The new College Register

From Floreat Domus Issue: 
12
Issue year: 
2006
[Balliol College Register]

If any College Register was compiled in mediaeval times, it perished long before the English Civil War. When the antiquary Anthony Wood visited Balliol to explore its records in 1665, he complained that he was “much put to a push to find when learned men had been of that coll”. The College was in dire financial straits at that time, through mismanagement and Civil War misfortunes such as “lending” the King all the silver, its only realisable asset and reserve. Master Henry Savage compounded his mismanagement by corruption - he once sold a cook’s place, an office of considerable profit in the then scheme of things, and he is the only Master known to have been carpeted by the Visitor. But at least he knew the College was heading for the rocks, and he took the first steps to mount an appeal, which was to be carried through by his more righteous successor Thomas Good. Probably assisted by Wood, Savage researched and wrote Balliolfergus, the first Balliol History - the first book of its genre in fact - and appended to it a selective list of notable members with characterisations in the style of John Aubrey’s Brief Lives. It was a work plainly pleading poverty and whipping up sentiment. An appeal brochure, in fact.

The first exhaustive listing in the modern tradition was purely celebratory, Addison’s Snell Exhibitions 1679-1900 (1901), which outlines the lives of all Snell Exhibitioners to 1900. This was followed by the Balliol College Register 1832- 1914 (1914), and then in 1924 by the two volumes of the Balliol College War Memorial Book. Surely the saddest publication ever to appear under the auspices of the College, it lovingly records and portrays our fallen of the Great War. Next came the Balliol College Register, Second Edition 1833-1933 (1934). With entries arranged in matriculation year groups, it was very different in format from the 1914 edition, which comprised a single sequence of names in alphabetical order. The third (1952), fourth (1969), fifth (1983) and sixth (1993) editions all followed the second in format.

My name appears on the title page of the fifth and sixth editions, but I must make it clear that most of the editorial work was actually done by Sally Viney and Catherine Willbery as co-editors. So it has been with the seventh edition, which has been compiled with even less detailed input from me, by Tom Bewley, a Trinity Man who resisted the temptation to slip in fictitious entries for villains, buffoons, fraudsters and charlatans.

Tom managed to bring a daunting project to fruition on schedule, but credit must also be given to Chris Williams of Leach�s, our printers, with whom it was a pleasure to work.

We had a convivial launch party on 6 December 2005, at which we also expressed our more general thanks to Tom for his service to the College, which he began as Alumni Relations Officer and included editing Floreat Domus.

I think, or at any rate hope, that everyone will understand that in an enterprise of this size and complexity, mistakes are inevitable. We already know of a small number of minor mistakes in this edition, and a couple of absurdities which got through proof-reading were introduced by the entry processing software which we used. More serious, our software conflated the data on D A Jackson (1968) with that for D A Jackson (1932) and decided that the former had died on the same date as the latter: but happily the former flourishes. But we are also aware of two awful errors which cannot be dismissed as minor, or blamed on computer demons. Firstly, we somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that Judy Longworth, a former Development Director whom we remember with affection and admiration, had married again, which is quite untrue. We are grateful to her for reacting to this philosophically, and grovel apologetically before her. Secondly, Louise Hutton (1994) appears in the 1994 year list, and in the entry of her husband Edmund King (also 1994), but her own entry got lost somewhere: we grovel before her too. Hopefully no more gross gaffes will surface, but corrections are, as I said, inevitable and anyone who spots any is asked to tell Catherine Willbery (see below for contact details), who has opened a file in which late information and corrections are being collected for the next edition.

The seventh edition has reverted perforce to the format of the first, because that saved nearly a hundred pages of index, and it suffers in small ways from compliance with the Data Protection Act. But we hope it will not disappoint. Some 700 members ordered a copy in advance; they should have received it long before they read this piece. Others may obtain a copy as a book or CD-ROM at £30 plus postage & packing. The sixth edition also is still available at £10 plus postage & packing. The contact for all Register matters is now Catherine Willbery: (tel +44 (0)1865 277733; fax +44 (0)1865 277803; email catherine.willbery@balliol.ox.ac.uk).