Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.
I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.
Thinking of visiting Oxford?
Allow me to be your guide... and discover the history of Oxford with an Oxford historian.
I offer a wide range of guided walks around the city and university. These can be a general introduction to the history and architecture or looking at specific themes and subjects.
I am a Catholic and a historian based in Oxford, where I am a member of Oriel College. My research, for a long delayed D.Phil., is a study of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln in the second decade of the fifteenth century. I also work as a freelance tutor in History and as an independent tour guide.
I was received into the Church in 2005 and am a Brother of the External Oratory of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.
Last Saturday was Matriculation here in Oxford, when new students were presented to the University by their colleges and halls to be added to the roll - the matricula - of students.
As this is a University ceremony those participating are required to dress in academic dress - the gown appropriate to their status, mortar board or ladies' cap and to wear sub-fusc, that is for men a version of clerical dress as formalised in the nineteenth century ( members of the University have still, in that respect, Benefit of Clergy ) and the female equivalent designed when women were admitted.
Last year whilst watching the new students going off to the Sheldonian I was startled to see some men wearing with their dark suits and white shirts a black bow tie rather than the traditional white one.
This did not accord with my idea of tradition ( no surprise there ) and as I recall it wearing a black bow tie ( rather than the usual black ribbon tie ) was the preserve of a certain type of lesbian who ends up as a college chaplain.
The black bow tie with sub-fusc on a man looks bad, very bad. He looks as if he is wandering back after an all night black tie event ( there is nothing wrong in that of course, if that is what you have been doing ) and not as someone standing on a venerable and clear tradition.
I suspect those men, and they are a small minority, are overseas graduates to whom the customs of Oxford have not been explained in advance and who don't know better or bother to find out.
Interestingly I have not seen black bow ties on examination candidates and I have not seen them being worn at graduation ceremonies.