On 14 January 1644, one Thomas Herbert of the City of York gave:
‘to the Corporation of Marchantes … the somme of Thirtye poundes, to the End that there shall be a Sermon yearely before the Company att Michaellmas Courte’.
Three hundred and seventy years later, the Thomas Herbert sermon is still being preached as part of the annual Michaelmas Service held at the Merchant Adventurers Hall in York. This year’s sermon was given by the Bishop of Beverley, the Right Reverend Glyn Webster. And I was one of those present to hear it.
A 370-year-old tradition – consisting of formal processions of people clad in full regalia – is a hard act to follow. But that was my job. For after the Merchant Adventurers’ Michaelmas Service comes their Michaelmas Feast, and I was to provide the entertainment for said Feast. I did so by turning it into a Rhyme and Dine event.
Yes, inbetween the courses of the Feast I entertained the guests with amusing poems about the food we were about to eat.
So, how was this Rhyme and Dine received? Well, I’ll let the current Governor of the Merchant Adventurers, Alan Suggett, answer that:
‘It was a tour de force from you … we all enjoyed every syllable of your poems. They fitted the mood of the evening we were hoping to create, and … the diners were universally delighted with their unusual entertainment. (One only had to look at the faces around the room to see that they were joyfully attentive).’
Well that’s a relief to hear! There was quite a weight of tradition – and responsibility – on my shoulders that night!
Thank you to all the Merchant Adventurers, their spouses and their guests for being such an appreciative and welcoming audience. And to the caterers for working with and around me to enable to Rhyme and Dine to work.
I very much enjoyed creating the poems to fit in with the menu for this feast. Especially my Sticky Toffee Pudding poem!