Friday 10 February 2017

'Smyt fast, give gode knocks!'

Today is St Scholastica's Day, remembered in Oxford as the date of a famous riot in 1355, in which 63 scholars and around 30 locals died.
 It began in a tavern, where two university yahoos insulted and assaulted the taverner, sparking a dramatic eruption of violence between Town and Gown. Some 200 students took up arms against the angry townspeople, whose numbers were swollen by volunteers from the country around, crying 'Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!' And who can blame them?
 After two days of fighting, a settlement was reached, in favour of - you guessed! - the University. On every St Scholastica's Day until 1825, the Mayor and councillors were obliged to process bareheaded through the streets and pay the University a fine for every scholar killed.
 There was no such unpleasantness at Cambridge, where the students couldn't stir themselves for such exertions, being too busy staring into the abyss and vainly fighting the Fenland cold.

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