Blue smoke billowed in the gusting wind on the other side of the high wall, carrying
the faint tang of charred sausages. The small door in the wall opened a crack and
five buglers immediately responded by sounding The Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers
Regimental Call and Fall In.
As the door opened fully, four ranks of The Cinque Ports R.V. Corps of Drums, playing
Galanthia, marched through in single file. After cutting through the pall of smoke
from the barbeque and negotiating an awkwardly placed step, we formed up on the lawn
of Girdlers’ Hall behind the Drum Major.
Before us stood the Chairman, Mr Robert Young (former Drum Major, 1 Scots Guards),
members and guests of The City of London Beadles Guild - we were the surprise entertainment
at their Jubilee Party.
The office of Beadle is an ancient one. The word comes from the Latin ‘bidellus’
or ‘bedellus’ and in Old English ‘bydel’ was the title of the officer who summoned
householders to council. Later, Beadles were parish constables like the famous fictional
Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist who oversaw the parish workhouse and orphanage.
In modern London there are three types of Beadle: the staff in nineteenth century
uniforms on duty in Burlington Arcade are called Beadeles; Ward Beadles are functionaries
in the local government of the City of London and accompany their Aldermen in a ceremonial
role; and Livery Company Beadles are employees of the Livery Companies of the City,
acting as Masters of Ceremony at formal banquets and accompanying the Master or Prime
Warden on civic occasions.
It was members of the Guild of this last category of Beadle that formed our audience
on the lawn of Girdlers’ Hall.
After we’d halted, our flute players got the chance to show they’d remembered the
‘bugles up’ sequence for the beginning of the Westminster Fanfare, a subject of some
discussion while we were getting ready.
That safely negotiated, the rest of our ‘No. 1 Standard Routine’ – The King of the
Fairies, Euterpe, A 1914-18 Medley, The Londoner Medley and The Jigs passed off uneventfully.
It was a nice change to play the set static rather than with our usual bomb-bursts,
snakes and circles; and nice too to be so close to an enthusiastic audience.
A Diamond Jubilee celebration couldn’t not include The National Anthem, so we played
this accompanied by some lusty singing from the massed Beadles. The Drum Major then
asked permission to march us off and we exited playing Sussex By The Sea.
The refreshments, kindly provided by The City of London Beadles Guild, made a much
appreciated end to our evening.
We’ve subsequently had several enquiries from Bill Oddie and other ‘twitchers’ about
the strange bird whose piercing cries sounded so like David Lear’s piccolo part.
We can’t shed any light on its origins but Jake has booked out the Mess Webley just
in case it appears again…