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Issue 19 • Autumn 2014

Wren Digitisation Spying on Your Friends Magpie & Stump Dylan Thomas & I Tennyson at Trinity Trinity University Challenge



Contents Issue 19 | Autumn 2014

3 Wren Digitisation


Spying on Your Friends Our current issue presents a diverse collection of articles. Dan Larsen (e2013), continues the theme of the previous issue in discussing British code-breaking during and after the First World War. Harriet Cartledge (2011) presents the results of


A Little History of Magpie and Stump


her research in the archives of the Magpie & Stump debating


society. Andrew Sinclair (1955) gives an impressionistic


account of the highs and lows of filming Under Milk Wood with,

Dylan Thomas and I

among others, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.


Professor David McKitterick (e1986) reports on the digitisation

Tennyson at Trinity

of manuscripts in the Wren Library. Michael Plygawko (2012)


describes the Cambridge literary circle of which Tennyson was a notable member. In response to Trinity’s recent success in University Challenge, Claire Hall (2011) interviews the captains of the winning teams of 1995 and 2014. My best thanks go to all these contributors for their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences with fellow alumni.

Dr Neil Hopkinson (e1983) Fellow, Editor

University Challenge



The Fountain is published twice yearly by the Alumni Relations & Development Office. The views expressed in this Newsletter do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity College, Cambridge. Editor Dr Neil Hopkinson (e1983), Fellow Acknowledgments Trinity College would like to thank all those who have supported the production of this edition of The Fountain. Š Copyright Trinity College 2014


Wren Digitisation

By Professor David McKitterick FBA (e1986)

Below bottom left: Image of a scribe, the monk Eadwine, taken from the Canterbury or Eadwine Psalter. Dates from the 12th century. Below: 12th century medical manuscript.

For the last few months, supported by gifts from alumni, a small team in the Wren Library has been working on a project to digitise the College’s collection of medieval manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts are well known. The thirteenth-century Trinity Apocalypse has page after page of bright blue and fiery red illustrations. The twelfth-century Eadwine Psalter, made in Canterbury in the twelfth century, has long been of interest for historians of the French language. Most people know it thanks to the great portrait of the scribe after whom the manuscript is now named, while at the end is a contemporary plan of Canterbury Cathedral and its environs. In literature there are manuscripts of Chaucer and the only illustrated manuscript of Piers Plowman. A thirteenth-century manuscript given in the eighteenth century is familiar to historians of medicine thanks to its graphic pictures of surgical procedures. Other people would put at the head of their list the eleventh-century copy of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica, or the eleventh-century Gospels, one of the finest of all AngloSaxon manuscripts, given by Thomas Nevile. These are some of the famous books. Many others cry out for further and deeper study. The digitisation project aims to include everything. Besides these manuscripts, we have been taking the opportunity to include some other books, among them Milton’s autograph manuscript of his poems (including Comus and Lycidas), and Newton’s own copy of the first edition of his Principia (1687) annotated in preparation for the second edition.

For centuries, the College has welcomed readers to use manuscripts in the Wren. This, of course, continues: no scanned version can tell you everything about a manuscript. By making these scans free to the world we are continuing in the same tradition of sharing with everyone the treasures for which we are responsible. Volumes are scanned to a high resolution from cover to cover. Thanks to the quality of the scans, it is possible not just to read the texts, but also to enlarge to a scale that allows one to see all the details of the scribes and artists at work. The final digitised versions are being made available to anyone who wishes to see them, via the Library website. The biggest challenge is not in the scanning – a relatively straightforward process in itself. Rather more time is needed to check that each image is of a high quality; that the images are in the right order; and that each manuscript can be searched for what individual readers might want. Some years ago, and long before we thought of the present programme, the whole of M.R.James’s great catalogue of the western manuscripts was put online. Though now over a century old, it is still an excellent route into the collections, and it is being gradually updated as time allows. Now links are being made from James’s descriptions to the scans. So far, well over two hundred manuscripts have been added to the website. The reaction from people all over the world has been overwhelmingly encouraging, many readers comparing the Trinity website favourably with those of other libraries. This is a fast-moving technology in many ways, and so each library that ventures into such projects has an advantage over its predecessors, as libraries learn from each other.

That is a reminder that this is very much a collaborative project. While money from alumni makes this possible, the contribution of the College’s computing department, as well as others in the Wren who have specialist skills, mean that this is a partnership between College and alumni. By the end of this year we expect to have finished between 20 and 25 per cent of the collection. For the work to be completed, we will need the help of further generous alumni. Meanwhile we have an experienced and enthusiastic team whom we do not want to lose. If you would like to support the Wren Digitisation, please contact the Alumni Relations & Development Office on: 01223 761527. A list of digitised manuscripts can be found here: browse.php?show=virtual_listing Professor David McKitterick (e1986) is Librarian and currently Vice-Master of the College.


The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 19

Spying on Your Friends: Breaking American Codes in the First World War Recent revelations that the American National Security Agency (NSA), assisted by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have targeted Germany and other friendly countries – including, most memorably, the NSA’s intercepting Angela Merkel’s telephone calls – have caused widespread public interest and, in some quarters, consternation. Yet throughout modern history, countries have sought to intercept the communications not only of their adversaries but also of their friends. The most famous codebreaking organization in British history is that of GCHQ’s predecessor at Bletchley Park, whose breaking of German codes in the Second World War helped shorten the conflict and saved countless lives. But GCHQ’s history stretches back to the founding in 1914 of two codebreaking organizations: a naval group named Room 40, and a lesser known army organization called MI1(b). The British were a bit late to the game. Other countries – France, Russia, AustriaHungary, among others – already possessed longstanding diplomatic codebreaking units. Room 40 focused initially on breaking German naval codes, but eventually it expanded its efforts mainly to enemy diplomatic codes. Most famously, it successfully deciphered the Zimmermann Telegram a couple of months before the United States entered the war on the Allied side in early 1917. Germany had offered three U.S. states to Mexico in exchange for an alliance, and the exposure of the plot to a grateful American government caused a sensation in the American press. Whereas Room 40 concentrated largely on enemy codes, MI1(b) took on those of allied and neutral countries, including the United States. Initially,

By Daniel Larsen (e2013)

MI1(b) began the war working to break German army radio codes. In 1915, as the Western front bogged down to a stalemate, the German military rapidly replaced its radio communications with telegraph lines, which the British could not intercept. The codebreaking group suddenly found itself with little to do. They turned to trying to break neutral diplomatic codes, beginning with those of the United States. The Americans did little to make it difficult for them: the U.S. Department of State used the same codebook, unchanged, from 1910 to 1918. They made it even easier by arranging the codebook alphabetically. It took the inexperienced group some time, but by the end of 1915, MI1(b) succeeded in reconstructing it. The British then had unlimited access to virtually all American diplomatic telegrams that crossed the Atlantic. One might imagine that breaking these codes gave the British a significant advantage over their neutral American cousins – even, perhaps, the ability to help manipulate them into joining the war. In reality, at least between 1915 and 1917, the British probably would have been better off if MI1(b) had left the State Department’s codes entirely alone. The British government under Prime Minister H. H. Asquith was bitterly divided about the role of the United States in the Allied war effort. One faction saw the Americans largely as impotent and unwelcome interlopers. Their efforts at mediating a compromise peace were regarded as dangerous, their objections to aspects of the British blockade as damaging a vital tool in winning the war. The meddling Americans, they believed, mostly deserved only a brusque rebuff. But another faction had come to doubt whether the British could win the war without American support. They viewed

the Americans’ peace efforts as a potential way of extricating them from an unwinnable war, and they recognized and feared the United States’ considerable economic and financial power. As the British dug themselves deep into debt, American loans became paramount for the continuation of the war. The Allies, they believed, had to do what they could to keep the Americans content; otherwise, the war would go from quagmire to disaster. And so these diplomatic decrypts provided the British with ammunition for their own infighting, rather than helping improve their policy towards the United States. MI1(b) gave the War Office and, often, the Admiralty the ability to keep a close watch not only on the American Embassy but also on the Foreign Office. If telegraphed to Washington, every conversation between the Foreign Office and the American Embassy was immediately subject to military scrutiny. Also, because the still-neutral Americans maintained relations with Germany,


Below centre: GCHQ Headquarters, Cheltenham.

he had been reading his instructions from Washington. The ambassador wrongly assumed that the telegram had been leaked in Washington, not that the British were breaking his codes. Moreover, he was so pro-British that he magnanimously decided not to report the information to his superiors. Still, it was a close call. Though the Zimmermann Telegram episode helped to heal some of the damage, mutual suspicion tended to dominate: ‘England and France’, American President Woodrow Wilson wrote in July 1917, ‘have not the same views with regard to peace that we have by any means.’

decrypts of telegrams provided ample opportunity for misunderstanding. By the end of 1916, decrypt-fuelled paranoia led a number of leaders, including the new Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, erroneously to become convinced that the Americans were cooperating secretly with Germany behind Britain’s back.

Room 40 focused initially on breaking German naval codes, but eventually it expanded its efforts mainly to enemy diplomatic codes. Relations with the United States sometimes became a casualty of these intelligence-fuelled internal battles. Perhaps the most dangerous and irresponsible moment came in early 1917: Lloyd George actually confessed to the American Ambassador that

The entry of the United States into the war on the Allied side did nothing to halt the breaking of American codes. MI1(b) made steady progress with the diplomatic codes of other countries as well, beginning with the codes of other neutrals but proceeding eventually to allies. By 1918, MI1(b) had reconstructed diplomatic codebooks from all Britain’s most important allies (though none from within the British Empire) and those of a whole host of neutral nations. Did the United States ever return the favour and target British codes? Probably not. The Americans only joined the codebreaking game after they entered the war in 1917, and they had a lot of catching up to do. Very possibly efforts were made in the 1920s, but the American Black Chamber, as it was called, had a number of more pressing targets and exceptionally limited resources. It was shut down in 1929 by the new Secretary of State Henry Stimson, with the admonition that “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail”. After the war, Room 40 and MI1(b) merged, forming the Government Code and Cipher School (GC&CS). Postwar cuts left the organization with relatively

meagre resources, but diplomatic codebreaking of friends and adversaries alike went on without interruption throughout the interwar period and into the Second World War. A transformational Anglo-American moment arrived in 1942, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into the war. Prime Minister Winston Churchill took an exceedingly bold step: he halted British breaking of American codes and delicately informed U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt about previous British codebreaking activities against the Americans. He urged Roosevelt to improve the security of his country’s codes. This extraordinary step of cooperation was institutionalised with the 1946 UKUSA intelligence agreement: the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders formed the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance. The five partners agreed to work together and not to target the communications of one another’s governments. To this day, the Five Eyes arrangement probably remains the only formal limitation on which countries’ official communications may be targeted by either the British or American governments. Of course, the propriety of Britain – and of many other countries – continuing to target the communications of friendly nations is open to debate. But one thing is for sure: doing so is not new.

Daniel Larsen (e2013) is a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity. He read History and Spanish at the University of Nebraska before completing his Ph.D. in History at the University of Cambridge.


The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 19

A Little History of Magpie and Stump

By Harriet Cartledge (2011)

The Magpie and Stump is one of the oldest societies in Cambridge, and over the years it has acquired a small body of myth and legend.

It all began in 1866, when the Magpie and Stump was founded in F2 Great Court, the room of its first president, J. C. Colvill, with 13 members (including the son of Charles Darwin). In its first embodiment, it appears to have been a debating society in the loosest sense of ‘debating’; its members could meet up and share their broadly similar views, drink coffee and port, take snuff and eat biscuits. In the 1890s, the society seems to have taken on its characteristic humorous bent. In 2009, Magpiety (= President) Jack Lewars moved the society away from ‘light-hearted debate’ and explicitly towards stand-up comedy. The reason for the name has been lost, but it may be linked with the Magpie and Stump pub in London (a more unlikely contender is a Magpie and Stump Mexican restaurant in Alberta, Canada). The pub has been active since 1550 and, being opposite Newgate Prison, used to give men their last drink as they went on their way to the gallows. The name may alternatively be taken directly from the society’s patron, a taxidermied magpie on a stump referred to as His Majesty the Bird. Our current magpie dates to 1900 (with his crown attached in 2013), after his predecessor, presented in 1899, unfortunately rotted owing to improper preservation.

Many of Magpie’s alumni have gone on to high achievements within their fields. Past members include Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Austen Chamberlain, Bertrand Russell, F. W. Maitland, Ralph Vaughan-Williams and King George VI, amongst over 2000 others. In 1936, ‘His Satanic Majesty Himself’ was elected to honorary membership, with only one vote against. As far as I am aware, this decision has never been repealed. Even those who whilst at the society do not necessarily seem destined for greatness, tend to do well for themselves in the end. For example, the Magpiety of 1937, P.D. Coates, a ‘bloody, bawdy villain’, who left ‘memories of a reign of terror, accompanied by the shrieks of crushed and bleeding victims’, later became a distinguished consul in the Chinese Service. Curiously, their involvement with the society has tended to drop off the CVs of most of these alumni. Higher members of the College have been involved in the society as well as students. The Deans of College and Chapel have made frequent appearances in debates over the years. Indeed, the Head Porter has been known to perform, usually to bring ‘Private Business to a decisive close, speaking concisely and keeping severely to the point’. In 1921, members

of Magpie and Stump caused a small explosion in Great Court, shattering one of the windows in Hall. Those responsible have remained unnamed, largely because (it is suspected) they were also members of the Fellowship. Traditionally, Magpie has occupied the Old Combination Room. The resident portrait of Isaac Newton seems to have pleased the society greatly, and his law of gravity was frequently formally repealed and replaced with a ‘law of levity’. Between 2003 and 2007, the various Magpieties appear to have existed in varying states of perpetual inebriation, culminating in alcohol being banned from the audience and the society being kicked out of its ancestral home and moved to the Winstanley Lecture Theatre. Magpie has always been a home for those with a somewhat over-inflated sense of self-importance; after all, a society that is mostly made up of those who are ‘willing to cast their dignity aside for the warm (often lukewarm) applause of their peers’ must encourage people somehow. Despite being a comparatively small college society, it has boisterously proclaimed itself as an alternative to the ‘crooks who operate behind the Round Church’; similarly, it has maintained a healthy amount of disdain for the


Below: Magpie Committee 1910. Back: R.W.M. Arbuthnot, R.D. Ross, F.R. Salter, O.B. Wordsworth. Middle: C.G. Darwin, D. H. Robertson, E.J.M. Penrose, G.G. Morris, A.C. Turner. Front: M.G. Browne, W.J.P. Ellis. Below bottom: The current magpie dating back to 1900.

‘myrmidons of darkness’ themselves, the Pitt Club. As was noted by the society in 1958, ‘as goes the Magpie and Stump, so goes the nation’. Unfortunately for the nation, Magpie has had a rather patchy track record. It has often been struck by bouts of inattendance; in 1928, membership seems to have dropped so low that the Magpiety was reduced to writing a ten-stanza poem beseeching people to come along. The most recent gap in the records is from the 1990s, during which time there was a substantial decline in membership. At the 1989 Christmas party, 40 guests were present. There is a lacuna in the records between 1991 and 1996, and when the society fires up again, it is with only ten members.

Many of Magpie’s alumni have gone on to high achievements within their fields. Past members include Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Austen Chamberlain, Bertrand Russell, F. W. Maitland, Ralph Vaughan-Williams and King George VI, amongst over 2000 others. Magpie and Stump reached its pinnacle between 1892 and the Second World War, and since then it has maintained an impressively consistent ‘downward’ trajectory (depending on your definition of downward). During its golden years, the society

operated as a home for ‘spontaneous horseplay’ and hobnobbing, open to those for whom university was merely an extension of public school. In 1936, the Master (a Magpie alumnus) confidently proclaimed, ‘in the truest and best sense of the word, God was a Trinity man’. This kind of confidence in their own importance – the kind of confidence that allowed the Magpie to send representatives to the House of Commons – was a vital part of the society, but after the war its potency began to fade. The society, however, is far from dead; only its original, exclusive and somewhat elitist form is extinct. In the past year, the Magpie has had performances from thirty different stand-ups and expanded beyond the College to the ADC. Just as it was before, the society remains ‘a neverfailing remedy for Tripos fever’, a place to test your wit or to be entertained. More importantly, it is open to all.

Harriet Cartledge 2011 is studying for the Advanced Diploma in Economics at Trinity, after completing her BA in Classics. She was the Magpiety of the Magpie and Stump between 2013 and 2014.


The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 19

Telethon Report This year’s Annual Fund Telephone Campaign once again resulted in a wonderful return. You may have been one of the 700 or so members who spoke to our team of student callers. The dedication of the call team over the two-week period resulted in a fantastic return of just over £255,000 in gifts and pledges. Indeed, 66% of you who gave for the first time did so over the phone, so we trust you enjoyed speaking with the current students. From the stories they were relaying to us and one another, they certainly found it rewarding to hear about your time at Trinity. The warmth and generosity of our members is demonstrated not only by your willingness to converse, often at length, with our student callers, but also by your readiness to support the College. As a testament to this, the

average gift from this year’s Telethon was £526. The Annual Fund is a vital way of raising much-needed funds, and your support is incredibly important: it makes a palpable difference to the College and to the lives of current students. We look forward to bringing you our new-look Annual Report at the end of October, which will provide a comprehensive update of how your gifts supported Trinity students and Fellows. 9% of Trinity alumni supported the College this year, compared with the overall collegiate average of 12% and the top college with 23%. We hope more alumni will be inspired to support

the Annual Fund at some level and join other members in contributing to, and celebrating, the College’s future.

The dedication of the call team over the twoweek period resulted in a fantastic return of just over £255,000 in gifts and pledges. Indeed, 66% of you who gave for the first time did so over the phone …


Caller Perspectives “The telephone campaign has been a fantastic opportunity for me to connect with alumni and hear their tales from their time at Trinity. I had so many fascinating conversations with people who have  gone on to do all sorts of things with their lives. I was very grateful for the good wishes that many alumni gave me.” Rose Lander (2013, Modern Languages)

“I called up one alumnus who I had a really interesting  talk with and it turned out he used to live in my current room. He was in Cambridge on the weekend after I called him and popped round to my room! It was nice to meet him in real life”. Cameron Ford (2012, Mathematics)

“It’s really great being able to talk to former members of Trinity and hear about their life-experiences. I’ve really appreciated the advice that they’ve given about careers and I’m sure it will come in handy in the future.” Seema Syeda (2012, History)

Next year … If you would like to be part of our Telephone Campaign in 2015 or have any questions at all about the Annual Fund, please do not hesitate to contact The Alumni Relations & Development Office Tel: +44 (0)1223 761527 or Email: For your convenience, we have created a section of the new website devoted to the Annual Fund – and why Trinity needs one – which you can visit at:

The Great Court Circle The College is extremely grateful to those who have remembered Trinity in their Will. Those who leave a legacy to the College join the great philanthropic tradition that exists here at Trinity, and make a real difference to the lives of current and future generations of students. Membership of the Great Court Circle honours those who have decided to remember the College in their Will and provides an opportunity for us to maintain contact with, and say thank you to, our members for their intended gift to the College. An annual luncheon is held in College in the summer, with a choice of afternoon activities. Members of the Great Court Circle are included in our annual list of donors, which is published in the Annual Report every October. If you have already made arrangements to leave a legacy to Trinity and would like to join the Great Court Circle and receive an invitation to next year’s luncheon, please contact the Alumni Relations & Development Office. If you are considering remembering Trinity in your Will and would like further information about leaving a legacy, please contact the Office. Alumni Relations & Development Office Trinity College Cambridge CB2 1TQ +44 (0)1223 761527


The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 19

Dylan Thomas & I

By Dr Andrew Sinclair (1955)

There was one voice, who sang like the waking dawn to us in the early years of the ’fifties. As the owls which were bearing the farm away, the words of Dylan Thomas carried our hopes and our dreams somewhere beyond sense and halfway to heaven.

There was really not much imagination in those post-war doldrums, and his wild words, so carefully wrought in the nightingales of verse, were our bards and minstrels. He was a funny curly fellow, too, with his tales of Welsh innocents in the bad pubs of the city and a regret for the lost wonder of the hills, the spinneys and the fields. When I made the film of Under Milk Wood with Richard Burton, he said that the greatest play for voices ever written was all about “religion, sex and death … a comic masterpiece”. Burton also told me that Dylan had insisted on reciting to him the finest poem in the English language. It ran: I AM/ THOU ART/ HE, SHE, IT IS/ WE ARE/ YOU ARE/ THEY ARE Dylan was the bard of our being. We were allies in what he wrote. When I later tried to catch his complexity in a biography, his wife Caitlin would be kind about my writing: “You have picked the plums and touched the living quick of the Dylan situation with penetrating insight … What baffles me is from whence first did your passion and your understanding come?” I do not know; I only know this. By Dylan’s own words shall we know him, and perhaps ourselves, a little more, for better and worse As he wrote in Under Milk Wood, I tried to begin at the beginning. To go at all, Under Milk Wood had to find a time when Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Peter O’Toole were all available to work and in England. Then the finance had to be conjured in double-quick time from the state and a merchant bank, both of whom were foolish enough to buck the wisdom of Wardour Street and

think there could be profit as well as art in the wild warm words of that people’s poet, Dylan Thomas. Later, I was asked how I had collected together “the Debrett’s of Welsh acting” to perform for £200 a week or less in Under Milk Wood – David Jason and Ruth Madoc, Vivian Merchant and Sian Phillips, and a host of others. I replied that they had collected me. I was sitting in my Soho office, when Glynis Johns knocked at my door. She had heard on the grapevine that Dylan’s masterpiece was to be made. “Would you give me a part?” she asked in that trembling,

husky voice of hers. “Any part.” “Any part you want,” I said; “I’ve been in love with you since I was seventeen”. So she played Myfanwy Price, the sweetshop keeper, in love with the draper Mog Edwards, represented by Victor Spinetti. All the actors were under the spell of that enchanter of woods, whose voice seemed to sing through all their voices in the incessant soundings in every village there ever was. The thing is, to know a star before they become a star. Dylan’s extraordinary radio play would never have been shot without O’Toole’s commitment. He had


Opposite, below left: Elizabeth Taylor, Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton. Below: Andrew Sinclair on set with Elizabeth Taylor.

work. Dylan originally did not distinguish the living from the dead in his voices. The question was, do you give all the dead green rotting faces and some semblance of being ‘really’ dead and bring them back as spooks? Or do you make them just like the living? You see them and it doesn’t matter whether they are dead or alive. I’m Scotch-Irish and very Celtic in my thinking. I see dead people and there is no problem about it: they just appear and then they go away again. And there are too many instances of the dead turning up to visit – particularly in the Welsh regions – for anyone to worry about it.

played Captain Cat at RADA, the London actors’ academy, and he was committed for little pay to the part. He claimed then to have met Elizabeth Taylor; this led to another meeting, while he was playing with Richard Burton in Becket; they swapped roles as King and Archbishop. O’Toole said that, after Cleopatra, Elizabeth was stalking Richard, wanting a wedding ring. As for Peter O’Toole, among the stars I found him the meteor. Witty and irrepressible, unpredictable and daring, he taught me that life is mostly coincidence, and that action is all. I first met him when he was cast by Tony Richardson to play the lead at the Royal Court in the musical version of my first novel, The Breaking of Bumbo. He came up with Sian Phillips to visit me and that satiric owl, John Bird, my sharer in a grotty flat over the Coffee Pot in Green Street, Cambridge. John appeared later in my film of Bumbo with the divine Joanna Lumley. O’Toole sang songs all night in Gaelic, or thereabouts, Sian in Welsh. When a policeman came up the stairs towards dawn to stop us disturbing the peace, O’Toole persuaded him to drink whisky from his helmet and join in the choruses. I would try to

reproduce the scene when I made Under Milk Wood. I had PC Attila Rees pissing into the chamber-pot of his headgear, while Dylan’s words sounded: “You’ll be sorry for that in the morning”. Burton could take himself off. “All the Welsh are natural actors,” he told me; “only the bad ones become professionals.” He was always conscious of the opportunity in his life, of the help of others, of the love of women, but not of the waste of himself. He was a generous man, dying like Dylan of giving too much to strangers. To work with, he was a supreme professional. His drinking was legendary, but controlled. “I am not drinking on your film,” he told me. “That means only one bottle of vodka a day. I am sober on two. But when I am drinking, it is three or more.” He was not driven to drink, but used it to escape from melancholy to sociability. Giving so much of himself so often, he needed the stimulus. His genius lay in a voice that seemed to contain all the passion and powers, weariness and weaknesses of our kind. To hear him speak was to listen to the human condition. Of course, I had to decide at the outset that I was dealing with a magical piece of

Most of my stars in Under Milk Wood are now dead. But they live for ever on the screen, part of an inspired, almost enchanted village life. The film is extremely irrational. It is magical, it is like an incantation – you can just see it going over and over again, like the cycles of night to day, full moon to full moon, dream to sense, the quick to the dead and back again. It is inevitable to wonder why it all came together this way. Those who are religious believe it is a great advantage to be serving something greater than yourself – in this case, the dead Dylan and his poetry in the place he was writing about. All I know with certainty is that I was making the film for one person – who was dead – and his widow came up to me after the first performance and said, “that is just what Dylan would have liked.”

Dr Andrew Sinclair, FRSL, was an undergraduate at Trinity from 1955 to 1959, and became a founding Fellow of Churchill College. His Dylan film memoirs have recently been published as Down Under Milk Wood, and a DVD of the film is now available.


The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 19

Tennyson at Trinity

By Michael Plygawko (2012)

‘I consider Tennyson as promising fair to be the greatest poet of our generation, perhaps of our century’. So wrote Arthur Hallam, penning a letter to his childhood friend, William Gladstone, in 1829.

The son of Henry Hallam, the distinguished historian, Arthur was Tennyson’s closest companion and most abiding poetic influence from his time at Trinity. Hallam’s rapid, unforeseen death, less than two years after he left Cambridge, provoked in Tennyson a grief which he would spend the rest of his life recalling in verse. Immortalised in the poet’s great elegy In Memoriam, the memories of his human touch and intellect would take over fifteen years to write and would propel their author to the heights of Poet Laureate. Yet important as Hallam was to Tennyson’s maturing voice, their friendship was part of a wide literary circle, one that would contribute much to the cultural debates of the century. When Tennyson came up to Trinity on 9th November 1827, the status of literature was changing significantly. The College’s Master, Christopher Wordsworth, brother of the poet William Wordsworth, had fought for the introduction of a Classical Tripos in 1824, while the controversial alumnus F.D. Maurice, a founding member of the Cambridge Apostles, was sparking enthusiasm for the works of Keats, Byron and Shelley. The circle of young intellectuals into which Tennyson eventually found his way would spend hours debating contemporary issues and reciting poetry. Their interests in the Romantics even extended to the newly founded Oxford Union, where in 1829 three of their number debated the relative merits of Shelley and Byron. Tennyson’s tutor, Whewell, also wrote poetry, mostly sonnets and elegiacs. The mathematician and later Master of Trinity would translate Goethe, Schiller and classical verse into English hexameter, and is known to have allowed Tennyson to read Virgil under the desk.

Tennyson lived initially with his brothers, Frederick and Charles. The three had already published the misleadingly titled Poems by Two Brothers, and both older siblings received prizes for classical translation. Latin and Greek, however, were not the only important languages; university prizes had also been established for composition in English. One such competition was the Chancellor’s Medal for English Verse, open to all Cambridge undergraduates. Macaulay, the historian, won the award twice, and Whewell had taken the medal in 1814. In 1829, when Tennyson joined the ranks of the medal’s winners, the theme announced was ‘Timbuctoo’. The inspiration had come from the French explorer René Caillié, who reported how the African city’s legendary proportions were largely a myth. Despite a failed attempt the previous year, Tennyson’s father insisted he compete. It was a request he reluctantly obliged, but only after sending home for a much earlier poem, ‘Armageddon’, which he converted into his winning entry. The result was described vividly by Charles Wordsworth: ‘If such an exercise had been sent up at Oxford, the author would have had a better chance of being rusticated, with the view of his passing a few months at a Lunatic Asylum, than of obtaining the prize. It is certainly a wonderful production; and if it had come out with Lord Byron’s name, it would have been thought as fine as anything he ever wrote.’ An anonymous review in The Athenæum, most likely written by Richard Monckton Milnes, simply ended, ‘How many men have lived for a century who could equal this?’ Hallam, Milnes and William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, were other contemporaries

to prepare submissions with varying levels of seriousness. Milnes for one, though, thought his own entry ‘the most powerful thing I ever wrote’, Tennyson’s to be ‘certainly equal to most parts of Milton’, and Hallam’s to be ‘the finest thing that has been produced since the days of Shelley’. By comparing themselves so readily to such names, their aspirations went far beyond the level of a university competition. Ten years after Tennyson’s appointment as Poet Laureate in 1850, the sizeable volume of poems submitted to these competitions had begun to be collected in a series of books entitled College Rhymes. The poems – which were contributed by members of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge – continued in full force from 1860 until 1874. Joining Macmillan’s 1859 collection of English Poems which have obtained the Chancellor’s Gold Medal, numerous volumes of College Rhymes were dedicated to prominent contemporaries: including ‘Alfred

13 Below opposite: Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, attributed to James Spedding National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 3940). Below left: Copy of a pen and ink drawing of Arthur Hallam, attributed to James Spedding Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln (TRC380).

Below right: Manuscript page of In Memoriam With thanks to the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Tennyson, Esquire, Poet Laureate’. With Tennyson as the name of honour, the young laureate was already approaching the status of his poetic predecessors – of Keats, Shelley and Byron.

Hallam, Milnes and their wider circle encouraged Tennyson to compare his writing to the great figures of literary history, just as their names in turn would make a lasting mark on the landscape of Victorian verse.

I past beside the reverend walls In which of old I wore the gown; I roved at random thro’ the town, And saw the tumult of the halls; And heard once more in college fanes The storm their high-built organs make, And thunder-music, rolling, shake The prophet blazon’d on the panes; ...Up that long walk of limes I past To see the rooms in which he dwelt. Another name was on the door: I linger’d; all within was noise Of songs, and clapping hands, and boys That crash’d the glass and smote the floor; Where once we held debate, a band Of youthful friends, on mind and art, And labour, and the changing mart, And all the framework of the land... From Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850)

Despite the prestigious nature of these competitions, little of the university’s literary life entered its formal education. Cambridge during Tennyson’s days as a student had no English Tripos, and the battles for the establishment of a chair in English were only fought eighty years later. Yet the prizes, conversations, orations and translations all contributed to a strong spirit of poetic endeavour.

Michael Plygawko (2012) is a doctoral student at Trinity, where he read for an MPhil in English Studies. His AHRCfunded thesis focuses on the poetry of Alfred Tennyson.


The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 19

Trinity University Challenge

By Claire Hall (2011)

University Challenge has had a number of memorable moments – from the energetic buzzer technique of Warwick’s Daisy Christodoulou, to the softly-spoken confidence of Emmanuel College’s Alex Guttenplan, to the impressively comprehensive answers of Gail Trimble of Corpus Christi Oxford (later a Research Fellow of Trinity, e2009). The students who do best on the show seem to inspire fervid and sometimes irrational support or dislike in viewers. Ralph Morley, captain of the winning Trinity team of the 2013/14 series, knows how this feels. At the time of writing, my own 2014/15-series team’s first episode is just about to air, and it was with some trepidation that I caught up with Ralph and with Robin Bhattacharyya, captain of the winning team of 1995. ‘Twitter makes all the difference,’ says Ralph, who received a lot of attention on social media during broadcasts of his episodes. ‘People can be sitting there watching in real time, and if they admire or disapprove of something you do, they can comment instantly. I wonder sometimes if they forget that the contestants are real people.’ Robin’s experience was somewhat different. The 1995 series was the first after a seven-year hiatus, and the switchover of presenters from Bamber Gascoigne to Jeremy Paxman resulted in a new and unfamiliar feel, he says. While he was recognised around Cambridge for some time after the final was shown, in an age before social media and before University Challenge had re-established itself as a national institution, the significance of winning seemed, ‘well…it was just a bit of fun, really. We didn’t know what to expect before we went on, or what to make of it when we did win.’ Did they celebrate winning? The teams seem to have had similar experiences – the producers ask contestants not to divulge their victory in case the newspapers pick it up. For both of them,

the final rounds were filmed during term time. Robin says that there was a small party at the studios on the night of the final, but after that he and his team settled straight back into normal Cambridge life. Ralph had an exam the day after the final was filmed. The filming schedule has changed over the years. At the start of Paxman’s tenure, the first-round matches were filmed over the summer and broadcasting started in September. By the time the teams went back to the studios in Manchester for the second and further rounds, they had seen a few of the first-round matches on television. These days, the filming is done in short blocks over March and April, meaning that for Ralph the final was filmed a full year before it was shown. Wasn’t that weird, knowing you’d won for a year without being able to tell anyone? ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘but I suppose you sort of forget about it after a while. Not forget as such, but you know, life moves on.’ Yet Ralph was recognised widely as soon as the series began – everywhere from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to the McDonalds in Cambridge. ‘That was the weirdest one,’ he laughs. ‘A few of the team were there, and a bloke in the queue came up sheepishly and asked if he could have a photo with me.’ Robin says his one and only experience of signing an autograph came a few days after the final was broadcast. What about the other members of the team – do they stay in touch? Robin’s team, Sean Blanchflower, Kwasi Kwarteng, and Erik Gray, met up in 2002 for a reunion special. ‘It was really nice playing together as a team again – the same, in that we were all our usual competitive selves, but different

because, well, because we’d already done it once, so we could take it less seriously this time around.’ He stays in regular contact with Sean, who was in the same year doing the same subject. I ask him if they knew each other before. ‘Oh yes,’ he says, ‘we were supervision partners for a while.’

People can be sitting there watching in real time, and if they admire or disapprove of something you do, they can comment instantly. I wonder sometimes if they forget that the contestants are real people. Ralph’s team, too, had a mixture of people who knew each other and people who didn’t – Ralph, Richard Freeland, and Matthew Ridley were all in the same year, but none of them had ever met Filip Drnovsek-Zorko, in the year above. ‘It was quite strange at the first practice,’ says Ralph, ‘and I suppose I felt it was important that we got to know each other as people as well as getting to know what our strengths and weaknesses were when it came to quiz questions.’ How did they select the teams? Ralph says that his was quite a simple process – the producers had sent a questionpack to the JCR president, which got passed on to him, as he had been selected for the previous year’s team (who didn’t make it to the televised stages). He ran a couple of rounds of trials – I remember them well, Ralph


Below left: The 2014 winning team from L to R: Matthew Ridley, Filip Drnovsek Zorko, Ralph Morley and Richard Freeland. Below right: The 1995 winning team, from L to R: Dr Sean Blanchflower, Dr Kwasi Kwarteng, Robin Bhattacharyya and Erik Gray.

Below bottom: The winning team of 1974 was defeated by the Fellows in a special challenge match. L to R: Professor Jack Gallagher (1937), Sir James Lighthill (1941), Sir John Bradfield (1942), Tony Weir (1956). Students L to R: Christopher Vane (1971), host Bamber Gascoigne, Frederick ‘Wynn’ Jolley (1971), Simon Schaffer (1972), and Paul Hopkins (1972); d.2006.

divided into rounds provides plenty of material for entertaining evenings sitting around with a few beers, makebelieve buzzers, and some amazingly wrong answers. Knowing each other’s specialisms helps, says Ralph.

Both Ralph and Robin still watch the show regularly. Do they still have their nameplates? They both seem slightly offended that I need ask. ‘It’s with my college scarf,’ says Robin. ‘Mine’s rolled up in a drawer’ says Ralph, ‘alongside the big Trinity College one.’ What about the trophy? ‘Oh, we had to give that back...’

at the front of the JCR reading out question after question as forty or fifty people scribbled frantically on notepads. ‘I did a second-round trial for the top twelve scorers, and from there picked the three others and a reserve. I did all the questions myself just to make sure I was actually scoring highly enough to be on the team. And from there, I suppose I emailed everyone and we got together now and then to do some practice questions.’ Robin explains that it was slightly different for the first Paxman series. The producers again had written to various student unions asking for applications. ‘There seemed to be a lot of discussion on the part of the JCR over how to do the trials right. In the end, they got us to enter in four-person teams, whittled it down to the last few, and then picked the four highest-scoring individuals from a written test. It was all rather last-minute; I’m not sure we even had time as a team to meet and practise before we went for our first round.’ I mention the recent media attention on the lack of women in University Challenge teams. ‘I wonder if the BBC will introduce a quota like they are doing with panel shows,’ says Robin. Ralph worries that a quota could backfire: in a show where contestants must have the confidence to volunteer answers under pressure (and face the ire of Twitter), it could be problematic if a woman felt she was on the team just to make up numbers. Certainly it is the case that all contestants must become inured to the repeated realisation of just how many questions they can’t answer. Teams these days are rather spoiled in comparison with contestants on the older series – a past-question book

Robin recounts his team’s most memorable match, their semi-final against Aberdeen – ‘It went to a tie-break, and we were really nervous about it because we’d seen another team having to go to a tie-break in the quarter finals. Paxman started reading the question, and it was something about chess, and all I could think was “I hope Sean knows this”. In the end he did, and we won, but it was certainly nerve-racking.’

Claire Hall (2011) is reading for an MPhil in Classics and is part of Trinity’s 2015 University Challenge team. Trinity has won University Challenge three times, the first in 1974.

Annual Members’ Luncheon:

Below: Dr Michael Banner introducing the first speaker, Professor Andrew Blake (1974).

TrinTalk 2014: Great Expectations This year’s Annual Members’ Luncheon played host to a new format: TrinTalk. As a celebration of the diversity of our alumni and their achievements, the day featured talks and recorded videos on subjects as varied as a husband-andwife journey to the North Pole, Surgical Thinking, Building a Global Technology Company, and Sustainable Living. For once, the weather played its part as the sun shone on Nevile’s Court throughout the day. We were delighted to meet many of you over a fine lunch that was enjoyed by all. The day was fittingly punctuated with a Q&A session where many of the 329 members in attendance pitched questions to the speakers on stage. Perhaps of greatest satisfaction was to see the diversity of those members in attendance, with familiar faces joined by just as many first-timers. If you weren’t able to make it on the day, videos of each talk are now available to watch on the College’s very own Youtube channel (https:// xmIMWiypu2nwn9OVQ/feed), so please do let us know your thoughts. Likewise, if you did attend, please do let us know your feedback so we can make next year’s event an even greater spectacle. Special thanks to all who made it, in particular our wonderful speakers:

Forthcoming Events November 2014

February 2015

Sunday 9th

Saturday 7th

Remembrance Sunday Service & Luncheon (College 10:45 – 16:30)

TEA Lent Term Meeting (College 11:00 – 16:00)

Thursday 13th

Saturday 28th

TLA Autumn Drinks (McGuireWoods, London 18:30 – 21:00)

TLA Dinner (College 17:30 – 23:30)

Thursday 27th TAMA – The Art and Practice of Musical Composition (London 18:30 – 21:30)

December 2014 Monday 8th Alumni Carol Service (St Sepulchre’s, London 19:00 – 21:00)

Thursday 11th Varsity match (Twickenham, London 14:00)

March 2015

Stephen Allott (1977), Professor Andrew Blake (1974), Sir John Bradfield (1942), Dan Darley (1994), Jeremy Geelan (1976), Sir Antony Gormley (1968), Lawrence Lek (2001), Scarlett McNally née Hutchinson (1987), Sarah Inge Parker (1984), Julian Peat (2010), and Fiona Jessica Wilson (1990).

Trinity Online w TrinityCollegeCambridge @Trinity1546  Trinity-College-Cambridge-2633390  ttps:// h UCtAU4_xmIMWiypu2nwn9OVQ/feed

Friday 27th Global Cambridge: Trinity Dinner (Berlin, Germany)

If you would prefer to read The Fountain and/or the Annual Record online, please let us know by email: Don’t miss out on our regular email communications – make sure we have your email address. Alumni Relations & Development Office Trinity College, Cambridge CB2 1TQ E: T: +44(0)1223 761527

The Fountain - Issue 19  

This issue presents a diverse collection of articles. Dan Larsen (e2013) continues the theme of the previous edition in discussing code-br...