Company Comment - Summer 2013

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Departing Master's Report:
Ken Foxcroft

Master’s Report to the 34th Annual General meeting of The Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North America:

Fellow Freemen and Honoured guests; Welcome to the Honourable Company's 34th Annual Dinner

It is hard to believe that it is almost one year ago that you're Court and myself were invested by the Honourable David Wootten (now Sir David) Lord Mayor of London at our annual dinner at the National club on May 4th of 2012.

I am pleased to report that since that day your Company has made good progress largely due to a hardworking and dedicated Court. Tom O'Carroll Membership Chair has recruited 11 new members bringing our total membership up to 122 and that 11 of our members ventured to London to receive their Freedom of the City. Frances Sommerville your Company Clerk and has kept the Company's affairs in good order and John Welch our Events Chair provided us with four excellent events, The Annual Dinner in May last year, a meet the Court Night at the British Consul's residence, a wonderful fall train ride on the Credit Valley Explorer to witness the spectacular fall colours and a successful Whiskey Nosing evening again at the British Consul's residence. I as the past Honourary Treasurer was pleased to hand the Company's books of accounts over to Roger MacMillan our new Honorary Treasurer and I am satisfied that the Company's finances are in good hands.

Past master Michael Green has chaired the Company's Charitable Trust maintaining an excellent and strong relationship with Western University where our ongoing Scholarship fund has helped promising students to enhance their education experience in London England.

After serving for three years as warden of your Court, Ashley Prime is required by her Majesty's Government to return to London to continue his diplomatic career. Apart from being a valuable contributor to our Court meetings, Ashley has built strong ties for the Company with the British Consul's office in Toronto and the High Commissioner's office in Ottawa; this in part allows the Company to use the attractive British Consul's residence in Forrest Hill for some of the Company's key events.

We wish Ashley well with the continuance of his career in the British Diplomatic service. As agreed in our Annual General meeting Ashley has will take on the important role of The Company's Clerk in London.

John Bishop continues to be a driving member of your Court using his long experience to turn his hands to the many important jobs that have to be done; life at the Court would be very difficult without John's long Company memory and willingness to take on many tasks that need doing. Neil Purcell has continued on as our London Liaison assisting 11members to secure their Freedom of the City of London. Ishrani Jaikaran, a new warden of the Court provided sage advice from her past experience of the Royal Overseas League and is looking forward to taking on a more senior role within the Court next year. Norman Morris as your Communications Chair has kept us all advised of our events as they occurred and managed our crucial web site.

For myself, I have enjoyed the year as your Master and look forward to handing the reigns over to your new Master Francis Sommerville. I of Course look forward to working with your new court in the capacity of Past Master and Chair of the Charitable trust.

Thank you all for attending tonight, I know many of you have had long journeys to get here. Before closing there are two important people that I would like to recognize.The late Captain John Storey, Founding Master and Captain Ray Gibson, Founding Master who I am glad to announce is with us this evening.

New Master:
Frances Sommerville

Distinguished guests, Freemen, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured to stand before you as the second female Master of the Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of Toronto of North America.

My first and most important task is to thank Past Master Ken Foxcroft for guiding and leading our Company over the past year.

Ken and his court have worked tirelessly on your behalf to keep our company solvent, compliant with regulations, and provide an interesting and enjoyable array of social functions.

I would also like to thank all our Court of last year who attended court meetings to run the Company on your behalf.

A special thanks goes to the trustees of our charity who worked closely with the University of Western Ontario in London to consolidate our scholarship agreement with them for students to study in the city of London.

It is with regret that we say goodbye to Ashley who has been a great asset to the Court and will be greatly missed.

However we are delighted that he has agreed to take on the important role of The Company's Clerk in London. Our best wishes to Ashley and Sylvia.

As you can see, I have an excellent Court, and as a team, we will work over the next year on behalf of the company;

  • To continue to bring you a variety of events and raise money for the Company's charity which sends students to London, England
  • To improve communication with our members and update the website to include videos of events
  • With the expertise of our treasurer Roger McMillan to review and strengthen the Company's financial position

I would like to take a moment to thank the staff of The National Club.

I think you will agree the food and service have been excellent as usual, and of course well complimented by the wines from Arthurs Cellars, thank you.

Most especially, I would like to thank the Events Committee of John Welch, John Smith and John Bishop who helped to plan and execute this event, thank you.

I hope the guests who have joined us have enjoyed the evening and hopefully we might have encouraged you to join our Company.

Ladies and Gentlemen this concludes our Annual dinner, have a safe journey home.


Finance Report:
Roger McMillan, Honourable Treasurer

On the whole our finances are in good shape. All the events this year contributed to our surplus with the exception of the Annual Dinner. A better attendance would have made our year a complete success. Nevertheless, we were able to contribute to our Charitable Trust. The letters for the quarterage have been mailed and as Treasurer it would be remiss of me to not remind you to send in your quarterage as quickly as possible and to be as generous as possible with your voluntary remittance for which you will receive a receipt for income tax purposes.

Be well and remember ….be active.


Membership Report:
Thomas J. O’Carroll, Membership Chair

On Wednesday June 5th 2013 the Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North America held an evening eventat the official residence of the British Consular General for the City of Toronto to introduce the newly elected ‘Court' and to also welcome new members to the Honourable Company.

This pleasant evening provided the chance for members and their guests to mingle over a glass of wine, with a common interest, a connection or feeling for the Great City of London and its traditions.

The membership for the The Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North America currently stands at 123 members, of which 13 are life members. We encourage our members to move forward with the process to become actual‘Freemen of the City of London', which requires attendance at the Chamberlain's Court, Guild Hall, London for the ceremony. 

The granting of the ‘Freedom' is one of England's oldest ceremonies still in existence today, the first taking place in 1237.   The medieval term ‘Freeman' meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Those protected by the charter of their town or city were often free, hence the term ‘Freedom of the City.

This is now a symbolic ceremony open to those from any democratic country and an occasion to enjoy with family and friends. As of this time, we have one member about to depart for London for the ‘Freedom' ceremony with four others in process.


34th Gala Dinner Report:
John Welch

The 34th Freemen of the City of London of North America was held Friday May 3 rd at the National Club in Toronto.

The evening commenced with a cocktail reception in the upper lounge of the National Club where Freemen and their guests mingled sociably prior to dinner. Subsequent to being called to dinner by the Honorary Clerk, the head table formed up to be processed into dinner. Again this year the very amiable John Smith, Past Master, acted as the master of ceremonies and kept the festivities moving along.

After grace, given by Neil Purcell, Past Master, and the toasts to Her Majesty the Queen, the Office of the President of the United States, and a toast to our guests we sat down to dinner. As always the chef and staff of the Club treated the attendees to a delicious dinner of English fare starting with wild mushroom soup, an entrée of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by dessert of chocolate truffles, and strawberries dipped in chocolate. The meal was well accompanied by wines selected by Arthur Cellars & Company. Congratulations to all on a fine repast.

Following dinner John Smith proposed the toast to the Honourable Company and then with good spirits instructed us all in the Ceremony of the Loving Cup. Having been so instructed the cups were passed about the participants who partook, or not, in the traditional ceremony.

This year our dinner speaker, introduced by Warden Ashley Prime, was Robert H. Thompson, the Canadian actor and director of theatre, film and television. Mr. Thompson has created many arts /history projects concerning Canada's participation in the Great War. Currently his project is a multi-nation WW1 Centenary called the World Remembers of which was the topic of his presentation on the night. Mr. Thompson spoke with passion and enthusiasm and left the listener a deeper appreciation of the importance of remembering those of all nations who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War.

Ken Foxcroft, Master, presented his annual report thanking those who worked with him during the past year, highlighting the various year's activities, and reported that the accounts of the Company were in good financial order.

Concluding the night's activities was the investiture of the new Court.

The new Court is as follows.

Master: Frances Sommerville
Deputy Master & Honorary Clerk: John Welch
Honorary Treasurer: Roger McMillan
Immediate Past Master; Ken Foxcroft

Wardens of the Court: Rebecca Bartlett-Jones, John Bishop, Michael green, Ishrani Jaikaran, Norman Morris, Tom O'Carroll, Ashley Prime, Past Master Neil Purcell, and Past Master Captain G Raymond Gibson.

In light of the conversation during dinner amongst the attendees and subsequent feedback received, the 34th annual dinner was deemed to be a great success by all concerned. We thank you for your participation and support in making it so.

Click here to see the video


Meet the Court:

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more pictures

On a sunny June evening (one of the few) we were welcomed to the delightful residence of the British Consul General in Toronto, Mr. Jonathan Dart.

Mr. Dart had been called to Vancouver on business but we were very fortunate to have his Deputy Consul General, Mr. Ashley Prime host the proceedings.

This was billed as an evening to meet the new court for 2013-2014 and the Master, Frances Sommerville introduced all the court members and announced that Ashley Prime, who will be returning to the U. K.shortly, will be the Company's new London Clerk.

New members had also been invited to attend and the Master was delighted to welcome several new members into the Company and present them with certificates and pins.

Our thanks to Jonathan Dart for providing the perfect setting for this annual event and to Ashley Prime for acting as a most gracious host.

Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice:

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more pictures

A group of representatives from the Court ventured to Ottawa on Friday June 7th 2013 (Including the Master and three Past Masters) to attend the unveiling of a plaque in the historic Beechwood cemetery, Ottawa to the memory of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice.

Sir Cecil Left his post as Britain's Ambassador to Sweden in 1912, to take up the position of Britain's Ambassador to the United States of America. His major task in the US was to influence the Government of Woodrow Wilson in abandoning their neutrality and joining Britain in their war against Germany. In Washington Sir Cecil was struck with Graves' disease a disabling illness caused by an over active thyroid exacerbated by exhaustion and stress. Due to his illness he was recalled to Great Britain in 1918 but, unfortunately died in Rideau Hall home of the Duke of Devonshire then Canada's Governor General, on his way back to England and was buried in Beechwood Cemetery.

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more pictures

Sir Cecil's grave was discovered in terrible condition by Ashley Prime UK's Deputy Consul General and a Warden of our Court who decided to do research into Sir Cecil's life only to learn that in 1912 Sir Cecil had penned the words to the famous hymn “I vow to thee my Country”. Later, in 1921, Gustav Holtz adapted his composition of Jupiter in his Planet Suite to Sir Cecil's words. This hymn was sung at Charles' and Diana's wedding and also at the funeral of Lady Thatcher.

Ashley Prime was so taken with this story that he embarked on programme to specially recognize Sir Cecil and came to our Honourable Company for support. In turn, Our Court agreed to fund a plaque in memory of Sir Cecil to reside close to his grave.

On June 7th this year a group of English and Canadians gathered in the rain at Beechwood Cemetery, Including Bob Rae, Past Leader of the Liberal Party and Chris Alexander, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence both fellow Balliol College, Oxford Alumnus of Sir Cecil; Also attending was the new British High Commissioner to Canada Sir Howard Drake and his wife Gill. Joining the group were some of the remaining family of Sir Cecil, his granddaughter Ms. Caroline Kenny and three others. After Ms Kenny unveiled the plaque, the assembled joined in with singer Kelly Sloan to sing the hymn “I vow to thee my country”

Following the ceremony, all were invited back to the high Commissioner's home “Earnscliffe for a lunch reception.

Unsung British Hero Honoured After 95 Years:

Everyone in the United Kingdom should know the name Cecil Spring- Rice. He played a pivotal role in Britain's success in the First World War and gave the UK one of its most beloved cultural gifts, a virtual national anthem that defines Britain's spirit and resolve in the best way. It has inspired generation after generation and is as much a pillar of its identity today as ever because it gave a nation a rallying point for its resolve and strength. Yet his body was found far away, hidden in another country amongst rows of private graves beneath a barely legible mould and moss covered weather-beaten cross in Canada. How can a true hero that has inspired millions end up so unsung? His is a fascinating story.

Click here for the video on
Sir Cecil Spring-Rice

Sir Cecil was the British Ambassador to the United States and a good longstanding friend of Theodore Roosevelt, and best man at his marriage to Edith Carrow. This position and friendship coupled with his extraordinary and persistent diplomatic skills and a penetrating foresight enabled him to play a key role in convincing the United States of America to overcome its strong isolationist policies and enter the war bringing with it the country's financial, industrial, naval, air, and human resources despite the fact its current president, Woodrow Wilson had campaigned against entering the war. The result was a much quicker, more decisive victory for the allied coalition and certain resolution to a terrible war that claimed over 300,000 lives and destroyed the infrastructure of much of Europe. He died at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, in 1918 after being abruptly dismissed from his duties in Washington at the height of his success and being called home by a terse one-sentence cable.

One of the greatest diplomatic successes was never celebrated and its well-experienced scholarly architect never appropriately honoured. His only surviving grandchild, Caroline Kenney says, “I believe he wore out his already frail strength, and the shock and distress of his sudden and brutal removal from office was the last straw. He was a highly sensitive person – a poet, remember – who felt things very deeply.” After Sir Cecil died, his widow was left to raise her two young children with no home or pension.

However despite this, he is deep in the hearts of the nation, not unsung but sung regularly and with heartfelt emotion. Maybe his greatest contribution was not his skilled and long ranging diplomatic service but his service as a poet. He wrote a poem that became the words to one of the most beloved hymns in current British history – I Vow To Thee My Country .

This hymn has been an integral expression of the nations thoughts at such significant moments as the wedding, funeral and memorial service of Diana, Princess of Wales, of whom it was a favourite the opening of the London Paralympics Games in 2012; at the Queen's Jubilee, and at the funeral of Lady Thatcher, who specified before her death that it be included in the service.

The hymn was fashioned from the words of the poem and the music by Gustav Holst's Jupiter, from his suite The Planets. It captures Britain's collective heart and is sung at dozens upon dozens of graduations, regal events, and funerals every year since its first singing.

The re-discovery of Sir Cecil Spring Rice was brought about by Ashley Prime the British Deputy Consul General almost by accident as he was Googling for the author of I Vow to Thee My Country . He became intrigued and tracked down Sir Cecil's descendants then inspired the Honourable Company of Freeman of the City of London of North America to join with him and give Sir Cecil the recognition he had never received. He enrolled the restoration support of Beechwood Cemetery the Canadian national cemetery. A plaque was commissioned, the tombstone was cleaned, and buffed and a large group of admirers, friends and diplomats joined the family who came over from England and gathered at his grave to shine a light on this great unsung hero who has lived in our hearts and throats unrecognized for almost a hundred years.


WCMP 4th July speech – A review of “American Liveries”:
George Snyder

  • Master, Wardens, Honorable Guest, Members of the Court and Livery

I would like to thank the Master for giving me the opportunity to carry out research on the subject of American Liveries. I had brought along my extensive research files but after discussions with the Master we agreed that I will only give an abbreviated version.

  • When I started to review available information on American Liveries I was surprised to find a number of law suits and bankruptcies associated with the livery companies. But of course to quote George Bernard Shaw “ England and America are two countries separated by a common language” . So the definition of a livery company in America refers to taxi and limousine firms.

  • I also researched information related to some of America's oldest cities such as Charleston, Boston and New York for information related to Livery Companies, minus the taxi firms, but with no success. At this point I felt that this was starting to look like a wild goose chase, but then I decided this also gave me artistic license to be a little more creative with the topic.

  • Looking into the records on Royal Charters I couldn't find any issued to colonial Livery Companies. However charters were issued to two commercial enterprises that played a major role in the shaping of America, these were the Virginia Company and the East India Company.

  • The Virginia Company was established in hopes of discovering gold and other precious metals in the colonies but actually became very wealthy through the production of tobacco. This crop required a great deal of cultivation which was met through the transportation of 1000's of disposed rural English tenants, petty criminals and orphans (who were classed as apprentices) to work as indentured servants on the large plantations in the colonies for a period of seven years. The hardy individuals who survived the harsh treatment and climate during their indentured servitude were then entitled to find and claim their own land in the colonies.

But of course the best land had already been taken along the coastal areas, so they became the early pioneers carving farming land out of the wilderness which was a tough and precarious existence. They did not take kindly to poor governance and lack of interest in their grievances; and an early indication of what was to come was Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. Nathaniel Bacon lead a group of settlers in rebellion against the rule of Governor William Berkeley in Virginia due to the supposed lack of protection from Indian attacks and what was considered as favouritism to members of court, but the rebellion was suppressed.

  • Moving ahead a number of years, the East India Company saw an opportunity to expand its business in the now more established colonies through the taxation of tea with approval from the English Parliament. This impacted the independent colonial merchants and lead to the Boston Tea Party.

  • The Boston Tea Party was a culmination of a colonial resistance movement against the British Parliament Tea Act which the colonials believed violated their rights of “No taxation without representation”. This political protest was carried out by the “Sons of Liberty”, who interestingly enough, dressed as Mohawk Indian Warriors, to follow through on their act of defiance by boarding ships and dumping East India Company tea chests into the Boston Harbour.

  • Needless to say Parliament would not tolerate these acts of resistance from the Colonists and responded by “upping the ante” with the approval of the Intolerable Acts which ended self-government in Massachusetts and closed Boston Commerce. This lead to the convening the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to petition the King to repeal the legislation. Their request was ignored, which lead to the American Revolution.

Britain was defeated and the 4th of July was declared as Independence Day and the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Continental Congress. And today being the 4th of July, America will be holding national celebrations. I did bring along a copy of The Declaration of Independence and had proposed to read the full transcript but it was pointed out that by this time in the evening the Stirrup Cup beckons.

•  Of course today America and Britain are stanch allies and have stood shoulder to shoulder through several wars. In addition Americans have a fascination with anything British, its castles, pubs and the Royal Family with, maybe just a hint of regret, that we don't have a royal family of our own. Just as the British have a fascination with America's bustling cities, vast stretches of countryside and down home hospitality of rural America

•  Through further research I did discover that there is the Honorable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North American based in Canada. I had some correspondence with past master Ken Foxcroft who kindly provided me with the following details. He said that:

“The Company currently has a membership of 110. Our meetings are held throughout the City of Toronto, with our Court Meetings held in ether a warden's home or the Performing Artists Lodge. Our Court meets about once a quarter and we normally have three social events for our members per year. Recently we have held events at the British Consul's house in Toronto.”

Past mater Foxcroft also stated that the Company's charitable activities focus on education. He said that “Our Company funds an ongoing scholarship programme at Western University in London, Ontario to help students study in London UK.”

•  I also investigated possible affiliations with American organizationsand Livery companies. I did find that North American Farriers Association and the Worshipful Company of Farrier's had a close working relationship and that individual Americans had taken examinations to become Fellows of the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

•  In addition I contacted the Guildhall Library who stated that they were not aware of any American Livery companies but mentioned that there were a number of American trade associations and guilds.

•  U.S. National Trade Associations

In fact there are over 7,600 national trade associations in the United States and many of these have international affiliations. One of the oldest of these organizationsis the American Seed Trade Association , founded in 1883.

Some of these trade associations have similar parallels to the historical activities of our Worshipful Companies plus a wide range of special interest Associations. These cover everything from Aerospace to Christmas Trees; from the Pie Councils to Comics Magazine Publishers; from Dude Ranchers to Finance and from Chimney Sweeps to the Pasta Association.


  • There is the Theatre Guild founded in New York City in 1918.

  • There is also the Writers Guild of America which is a generic title for two different US labor unions.

  • There is also the Guild of American Luthiers which is a non-profit educational membership organization whose purpose is to facilitate learning about lutherie: the art, craft, and science of stringed musical instrument construction and repair.

  • But in today's world of the Internet I found another totally different world of Guilds such as:

    • Official Grievance Guilds including
      Elder Scrolls Online
      Everquest II -
      Guild Wars 2 -

This of course is referring to the world of online internet gaming.

These groups even have their own Rules of Conduct:

“Grievance is a family-oriented online gaming community. We have a very rich and honourable heritage that spans many games over many years, during which Grievance has proven that one can have a very rewarding gaming experience, yet have a life as well. The concepts of family, honour, and loyalty are hallmarks of Grievance and are expected to be upheld and respected by all members. We were formed in the year 2000. We are one of the few trademarked Guilds in all gaming communities. When you join Grievance you join a family.”

These Guilds have their own Rankings

Nightmare Asylum


•  This reminded me of that famous quote from Captain James T Kirk of the Star Trek Enterprise "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it".

•  Thank you

•  Toast –

•  Master, Wardens, Honourable Guest, Members of the Court and Livery

The American contingent would like to propose an additional toast wishing everyone a “Happy 4th of July”



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