George the Oriel Tortoise

A and I are old grade school friends from our days in Washington D.C. We fell out of touch at the beginning of our sophomore year of high school and actually ran into each other on the street while both of us were studying abroad at Oxford University. She spent her whole term time as a part of Oriel College and became involved in the student life by attending formal balls, bops, and integrating herself in the Oriel squash and rowing teams. I was a part of New College, so naturally I was curious as to the particular traditions of Oriel College and how they differed with New.

A: I know since you’re a rower, you would totally appreciate this weird tradition that we have at Oriel. At one point, Oriel College had a pet tortoise named George. He died a long time ago, and this is going to be gross, but the college kept his body. It was mainly done by the men’s rowing team for the following reason. As a part of initiation into the team, you have to drink some sort of liquid (it can be alcoholic or otherwise) through George, like through his eye sockets. One team member stands above you and pours a liquid through one and you drink it as it comes through the other.

L: Have you done this or is it a men’s team thing?

A: I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve done it, but it’s a crazy tradition for Oriel rowing!

L: It’s curious because a lot of boat clubs have initiations. I can’t go into them, but we had a specific one at Vesper the summer I spent on the U23 team.