Christmas – Forties and Fifties Festivities

Christmas in the War!

1941 “Many old traditions have been kept up.  The Christmas Carol Service was a great success and we had a most enjoyable dinner and choir party.”


Christmas after the War!

1945 “When the College reassembled for the Michaelmas Term this year the war had ended….At Christmas the Carol Service was given in the Galilee Chapel of the Cathedral, and the beauty of the surroundings was much appreciated.”

1947  “The college choir again practised enthusiastically, and a Christmas Carol service was held in the college chapel, with a more informal kind of service.  Soon afterwards, we enjoyed a sumptuous Christmas dinner, in a fairyland dining-room, and afterwards, accompanied by some members of the men’s colleges, many of us went carol-singing, to collect for Dr. Barnardo’s Homes.  The Freshers have shown a praiseworthy interest in the work of St. Mary’s Home.”


Christmas Carols!

1950 “The Bursar and the kitchen staff provided an excellent Christmas Dinner on the last Thursday of term, after which the majority of the College with a large number of friends went Carol Singing.  We started off in the Close, made the usual tour of the Bailey, sang one verse of a carol to the policeman on duty in the Market Square and then continued up South Street to finish our singing at the White Gates tired but happy, with our collection in aid of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association.”


Last Christmas in the old St. Mary’s buildings on the peninsula!

1951 “At the end of the Michaelmas term, the nine-lesson Carol Service was held in the church of St. Mary-le-Bow.  The Choir was augmented by male voices, the organist was a Chadsman, and our Chaplain, the Rev. R.P. McDermott, conducted the service.  Two Polish carols, and a setting of ‘Balulalow’ by a former Hatfield student, added contrast to the music, and the service was much appreciated by all who attended it.  The collection taken was given to St. Mary-le-Bow, where extensive repairs were necessary.

“For the Christmas dinner, we welcomed eleven guests in addition to the 95 students and members of the Senior Common Room.  Thus the dining room was full to capacity, and we greatly admired the Bursars and Cook for their success in overcoming the difficulties of arranging the meal and the dining hall, and the maids for their speed and dexterity in very crowded conditions.  Many more people joined us at the Carol singing afterwards.  The usual round of visits was paid, not omitting the policeman, and a goodly sum was collected for the DurhamCounty and Tees-side Old People’s Welfare Club.”


First Christmas in the newly built St. Mary’s College!

1952 “Our Carol Service this year was very successful.  It was proposed at first to hold it in the Hall, but the J.C.R. was unanimous in wishing to hold it in St. Mary-le-Bow.  It was felt firstly that a church is the most suitable place for a Carol Service, and secondly that it would be good to continue in the old tradition.  The mixed choir was larger than usual, and this year we were pleased to have our own organist, a second year student.  More people went carol singing after Christmas Dinner than ever before, but an obliging Cuthbertsman who played a recorder and the Senior Woman who conducted with a torch, ensured that everybody was singing more or less in time and in tune.  We did not, of course, forget to entertain the policeman in the market-square with all seven verses of ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’!

“Christmas Dinner itself was as wonderful as ever and we gave the Bursar and the Cook a very hearty three cheers.”


Christmas traditions continue!

1953 “Our Christmas festivities were as successful as ever.  First, the Carol Service, held again in St. Mary-le-Bow; this year the mixed choir numbered over thirty (including sixteen men’s voices) and the experiment was made of placing them in the gallery instead of the choirstalls.  A record number of students trooped forth to sing carols after Christmas dinner.  The vast procession sang remarkably well when one considers that those at the back were scarcely within earshot of the front ranks.  Christmas dinner itself was a splendid affair.  With its crimson curtains the hall decorated and candle-lit, was looking at its very best; evening dress was worn, and added to the atmosphere.  The fare lived up to its surroundings, and although owing to the unrelenting shyness of our Cook and Bursars we were forced to cheer them ‘in absentia’, we were truly appreciative of their efforts.”

1954 “The gaiety of the evening was enhanced by the artistic decorations, and the evening dresses looked so charming in the candle-lit hall.  Afterwards everyone entered into the carol singing with great gusto, and to add to the premature Yuletide atmosphere many of us carried home-made lanterns.”

1955 “The choir recorded three items and many of us now have our own record of them.  Evening dress was again worn for the Christmas Dinner, adding charm and colour to the gaily decorated, candlelit hall.”


Quotations from ‘Reports from the Junior Common Room’ in St. Mary’s College Newsletters of: 1942, 1945/46, 1947/48, 1950/51, 1951/52, 1952/53, 1953/54, 1954/55, 1955/56.