by M. Davies (College Porter)
Oriel clearly had a part in this story, as did my grandfather: Reverend Reginald Trevor Davies, now best known for being a college Don with various published historical works and twice voted into the role of University Senior Proctor. He was called Rex by his friends and family. Mary Davies was my witness to the alleged events that befell Miss Pickles on this fateful day…
Their weekend walk got interrupted by a ‘Bulldog’. (The name given to the now disbanded bowler hatted University Police. A type of special constable with a warrant card and the powers of arrest within four miles of a university building. Regarding students, they largely acted under the authority of ‘loco parentis’ and were controlled by the Proctors’ office.) Having been called in by Christchurch, the Bulldogs had quick-footed it through from St Aldates and onto the meadow. College staff then guided and directed them to a secluded area of high grass with low bushes which a bird watcher had kept under discrete distanced observation.
‘Young couple, sir, both in a state of partial undress and I understand found in a compromising situation, as was expected by Christchurch, no doubt. No townsfolk involved; no statements taken yet. Both are our students but obviously not of Christchurch’s,’ explained the Bulldog.
‘Yes, Christchurch would probably be keen to give outraged statements if given the opportunity. They likely knew they were not of ‘The House’s’ own before getting you involved. Do encourage colleagues to learn to cough loudly and run slower next time before anyone charges into any similar nesting grounds. We are still in Oxford, the city of those romantic dreaming spires. We all need less passion and more sense from the sound of it.’
After a brief discussion, they both seemed in agreement about what should be done. Soon, Mary found herself outside Oriel’s SCR with the two student lovers both visibly trembling with trepidation, and a much younger Bulldog still occasionally writing chronological update entries into his pocketbook.
‘Miss Pickles, do have a seat as I think you can sit this part out,’ Rex indicated before going into the main room to address Oriel’s hastily gathered group of seniors. Nothing could be heard of what he said until the door opened, and he beckoned the male student into the room with the summing up sentence of: “So it seems to me your young gentleman here has got himself into a right pretty little Pickle!”
With this, the room broke into spontaneous laughter. Indeed, they were still laughing as Rex closed the door leaving the shaking young man inside to await his fate.
‘He’ll be alright,’ he said, reassuring Miss Pickles ‘I am certain of it.’
Sure enough, the door soon opened and out walked the student looking suitably pensive but clearly relieved despite his verbal chastisement. They then proceeded to Miss Pickles’s college. Once again, Mary, Miss Pickles and the Bulldog waited outside while Rex spoke this time to the college’s Head of House. The closed door stopped them making out Rex’s unusually soft words, but they could all hear him being interrupted by a clearly audible female voice stating firmly, ‘She leaves this college today.’
After a short pause, Rex began again but was stopped this time by a loud slam, followed by the same but now unashamedly loudly raised voice as if instructing, insisting, and demanding, “She leaves this college today!”
Again, Rex’s calm tone could be heard. Suddenly there was a smash and the shattering of something like a teacup being thrown against a wall. ‘She leaves this college today!!’ the voice inside screamed after him as Rex retreated out into the safety of the corridor.
Miss Pickles was now face in hands crying. There was no disguising the fact all in the corridor had heard the pertinent judgement and the smashed china. Rex turned to re-enter the room only for the door to be banged swiftly closed in front of him. He hesitated before reaching for the door handle.
“No!” Miss Pickles implored, “Please, No. Thank you for trying sir, but I know she will not be moved.”
With that, Miss Pickles wiped the tears from her eyes and walked away, presumably to do her packing without even being seen or spoken to in person by any of her own college Principals.