Herding Sheep For Charity
Peter Holt is allowed to herd sheep across the London Bridge. He is also allowed, in the City of London, to “go about the city with a drawn sword, to be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest, and if convicted of a capital offense, to be hung with a silken rope.”
Peter, the managing director for floor machine manufacturer Truvox International,Ltd. (a subsidiary of Tacony Corp.) of Southampton, Hampshire, England, enjoys these “special privileges” as a Liveryman and Court Assistant of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners of the City of London. Peter was invited to join roughly 10 years ago.
This group is a “livery company” in the City of London, similar to a trade association. Livery companies are believed to have originated in England before the year 1066. The word livery refers to uniform clothing worn as means of identification. Other livery companies include the Fishmongers, the Haberdashers and the Spectaclemakers.
“It’s such a uniquely British thing,” says Peter. “Even for people who live in England, it’s difficult to understand.”
Membership in the Environmental Cleaners’ livery company includes men and women the cleaning industry. It was founded as the “Guild of Cleaners” in 1972, and was granted full livery status in 1986, as the City of London’s 97th livery company.
The attraction for Peter of being part of a livery company in this modern age of instant communication, mobile phones and total informality, is livery company membership is “very formal and very traditional.”
“It’s very different from just about everything else you do,” he says. “My favorite thing about being part of the livery is the people I am able to mix with. Nice, like-minded, gentlemanly, respectful people. Sort of old-fashioned in a very good way.”
Besides driving sheep across the London Bridge, Peter says that the Environmental Cleaners’ livery company supports a number of charities, including the Royal Army Medical Corps, promotes the interest of the cleaning industry, sets standards and provides scholarships to students.
“It is more about ideals and charity than about commercial interests,” says Peter. “In fact, it’s very non-commercial.”
As for the sheep drive, it is something that Peter was able to be involved in because of his livery membership. These sheep drives are not done with any regularity.
“The sheep drive was organized to raise money for charity,” he says. “You paid to walk your sheep, and it was a fun day. Over 600 participated in the sheep drives across the London Bridge. A significant amount of money — more than $100,000, I believe —was raised for charity.”
After the sheep made it across the bridge, they were taken away by truck. Within minutes the city was being cleaned with pressure washers.
“After that, you would have never known that there were sheep in the city,” says Peter.
Spoken like a true member of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners.