29th MARCH 2023
If, in 1952, the year I came up to Trinity, there had been held a similar Annual Gathering for those who had matriculated in 189lor earlier, those who had arrived in 1882 could look back seventy years to Gladstone as Prime Minister, W H Thompson, Regius Professor of Greek as Master, in the later years of his twenty-year reign but with his powers as Master newly curtailed by the new College Statutes which established a College Council, the invention of the diesel engine, and Britain seizing control of Egypt.
What can we look back to over the same time period? Churchill as Prime Minister and seventy-five per cent of the junior members of the University paid up members of the University Conservative Association, Lord Adrian as Master, the first hydrogen bomb test, and some of our contemporaries just returned from fighting in Korea.
And domestically here at Trinity, what does one remember? For me, two years of looking down on Great Court from my rooms on Q staircase and hearing the clock always strike twice. Walking across Great Court in a dressing gown in search of a bath, the cold, and the shillings in the gas meter. And for the older among us this evening, because there was still food rationing, going each week to collect from the Kitchen Office a small piece of butter and a modest quantity of sugar for the coming week. The Kitchen kept the rest, and must have faced real challenges in feeding us all. I remember clearly the evening when the main course at dinner was tripe. An experiment that was never repeated.
Nothing could have been more different from those days of frugality than this evening, and on behalf of us all may I express our thanks and our admiration to the College Kitchen and all the catering staff for the splendid dinner we have just enjoyed. And I would add also our thanks to the Alumni and Development Office, a part of the College undreamt of in 1952, for organizing this evening so well and with seamless efficiency, including the provision even of transport from the Queen’s Road gate to New Court for the less mobile among us.
In 1952, to return once more to my own year, 240 of us matriculated. This evening we number only two. There will be more than one reason for this, but I am sure that, as Michael Banner reminded us at Evensong, all of us will have had in mind this evening, contempories, friends, whom we would much have wished to see here, and whose companionship was an important part of our time at Trinity. Memories of them are very much part of our experience of Cambridge.
Master, some of us may have wondered whether we would ever again come to an Annual Gathering. It was a huge pleasure for all of us to receive your invitation to dine here once more, and to be here this evening. On behalf of all your guests may I thank you and the Fellows for welcoming us back and for entertaining us so magnificently; and may I invite all of us to join in raising our glasses in a toast to this College, dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
Mr Robin O’Neil, 1952