Autumn Guest Dinner: September 28th – Hilton Tower Bridge, London
There was a new venue for the 2018 Autumn Guest Dinner, the Hilton at Tower Bridge, and it proved to be a popular choice, offering excellent facilities and being only a short stroll from London Bridge tube station. With the bronze bust of the Society founder, Jack Barwick looking on from his plinth, the evening began with a Prosecco reception at which Old Friends caught up with each other and introduced themselves to some of the 45 guests who had been invited to the dinner.
Toastmaster, Richard Birtchnell, looking as dapper as ever in his red tail coat called everyone through to dinner, announcing everyone in turn to the President, David Langdown and his Guest of Honour, the comedian and comedy writer, Andy Parsons. Almost everyone gave their real names, with one notable exception, “Seymour Butts” indeed!
Following a lighthearted toast from the President, dinner was served. The food was excellent and the wine and conversation flowed in equal measure.
The 9 o’clock toast to absent friends was delivered by Past President Stanley Vaughan, who as well as the traditional toast to those who could not join the Society for the dinner, delivered a eulogy to Past President, Jim Webster who had passed away in September. Jim was a fine man who had had a long and successful career, notably launching Stabilo Boss highlighters in the UK and he had many friends in the industry who will miss him.
In his toast to the guests, the President spoke of the history of the Tower of London, a stones throw (if you are Freddie Flintoff) from where we were gathered. But he said, the history was so old that we could not relate to it. We could however appreciate that 100 years ago, Old Friends gathered to celebrate the Society’s 10th anniversary. What a celebration they had, despite the fact that the First World War was still being fought. They left their troubles at the door and celebrated friendship and camaraderie and this was the principle that the Old Friends continued to this day.
Old Friends were reminded of the upcoming Clachans and asked to put the date for the Spring Dinner in their diaries before anything else – it’s March 21st 2019 at the Holiday Inn, Kensington. This will be David Langdown’s last Dinner as President and he is determined to make it special!
Old Friends are also charitable souls and the President paid tribute to those involved with the Climb of Life which this year will pass £1m of fundraising, and the new Ride of Life, which made a wonderful debut on 7th September, raising over £13.5k.
In toasting the guests, the President referred back to a toast given by our founding Secretary, Frank House; “I wish you good health. May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”
The guest at the dinner in 1918 was HG Wells, one of our greatest writers, nominated four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He, according to the reports at the time, was a softly spoken man but sat down to thunderous applause. In introducing the Guest of Honour, the President said that he was confident Andy Parson would get a similar response. Andy left Cambridge University with a degree in Law but decided to follow his passion for comedy. He was one of the lead writers for Spitting Image before establishing himself as a top performer, most notably in 9 series of Mock the Week.
In his response for the guests, Andy demonstrated his knowledge of the Society and its history. He had not understood quite what it is, he said, and had decided it was a cross between the Freemasons and a religious cult! What could not be denied was its amazing roster of guests, and he listed many from Chris Bonnington and Ranulph Fiennes to Sir Rex Hunt and Mountbatten of Burma, Ronnie Corbett and David Baddiel to Gerald Kaufman and Enoch Powell. How, he wondered had we attracted such a stellar list. His conclusion was that someone had persuaded HG Wells to turn up in 1918 and ever since, people have thought if it was good enough for him, it must be good enough for them to turn up and see what it’s all about! Cue howls of laughter from the audience and a comment of “many a true word is spoken in jest” from the President, who has used this technique to attract speakers for years!
Andy delivered a great stand up routine, topical and incisive and he did indeed receive an excellent, if not thunderous, ovation.
The raffle was drawn with prizes of £25, £50 and £100 going to Monique Duchen, Jim Anderson, and Martin Wilde. The raffle surplus of £540 will provide a welcome boost to the Society funds.
The evening officially finished at 11pm, though some Old and New Friends were still in the bar reliving another wonderful Old Friends event when your President left them at 2:30am.