Coachlines - April 2019

15.04.19 Past Master Michael Callaghan

A roving report from the Automotive Dinner

Coachmakers’ dinners are always busy times. If you are on the Court, as I am, the formal evening begins at 4.30pm when the Court assembles. In this case it is in the Drapers’ Hall Court Room. When I walked around the various rooms of the Hall, the Court Dining Room, the Court Room itself, the Livery Hall and the Drawing Room, I was reminded of Prime Minister Attlee’s comment when he returned from a visit to the US and was asked what his impression was of America; “Quite large” he replied. Drapers’ Hall rooms are not only large but also quite magnificent and decoration is on a grand scale. In the Court Room where our meeting took place, we conducted the Coachmakers’ affairs under the watchful eye (no disrespect intended) of Horatio Viscount Nelson, and the Duke of Wellington, both represented in huge portraits at opposing ends of the room. Reports of the Company’s activities were dealt with, new Coachmakers were elected, and others were sworn or clothed in the Livery. Photographs were taken. The Clerk moved speedily from one duty to the next. 

At this Court meeting we had an additional special ceremony. Alderman Doctor Sir Andrew Parmley, Lord Mayor of the City of London 2016/17, was sworn in as an Honorary Coachmaker. Sir Andrew, always a good friend of the Coachmakers, now joins us as a Liveryman. 

After the Court there is the formal welcoming of guests, each announced by Toastmaster John Cash, and received by the Master and Wardens. The stairs and other key points are attended by Sea Cadets from Training Ship Hurricane and Air Cadets from 452 Squadron and are accompanied on duty by Petty Officer Ruth Luddington and Flight Lieutenant Doreen Exton respectively. Both units are extremely smart and we are proud that both are affiliated to the Coachmakers.

The reception which follows is a noisy and important part of the evening. I get to meet our speaker, renowned car designer and Coachmaker, Assistant Giles Taylor, and have the chance to tell him that I love my Jaguar XK which he shaped, and recently had the chance to ride in the exceptional Rolls-Royce Cullinan 4×4 developed while he was Director of Design at Rolls-Royce.

Following the reception we finally come to the dinner, which is held in the Drapers’ Livery Hall. It is one of the most splendid in the City with marble columns between which hang grand portraits of successive monarchs from William III to Edward VII. Again, its size impresses and tonight it will accommodate more than 200 Coachmakers and guests. After Grace from the Assistant Clerk, The Master welcomes our special guests and asks those newly clothed in the Livery to stand so they may be recognised. Now, at last, we can eat and drink. A Loving Cup is drunk, The Master proposes the loyal toast and we reach the business part of the occasion: the speeches and the presentation of the Motor Centenary Bursary Awards for 2019.

The Master Graham Cole CBE

The Master’s Address

The Master opened his speech by welcoming fellow Masters from the Vintners, the Wheelwrights, Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers, Carmen, Hackney Carriage Drivers, and Watermen, as well as several other special guests. He also congratulated those clothed and sworn to the Livery.

He went on to state his personal pride and pleasure in the activities and success of the apprentices and trainees supported by the Coachmakers. He applauded the work done at the Saturday Clubs at Kingston University, which are sponsored by the Livery, where young people, many from challenged backgrounds, learn STEM subjects.

The Master then reminded us of the huge historical changes which have taken place in the industries the Coachmakers represents and how we are presently on the verge of similarly momentous changes with electric cars and autonomous vehicles becoming more commonplace.

And finally, he spoke of the continuing importance of the automotive sector to the economy and that, in spite of many changes, the values of the Livery – honesty, fidelity, and hard work, will serve as well in the future as they have since 1677 when our Company was given its Charter.

The Motor Centenary Awards were presented by the Master and Assistant Giles Taylor.

The Motor Centenary Award is open to 2nd year Vehicle Design Students at The Royal College of Art. This year the winner was Yichen Shu, who comes from China and has a degree in automotive engineering. For his final major project Yichen focused on the ethical issues in autonomous mobility. There were two runners up, also from China: Boyang Guo and Jiahong Wang both studying for a Master’s in Intelligent Mobility. The background of the winners and the subjects they are studying reflect the massive changes in the automobile industry during the past few years. China is now by far the world’s largest car market.

The Award for the Most Promising UK Design Student went to Oliver Bassnett. Oliver is interested in exploring how electrification and autonomy will change a vehicle’s exterior and interior styling.

Assistant Giles Taylor was guest of honour

Assistant Giles Taylor’s Address

Assistant Giles Taylor’s address was authoritative from several perspectives: he was one of the first students to be awarded the Coachmakers’ Motor Centenary Bursary, he has been a Chief Designer at Jaguar, was Director of Design at Rolls-Royce, and is now Vice President of Global Design and CCO for the China First Automotive Works Group. Giles paid tribute to the motivational boost the Coachmakers’ Award can provide to young designers and he was warm in his thanks to Past Master Richard Dallimore – the man behind the award.

He explained that his interest came from an appreciation of moving objects that evoke emotion – and a fascination with the mechanical aspects of car design, especially those combined with a powerful aesthetic. Some possess a distinct magical aura, he said. Great car designs have the ability to create desire.

He spoke of the need for design teams to work in harmony with the other teams working on the development of a new vehicle and the need to imagine the car in its natural habitat. Giles used words like respect, glamour, intrigue, and menace when talking of Rolls-Royce design.

He remarked that the future would be very different with new technologies and market entrants like Tesla disrupting old approaches and established companies. He said there are 92 companies either producing or aiming to produce cars in China.

He concluded by saying that he looked forward to playing his part in developing the Coachmakers’ contribution to students’ career successes over the coming years.

The Senior Warden proposed a vote of thanks to Assistant Giles Taylor for his enjoyable and interesting speech.

The Master closed the evening by wishing all those present a safe journey home.