With uncanny foresight the Phoenix Masters had chosen Apothecaries’ Hall for their fourth Annual Spring Dinner on 11th March, 2020. Past Master Apothecary Dr Roy Palmer hosted the occasion and when challenged to produce a vaccine he instead produced Champagne Lagache Brut which served its purpose very well on the night. Around 100 Phoenixes and Firebirds were in attendance including our President Lord Mountevans and both our Vice Presidents Sir Charles Bowman and Christine Rigden together with both their consorts. In avoiding the normal handshakes, hugs and kisses of greetings it was diverting to witness the contortions in which guests got themselves in bows and elbow bumps. The greeting “CYK”, seemed to be the winner; it stands for “Consider Yourself Kissed”.
After a splendid reception Dr Palmer gave us a fascinating insight into the history of the Apothecaries and their Hall. The word, which entered the English language in the 14th century, derives from the Latin and Greek word apotheca meaning a storehouse. Thus an apothecary was the keeper of the storehouse. They were originally members of the Grocers’ company but as they developed medicinal usage for spices, King James 1 of England (VI of Scotland) encouraged them to break away and form their own company.
Actually, they were founded by Royal Charter in 1617 as The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and it remains professionally based with over 85% of its members belonging to professions connected with medicine. The site of the Hall was a Dominican priory from the early Middle Ages until the Dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. The Apothecaries bought the buildings in 1632 but these were destroyed as so many others in the Great Fire. The Apothecaries were the first to rebuild and the present Hall, built in 1671, is therefore the oldest surviving Livery Hall in London. Until 1922 it was a major centre for the manufacture and sale of drugs and it was the founder in 1673 and manager until 1899 of the Chelsea Physic Garden. While its role has been modified from time to time it remains a medical examining and licensing body.
Following a rousing Grace by our resident padre Past Master Bowman John Hayton, we were served an exotic menu of:
Devilled Crab and Lobster Mousseline, avocado, grapefruit and crayfish
Beef Medallions with wild rice pilaf, fine beans, courgette and carrot bundle
“Hummingbird Genoise”, with pineapple, banana and coconut, and a Pedro Ximénez granite
These were enriched with the following fine wines:
Palliser Estate Riesling, Marlborough NZ 2017
Bourgogne Chanson pinot noir, 2017
Graham’s 20 year Tawny Port (as tasted by the Phoenix and Firebirds in Porto in 2019)
As is now customary the Grace “Laudi Spirituali, 1545” and the National Anthem were sung in lusty fashion accompanied by Past Master Musician Andrew Morris.
The Chairman, Past Master Pewterer Mark Chambers gave an elegant speech in which he thanked Firebird Anne Somers for her wonderful work in producing a new pictorial list of members of both Associations. As this was based on the photographs provided for the 2016 lists it was somewhat flattering to us all. He then thanked Past Master Painter-Stainer Tony Ward for his outstanding craftsmanship in producing a special frontispiece for an edition of the Architects’ book on The Livery Halls of the City of London. This excellent work was published in 2018 with a foreword by Charles Bowman who had studied architecture at Bristol University. The special edition had been signed by the majority of the Phoenix Masters and was presented to Sir Charles in honour of his service as Lord Mayor. Mark had another presentation to make to Sir Charles, a cheque for the Samaritans City Hub for £1200 raised by the Phoenix Masters. Mark read from a letter he had received from the Samaritans thanking the Phoenix Masters for their help in raising funds for the City Hub. They wrote “The Year 1 cost for City Hub is now fully funded. To be frank, we would not have been able to do this without you.”
Sir Charles then responded with an uplifting speech highlighting his year as Lord Mayor and particularly the innovation by him and his two successors of the continuum which had been highly successful in raising record sums for the three charities. He was complimentary to the Phoenix Masters for their conviviality. He also praised the efforts of the Phoenix Masters in supporting his charitable efforts notably with the successful launch by the Samaritans of Wellbeing in the City, now the Workplace and the upcoming launch of the City Hub.
We then repaired to the Parlour for an extended Stirrup Cup in which both our Lord Mayors joined. Past Master Mercer Tim Haywood said afterwards: “What a splendid occasion that was! Thank you all for your part in making the dinner – and this PMA – so special, courtesy of each of your enthusiasms and hard work.” And special thanks must also go to the host, Dr Roy Palmer, the caterers Party Ingredients and to the events director Past Upper Bailiff John Nugée.
Dr David Pearson
Past Master Marketor