Founder’s Day 2016Photographs and video of the ceremony and reception by keithemmittphotographer.co.uk and Foundation Governor, Jenny Moseley.
KEVIN EVERETT, TREASURER OF SIR JOHN CASS’S FOUNDATION INTRODUCES THE
RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORD MAYOR, ALDERMAN THE LORD MOUNTEVANS TO COMMEMORATE THE 355TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE FOUNDER,
SIR JOHN CASS KT.
The Ceremony of Founder’s Day
Founder’s day takes place on or near February 20th, the date of Sir John Cass’s birth in 1661 and the occasion will be, as it has been in virtually every year after the formal establishment of Sir John Cass’s Foundation in 1748. The very first procession took place in 1749, when the children of the school walked through the streets of St. Botolph’s parish, ending up in the church, where a special sermon was preached… and where two pews next to the pulpit were kept for the trustees to sit by themselves and that no other person be admitted therein.
The Founder’s Day 2016 Gallery 1
(Click on the images for a larger view)
It’s almost the same today; procession, sermon and trustees, sitting by themselves in the reserved pews, but other guests are now invited in – in fact the church is always full and it’s quite a spectacle. The traffic and the pedestrians are brought to a halt by the City of London Police to make way for the procession to cross the streets into the Church of St Botolph-without-Aldgate. There are many puzzled faces in the crowds that gather. What’s going on? “ Is it the Queen”, they ask?
But it isn’t Her Majesty, it is the children of Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School & Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School, together with the very young children of the Sir John Cass Child and Family Centre. Some dressed in historic clothes of the day, they cross the main road in crocodile fashion and proceed to the church to attend a service to honour the memory of the Founder. The children, their teachers, and other guests, all sport on their chests, the Cass symbol of a long bright red feather, and they present a cheerful if perplexing sight as they cross Aldgate to St Botolph’s.
Also processing in memory of Sir John Cass, who was himself Sheriff of the City of London, from the Cass offices in Jewry Street, are the Treasurer and the Clerk, the civic and Church representatives, the Lord Mayor and Sheriff and aldermanic representatives for the Portsoken Ward.
The Founder’s Day 2016 Gallery 2
The Foundation Beadle carries the impressive silver Mace of the Foundation topped with the model of the Lantern Tower of the mediaeval St. Botolph’s church. To add even more to the spectacle, the volunteer militia of the London Ward of Portsoken (originally formed in 1798 to ward off a Napoleonic invasion) in their colourful eighteenth century army uniforms, their muskets at the ready, march to the church to the beat of a military drum.
Once all are safely inside, the Treasurer of the Foundation declares the archaic styles and titles of the Founder:
” Give thanks to God for Sir John Cass, Knight, born and baptised in this parish of St. Botolph and Ward of Portsoken, he founded his school in 1710. He was sometimes Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, Master of the Worshipful Company of Skinners. Alderman of this Ward of Portsoken, Sheriff of London and Member of Parliament for the City. Born, February 20th 1661, he died in his 58th year on the 5th day of July, 1718, in the act of signing his Will by which his Foundation is still endowed. Give thanks to God for Sir John Cass. “
Then the proceedings begin in earnest.
Performances are given by the children, playing instruments and singing, and the sermon is given, catering to the diverse intake of both Cass schools including pupils from a number of different religions, hymns are sung all relayed to the children in the upper gallery of the Church on large screens – everyone wants to see what’s happening. Much has been practiced, the children are word and tune perfect, teachers are smiling proudly and the babies of the Sir John Cass Child and Family Centre sit in front and wriggle and giggle in the arms of their carers – they have absolutely no idea what they are witnessing.
It’s all in memory of Sir John Cass, whose philanthropic wishes are still carried out today by the Officers and Governors of the Foundation.
But why those red feathers? There are a lot of stories about this, but this is the one we like. It has to do with the death of Sir John Cass in the middle of the night at his home in Hackney on 5th July 1718. At the time of his death, Sir John had just dictated a new will but he died before completing the signing. According to some accounts, he died of a haemorrhage of the lungs while holding a bloodstained quill, so the red feathers worn on Founder’s Day each year commemorate this somewhat macabre event and contribute much to the ceremony’s distinctive character.
After the proceedings are over, participants again stop traffic as they leave the Church and process to Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School for a reception where the children entertain once more. Speeches are given and the Lord Mayor and the Treasurer of the Foundation drink a toast of wine alternately from the large, silver gilt loving cup. The Treasurer drinks first: In pious memory of the Founder, John Cass, and the Lord Mayor reciprocates the toast. The guests (who don’t get to drink from the loving cup) respond to the toast with the simple words, John Cass, and thus he is remembered for another year.