Oxford Weekend September 2011

The Ronald Knox CentenaryFifty two members joined the Society’s Oxford weekend to celebrate the centenary of Ronald Knox’s famous paper – the most significant contribution to the start of the great Sherlock Holmes “game.” The weekend was fascinating and one of the most memorable of recent times. Our thanks are due to Guy Marriott, our President, Nick Utechin, one of our Honorary Members and Kellie Takenaka organising this special event.We stayed, in great comfort, at Trinity College and dined in their magnificent seventeenth century Dining Room. Shortly after arrival, Ms Clare Hopkins, the Trinity College archivist, led a guided tour of the college which included a viewing of Knox and Gryphon Club memorabilia. After supper our Chairman, Jonathan McCafferty, gave his talk about “Ronald Knox and Catholicism.” Jonathan spoke with great sensitivity about Knox, his friends and his generation which suffered irreparable mental and emotional scarring from the horrors of The First World War.On Saturday morning members were treated to a guided tour of The History of Science Museum which initially housed the Ashmolean Museum and, later was the headquarters of the Oxford English Dictionary. We were shown an unrivalled collection of historic scientific instruments, including the Watson Microscope!The afternoon guided tour of Merton College was greatly enjoyed, especially the College Library. Merton was the venue for Knox’s very first reading of his paper, “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes” on 13th March 1911 to the Bodley Club – three days before he read it at Trinity to the Gryphon Club. We viewed the minutes of this first reading in the Bodley Club Minute Book in the Library. The Library, founded in 1276, was fascinating full of books of immense value – including a first printed edition of The King James Bible dated 1611.Later that afternoon we gathered back at Trinity College, in Ronald Knox’s rooms – Room 15.1 Garden Quad. This is the location of his reading to the Gryphon Club. Our organisers, aided by Roger Johnson, read an edited text of the paper and it gave a unique resonance to hear Knox’s words read in his own rooms.At 8pm that evening we sat down for The Ronald Knox Centenary Dinner in the atmospheric Dining Hall. The meal was superb and we could not have chosen a better place to honour the man who is acknowledged to be the founder of Sherlockian scholarship. We marked his immense contribution with respect and with thanks. After Dinner we gathered in the Sutro Room to settle THE issue once and for all! Was Sherlock Holmes an Oxford student or was he, in fact, a Cambridge man? Two Titans of the Holmesian world came together to help decide this “Controversity” once and for all. In the Oxford corner was Nick Utechin and Guy Marriott spoke for Cambridge. The cut and thrust of the debate kept the full audience enthralled; the protagonists drawing on their extensive knowledge of the canon to win support for his view. After a bruising encounter, it was decided that the decision was …… a draw! Thus the Controversity will rage on and quite right too!Our final event was on Sunday morning when two outstanding Oxford guides led us on a tour of many of the university colleges. Members learned so much about the history of this world famous institution in such a short space of time. It was a fitting end to a memorable weekend and, after saying our farewells, many were resolved to return to the city of dreaming spires at the earliest opportunity.David JonesA fuller account of the Oxford Weekend will appear in the Winter 2011 edition of the Journal.

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