Apprentice Essay: Maxine Johnson

On 10/07/2017, in Posts, by Timothy Myatt

As part of the process of a Guild Apprentice becoming a Guildman, each is required to write an essay on an aspect of the City of London or of the Guild which may be of interest to members. Below is that from Apprentice Maxine Johnson.

The process of this piece of writing has had its’ subject changed many times already; whether attempting to summarise the incredible 800 year history of guildhall, the legends of Gog and Magog, or the changing role of the livery companies to people of my generation, when I realised that the thing I had knew most about was none of the above, but rather what I had learned and been able to do because of the apprentice scheme.

Attending Dauntsey’s School, one was very much aware of the “Mercers’ Schools” and ergo the Mercers’ Company, “Honor Deo” was printed on the jumper I wore every day for 7 years, but growing up in the middle of the countryside, I was very unaware of exactly what the ‘Square Mile’ and the elusive ‘City of London’ really were.

Over the past 4-5 years I have been able to attend some incredible events in London and meet people I never thought I would. When I try to explain to friends exactly what the scheme is, I’m often greeted with confused looks. It is best described in its own words as a programme which helps apprentices “to gain early insights into the life of the City and to take the first step towards becoming a full Guildman and Freeman of the City of London”. Standing on the precipice about to jump into my training as a corporate lawyer, I stand in a much stronger position now than ever.

The first event I attended with the Guild was a tour of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 22nd June 2014. An incredible behind the scenes experience of the rooms in which foreign policy is decided was incredible to me as an undergraduate student of German, Chinese and International Relations.

Since then, I have twice had the pleasure (and stress!) of experiencing the Loving Cup ceremony at installation dinners in Draper’s and Stationer’s Hall as well as attending young member’s drinks in the heart of the City.

The Colonel’s Review, the second rehearsal of the Trooping of the Colour parade to celebrate Her Majesty’s birthday, was a lovely afternoon. Although every spectator was secretly wishing for a horse to misbehave, the parade ran pretty much without a hitch and I can now personally vouch for quite how loud some of the cannons can be!

One of my highlights was the visit to the Tower of London in February 2016.

Seeing the infamous “Traitors’ Gate”, through which Anne Boleyn was led through before her execution, as well as the only building in London to have survived the Great Fire of 1666 (one of the houses inside the tower grounds) as simply incredible. Of course no visit would have been complete without well visiting the 6 Ravens that must always guard the Tower of London, and it would have been rude not to at least have a look inside the oldest bar in the world, the Yeoman Warders’ club. I was also able to see the ceremony of the keys up close, and the night ended exactly as every night has done for the last 700 years, with the Last Post played exactly as the clock strikes 10pm.

In the last year I have also attended the Lord Mayor’s show, a great opportunity to get an overview of other livery companies, as well as celebrating the first full day in office of Dr Andrew Parmley as Lord Mayor. Although slightly damp and abandoned plans to see the firework display, the lunch in Ironmongers’ Hall warmed us up and made the day.

To celebrate 350 years since the Great Fire of London, no apprentice’s education of the city would be complete without a visit to the “Fire! Fire!” Exhibition at the Museum of London. An opportunity for me to reflect upon just how much of the city was destroyed – between a third and a half of the City was left in ruins, was eye opening. The recreation of what London life was like in the 17th century was fascinating. A section of the exhibition focussed on architecture, both those plans that were followed (such as Wren’s) and those that were not, left one to wonder exactly how different London could be today if that spark from the bakery (if that indeed be the truth) has never have caught.

In the last four years I have been able to take part in a wide variety of events. I am looking forward to my freedom ceremony and continuing to take part in future Guild activities, particularly those for younger members, who can coach each other through some of the quirks of the installation dinner one step at a time!


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