Sword and Sheep- A Trinity Reward


CM: “I attended Trinity College, Dublin. There was this ritual, for undergraduates only. If you took the first (which means highest score) on your exams, you had the right to wear your sword to the commencement ceremony and you could graze your sheep on the college commons. I don’t know if anyone ever did it, it was kind of antique, but it was on the books if you wanted to.”


The informant is American, and attended graduate school at Trinity in the 1980s. While he was not an undergraduate, he knew of the tradition from other students. He took the first in his exams, but specified that the tradition was specifically for undergraduates only, so he did not do it.


This tradition speaks both to when Trinity was founded (in 1591 by Queen Elizabeth the First) and the importance ‘land’ held at this time. The grazing of sheep shows a dominance over the land of the College, as though the student who took the first now had some ownership over College grounds. The inclusion of the sword marks the importance of appearing powerful and able to defend yourself.