The two rivers that flow through Oxford are the Isis and the Cherwell. These are also the names adopted by the University magazines. Mesopotamia (between the rivers) was a humorous magazine started by Peter Usborne with Richard Ingrams, John Wells, William Rushton etc. This was the same team that later founded the satirical magazine Private Eye.
|LAW REPORT: University Court Cancellarius v. Usborne|
The Vice Chancellor took his seat on the pincushion at 2 p.m. Leave was granted to the Junior Proctor to present his indictment against Julian Christopher Usborne, unemployed, of Balliol College.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Mr. Vice-Chancellor, the case which I have to present to you this afternoon is a particularly regrettable one. For three years now the peace of this ancient and loyal university has been continually troubled by the irresponsible behaviour of one man. That man you now see before you in the dock, and you are going to hear from his own mouth the grisly catalogue of his offences. First, then, Mr. Usborne, will you tell the court, is it or is it not true that in Trinity term 1961 you did conspire with the Editors and staff of a publication known as Mesopotamia to print and distribute one thousand counterfeit tickets for the Commemoration Ball held in that term by Trinity and St John's College, and without any provocation or incitement from either of these colleges?
THE PRISONER.--Broadly speaking, yes. But you could see they were forged because it said "Bring a bird and a bottle" at the bottom in small type.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- There is no need to be flippant, Mr. Usborne. I think the court will know better than to consider adding insult to injury a mitigating circumstance . You will recall the seriousness with which the proctors then in office viewed this offence?
THE PRISONER.-- Yes, they fined me twenty pounds.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Thank you; and did you or did you not in the same term incur a further fine of one pound for a further offence, in that you caused gas-balloons to appear in every part of the city, to the considerable disturbance of the general public?
THE PRISONER.-- I did.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- And what was your motive in so doing?
THE PRISONER.--To get publicity for Mesopotamia.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- I am sure the court will be impressed with the seriousness of your purpose. Thirdly then, Mr. Usborne, were you or were you not responsible for a letter received by the editor of the said Mesopotamia in Hilary term 1962, purporting to come from the embassy of the Republic of Iraq?
THE PRISONER.--Yes, I was.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Did this letter contain the statement "in the event of any further publication using the name Mesopotamia or any part of our territory, we shall be obliged to institute legal proceedings"?
THE PRISONER.-- It did.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Was the statement believed by the editor?
THE PRISONER.-- Yes.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Did the letter receive considerable publicity?
THE PRISONER.-- Yes, on the front page of Cherwell and in several national newspapers.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Thank you, Mr. Usborne. The court will note that you have admitted to a fraudulent and deliberate intimidation for an entirely frivolous object. Fourthly: Were you not, in Michaelmas term 1962 guilty of breaking and entering into the premises of the newspaper Cherwell , and abducting some twelve hundred copies of the said newspaper?
THE PRISONER.-- No, we didn't have to break in. We were armed with coshes and things, but there was only one man there and he didn't take any notice of us: he just went on reading his book.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- What did you do with the copies you stole?
THE PRISONER.-- We took them to my digs in
Kinston Road and printed "CHERWELL OFFICES
RAIDED: Another Mesopotamia stunt?" in big red
letters across the front page. Then we took them back to the office: they were on sale in the streets the next day.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Did anyone see you bring the copies back?
THE PRISONER.-- Yes, the Union night porter. but he went back to bed because his wife was afraid we would do him in.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Thank you. Fifthly, did you not, later in the same term, send out two
thousand counterfeit proctorial summonses to members of the University chosen at random from a list?
THE PRISONER.-- Well, we did try to leave out dons, except for Robert Graves, but we got the Bursar of Balliol by mistake because he didn't have M.A. after his name.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.--I see. And were you not apprehended by the proctorial police-- who are, I think, to be congratulated-- while delivering the said summonses in Magdalene college?
THE PRISONER.-- Yes, I had a fight with two of the brutes on the floor of the lodge, but two against one is not fair; nor is it fair to lock a man in the porter's room for half an hour and not even let him go to the lavatory.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- It is for the court to decide what is fair, Mr Usborne. Please tell the court what punishment you received after this offence.
THE PRISONER.-- I was fined fifteen pounds and rusticated for the rest of the term.
THE JUNIOR PROCTOR.-- Thank you. Sixthly, did you in Hilary term 1963 introduce fifty women into the Junior Common Room of your college in direct contravention of it constitution?
THE PRISONER.-- Yes, I had to get rid of the senior officials for the occasion: I sent the president to have tea with Professor Beloff, and he left a note for him: "I was here, where were you?"; the Treasurer had tea with the Catholic Chaplaincy, and only discovered when he get back that he hadn't been invited; and the secretary went bicycling down the Iffley Road to a non-existent rugger practice.
like....how much it oscillated.