The Guild of Young Freemen was founded in 1976 by the City of London Corporation under the Lord Mayoralty of Sir Robin Gillett Bt, its first Patron. Originally founded as “The Society of Young Freemen of the City of London”, its main aim was to encourage the wider participation of young Freemen and Liverymen in the affairs and traditions of the City, and in doing so providing the Livery with an additional source of young professionals to supplement its regular intake of new members. It was established from the onset that the Guild would benefit from the patronage of successive Lord Mayors, and to this day, the Lord Mayor continues to hold the title of Patron upon his accession to the Mayoralty. It has become customary during the Lord Mayor’s Show in which the Guild takes part every year, to greet each new Lord Mayor to the tune of “Three cheers for our Patron the Lord Mayor” when crossing the Mansion House.
The Guild of Young Freemen is a voluntarily-run organisation which is completely independent of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London, a Company Limited by Guarantee founded in 1908.
Sir Robin Gillett, Bt
Born in London on Lord Mayor’s Day, as it then was, on 9 November 1925 in the Knightsbridge house which was to be his London home for most of his life, Sir Robin Gillett was the only child of Captain Sir Harold Gillett (1st Baronet), himself a Lord Mayor of London in 1958-59. Drawn to the sea as a boy by naval antecedents on his mother’s side, he was educated at Pangbourne Nautical College from 1939 to 1943, where he was chief cadet and captain of fencing, before embarking upon a very successful nautical career. After nautical college he went to sea as a cadet with Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd with which he served on North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Russian convoys. He remained with Canadian Pacific until after the war, obtaining his Master Mariner’s Certificate in 1951. In 1950 he joined the Royal Naval Reserve, serving for a year in 1953 in the Persian Gulf in the frigate HMS Flamingo. In 1957, he became the youngest Staff Commander of the Canadian Pacific flagship the Empress of Scotland, having been recruited while serving in the Empress of Britain.
With a young family at home and declining prospects for the liner trade, Sir Robin decided to leave the sea in 1960 and follow his father into the City. He joined the Lloyd’s insurance broking firm Bevington, Vaizey and Foster, becoming a Name in 1965, when he was also elected as a Common Councilman. Thereafter a great part of his time and energy was devoted to City duties: he became Alderman of the Ward of Bassishaw (as his father Sir Harold had been) in 1969, Sheriff in 1973, and one of HM Lieutenants for the City in 1975. On 29 September 1976 he was elected as Lord Mayor of London and on 12 November he entered the Mansion House. Unfortunately his father had died only eight days before he was elected. Of the 648 Lord Mayors that preceded him, only 6 had actually succeeded their fathers in a direct line and not one had succeeded in becoming Lord Mayor during his father’s lifetime. There followed a very hectic year at the Mansion House, the crowning event of which was of course the Silver Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
Despite the career change, maritime interests remained a constant theme of Sir Robin’s life. He was particularly proud to be an Elder Brother of Trinity House and chairman of the Maritime Volunteer Service, which he helped to establish in 1994 after the disbandment of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service. He was an Honorary Commander of the Royal Naval Reserve, a founder member of the Nautical Institute of the City of London; Vice-President of the Maritime Foundation, Vice-Chairman of the Port of London Authority; President of the National Waterways Transport Association, Master of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, Admiral of the City Livery Yacht Club, a trustee of the National Maritime Museum, and along-serving chairman of the governors of Pangbourne College.
Sir Robin was appointed GBE in 1976, and was Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod of the Order of the British Empire from 1985 to 2000.