Saturday, February 7, 2015

TRINITY: Pitt Society lunch, 2015

Here I am at Trinity College, Oxford for the William Pitt
Society Lunch today. The College's chapel is behind me.
Photo: Alice Tepper Marlin.
OXFORD, U.K., Feb. 7, 2015 - Today I attended with Alice the William Pitt Society lunch, honoring William Pitt "the Elder", 1st Earl of Chatham.

Pitt is one of three British Prime Ministers who studied at Trinity, the other two being Lords Wilmington (Spencer Compton, the second Prime Minister after Robert Walpole) and North. Pitt's portrait hangs over high table; Lord North's portrait is less prominently positioned.

Pitt is the visionary who assembled the British Empire. He is "remembered as the architect of the victories of the Seven Years War, in which  Canada and parts of India and Africa were conquered", says the Pitt Society program.

In the Trinity chapel, at an excellent
music recital (piano, choir, cellos) by
students. Photo: Alice Tepper Marlin.
In the 13 American colonies, Pitt's troops chased away the French and hostile Indians, under the leadership of Scotsman General Edward Braddock, George Washington's military mentor. Braddock died in the assault on Fort Duquesne, near what is now named (after Pitt) Pittsburgh. On his deathbed, Braddock gave then-Colonel Washington his battle sash. Washington wore it the rest of his life and some of his best-remembered portraits show him wearing it.

Alice and Paul Gunn. Photo by JT Marlin
Pitt the Elder made possible the independence of the 13 colonies. Lord North, Trinity's third Prime Minister, made it, shall we say,  inevitable.

The Pitt Society lunch was created in 2007 to thank, during their lifetimes, those Trinity alumni who have included a legacy to Trinity in their wills. Sir Ivor Roberts, President of Trinity, kindly noted that a letter I wrote launched the Pitt Society in 2006.

In the first year, the Society had 21 members. It now has more than 100.
Chris and John at the former Red Lion. Photo by Alice
Tepper Marlin.

Some of the alumni that Alice and I spoke with at the lunch were:
Ian Senior (1958)
Nigel Armstrong-Flemming (1958)
Mark Pellew (1961)
Arthur Thorning (1962)
Mike Baldwin (1963)
Paul Gunn (1963)
Roger Baresel (1966)
Postscript 1: I was curious why William Pitt the Younger, the 2nd Lord Chatham, was not Trinity's fourth Prime Minister. Not only did he attend a different college, he migrated all the way to Cambridge, where he took up residence at Pembroke College. The hike over the fens must have worn him out. Because he was so thin, he was called "the bottomless Pitt".

Postscript 2: That evening Paul Gunn joined Alice, Chris and me at what used to be called the Red Lion in Wolvercote, just outside Oxford. Paul lives in Stratford-upon-Avon. Back in 1962-64, Paul was on the same staircase as me at Trinity - Staircase 5 on the  front quad. (Staircase 6 is the one, I understand, where Bill Clinton attended a party at which he did not inhale.)

The late Bede Rundle, a philosophy Fellow, was also on the same staircase. I just heard that his wife has sadly also died.

The name of the Red Lion was changed - the establishment is under new management. I will some day finish this postscript 2 when I have found out the new name.

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