City of London Toastmasters and their History and Customs
When we talk of the ‘City’ of London, we are referring to the ‘Square Mile’ representing mainly the international financial district, which since Norman times was the capital’s hub of craft and commercial activity. The City is a democratic self-governing entity with its own Lord Mayor and rich in tradition, history and what may be thought of as quaint ceremonial customs.
One such is that the City of London Toastmaster does not wear his red tailcoat, instead he wears a black one. It is said the reason for this is that by tradition, a foxhunt may not pass through the City’s streets and as the Toastmaster’s red coat is reminiscent of mounted foxhunters, it is preferred that he maintains a less ostentatious profile. However, this policy creates a problem of identity. A Toastmaster’s work in the City is inevitably at Mansion House (home of the Lord Mayor) or the Guildhall or one of the 40 Livery Halls where formal banquets are held, often with members of the Royal Family, Government and Heads of State present. Frequently guests at such functions will wear white tie and black tails, just like the Toastmaster, who no longer will be identifiable by his red jacket. An elegant solution was devised whereby the Toastmaster would wear a red and white sash over his right shoulder, representing the colours of the City’s crest. This way, he stands out, even if on occasion he gets mistaken for the Polish Ambassador!
Acting as a City Toastmaster requires a higher degree of knowledge and protocol than for example, in the ‘West End’ and there are many subtle differences in procedure. For example, outside the City when introducing a guest speaker with a post-nominal (eg OBE) the Toastmaster would say “Pray silence for John Smith, an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” but within the City the Toastmaster simply says “Pray silence for John Smith”. Another example would be how the Loyal Toast (“The Queen!”) is introduced. Outside the City the Toastmaster would gavel for attention and say: “Would you all please stand.. and.. pray silence for the Chairman who will now propose the Loyal Toast”. In the City, when we get to this point in the meal (before the coffee is served) the Toastmaster simply taps his gavel three times, does not speak at all and the host will rise and pronounce: “The Queen!” then all guests rise and repeat the exclamation.
About the Author: Richard Birtchnell is not only a Master of Ceremonies,?but he is also a City of London Toastmaster. If you want to make your?event one to run smoothly and on time, then why not contact Richard to check his availability.