It was good to see JONATHAN LEVITT posting on the Shoutbox. We once passed an agreeable train journey together from Hastings to London. Yesterday I came upon the Hilary Issue 1999 of OXFORD TODAY, the University magazine. In it Jonathan reviews chess books by fellow Oxonians JONATHAN SPEELMAN and DR JOHN NUNN.
Inside the magazine there was a copy of a letter I wrote around that time mentioning an article in another copy of OXFORD TODAY. The article was WHY DID THE OXEN NEED A FORD?, by FRANCIS BENNION.
The name ‘Oxford’ has two elements. The final ‘-ford’ is clearly Germanic/English, but Bennion argues that the first element, ‘Ox-‘, comes, not from the English word for bovines, but from the Celtic word for river, seen in the name of the various rivers ‘Ouse’ in different parts of England.
Bennion mentions an island near Oxford, ‘Oseney’ (‘ey’ means ‘island’ of course), which shows the link more clearly. And I suppose that the names for the German River Isar and the several French Rivers Isere have the same source – these names are certainly Celtic.
Francis Bennion is a distinguished academic expert on constitutional law – see
At one time Bennion became interested in the politics of Northern Ireland, writing an able pamphlet on the subject. I was heavily involved in politics, too, at the time and so made his acquaintance. Bennion wrote many letters to THE TIMES and my father was in touch with him too a few years later on some legal argument.
Inside my copy of OXFORD TODAY is a paper copy of an email that I sent in November 1998 – that is, close to the Centenary of C.S. Lewis’s birth on 28 November 1898. I mention two articles written by MARY ROGERS in the current issues of OXFORD TODAY, the University magazine, and OXFORD, the magazine of the Oxford Society. The titles of the articles are ‘Rejected by Oxford’ and ‘C. S. Lewis – God’s Fool’. I comment –
‘To have an article published in either of these journals on a dead don is an achievement. To have an article in each, by the same author, is highly remarkable.’
Mary Rogers was born in India but grew up in Belfast. She attended Oxford University, where she heard C.S. Lewis lecture and met her husband, Val , an Old Etonian. Later Mary and Val would spend many happy years in Northern Ireland where Val became Headmaster of Portora Royal School. See Mary’s article NARNIAN ULSTER -
Portora is famous as the school attended by Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. After Oscar Wilde’s conviction, his name, as an outstanding scholar, was scratched out of all school records. I believe that Wilde has more recently been reinstated. Sadly, a few weeks ago Portora beat Bangor Grammar School (my alma mater) in the first round of the Ulster Rugby Schools’ Cup.