Did you follow any of these traditions as a student?
I've often reflected about my stint as Bangor University's Rag Manager from 1973-4 and the fun things we got up to, but the first thing that should be mentioned is why all Universities in those days had a Rag Week. It was to collect money for charities, in our case it was mainly for the World Wildlife Fund, and some may recall that our logo was a Panda (short for "pandamonium!"). We were even able to get a furry Panda on the desk with our scarf on for that year's entry into University Challenge, but the mascot failed us and we didn't make it into a second round that year...
We organised many antics during Rag Week, competitions such as pushing peas up Glanrafon Hill using just noses as the propulsive force, painting footprints all the way up the side of the Chemistry Tower, fundraising (some would say "hellraising") visits to other university towns to sell Rag Mags and the notorious three-legged pub race which was exceedingly popular.
But my favourite memory was the famous "Bed Push to Liverpool" for which Engineering students had "found" an old hospital bed and made it roadworthy with lights, wheels and brakes. With the Union estate car as escort, a number of us actually managed to push the bed on foot from the Union building to the centre of Liverpool, got to the Radio Liverpool building and proceeded to dismantle the bed after initial dismay on finding it was about 12 stories up - so we crammed it and some students into the lift, and on getting into the radio station's reception rebuilt the bed and demanded that we got a guest broadcast slot immediately, which for our audacity was granted! I think we only
got a 10p donation from the security guard though. Cheapskates.
Ray Thackeray (1975, Electronic Engineering)
“Immediately on entering Reichel's hallowed hall 1965 - 66 I was summoned to a secret meeting of the committee.
'We are re-establishing Benny night on 5th November. We offer you the post of undertaker.' They knew that I would kill for the job. I had been in Reichel in 1963 - 64. We had heard of Benny night as something dangerous, something clandestine and something totally batty. It had been banned.
The committee gave me a dusty dried out file of papers. It was the whole story of Benny!
In about 1949 a previous warden had changed the Latin Grace. He had previously used the word 'Benedicamus' which he pronounced 'Benny Diceymus.' The JCR responded with a coffin ceremony to mark the passing of Benny. This had led to the 'Bangor coffin wars'. The coffin was taken down College Road each 5th November and was attacked by the beefies from the Rowing Club, Rugby Club and similar. It had culminated about 1956 when a poor old couple in College Road were watching tv. They raised their collective eyebrows. A large black coffin entered their lounge through a window. It had not been open. This led to (a) a lot of glass on the carpet; (b) a visit from PC Vaughan to the warden and (c) the banning of Benny.
In 1965 the warden, Aled Eames, allowed Benny night to go ahead: there were to be no punchups. I made the coffin myself. I appointed a high priest (6' tall); a higher priest (6' 4" tall) and a still higher priest (6'6" tall) as well as a dozen or so bodyguards with black hoods, who were equipped with flaming torches. I also put an 'In Memoriam' in 'The Times'. The whole proceeding was to be kept secret. Our robes were seriously macabre. There must be a photo somewhere.
On 5th November we duly organised a candle light meal in total silence. We had a mock-gothic ceremony in the JCR and set off down Ffriddoedd Road and via Gorad Road to the Strait.
One car driver, on seeing us, narrowly avoided a lampost but there were no attacks. We took the coffin down to the Straits and burned it with all due ceremony. Together with the robes and the burning torches it was satisfyingly dramatic. We had re-established Benny.
I passed the job (and the file) to one Richard Linley from Coventry.
If anyone would like to contact me re Benny or anything else to do with those wonderful, wonderful days my email is email@example.com
Regards to all Bangorians wherever they may be.
As the story goes, Benny came into being when in the face of a dispute between the JCR and SCR on whether the grace said at formal meals should be in Welsh, English, or Latin, the then warden chose (unilaterally) to use Latin. On the first use of the grace he mispronounced "Benedicemus" as “Benny Diceymus”, much to the amusement of the JCR. At the next use he corrected his pronunciation to a cry from the JCR of "Benny is dead". This led to the start of the tradition where initially a coffin was cremated on Ffriddoedd fields where Plas Gwyn was built. Over the years the cremation site moved around probably to avoid the loss of the coffin. In my year we committed Benny's remains to the stars on the lawn of Plas Gwyn before rallying our forces back at Neuadd Reichel.
In the confines of an all male (well most of the time) hall Benny and other traditions cemented strong bonds that have in many cases spanned the years, I still see my "joiner" who helped in the manufacture of the coffin, and two of the pall bearers who with me led the charge out of the double doors of Neuadd Reichel and into the teeth of a barrage from an estimated 200 opponents. It was to us "bloody good fun" may we be forgiven for our youthful exuberance, it was great to be alive.
Perhaps we might one day finally commit Benny so that he can rest finally in peace!
John Plant (1976, Forestry)