Lincoln Grace

...as time went on, I was able to dispense with the small board upon which it was written and then, later, to recite it in full without taking a breath.

Lincoln Grace Board

I was at Lincoln from 1954 to 1958. Back then it was incumbent on whoever was the senior scholar at dinner in Hall to read the Lincoln Grace before the meal was served. (I understand that, now, "to encourage readers, students who read the Grace twice in a term receive a bottle of wine"!)

This honour fell more and more upon me and, as time went on, I was able to dispense with the small board upon which it was written, and then later, to recite it in full without taking a single breath.

There was a simple reason for my increasing familiarity with it, namely my permanent state of undergraduate poverty. Having left school in December 1951, I was faced with the difficult decision on whether to take up my Lincoln classical scholarship the following autumn, or to wait another two years and do my obligatory National Service first. I chose the latter.

The last year of my service was spent in the Gold Coast, in the Royal West African Frontier Force, and I had managed to save some £300 during that time. Although my scholarship, and its accompanying state scholarship, paid all my Oxford tuition fees, that £300 was all I had, for the next four years, to cover my battels, rent for digs (after my first, in-College year) books and travel. My family had assumed that I was able to cope and I never asked them for help, as my father was already paying for my brother at medical school and my sister at St. Paul's, from his meager army officer's pension. 

So eating out of College was never an option, any more than socialising in Deep Hall, the College bar. Hence my daily presence at Hall dinner.

I am now nearly 84, and like many of us in our ninth decade, I am forgetting things more and more. Often I lie awake in the small hours trying to retrieve a once familiar name and to comfort myself, I recall that Lincoln Grace with ease.

In May 2014, with 16 others, I attended the 60th Anniversary Reunion of our 1954 intake. As well as taking photographs of the memorable occasion,  I volunteered to say Grace before lunch. Susan Harrison, Development Director, was sitting next to me and I hope she may remember that I declined the offer of reading it from the Grace board...and that the stage fright I was slightly worried about did not materialise. 

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