Our President

Written By: Jason Waghorne
Edition: October 2019

Whether apocryphal or whether actually uttered, it is recorded that Benjamin Franklin pronounced that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”. Having died in 1790, it is of course impossible for Franklin to have had the NLS annual beer festival in mind when he made this statement, but one can still ponder “what if”.

Pouring a pint of President's Ale

Rothera Sharp team in force...

A good gathering around a few pints!

For the second year running, the event was held upstairs at the Castle pub. For those of us partial to a draught or two, the various firkins lined up to taste was a welcome invitation, and I would like to thank Michelle Taylor for her efforts (again) in organising the event, making sure it ran smoothly and ensuring that the choice on offer was wide and varied. If you like Shipstones, the President’s beer was for you. If you like smoky porters, that too was available, as was a choice of brews between the two. Rumour has it that cider was also available, but I must confess that such delights didn’t trouble my glass.

With the number of attendees pushing 100, it was wonderful to see so many members having a great time. As the beer flowed so did the conversation; old friendships were rekindled and new friendships formed. Finally, when time was called for the evening to come to a close, the spirited revellers disappeared into the night, no doubt with Franklin’s immortal words on their lips.

While I would hesitate to label the beer festival revelries as ‘ridiculous’, attending the Opening of the Legal Year could be described as ‘sublime’.

It was an early start to catch the train to London; I was requested to attend breakfast in the beautiful Main Hall of Gray’s Inn and was met by Richard Atkins QC who many of you will know is the Chair of the Bar at General Council of the Bar of England and Wales. Sitting at long tables, my attention was easily diverted away from the scrambled eggs (which left much to be desired), to the splendid array of gowns, wigs and gongs on show.

Post-breakfast we were whisked (if driving a coach through London can be described as such) to Westminster Abbey for a service attended by “the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Lord Chief Justice, the President and Justices of the Supreme Court, Heads of Division, and other Judges and Members of the Legal Profession”. It was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the upper echelons of the legal profession and, just in case any of you are in any doubt, I’m not counting my attendance in that category! The pomp was extraordinary.

Considering reactions recent events, the Lord Chancellor’s comment that “Judges must be able to act without fear or favour in considering…questions of law” was keenly heard, as was his further commitment to defend the judiciary’s independence.

The service was followed by a procession across the road to have lunch in Westminster Hall. To the many tourists and onlookers, I suspect that the stream of horse hair wigs, brocade and ermine was quite a sight to behold. I, for one, won’t forget it.

If I had any doubt, the events of the past month have brought it home to me that the role of President, and the opportunities it affords, can take you to events that are far from commonplace.

Best Wishes

                       Jason Waghorne