On 24 August, I attended a charming little ceremony at Watermen’s Hall to witness the draw for stations for the 2021 Doggett’s Coat and Badge. The 2021 contest will be the 307th annual race from London Bridge to Chelsea for up to six men or women who have recently finished their apprenticeship to be allowed to carry goods and people on the River Thames. The 2020 race was delayed because of the pandemic and was held on 25 June 2021.
The “Bachelor’s Bowl” (actually a large silver cup) originated because, historically, apprentices signed indentures agreeing that:
..…the said Apprentice his said Master faithfully shall serve……, his Secrets keep, his lawful Commandments every where gladly do; He shall do no damage to his said master nor see it done by others……. He shall not waste the goods of his Master, nor lend them unlawfully to any; He shall not commit Fornication nor contract Matrimony within the said Term; He shall not play at Cards, Dice, Tables, nor any unlawful games…. He shall not haunt Taverns nor Play-Houses, nor absent himself from his Master’s Service Day nor Night….
Thus, the drinking of beer from the Bachelor’s Bowl was the first alcohol that the newly made Waterman should have tasted (presumably they made their own arrangements for their introduction to fornication and the rest).
A well-made 2019 documentary on the race is on YouTube.