Monday, May 30, 2016

R.I.P.: Jan. 25–Paul Nevill, O.S.B. (Updated June 22, 2016)

Dom Paul Nevill, OSB. Portrait by
James Gunn, R.A.
This day in 1954 died Dom Valentine Paul Nevill, Headmaster of Ampleforth College in Yorkshire for 30 years

He was and is widely viewed as one of Britain's great 20th-century headmasters.

I was at that time a student at Ampleforth and the news was reported to us as if a giant revered ancient oak had fallen. 

Nevill went up to St. Benet's Hall, Oxford as Brother Paul in 1902 and graduated with a B.A. in History. He was a parish priest in the Village of Ampleforth for a decade, 1914-24. From then until his death he was in a leadership position at the school.

My brother Randal Marlin was at Ampleforth a year longer than me, and was older and remembers more. He says:

I remember Father Paul very well. I was studying science and he had a special class for science students in which he taught them history. 
He and my Housemaster (St Thomas’s), Father Denis, were very close. Father Paul was very keen on the political reformer William Cobbett and his book Rural Rides. He saw that America was the new power and he wanted to make sure I, as an American, knew the kinds of issues that were ingrained in the British psyche. He explained the Monroe doctrine, without imposing on us any judgement about the absurdity of it. 
Through his historical expositions I got the idea that he favoured beer over tea and coffee. He believed in big plans. Cobbett apparently championed America because there were "no Wilberforces" there. 
Father Paul could be quite terrifying. I remember that one of the Irish boys had played the prank of turning on all the water taps just before our bus left, causing flooding. Father Paul got to the bus before it left and found out who the culprit was and gave him a thorough dressing down. I could be wrong, but I think the idea was that the bus would be going nowhere until the perpetrator 'fessed up.
Father Paul must have been a good teacher for me to remember as much as I do.
It is said that at a Headmasters’ conference he was the last speaker. Others had been saying in so many ways that at their school they prepared boys for life, for good citizenry, etc. The legend is that Father Paul said: "At Ampleforth, on the contrary, our mission is to prepare boys for death, to live a good Christian life in preparation for the final day of judgement."
I should note that not all Ampleforth alumni view Dom Paul Nevill as the very model of a modern headmaster. Someone has written to me to argue that his views were  "reactionary". Certainly they were, by today's standards, and even by the standards of post-WW2 Britain. But he was a good exemplar of the kind of person who gave spine to the British Empire in its heyday.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

OXFORD BEER: Brewer Walton of Shotover Hill

Brewer Walton
Keeps the malt on.
His Trinity brand
Is ever so grand.
(Clerihew by JT Marlin.)
I have previously recorded a visit in New York City from Paul Walton, a branding expert who contacted me after reading my article on the coats of arms of the Oxford Colleges in the Michaelmas issue of Oxford Today.

Arms as Brands

We both see coats of arms as one of the earliest forms of branding.

It was important in battle to know who was trying to kill you, and who you were supposed to kill. Imagine a sports field where everyone wore the same color shirt...

(Hey, wait, Yoko Ono already Imagined this; her message was that chess matches would be very peaceful if all the chess pieces had the same color and the chess board squares were undifferentiated. No thrill of battle, but the compensating joy of peace.)

Brewer Walton

Earlier this month I was in Oxford and visited with Paul at the Coffee House at the Broad Street end of the Turl (its formal name is the Turl Street Kitchen).

We talked inter alia about his craft-beer enterprise, Shotover Brewery. He says the Trinity brand of his beer (one of the Brewery's four brands) is doing well and he thinks its success reflects both its good name and good taste:
  • Trinity is certainly a good name – why else would the Great Gatsby have chosen it as the name of the college at Oxford that he claimed to have attended, when he had the pick of the litter?
  • On the taste front, the brewery recently won an award as the best beer in Oxfordshire. 

Shotover Brewery gets its name from Shotover Hill, which is located in Headington (leave Oxford by  Magdalen Bridge and take the Old Road) on the other side of the Ring Road.

But how did Shotover Hill get its name? A couple of sources say that Oliver Cromwell shot his musket over Shotover Hill when he was engaged in the Siege of Oxford. If you remember, Cromwell and his New Model Army eventually overwhelmed Charles I and a few years later beheaded the hapless king, the only sitting English king ever executed (after Charles, the "divine right of kings" dogma was peddled less aggressively).

But Paul says that Shotover Hill is a lot older than Cromwell's musket:
It was an arrow that shot over the hill. Shotover was an ancient royal hunting forest. Another good contender for the origin is from the French Chateau Vert.
Just to confuse us all further, I consulted Widow Wikipedia, Grandma Google's sister, and she agrees with Brewer Walton that Shotover is older than Cromwell–so old that in her opinion the "Shotover" is derived from the Old English scoet ofer, meaning "steep slope".

Take your pick.

Friday, May 13, 2016

COLLEGE ARMS: Oxford Shop (Updated Sept. 24, 2016)

These framed Oxford college shields include Merton's new one. The Merton and Green
Templeton enamels look metallic golden, which is good... but they differ from the yellow
enamels in the All Souls, St Antony's, SEH, Trinity, Wolfson and other shields, which is bad.
Following up on my article on the Oxford Colleges' coats of arms in the Michaelmas 2015 issue of Oxford Today and and a brief previous note on the Oxford University Shop, last week I paid another visit to the Oxford Shop at 106 High Street.

This time I had a kind introduction by Christine Fairchild and Chris Evans of Oxford Limited, which is charged with licensing the trademarked Oxford logo. This official logo used to be only the new belted shield as in the middle of the photo above. Now Oxford Limited has also licensed an older shield.

As the Walt Disney Company has found in earning its $52 billion/year revenue, mostly from its world-wide licensing programs, the job of a licensing agent goes beyond writing contracts with wannabe licensees. They must:
  • ferret out knock-off producers who copy the licensed product without permission or fee, and  
  • ensure that wherever the licensed product is on sale it is a quality item produced sustainably in socially accountable workplaces.
The Oxford college coats of arms, which is my focus, are in an interesting situation. The Oxford Shop sells college-branded products but it does not license them, nor do the colleges themselves. The arms of each college are the responsibility of the college's governing board. The colleges' boat race identifiers–the blades, Boat Club blazers, ties–present an even more interesting situation, since they predate many of the colleges, and in the case of St Catz the Boat Club provided the name of the college instead of the other way round.

Unlike Oxford University itself, none of the colleges—according to several knowledgable people to whom I have posed the question—has trademarked its arms. This surprised me, especially in the case of the business college Green Templeton!

In the Oxford Shop Tracey gave me a thorough tour of Oxford University's college arms offerings, and I was given special permission based on my introduction to photograph various items featuring the college coats of arms for the purpose of illustrating my analysis of the arms. (More to come.)

Other Posts on the Arms of Oxford Colleges and PPHs: Original Article in Oxford Today . Heraldry as Branding . Heraldry as Fun .  Coat of Arms vs. Crest . Sinister Questions . Visit to the College of Arms . Windsor Herald Talks to New Yorkers . Shaming of Harvard Law Shield :: Rapid Expansion of Oxford's Colleges and Halls . Oxford Stars . HERALDRY SUPERLINK . Harris Manchester College . Linacre College . St Catherine's . St Cross College . St Edmund Hall . Trinity College :: Regent's Park College . St Benet's Hall

Other Related Posts: Douglas Arms in France

Monday, May 9, 2016

SUMMER EIGHTS: May 20-28, 2016 (Updated Oct 19, 2016)

Head of the River Pub (next to the Folly Bridge) – a good
place to observe the rowing scene. All photos by JT Marlin.
The 2016 Summer Eights begin with trials starting May 20 and are followed by the Head of the River races, May 25-28. 

They bring out some 170 boats and 1,500 participants. 

At one time, the Summer Eights races took six full days.

The boats compete to be in first place, i.e., Head of the River. 
Brigid Marlin, artist, at Folly Bridge. She is the
 sister of two Oxonians (Randal and me), mother
 of a third (Chris), aunt of two others (Christine
and Kate). Photo by JT Marlin.

They compete in single file because the Thames–a.k.a. the Isis in the Oxford segment above Iffley Lock, can't accommodate very many boats abreast.

A boat advances one place in the long line by "bumping" the boat ahead. Colleges have "bump" suppers after the event to celebrate their advancement(s).

The event, sponsored by Neptune Investment Management, has its own website.

History of Summer VIIIs

Is your Oxford college blade
On this clever clock arrayed?
Is one of them your very own,
Of 36 blades that here are shown?

Recreational rowing at Oxford was under way in 1769. Students then used single wherries, which were designed for choppy seas and have keels and higher sides than than today's flat-bottomed single sculls. 

For Isis use, the gunnels were lowered and then the keel was eliminated. A history of competitive-rowing boat design is here.

The first boat-racing clubs at Oxford were organized in 1815, when Brasenose and Jesus Colleges competed for Head of the River in eights, giving the event its name. 

Exeter claims to have been the fourth entrant and that seems to fit with the available historical record.
Guide to markings of Oxford college oars.

The eights of course actually have nine on board. The cox is the one in the back who steers and shouts the rowing rhythm. 

Since the cox is baggage, he (or she)  is preferably smaller than the others in the boat.

The cox needs good timing, a big voice, sharp eyes and cough drops.

Christ Church added itself as a competitor in 1817. Seven years on, when Exeter went Head of the River, the crews agreed not to bring in rowers from other colleges. This generated five new college boats – the fifth boat being Worcester in 1824 or 1825, Balliol and Univ (6th and 7th) in 1827, and Oriel and Trinity (8th and 9th) in 1828.

Location of the Boathouses

A visiting Cantabridgian has written a frank tour guide of the Oxford boathouses and he is mostly impressed.

A map of the locations of the boathouses is provided below. The links to the boat clubs don't work because this is a screen shot, but I have included after the screen shot some links that work. The Folly Bridge notations show Salter's and the Head of the River Public House, but are missing the new Folly Bridge restaurant and the attached boathouse that provides boats to visitors.

University and College Boat Club Websites 

Oxford University Boat Club . Oxford University Women's Boat Club
Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club
Oxford University Women's Lightweight Rowing Club

Christ Church
Corpus Christi
Green Templeton

Lady Margaret Hall
Osler House (Med students)
Regent's Park
St Anne's
St Antony's
St Benet's
St Catherine's
St Edmund Hall
St Hilda's
St Hugh's
St John's
St Peter's

Other Rowing Posts: Rowing Blazers . 2012 NYC Boat Race Dinner . Punting . Head of Charles . 2017 Summer Eights

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

BIRTH: May 1–Joseph Heller (St Catz)

Joseph Heller (1923-1999) of St Catz, Oxford
This day was born in 1923 Joseph Heller, in Brooklyn, NY. The title of his best-known work, Catch-22 (1961), described a Kafkaesque vicious circle in which the choices offered are absurd.

Catch-22 is about an American World War II bombardier named John Yossarian, who tries to get out of the Army but finds out slowly that his options are all bad.

Heller himself enlisted in the U.S. Army at 19 and was sent to Italy as a bombardier during World II, where he flew more than 60 missions. He kept a detailed diary, in which he wrote that war was "fun in the beginning" because you feel "something glorious about it," but  endured several harrowing episodes that he used in Catch-22.

After his discharge, he became a lifelong activist against war. He attended Columbia and Oxford (St Catz) on the GI Bill. He worked as a copywriter at Time and wrote short stories that appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, and Cosmopolitan.

He said that the opening lines of his novel just came into his head one day:
It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, [Yossarian] fell madly in love with him. 
The book was originally titled Catch-18, but Heller's editor, Robert Gottlieb, discovered that Leon Uris also had a war book coming out the same month as Heller's, entitled Mila 18. Gottlieb and Heller brainstormed which numbers sounded funnier: 11 or 14. They settled on 22.

The book initially received mixed reviews. As the virtues of the book became established, it eventually sold 10 million copies. It is now widely considered a classic of post-war literature.  "Yossarian Lives" bumper stickers appeared on cars and students against the draft wore Army field jackets with John Yossarian name tags. Catch-22 was made into a film (1970) by Mike Nichols and starred Jon Voigt, Orson Welles, and Alan Arkin. Heller also worked as an uncredited scriptwriter for the James Bond film Casino Royale (1967).

Heller took 13 years to write his second novel, Something Happened (1974), which one critic summarized as, "Nothing happens."

When an acquaintance told him in his later writing he had never matched the greatness of Catch-22, he immortally answered:
Who has?
Heller died in 1999. In anticipation of this event, he said once:
Everyone else seems to get through it all right, so it couldn't be too difficult for me.

I met Heller  couple of times before he died in 1999. He was a centered person who seemed at peace with himself. Not someone you think of as a 50-mission bomber.

In Catch 22 he went beyond the older Hobson's Choice in which the seeming choice turns out to be nonexistent, and painted a picture of a choice that was horrible sentence. It's a world that moves from Kant to Kafka:

  • A Hobson's Choice is relatively benign. In one version the stabler offers you a choice of any horse in the stable, when there is only one left–one that everyone else has rejected. The choice is named after a Cambridge (naturally), England innkeeper. In another version of the Hobson's Choice story, the guest is instructed to take the horse "nearest the door".
  • In Catch-22 the choice that one would most like is impossible to get. The possible outcomes are all bad. Relative to a Hobson's Choice, think of a situation where one pays in advance for a choice of horse, but instead of finding a horse, at the stable one is kidnapped or robbed.

Catch-22 is a Kafkaesque world where things don't make sense. Hobson's Choice is a simpler problem – we have no choice, if we know what's good for us. In that way, Kant's attempt to derive a  moral imperative from logical premises instead of divine revelation was an attempt to give the human race two avenues to the same horse, i.e., God.