Friday, 28 June 2013

Merchant Taylors' Company, The Billesden Award Dinner, Monday 24 June

Hot on the heels of the day's Election, it was off to Merchant Taylors, with our Learned Clerk, returning to the Hall where my Installation dinner had taken place in January.  This time all the guests assembled in the gardens, which were delightful. The Billesden Dinner, with a full hall, celebrates the 10th April 1484 when processions by land and river were a feature of London life.  The order of precedence on these occasions was a matter of keen rivalry between the various Companies, leading at times to violence.  At length, in the first year of the reign of King Richard III, the Master, Wardens and fellowship of the Skinners and the Merchant Taylors, tired of quarrelling among themselves, set a good example by agreeing to submit their dispute to arbitration by the Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Billesden, and the Aldermen.

The Mayor and Aldermen decreed, with the assent of both Companies, that each should entertain the Master and Wardens of the other once a year, the Skinners welcoming the Merchant Taylors on the Vigil of Corpus Christi and the Merchant Taylors the Skinners on the Feast of Nativity of St John the Baptist; and as to precedence, each Company should forever rank before the other in alternate years, save that during the year of office of a Mayor belonging to either, his (or her!) Company should take precedence.  For the fostering of love and peace between the Companies this has been faithfully observed since 1484.  This, of course, is the origin of the phrase 'at sixes and sevens',

In the words of Samuel Pepys (Clothworker) in 1665 'It is strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody'.  The Clerk and I were naturally totally reconciled in every way after a really excellent dinner and stirrup cup, leaving the Hall and its hospitality much later than usual!

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