Monday, November 18, 2013

Oxford's 'The Eagle and Child' - aka 'The Bird and Babe',
a popular student pub
Having a University degree from one of the world's most famous places of learning is not an encumbrance when feeling silly.

Shelley the poet while studying at Christ Church is a good example of student mischief. One of his juvenile pranks was to connect door knobs to a generator to give people shocks. Another more serious prank was swopping babies into different prams if they were left out on the street while the mother was shopping on the High.

During my time in Oxford it was not uncommon to hear complaints from restaurant owners about the ignorant behaviour of many a so-called well-bred youth. Out for an evening on the town, bread throwing was considered fun and woe betide diners who were in the line of fire.

In one of the colleges there was a warning notice, “Gentlemen coming from homes where bread throwing at the dinner table is habitual, and finding a difficulty in conforming suddenly to the unfamiliar ways of higher civilization, will be permitted to continue their domestic past time, on the payment of 5/- a throw.”

A short while before he retired Dr. Heaton was horrified one afternoon when the ladies of the Mothers Union exited the Cathedral following a service. Making their way through the archway beside my office, three drunken students with their legs tied together as if in a three legged race approached the ladies, shouting uproariously.  The Dean was right there and rushed them, his black cloak billowing out behind him, mortar board askew and shouting above the voices of the students “For the good name of the college...GO.” Coming into my office moments later he was outraged that the ladies of the Mother's Union should see such behaviour. Did he see my covert smile. I think not.

Even Dons were not averse to a bit of fun. In the 1890s when bicycles became a popular means of getting about in Oxford, one of the more mature tutors enjoyed nothing more than careening down Boars Hill with his feet on his bicycle's handlebars. It seems that he found the view of Oxford from this vantage point particularly appealing.

As for heavy drinking Oxford colleges have had their fair share of imbibers. Wine is consumed copiously, and sipping sherry before dinner – and lunch – is a tradition. Many of the colleges have excellent cellars and they are big spenders when stocking up on booze.

Dutch Admiral Cornelis Tromp was an imbiber to trump all imbibers. When entertained by the Dons in Oxford in 1675 he was so drunk by the end of the evening that he was loaded onto a wheelbarrow and carried back to his lodgings like a barrow of cabbages at Covent Gardens.
More to follow tomorrow...
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday 18th November, 2013


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home