Toast to The College and Interim Master

Added Friday 22nd November 2019

I have stood in this Great Hall many times, first as an undergraduate candidate in election hustings and then over the years, as a member of the Durham Castle Society. This year is an exceptional and rather sombre year as we respect the memory of our late Master who unexpectedly passed away in post and before he had had time to complete the task that he had set himself. This was to modernise the College and the constituent parts, including the Society. It took David 5 years and the security of his second term before he could truly take on the Centre. This is not a reflection on David but on the University and Higher Education in general. David's address to the Society at the 2017 AGM marked a turning point in his journey and it was intended to start a process whereby Colleges would be set free to pursue their individuality within, of necessity, a regime of arm’s length control from the Centre. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the Palatinate Centre with members of the University executive, including Jeremy Cook, in post for a week and responsible for the Colleges. The University has just completed the appointment of 6 new heads of other Colleges. Both out of deference to David and a concern that the unique position of Master of Castle was not swallowed up in that process, the University only this week has advertised for our new Master. This means that he or she will not be in post till 2020 and therefore not effective until the start of the 2020/21 academic year. The impact of this void on especially undergraduates, some of whom will have been leaderless for 5 of their 9 terms, cannot be underestimated. I am therefore delighted to have found in Andrew Tibbs a most exciting and interesting interim Master who I am confident will give as fabulous a welcome to our Freshers and to returning students as he has given to us. The inspirational opening of the North Terrace for Friday's reception is a foretaste of the year ahead. You may not think it but Castle has always been a radical and challenging place. We were the first College to cast off the burden of single sex with the associated decline in quality of candidates, and to recruit women undergraduates. That was in 1987, but they are not here. Look around this Great Hall and you will recognise the same people who come back year after year because they love it. The Society has hard working, dedicated, loyal and quality officers, two of them serving for almost a quarter of a century. We depend on them to ensure we can return year after year and enjoy this convivial evening and read Castellum every Spring, as ever a first class journal online or on paper. The challenge for us as a Society and for the new Master is to broaden the attendance at this Reunion going forward and to identify our successors to run the Castle alumni Society. I will end with a quotation with which you will all be familiar but whose relevance is a reminder that we can express pride in College and the Society but acknowledge an underlying sadness that things change, not necessarily in ways that we would wish.

“The tumult and the shouting dies
The Captains & The Kings depart
Still stand thine ancient sacrifice
An humble and a contrite heart”
Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding
The toast is The College and the interim Master

Durham Castle Society

Durham University