, including one to mark Phil Rogers' retirement as Secretary. The very successful event at Southwark for the dedication of the Jim Prior bell had included a procession of over 20 past Masters. The year had begun with the wedding of the Master to Eleanor Kippin and ended with that of Paul Carless, a Past Master, to Janet Rothera. On a sadder note, we stood to remember 20 members who had died since the last Dinner.
Looking to the future, John reminded us that if all goes to plan the Society will shortly have its first lady Master and Mark Humphreys will be Junior Steward. A new Librarian will be elected to replace Jim Phillips, who had resigned after 13 years magnificent service. Future plans included exciting bellhanging projects at St Magnus the Martyr, Cripplegate and Cornhill.
In conclusion, John acknowledged the outstanding energy and commitment which Simon had put into his year as Master and thanked everyone who had supported him through his first year as Secretary - which he said he had enjoyed hugely. He had had plenty of advice from the past Secretaries' Club, all of it well meaning and some of it useful!
John then had to put down his notes and sprint to join Michael Wilby, Paul Mounsey, David Hull, David Pipe and Graham Firman for a nice and largely trip-free touch of Spliced Maximus on handbells.
It then fell to the Junior Steward, Chris Kippin, to propose the Guests. He noted that most of them were clergy from the churches at which we ring regularly and commented on the custom for the Officers and guests to process in and out of the room accompanied by synchronised hand clapping. He shared with us a conversation he had had with the Master about what music might be a suitable alternative. We were amused to hear that Simon would like 'Eye of the Tiger', although Chris felt that 'Hail to the Chief' would be more appropriate. For the Senior Steward they had settled on 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' in preference to 'The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' (the mind boggles).
After welcoming the clergy guests and remarking upon how fortunate we are to enjoy such close relations with them and their churches, Chris introduced the new Master of the Cumberlands, Simon Holden, who was attending one of his first official functions since being elected in October. He then asked us all to join him in a toast to the Guests and Visitors.
Whether by accident or design, the final speech of the evening invariably falls to a member of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, often the Master, and this year was no exception. Simon Holden coped admirably with the good natured jeering and booing which accompanies any reference to the "other Society" and also managed to hold the attention of most of us, despite the fact that it had been a long evening and we were anxious to get to the bar, catch up with old friends, catch trains home etc. He pointed out that he is not John Thurman (despite the uncanny resemblance) and did his best to convince us that Cumberlands do not really drink orange juice. Although we may not have been inclined to accept his assertions at the time, the state of some of his fellow members at breakfast the following morning may help to dispel this fondly held belief! Simon thanked the Society for an absolutely splendid occasion and expressed the wish that his Society could put on similar functions.
Finally the Master proposed the Fragrant Memory of the Masters of 300, 200 and 100 years ago, by tradition drunk in silence. This completed the formal part of a successful and very enjoyable evening.
Those who did not have to rush away were able to continue socialising until the early hours - the real bonus of a venue with extended licensing hours. Those of us fortunate enough to be staying in the hotel were able simply to stagger upstairs when we ran out of energy. The downside is that it is apparently harder than before to raise bands for Sunday ringing in the City. I wonder why?
So, another good do, well done and thank you from us all to the Master, the Hon Secretary and all their team for the hard work we know goes into organising an event such as this. We look forward to next year.
|Preparing for the procession into the dinner. The Master (Simon Linford) flanked by Senior Steward (Stef Warboys) and Junior Steward (Chris Kippin).||The left hand end of the top table.|
|View of the dining room.||The Master sits behind the Society Mace. On his right sits Fr Philip Warner, Priest-in-Charge of St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge. On his left sits Canon Andrew Nunn from Southwark Cathedral.|
|A touch was rung on handbells of spliced Bristol, Zanussi and Little Bob Maximus.||The Junior Steward welcomed the guests.|
|Paul Hunter, Tim Dean, Mark Humphreys and Dickon Love.||Paul Mounsey, Fr Philip Warner, Fr David Gibbons and David Hilling.|
|Jim Hardy and Lucy Bricheno.||Simon Holden (Master of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths), Ian Fielding and Rob Lee.|
|Rupert Littlewood (Master of the University of London Society), Penny Sharpe and Chris Forster.||Rachel Town and Rob Lee.|
|Howard Smith and Roger Bailey.||Andy Bradford, Michael Uphill, Katie Town and Michael Royalton-Kisch.|
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