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23 September 2010

Posted by DMC on 23 September 2010 in Diary |

The big day has arrived. Tonight saw the  20th anniversary dinner of the Arbitration Club at Drapers Hall, in the city of London. Keith Kirkwood, despite his fortnight away in New Zealand (returning three days ago to especially to tidy up the details) did a splendid job. His ‘running order’ as he calls it, had an air of military precision about it. I can imagine something similar being prepared for the Trooping of the Colours! I immediately put the cat amongst the pigeons by informing Keith that I intended to speak for 15 minutes not the miserable 10 that he had allocated to me

Unfortunately I lost my club guests, the Robuck’s due to Derek’s indisposition. Also there were a number of other competing events on this evening which reduced our numbers down to around 90, still not a bad turnout but no glitterati. Never mind it made it more of a family affair

I was delighted that one of my former pupils from Cyprus, Anna Styliano , who is secretary of the Cyprus branch of The Arbitration Club, was able to drop in for a drink, with her husband, on her way to the airport but, unfortunately due to their departure time from Heathrow  was unable to stop for dinner.

The full title of the Drapers’ Company is “The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild of Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London”. The word Mystery comes from the Latin “misterium” meaning professional skill.

The first Royal charter was granted to the Drapers in 1364 and is ranked third in precedence of the Great Twelve Livery Companies.

The present Livery Hall, I imagine, was built at the height of Victorian opulence. It is a truly magnificent building with at least four beautiful rooms — The Livery Hall itself where we held our dinner; the Court Room where I held audience in my wheelchair whilst the bulk of our guests were served drinks in the Court Dining Room opposite. In order to access the livery hall (dining area) itself we had to pass  through the equally beautiful Court Dining Room. Each of these rooms were adorned with magnificent portraits and exquisite furnishings with the most beautiful white marble statues dotted about here and there. I can thoroughly recommend readers to go on to the Drapers’ Hall website and see the beauty for themselves.

Christine Hanscomb very kindly made a film of the event which I hope shortly will be turned into the DVD and included on this blog.

For those gastronome’s amongst you I will tell you what we had to eat and drink. Pre-dinner there was a very respectable house champagne on offer. Then, once we were seated a Pinot Grigio 2008 Altana Di Vico Botter was served with the first course of smoked pink trout pate served with dill and mustard dressing. Then, with the main course of canon of lamb with a mustard and herb crust and a selection of vegetables . we were given a  deliciously smooth Chateau La Fleur 2005 Montagne St. Emilion. The pudding was individual lemon tarts served with seasonal berries after which we were treated to an excellent port, Fonseca Bin 27 and  Ch Lacaze Early Landed 1985 Armagnac. Finally with a coffee we had a selection of petit fours.

After that little feast came the speeches. Fortunately I was reasonably sober so that I managed to get through my speech without too much trouble, assisted by ‘my lovely’ who turned the pages for me. The other speakers were extremely generous in their praise for the work I had put into founding the club and generously gave me a standing ovation at the end of it. No doubt, they sensed, as indeed I did myself, that this was my swan song, at least for functions such as that. Even more pleasing was the acknowledgment of the partnership between me and ‘my lovely’, which enables me to attend such functions and who was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers — no less than she deserved, she was truly touched by their kindness and recognition of the indispensable role. A truly memorable evening.

I spent the evening in a wheelchair fed by ‘my lovely’, which avoided much of the eating paraphernalia and therefore seemed to be the most sensible option. At least however much one has to drink it’s pretty impossible to fall out of a wheelchair!, Barry, our driver, was his usual efficient self, lifting me effortlessly from car to wheelchair and back into the car at the end of the evening

I heard, with great sadness, two days ago that someone who had been very kind to me in the past, had died – the Rt. Hon. Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the only judge to have held all three senior posts, Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and senior Law Lord.  Accordingly I included the following in my speech . 

Tom (Bingham) having generously written the foreword to one of my books The Sanctuary House Case, came to a black-tie dinner  launch at Simpsons in the Strand.  He arrived that evening as Master the Rolls -the most senior civil judge  – and left later  the same evening as Lord Chief Justice -the most senior criminal judge.  A kinder more gentle man one would never wish to meet.  With all the affairs of state hanging heavily on his shoulders he insisted on seeing out the evening and speaking to most of the guests.  He characteristically listened to me offering him some advice from middle England – a little tongue-in-cheek I admit (well, when would I ever get another opportunity to say something about which I truly believed .

I also suggested that he should consider three things.   Bringing back the stock’s in every city, town, village and hamlet, in England, for those people whose misdemeanours did not warrant jail, at the taxpayers expense, and thus would save the country a great deal of money.

 Possibly the humiliation suffered from a spell in these stocks might be sufficient to deter these miscreants from further offending. Secondly, I suggested bringing back the birch for those people who commit unspeakable crimes against the young and the elderly. Finally I suggested bringing back the rope for the most heinous of crimes. Tom smiled, and said, “I hear what you say”. Not surprisingly he did not heed any of my advice! (About which, incidentally, I feel the same way today. 

Tom came to a number of Arbitration Dinners at Drapers Hall and, indeed, would have been  invited tonight had he not been so ill..   He will be sorely missed.

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