When people reach a certain age in every generation, we are liable to hear the words - 'things were much better in my day', and we know there is a certain amount of looking back through rose-tinted glasses and selective memory involved. However for those of us who were working on the LME in the fifties, sixties and seventies I really do think 'things were better in our day' when it comes to remembering the 24th December on the LME and in the City.
There was a carnival atmosphere and festive spirit about the streets and in the offices and pubs. Management turned a blind eye to staff slipping out for a quick one. Packages of unusual food and drinks from agents and business friends in far away places were opened in trading rooms, and there was a merry banter with clients on the phone and down the wires. Christmas boxes in the form of cash were handed out to staff at the beginning of the day.
The powers on the LME Board and Committee entered into the spirit of things by decreeing that not only would there be no afternoon market but the morning kerb would end early and sharply at 1.15. The reason for this was so that the Christmas Draw and Pantomime on the LME could be performed before lunch.
Draw and Pantomime
All ring dealers and many non ring member firms donated prizes for the draw. There were 28 ring dealers in those days, and the donations were usually in the form of bottles, although the first prize was always a large turkey given by Charles Davis. Not something to be left on the train going home! With tax at up to 83% it was good to win something even if you were a senior employee, and even more so if you were a clerk on about £750 p.a. It was de rigeur to buy tickets for everyone from office boys to senior partners. Due to the large number of prizes donated and limited number of tickets sold there was quite good chance of winning.
After the draw the Pantomime commenced on the floor of the Exchange. The cast would include both junior clerks and senior directors and partners. It was fair game to take the mickey out of the Board and Committee, or satirise some major market event in the past year. Much laughter was had by all. Props were borrowed from the traders in the Leadenhall Market next door. You might see a butcher's delivery bike being ridden round the ring by someone in a white coat, or a tug of war between two halves of the ring. One year there was a ballet with various senior members dressed in tights.
The scripts were witty. One I enjoy recalling was a spoof on the TV Programme ‘Mastermind’. In the real show the contestants are instructed to say the word 'pass' if they cannot answer a question. In the LME script the correct answer to every question was the word 'pass', with the final question being what is the second part of the name of a Hull metal refinery whose first name is Capper.
Goodness knows what today's regulators would have made of it all, but the fact was that each firm would have made sure some of their staff would have delayed celebrating until all business had been confirmed, contracts and difference accounts typed up and posted.
A Final Port...
With no afternoon market, there was time for leisurely but noisy lunches at popular hostelries such as the George and Vulture or Simpsons off Cornhill. Then a final port in the Jamaica and a rush round the Leadenhall Market to buy last minute presents.
At that stage we would have put well out of our minds that the next major event in the office for many would be the calculation of the suspense account at the year end on 31st December. Now here I would agree that things in my day were NOT much better. In those days all forward open positions for both clients and counterparties on the LME were calculated manually from hand written ledgers. Today just a press on the keyboard of a computer achieves the same goal.
Fun memories, though tinged with sadness at the thought that this year we have lost Malcolm Culley, Ronnie Gee, Chris Green, Francis Holford, Michael Morrice, Sam Quick, Brian Reidy, Nigel Stern, Colin Williams and Ted Arnold, all of whom would have regularly participated in these festivities.
And so, My Lord, with such memories may I wish you and the wider Copper family a very Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.
This article was written by John Wolff.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish all readers a very Happy Christmas and to thank them for taking the time to read this column during the year.