Oxford was rocked with two stories of tortoise woe this week after it was announced that one College’s mascot had passed away, while another’s has gone missing.
Wadham’s tortoise, Theo, was reported to have left his companion, Archie, and broken out of his enclosure by burrowing under the wire. However, Wadham tortoise officer Joe Williamson was quick to deny that Theo had been misplaced, insisting that he had decided to leave of his own accord “for a life of untold pleasure and joys”.
“Right now Theo is sitting on a beach with some hot tortoises sipping on a cool lettuce daiquiri and thinking back fondly of the days gone past when he was a Wadhamite.
“He did not wait to say goodbye as he feared the parting would be too painful. Know only this, Theodore loved every single one of you.”
Meanwhile, Merton Street was beset by scenes of anguish this week as it was announced that Oldham, one of Corpus Christi’s pair of college tortoises, had died at the ripe old age of 31.
He had lived in the college since the early noughties, when he was adopted by the Corpus JCR. Following his adoption, Oldham resided in the President’s Garden, along with fellow tortoise and spouse, Foxe.
Foxe is himself something of a thoroughbred, having overcome stiff competition to be crowned home champion of this year’s Tortoise Fair. Oldham was a regular and successful competitor in the annual Corpus Christi tortoise fair, continuing to compete until this year’s race. He was last crowned University champion four years ago, before settling down to enjoy his twilight years.
Some Corpus students chose to commemorate Oldham’s passing in the form of verse. Jimmy Beestone, a recent graduate and former Corpus Christi JCR Poet Laureate penned a poem based on ”the happier occasion of his civil partnership with Bishop Foxe”.
”The Tortoise-keeper sheds a single tear// The Spring has come!// That blesséd time of year// When tortoises are wed, for Foxe and Oldham// Have found short stumpy arms in which to hold ‘em”.
The poem continues with the lines: “For the purpose of the gathering of denizens of Corpus// Is the sweetest kind of marriage – matrimony of a Tortoise. The JCR’s brought Alex in to give the pair away// For the marriage of two tortoises (even if they’re gay)// Is one the College venerates and President endorses”
Oldham and Foxe were married two years ago, in a ceremony in the grounds of Corpus Christi College. Tom White, second year Corpuscle and also a former JCR Poet Laureate, dedicated a piece of verse to Oldham as well.
Explaining his motivation for writing it, he said: ”The whole JCR was heartbroken to hear of Oldham’s passing, and we’ve all been finding different ways of trying to deal with the news. Some have turned to drink. I wrote this poem. I decided to use an unconventional form to symbolise that poetry, like Oldham (R.I.P.), has no language for our loss”.
The poem concludes with the verse: “But still you feel a sense of doom// That rips and tears across the room.// But still beneath the joy will lie,// The stark reminder we must die.”