My Life with The

WHITBREAD SHIRES

by John Sparks

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  LORDS MAYORS SHOW

The Last Lord Mayors Show from Garrett Street

  Saturday 10th November 1990

  John Lawless

When the Lord Mayor rides in the Lord Moyor's coach on the Saturday as the centre attaction as the new Lord Mayor of London in the Lord Mayor's Show it will be a unique occasion for him.

It will be the only time in his life that he rides in the coach in the glittering show that attacts tens of thousand's of people to the City each November.

But for his coachman, John Lawless, it is a different story. On Saturday 10th November 1990 he guided the nearly four ton coach through the City's streets for the 20th time making him the recognised expert on practically anything connected with the 233-year-old carriage.

And for the whole of this week-although he is officially the shire horse manager for the Whitbread brewery - he will have spent most of his time planning and rehearsing for the procession for the City Corporation.

To begin with, the coach had to be moved in a complicated operation from its normal position above a "bed" of water in the Museum of London early on the Sunday morning when it was then driven the half mile or so to the brewery's coach-house in Chiswell Street.

Passers by,as usual, were stunned to see the gleaming coach rumbling unexpectedly throughthe quite streets. Sometimes of a coup for tourists with cameras at the ready.

It was in 1955 that Whitbread first took over responsibility for providing the horses and man-power for the coach. Other City companies that had used horses had disappeared and Whitbread company agreed to put their shires at the service of the Lord Mayor.

And they have been doing it ever since. This year (1990 ) the brewery will be providing eight shires ( six for the Lord Mayor's coach and two for a livery float ) and twenty men, including John Lawless.

John Lawless started with Whitbead at the age of 17 and first acted as coachman in 1971 when his boss took ill. He said, it is one of the best parts of my job. I love being part of the pomp and the pageantry of the City I love seeing people happy when the coach passes by and they relise it is real."

Work on planning the show starts four or five weeks after the last one finishes. He will be thinking about the next years show over his Christmas lunch

He has to decide months ahead which 6 of the 16 horses in the stable will draw the coach and the man-power needed to support them..

And the coach under his management, has to be maintained by one of the Queen's coachbuilders, along with the state harness which was a gift to the City in 1833.

    REHEARSAL

"There is a dress rehearsal on the Wednesday morning before the show with the Lord Mayor", but we have other rehearsals as well. On the Monday and Tuesday, for instance, we take out the six horses and one of the brewer's dray to check the route and to see how things have changed since the previous year.

"We will repeat the rehearsal again on the Thursday and Friday morning to guarantee that we get things absolutely right. It is all to bring our minds to what is going on on the day itself. It is such a big occasion for everyone that we have to be sure we get it right".

On the day itself all the men will have a late start, compared with the rest of the week. On the Saturday they will report to the Garret Street stables between 5 and 5.30 am. For the rest of the week they have been starting at 4am and a 3am start on the Wednesday.

    SHAMPOOED

After a 7 o'clock breakfast John Lawless will check the final details before at 9am getting into his coachman's outfit an operation that takes the best part of half an hour.

The six horses - Royal and Sovereign, the leaders ; Pikeman and Musketeer, the centres; and Jupiter and Saturn, the wheelers - would have been shampooed on the Friday after the rehearsal ready for their final grooming on Saturday morning before taken to the Brewery in Chiswell Street to be harnessed and ready to leave with the coach at 10am

 

RAY & JOHN

Ray Charleswoth and John Lawless