– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Posts tagged “clubs and societies

FAQ: Balliol Boys’ Club

Q: I am looking for information about a former member of the Balliol Boys’ Club. What was the Balliol Boys’ Club and what information do you have about the members?

A: A club for the boys of the St Ebbe’s area of South Oxford was started with Balliol support in 1907 and consolidated in 1921 as a memorial to one of the founding student members, Keith Rae (TEK Rae, Balliol, 1907).   It flourished until the late 1960s, when it was swallowed by City developments.  The 1921 endowment survives as the Keith Rae Trust which supports Youth Clubs and similar organisations.

The place to start for any researcher is the published history of the Boys’ Club: A Short History of the Balliol Boys’ Club, 1907-1950, by Cyril Bailey, and a later update A History of the Balliol Boys’ Club 1907-1971 with John Roughley and other adding to Bailey’s work. Copies of both editions are often available through second-hand dealers on the internet – try searching with Bookfinder.

Balliol Boys’ Club Papers in the College Archives:
1. Minutes & Membership

  • A. Minute books, Balliol Boys’ Club Committee
    • 1906-1908
    • 1919-1923
    • 1924-1927
    • 1946-1950
    • 1957-1970
  • B. Register of members 1940-1946, with addresses, employers etc.
  • C. Address book, members and friends, n.d. (ca 1930)

2. Log books, recording daily attendances and activities.

  • 1907-1908
  • 1908-1909
  • 1909-1910
  • 1911-1912
  • 1912-1913
  • 1913-1914
  • 1914-1915
  • 1915-1916
  • 1916-1917
  • 1917-1919
  • 1919-1921
  • 1921-1922
  • 1922-1923
  • 1924-1926
  • 1926-1927
  • 1928-1930
  • 1931

3. Club History

  • A. Papers concerning the foundation and early days of the Club, 1906-1910.
  • B. Papers concerning a scheme to finance the emigration of Club members to Australia, including details of
    Herbert Poole and Frank Slatter, who sailed together 29 Jan. 1921.
  • C. Papers concerning the building and opening of Keith Rae House, including plans and correspondence with
    Edward Rae, 1921 [see also MBP 359].
  • D. Papers concerning an extension to Keith Rae House, 1933.
  • E. Newspaper cuttings, various dates.
  • F. Photographs, various dates.
  • G. Typescript, ‘A short history of Balliol Boys’ Club 1907-1950’, by Cyril Bailey (printed at Oxford 1950).
  • H. The Master’s file concerning the Club and Keith Rae Trust, 1950-1960.

4. Printed material

  • (a) Annual Reports
    • i. 1907-1908 to 1909-1910.
    • ii. 1919 and 1929-1930 to 1937-1938 lacking 1931-1932 to 1933-1934.
    • iii. 1966. Not found July 2003.
  • (b) Magazines
    • ‘The Balliol Club Magazine’,1913, 1914, 1915,
    • ‘The Club at War’, being the War Edition of ‘The Balliol Club Magazine’, issues 1-11 [complete], 1916-1919 [Cordeaux & Merry, University vol., 6774].
    • ‘The Balliol Club Magazine’, 1920, 1921, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1931 (“Volume 1”), 1932 (“No 2”), 1933 (“No 3″), 1935 (“No 5”), 1937 (no number) and 1938 (no number).
  • (c) Souvenir: ‘The Opening of Keith Rae House, Oxford. Saturday November 19th, 1921’.
  • (d) C. Bailey, ‘A Short History of the Balliol Boys’ Club, 1907-1950’, printed in Oxford 1950. There are also duplicates (in some cases several copies) of some of (b)-(d) above; see also MBP 32(2), MISC 43, MISC 79.6.

5. Accounts and financial papers including vouchers and paid cheques for some periods, 1907-1969.

6. Miscellaneous: including award certificates of various kinds (amateur dramatics; athletics); boxing programmes and related material; scraps; relics (trophies etc.).

7. Miscellaneous acquisitions 1986-1993: numerous photographs, cuttings and memorabilia.

8. Papers and correspondence concerning the closure of the Club 1971-3.

9. Arthur Greenwood’s Club Cricket Cap, Club badges and medals. Presented by Aubrey Greenwood, 1993.

10. Club badges presented by A.E. Marchetti and G. Wakeman, 1987; different from each other and the badge in 9. above.

11. The Club’s paid cheques 1932-1933.

12. The cap badge and medals of T.H.K. Rae, killed at Hooge 1915. Presented by Colin Rae 1993.

13. The printing block for the illustration of the new Club House which appears opposite p.24 in Bailey op cit (see 4(d) above).

14. An address by Edward Rae, Balliol Boys’ Club Anniversary Service 19 Nov. 1922.

These records are open to researchers and can be consulted in the usual way, in the college archives at St Cross Cross, Holywell, by prior appointment with the archivist.

The Balliol Boys’ Club magazines for 1913 and 1921 have been digitised and are available to view online here.

Aside from mentions in minutes, accounts of Club Camps etc, Balliol does not have in its records systematic membership lists or other personal information about the involvement of individual Balliol students or local Oxford boys in the Club.

The Balliol Boys’ Club war memorial now hangs in the college archives at St Cross Church, Holywell. All names on the memorial are listed online here.

Further reading:

Information re JA Cowles, a former member of the Balliol Boys’ Club, at the Canadian Letters and Images Project.


On the last Friday of Michaelmas Term, one of Balliol’s particularly pleasant traditions occurs: Nepotists’ Carols. The Arnold and Brackenbury Society invites Balliol to mulled wine and carol singing in Hall. It is a ticketed event, but all Balliol people are invited to sign up for tickets. But why Nepotists?

Here is the explanation, with many thanks to Dr. Maurice Keen and Prof. Jasper Griffin, in non-alphabetical order, Socii Emeriti of Balliol College, former Nepotists and past Presidents of the Arnold & Brackenbury Society:

At some point in the ?1940s, an undergraduate member of Balliol became disgruntled with the established system of having to be elected by the members to join any college club or society such as the Devorguilla, Arnold, Brackenbury, etc, or rather, with his own failure to have been elected to any of them. The solution he devised was to set up his own society, called the Nepotists, for the purpose of hosting invited guests to sing carols and partake of mulled wine and other seasonal refreshments at the festive end of Michaelmas term.  (Hardly a subversion of the undemocratic process!) Attendance was by invitation only, but there were a great many invitations issued. The singsong was not held in Hall, but either in members’ rooms or in the Massey Room. One year John Prest offered II.5 (a commodious first-floor set); the piano-movers narrowly escaped terrible injury, in which they were more fortunate than the absent host’s painting of a horse, which, thanks to the scornful attentions of a certain person who was not then Master, had to be taken to the Ashmolean’s conservation department and repaired at the Nepotists’ expense.

Eventually, the originator having departed and the expense to the society (who paid for and mulled the wine) becoming somewhat onerous, the Nepotists accepted an offer from the Arnold and Brackenbury to contribute to the event. The two did coexist for a time, with overlapping membership, but I suspect it was not long before the single-function Nepotists was subsumed into the general proceedings of the A&B.

I would not be surprised if the current system of free ticketing has something to do with fire marshals’ regulations about numbers of people in Hall as well as being a vestige of the invitations-only event.

A postscript, both to the post and to the event – the Gordouli, which shall be explained elsewhere, is now sung at the end of Nepotists’ Carols; when the final carol and ‘Jerusalem’ have been rendered, somebody in the crowd starts a loud, tuneless and sustained  ‘GOOOORRRRR’, which is taken up by the others. Everybody departs to the Trinity wall part of the garden quad, there to sing, or roar, the Gordouli in contemporary form; the words and lack of tune vary, but the essence is that Balliolenses are pleased not to be Trinity men. (The Balliol-Trinity feud is all contrived as well, which shall also be explained elsewhere.) My informants wish to emphasise that while the Gordouli was performed after more college events when they were undergraduates than it is now, it was sung by a small minority of persons and was generally not highly thought of.  It did not form part of the Nepotists’ event.

More details – not least the identity of the Nepotists’ originator – and precise chronology remain to be ironed out, but that’s the gist!