Little did I realise when Prof. Ron Jones and the Father of the Company Denis Oliver kindly supported my application for membership of the Livery of the Worshipful Company of Farriers that this would lead to me having the privilege of being installed as Master in the 660th year of this fantastic Livery Company. I was a Horse Steward (and latterly Chief Horse Steward) at the Royal Show for over 25 years and came into contact with Ron and Denis and several other equine vets at the Show who were always saying I should join the Livery. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day to take things further but when I was asked if I would like to join another much younger Company I thought I should look into things more seriously and decided that yes, with its long history and its overarching purpose of the Welfare of the Horse, the Farriers was the one for me and the rest, as they say, is history.
What impressed me was the tremendous sense of history which is the golden thread running through the Company and the fact that the Company still has a purpose in life and a vibrant Craft to support after so many years. I cannot but marvel at the fact that Farriers today are doing exactly what our predecessors have been doing so well over the last six centuries. And the Liverymen of this very friendly Company are a great group of people to spend time with – they come from all walks of life and have a great collective knowledge of all manner of disparate subjects. I always leave a Company function having learnt something!
I have chosen for my year as Master a theme of “continuity”. There have been so many examples of this from the outset of my involvement with the Company. One of the first Liverymen I met was Stuart Spence, a working farrier from Leicestershire. After we had been talking for a while it turned out that he had for many years shod the hunters of a friend of mine who has known me since I was in shorts! He and his son Richard have very kindly done me the great honour of making the magnificent hunter shoe which was presented to me at my installation, something I will always treasure. Two of my guest speakers will be friends I have known for many years who coincidentally and rather fittingly will be Masters of the Coachmakers’ and the Farmers’ Companies at the same time as my Mastership. There are many other examples of the history and continuity of the Livery tradition of the City of London – long may it continue.
The Company is in great heart and is well positioned to protect and promote the Craft in the years to come mainly due to the unselfish support and hard work that is given to it by all those who sit on the Court and the various supporting committees of the Company. They give unstintingly of their time and are tremendous guardians of the Craft, safeguarding it for future generations. And where would we be without our Clerk, our Registrar and Assistant Registrar, our Chaplain and our Beadle?
I have already, as Upper Warden, attended several immensely enjoyable functions at the invitation of other Livery Companies and of our Service Affiliates (I was particularly pleased to be able to attend the 100th Anniversary Dinner of 18(B) Squadron at RAF Odiham) and appreciate well the high esteem in which the Company is held by them. Something which is by no means lightly earned.
The Company rightly has so much to be proud of.
My involvement with the horse has been life-long. Brought up on a farm in Tilford, in west Surrey, some of my earliest memories are those of hounds meeting at the farm, watching calves being born and my father lighting the forge for the imminent arrival of the farrier (somehow, I remember it as always being in the snow). The memory of warming my hands at the forge, the sounds of hammer on steel, but more especially the smell of the hot shoeing process, are so evocative that I am regularly transported back over the intervening 50 years. I started riding at the age of five and have bred Shetland Ponies since I was 10, showing and judging in-hand, ridden and driven ponies throughout the Country. I even drove a four-in-hand at my wedding. So many highlights spring to mind whilst writing this. Being present at a foaling and seeing a foal take its first breath must be one of the greatest experiences that a horse-lover can witness. Four children rather curtailed these activities but we still have two retired ponies out on loan (one rather toothless 27 year old mare keeping an eventer happy in Hampshire and the other a 28 year old sister enjoying life in Cornwall) and I still very much enjoy judging. I recently judged at the Royal Highland Show and out of some huge classes I put an outstanding mare champion. Looking up its breeding later when I got home I discovered that I used to own its great-great-great-great grandmother. Yet more continuity!
Hunting has always been a great part of my life (at one stage I was lucky enough to be able to ride to hounds twice a week) but the day job as a solicitor based in Winchester does get in the way sometimes! But then I am happily reminded of the hunting man who always named his hunters “Business” so that when his clients could not get hold of him his secretary could quite truthfully and innocently say to them “Sorry, he is out on business”.
It is a very great honour and a very humbling experience to be elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. I am greatly looking forward to my year in office and to representing the Company in the City and beyond to the very best of my ability.