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Newsletter from Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman: September 2022

Dear friends,

The end of my year as Sheriff is nigh and my last newsletter winging its way to you as I have packed up, moved out and returned to the ranks of Aldermen. Thank you all for being loyal readers and corresponders. I provide here my final thoughts. I have to note that over the year I have had to make so many hard editorial choices and feel I have not done justice to some wonderful experiences that were too numerous to record.

It did not occur to me that during my year as Sheriff, I would be declaring the Queen is dead: long live the King. We were all alerted to the fearful news when the Speaker in Parliament mentioned the Queen’s failing health. Operation London Bridge, that had long been planned, was readied. The Sheriffs were briefed and, as the news broke, we withdrew from all engagements for the period of mourning. On Friday evening we were called to rehearse the City Proclamation – which included a full walk through twice in the evening dark. On Saturday the Court of Aldermen met to receive the news and agreed an address of condolence and one of congratulation. The Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and Recorder of London then travelled speedily by Rolls Royces with a Police blue light escort to St James’s Palace to attend the Accession Council. Entering via Marlborough House and a quick cup of coffee, we were surrounded by the current Cabinet, Members of the Privy Council (a limited number determined by a ballot), Bishops and Senior Judges as well as the Realm High Commissioners.

The proceedings were led by the Lord President of the Privy Council (Penny Mordaunt) and the Queen Consort and Prince of Wales were in attendance..

The Lord President announced the death of The Sovereign and called upon the Clerk of the Council to read aloud the text of the Accession Proclamation. The platform party then signed the Proclamation. Once the Proclamation had been signed, the Lord President called for silence and read the remaining items of Business which dealt with the dissemination of the Proclamation with the Lord Mayor and Aldermen being required to proclaim the Accession at the Royal Exchange. As we had a tight timescale to effect this we left swiftly and signed the book of attendance before regaining our cars and Police escort again. The minutes of the Privy Council record this and our names.

On return to the Mansion House the crowds had gathered at the Royal Exchange, the miliary were ready as were the Aldermen and Common Councillors. The Heralds had to make the first proclamation at St James’s Palace and so made their way by coach to the City. As they arrived the procession was ready and then marched solemnly from Mansion House to the steps of the Royal Exchange. At 12 noon Clarenceux King of Arms read out the declaration to which we all assented “God Save the King”.

We sang the National Anthem and the Lord Mayor offered three cheers for the King. All this in the full glare of TV. I received many comments about my exuberant hurrahing of the new King! In the following week the City Civic was in mourning with no regular activity save for some business meetings and engagement with visiting representatives who were to be attending the Funeral.

Whilst the Sheriffs were not attending the Funeral I wanted to participate as best I could and queued on Sunday to view the lying-in-State and then watched the Funeral communally at St Giles Cripplegate, the local Barbican Church.

Whilst the most gruesome murders and terrorist offences are tried in the Courts daily, the iconic building is used out of hours for filming. Think Rumpole of the Bailey and Luther! During London Fashion Week the Grand Hall was taken over by Simone Rocha. The press thought she stole the week’s programme – an all too obvious pun. I did try out the catwalk at midnight but somehow my Shrieval outfit was not eye-catching enough for the press!

I was also delighted to host the first Premier League football team to hold an event at the Old Bailey. With my own allegiances, and those of my fellow Sheriff Nick, it had to be West Ham Foundation. They used the opportunity to talk about their work with the local community and this especially chimed with the work of the Old Bailey Judges, the Police and NHS around preventing knife crime amongst youngsters. A great write up and video here.

How curious that our final few days in office were crammed pack with such amazing events – the Sheriffs’ Ball, Thames Flotilla and Sheep Drive. The Ball was tremendous with 410 attendees and an amazing atmosphere of fun and purpose. The final figure raised is not yet known but we exceeded our expectations in the wonderful prizes and generosity from everyone. Thank you for putting up with our rendition of An English Country Garden!

On Saturday night the Thames Festival put on a most poignant Reflection in honour of our late Queen. Led by a new RNLI lifeboat named The Duke of Edinburgh (for which funds were being raised), I travelled on the Edwardian and was followed by over 100 motorised and hand rowed boats. Travelling from Cadogan Pier to Tower Bridge in the dark, the bridges were all specially lit and the boats displayed white lights of assorted design. It was magical as Tower Bridge lifted to its fullest extent in the Royal Lift in honour of these boats in solemn procession.

The last Sunday of the Shrievalty is the Annual Sheep Drive arranged by the Woolmen. This year TV presenter Kate Humble, who has her own sheep and farm led the first drive with aplomb. The Livery Market was bustling with many wool related products including Romney Tweed who made me a bespoke tweed called Old Bailey for my year in office.

As offices of the City change, one critical to our well being is that of the Dean of St Paul’s. The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett was installed on Sunday 25th September in a wonderful evensong with ceremony and clapping.

He had had to step up and conduct the service to remember the Queen on Friday 9th September, prior to his formal installation. However ever adept that was a most moving service televised live and attended by many who queued (as did the Sheriffs) to obtain a wrist band to be able to attend the event. The queue was only for about 20 minutes and paled into insignificance when compared to my 10 hour queue to view the lying-in-state. Not a minute wasted and all worthwhile to honour our long-standing Monarch.

My year has only been possible due to the support of all of you receiving this MailChimp and to many others. I want to thank you all and especially Past Master WCIT Chris Histed for his work on this monthly publication. Also thanks to the staff at the Old Bailey who kept me straight at every turn.

To my fellow Sheriff Nick Lyons and Felicity and my consort Glenn Hurstfield for being brilliant.
In signing off do please keep in touch. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn and blog on my website. All details below. Past copies of this newsletter are also on the website. This Sheriff is past – all power to the new Sheriffs, Alastair and Andrew – supported by Corinne and Marian.

Best wishes
Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman
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