St Hugh’s Principal a Desert Island Hit

College News News

A senior Oxford staff member took to the airwaves this weekend as a guest on the hit Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs.

Dame Elish Angiolini, Principal of St Hugh’s College and a former Solicitor General for Scotland, appeared on the show on Sunday morning.

When asked what the response to the show had been in college, Dame Elish said: “[There was] much hilarity at my eclectic music selection but at least no one can accuse me of hiring a PR company to help!”

Her music choices include the American disco star Donna Summer’s 1979 track “On the Radio”, as well as Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison’s 1989 ballad “Have I Told You Lately”.

She chose The Oxford Anthology of Poetry as her one book and selected a photograph of loved ones as her single luxury item.

Dame Elish was born into a working-class family in inner-city Glasgow and after a successful law career served as the first female Lord Advocate, the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government. She was made a Dame in 2011 and was appointed Principal of St Hugh’s in 2012.

In 1984 she was hurt in a train accident on the Edinburgh to Glasgow line which killed 13 people and left her badly injured. She told the programme that the song “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (A Furitve Tear) brought her comfort in the days after the crash.

“[The crash] had a profound psychological impact on me as a young girl, I’d just started my career in law. The sense of guilt that I also had about surviving, I don’t think that’s what I expected.”

“The overwhelming sense that I came out with was one of survival, and it has to be a great instinct, which was ‘Seize the day’. You have no idea how long you’re going to be here.”

Amusingly, she told Young that – despite a long legal career – her first experience of a miscarriage of justice took place in her home as a child, when her brother pressured her into taking the blame for a missing slice of cake.

“My mother would make about four Christmas cakes every year, and one was on the wire rack cooling and when she came back in that evening there was a piece missing from the top,” she said.

“My brother looked at me…and I confessed to it. I confessed to it because I thought he would get into more trouble than I would. I never quite forgave my brother for making me undergo this presumption of guilt.”

“It’s made me conscious in my forensic career later on that people do confess to crimes which they’re not guilty of.”


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