Mark The Clerk

Coachlines - December 2022

16.12.22 The Clerk

Clerk’s notes December 2022

In over 33 years of service in the Royal Navy I was lucky enough to have to spend only one Christmas away from home. In October of 1994 I sailed with HMS LIVERPOOL to the Gulf to help enforce UN embargo operations against Iraq; and in May 1995 we returned home. Spending Christmas alongside in Dubai was an interesting experience, not least because we were a long way from home and family, but also because it became unexpectedly hard work.

At that time, the rolling Gulf deployments conducted by the RN ships involved usually spent equal time at sea monitoring ships transiting to and from the various Gulf ports as they did alongside conducting maintenance and diplomatic duties. In 1994, HMS LIVERPOOL’s programme directed that it should spend the 10 days straddling Christmas and the New Year alongside in Dubai. Not a bad prospect; and one that the Ship’s Company was very happy to embrace.

Early in the deployment it was made known that the expat community of Dubai were very much looking forward to welcoming HMS LIVERPOOL over the Christmas period and the ship should expect a number of invitations to various events to help the sailors cope with being so far away from home. During the planning process of the time alongside therefore, provision was made for a liaison team to co-ordinate the various invitations as they arrived; and the Captain quite rightly made it clear that every invitation received would be fulfilled. Little did we know what that would eventually entail.

In short, we had no idea of exactly how many expats lived in and around Dubai nor that they would prove to be so generous; the invitations flooded in.

With more than 200 sailors onboard a Type 42 destroyer, fulfilling the invitations for two, four, six, eight or 10 sailors to attend a beach barbeque or a supper party were fairly easy to fulfill as there were lots of sailors to share the load. However, with only 28 officers onboard, the invitations to attend dinner parties, cocktail parties, themed Christmas balls and private parties came in thick and fast and were an entirely different kettle of fish. The only way to do it was to manage the process as if it were an operational programme, carefully orchestrated so that each event didn’t overlap, using everyone available to best effect. As a result, like all of the wardroom members, on most days alongside that Christmas I attended one social event in the afternoon before returning to the ship to clean up and change into mess kit ready to attend yet another function in the evening. The kindness demonstrated by the expat community living in Dubai at that time was overwhelming, but at the same time it was exhausting.

There were also moments when the whole thing became surreal. One of the major hotels was holding a big New Year’s Eve Party and the headline entertainment that had been booked was a well-known band of the 70s and 80s that were still doing the rounds. Unfortunately on New Year’s Eve, the day of the big party, the keyboard player succumbed to a viral infection and couldn’t perform. Just before lunch that day, HMS LIVERPOOL’s visit liaison office took a call asking if anyone onboard could play keyboards and might be interested in standing in for the night.

As Nelson said: “England expects every man to do his duty”, so the Officer of the Day made an announcement over the main broadcast and waited to see what might happen. Shortly thereafter one of the Petty Officers made it known that “he used to play in a band and would give it a go” and so he was dispatched to the hotel to get the briefing.

That evening our intrepid sailor was dressed in a spangly suit and told to pretend to be playing the keyboard as the recorded music played, mime the words if he felt comfortable and basically enjoy himself; and he did. Apparently it was a such a successful gig that he was asked to “play” with them on the next two nights as well.

Forthcoming Coachmaker events

Award to Industry Dinner – 19th January 2023

The Award to Industry Dinner will be held at Saddlers’ Hall on 19th January 2023. There are still places available – please book here.

Studio 434 visit – 24th January 2023

A visit has been arranged to view the incredible car collection at Studio 434. It is proving to be a very popular visit but a few places remain – please book here.

100 Club

As you will know, Liveryman John Pearl passed away unexpectedly in October. He had founded and diligently managed the 100 Club Draw since its inception but the suddenness of his departure meant that there was no handover plan in place.

However, shortly before he passed away he had sent me an Access database back-up in which he had already compiled the relevant documents that listed eligible names and prize totals etc for the Q3 draw. As a result, in the immediate aftermath of his passing, we were able to use them to be confident that everything was correct for us to hold the Q3 draw covering the months of July, August and September. The draw was duly made at the Aerospace Industry Dinner on 8th November, the first prize going to Liveryman David Lawman and the second prize to Suzanne Kimber.

However, things have moved on since then and while attempting to reconcile the various payments made by those who are members of the 100 Club to confirm eligibility for the Q4 draw (the Christmas Super Draw) we encountered a few questions, the answers to which were not immediately obvious.

In essence there are nine allocated tickets involving seven people to which it has not been possible to specifically attribute named payments. We believe these payments are normally made annually, and although we have some detail of payment we don’t yet have the full picture. However we are working with the Pearl family to identify additional hard copy records that John kept that will help us confirm what we think might be the answers and we are very close to joining up the dots.

Taking all of this into account, for the benefit of all the members of the 100 Club and as it is essential from a legal perspective to make sure everything is correct, the Master agreed to defer the 100 Club Super Draw until the Award to Industry Dinner on 19th January 2023.

By then I am confident we shall have everything in place and the 100 Club Draw package will be ready to handover to a willing volunteer who would like to continue John Pearl’s excellent work.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to take over a solid gold enterprise established by a highly revered and decent human being, generate £6,000 for the Coachmakers’ Charitable Trust every year and make eight Coachmakers and/or their partners cumulatively £6,000 happy every year, look no further and contact the Clerk for more details.

City events

Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch – Thursday 30th March 2023

The Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch is a City fundraising event held at Guildhall each year. The Lunch is an event with a difference: unlimited curry and drinks, buffet service, and bench seating all create a lively, casual, and convivial atmosphere. A dedicated area for sponsors and those with groups of 10 or more allow for hosting and networking opportunities. There are Livery stalls set up throughout the event which provide excellent shopping opportunities, and auction prizes give you the chance to bid on ‘money-can’t-buy’ experiences. Added to all that, the event raises funds to support helping veterans of HM Armed Forces into employment from all three services. Tickets are on sale now – please click here.

Burn’s Night

My good friend, the Clerk to the Distillers’ Company has sent me details of a Burn’s Night event on 26th January that is open to all members of the Livery Community, more details are here.

Varsity rugby

I have also been made aware of the following:

On Saturday 25th March, Twickenham Stadium will play host to one of rugby’s longest standing rivalries: the 2023 Varsity Matches. Oxford University and Cambridge University will meet once again for the 36th Women’s Varsity Match and the 141st Men’s Varsity Match. With two huge matches (their words) and tickets starting at just £20, it makes a fantastic day out at the home of England rugby (again their words not mine).

The women’s fixture will kick off at 12pm followed by the men’s at 3pm. Early bird tickets for groups range between £20 and £36 or alternatively, for the VIP Twickenham experience, executive box packages are available at £180pp (inc VAT). The standard box package includes the following but can be adjusted to suit your needs: access to your private executive box for the day, pastries and tea/coffee on arrival, a two course buffet lunch, unlimited beers and soft drinks throughout the day and best seats in the house outside your box for both matches.

If you are interested in tickets for the hospitality packages or if you have any questions, contact Madeleine Osborne at and you can also find more information at

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST)

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) awards scholarship and apprenticeship funding of up to £18,000 to talented and aspiring craftspeople working in a broad range of skills, from farriery and jewellery design, to silversmithing, dry stone walling, glassblowing cheese maturing, sculpture and more.

The next application round is open 9th January-12th February 2023 and they are looking for more talented applicants – do you know anyone who might benefit and qualify for such funding?

QEST celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020 and since 1990 has awarded more than £5.4million to 700 individuals working in over 130 different crafts. It defines craft broadly and welcomes applications from all areas including rural skills, contemporary craft, conservation, luthiery and much more. A directory of its alumni can be seen on the website, along with more details on how to apply –

At the Windsor International Horse Show this year, QEST had a big stand with several craftspeople who had benefitted from its support demonstrating their skills. It was extremely impressive.

In conclusion

Back in 1994, shortly after our arrival in the Gulf and during our first port visit to Jebel Ali, I arranged to visit Dubai International Airport to visit the head of the airport air traffic services and talk to those responsible for most of the civilian air traffic control across the Gulf region. I was keen to get a verbal briefing on the local procedures to ensure our planned flying programme over the coming months would not infringe local rules and establish a rapport with the civilian air traffic management during our stay within the confines of the Gulf. I was surprised that at the time this was not standard practice for all visiting ships but it proved its worth in more ways than one.

Fast forward a couple of months to Christmas Day 1994 and myself, my Observer and my young second pilot found ourselves as the guests of the Head of Air Traffic and his wife who very kindly welcomed us into their home to treat us to a traditional British Christmas Day experience. For a few hours that day however, we unexpectedly found ourselves acting as their surrogate grown-up sons, backfilling for their actual sons who still lived in the UK.

Without Skype, Zoom or Facebook to fill the gap, we played the part of their absent family complete with gut-busting Christmas lunch and post prandial board games but without the Queen’s Speech, Dubai being four hours ahead of the UK. It was very sweet of them but we were all missing our own families that day and at the time it was difficult to decide who was entertaining whom. However, it was a pleasant diversion before we were back onboard at 1700, showered, changed into Mess Kit, and by 1900 on our way to yet another Christmas cocktail party – tough work if you can get it!

That was 28 years ago and the world has changed so much in the intervening decades, but as we approach this Christmas spare a thought for all those Service personnel who will be deployed around the world, not all of them in places where such generous hospitality prevails. Closer to home, please also spare a thought for all those who had expected to be home with their families for Christmas but who will now be backfilling essential work normally carried out by those on strike. To misquote Forrest Gump – “that’s all I have to say on that.”

To close, with the Master’s permission, the Assistant Clerk and I shall take leave from close of play on Wednesday 21st December until Tuesday 2nd January 2023. Mindful of all the craziness that is abroad in the world right now, we wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.