I’ve seen a few people from my college (Balliol) recently (e.g. Hat has just published a book: much recommended) and separately, Owen is on his way to New College to study classics (congratulations, although I applied there and was rejected, so clearly I’m jealous).

This led to reminiscence and nostalgia: specifically trying to remember some of the not-so-obvious good things about college. The obvious ones were the amazing privilege of being part of its history, the cracking location and buildings, one-on-one tutorials with some of the finest brains in the world and the great friends I made. Here is my short list of some less obvious things I most likely wasn’t aware of while I was there, mostly sourced from Wikipedia.

  • Balliol’s second library predated printed books. I knew the college was founded in 1263 (the year, e.g. that King Mindaugas of Lithuania renounced Christianity and returnd to Paganism) but hadn’t connected it to monkish copying. Where did they get the non-printed books from?
  • The organ in hall is a Father Willis (as was the one where we got married)
  • There are very few student-run bars left in Oxford.
  • It was Asquith who coined the description of Balliol men as “having the tranquil consciousness of an effortless superiority”.
  • It is Balliol quad that is described in the famous Bishop Berkley limerick and response. I’ve sat under the tree!
  • Balliol’s hardship fund paid for a school friend of mine to resit his A-levels after they were disrupted by the death of his father (who was at Balliol).
King Mindaugas of Lithuania renounces Christianity