Saturday 29 August 2020

Ora, Lege, Obedi

It seems more and more people are wearing slogans on their T-shirts these days – often quite long ones, intended no doubt as some kind of self-projecting credo. Being a hopeless logophile, the kind who will happily read a cereal packet, I can't help but want to read these T-shirt slogans as they pass – which, if the words happen to run across a young lady's poitrine, can look a little creepy. And, I might add, the effort is seldom worthwhile.
Yesterday, however, I saw a young woman with a succinct and decidedly different motto on her T-shirt: 'Ora, Lege, Obedi' (pray, read, obey). Well, I thought, that makes a welcome change from 'Just Do It' (a slogan that originated with last words of double murderer Gary Gillmore to his executioners). But where does 'Ora, Lege, Obedi' come from? It is, I discovered, the motto of Whitelands College, which is part of the University of Roehampton. Founded in 1841 as a teacher training college aiming 'to produce a superior class of parochial schoolmistresses', it later attracted the attention of John Ruskin and his chums Morris and Burne-Jones, who beautified the college chapel. Ruskin himself (talking of creepy) inaugurated an annual May Day ceremony, in which the young ladies should elect 'the likeablest and lovablest' of their number to be their May Queen. Ruskin loved that sort of thing...
  I'm sure much has changed at Whitelands since those days, but it seems its students are still happy to sport the college motto on their T-shirts, in bold defiance of the prevailing zeitgeist.


  1. This post reminded me of the Coppafeel website which encourages women to have themselves checked for breast cancer. This slogan is worn on the front of t-shirts. Just saying!

    And, further on t-shirts -I have sometimes wondered about what kind of mind is behind woke and cancel culture and how you would personify it. Walking through my local precinct I found myself following an overweight man in a black t-shirt which bore a skull on the back with the words VENGEFUL SPIRIT written above.

  2. Well, quite – a mad world, Guy...