Coachlines - December 2023

20.12.23 Assistant Lyn Litchfield

A letter from the Editor – December 2023

Dear readers,

It’s at this time of year when I wish I was just 17 years of age again. That’s the year when I had my very first Christmas. That’s the year when I stepped into a church for the first time. That’s the year when I attended my first midnight mass at Christmas. That’s the year we were allowed to celebrate Christmas for the first time.

That year I was a schoolgirl in Beijing. Compared to the kids who grow up in the UK, my Christmas joy arrived 16 years later. If our mental maturity is measured by the number of Christmases we have had, then that may explain why I still feel young at heart. Ok now, I am a bit off track. What I want to say is, nonetheless, I was one of the privileged few back where I was.

In this month’s ‘Meet the Team’ section, we feature the Charity Committee headed by Committee Chairman, Assistant Eric Wallbank. Not many people want to admit that being privileged could be a ‘deficiency’ for us. The privileged half can never fully comprehend how lives truly are for the other half. But we can’t use this as an excuse to stop trying to understand more and to do more.

The Coachmakers’ Charity Committee helps to put our strapline ‘an active livery investing in young people’ into tangible actions. Assistant Eric Wallbank and his team work tirelessly and systematically to ensure our Company continues to raise sufficient funds to sustain our charitable pursuits. They also actively participate in various events to support and mentor young people to advance their studies or to get a head start with their careers.  This will make sure that there will be fewer young people missing out on their Christmas joy, and more of them will reach their potential.

Besides chairing the Charity Committee, Assistant Eric Wallbank sits on four (!) other Committees in our Livery. People say, if you want things done, find a busy person. Have you read Eric’s story about his road trip around Australia with his wife Anne in last month’s Coachlines? How did he manage to fit all this in is simply beyond me!

Past Master Sarah Sillars has chosen a different continent to explore after her super busy year as IPM. Canada was her calling, in fact, Canada was her dad’s calling when he was a young man, before he even met Sarah’s mum. As Sarah concluded, “if something is on your life list, make time to do it.” She and John did just that this autumn. The train journey on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff, an encounter with the breath-taking beauty of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, and a visit to the very special city in her dad’s youth, Toronto. As soon as they returned, I put my ‘orders’ in for a story for you to savour while enjoying your mince pies.

PM Sarah’s story isn’t the only one I ‘ordered’. You’d be impressed by my forward planning skills if you knew I pre-ordered a very special piece for your Christmas stocking back in July, when we were on the Orkney Run with the Clerk and fellow liverymen of the Coachmakers’ company. Have you noticed when you attend some Livery functions, there is usually a tall and handsome young chap hiding behind his long zoom camera taking photos? He may smile at you and signal with his other hand to ask you to form a line so he could take a photo or two, then move on. He seldom stops to chat with us, but his name is Phil McCarthy, a very accomplished professional photographer and very much in demand with City Liveries. Phil and his wife Rowan joined us on the Orkney Run, and it was during this trip I found out that our seemingly quiet photographer was actually a humorous storyteller. One of those evenings when we sat and chatted, I told Phil that I wanted to give our brilliant photographer a voice, and asked him to choose some of his favourite photos this past calendar year, and treat us with “A year in highlights through Phil’s lens”. It’s not meant to be a photographic recording of our Livery activities in 2023, but some moments captured by him, and a series of stories told from his unique viewpoint. To my absolute delight, Phil agreed. You are in for a treat – get your popcorn ready!

How can we have a Coachmakers’ Christmas edition of Coachlines without some fascinating stories and photos about coaches? My co-editor David Barzilay promised you last month that he would tell you something about the mail coach that he purchased, and Comms Committee Secretary Mark Jurd has made his submission of a colourful story of a Christmas coach.

Nothing could demonstrate better than this Christmas edition that writing, sourcing, and editing Coachlines has always been a team effort. I want to take the opportunity to thank all our fabulous contributors throughout the year. From the Committee Chairs to the award winners, from the calm Master Coachmakers (I leave you to debate and decide who is calmer, IPM Julian or Master Bettine) to the gallant Clerk (no debate is needed here).

However, the one I wish to thank the most, is our behind-the-scenes technical editor, Ann Neilson. Without Ann’s meticulous work, you wouldn’t receive Coachlines every month, at 7am on the dot, on those specific days. After I assumed the Editor in Chief role, it took me less than a few weeks to realise what a gem Ann was. When I wrote in an email to tell Ann (with the Clerk in cc:) that “you are my hero”, Clerk replied: “Ann is everyone’s hero to those who know her”. At that moment I thought to myself that right, I would ‘see to it’. So here we are. I want ALL of us, the entire Coachmakers’ family, to know, Ann Neilson is the unsung hero behind each Coachlines. Thank you, Ann.

Merry Christmas my fellow Coachmakers. Wait and see what Coachlines has in store for you in 2024!

Yours as ever,