Peter Vessey turns the clocks back to discover a poem published in The Mermaid, a precursor to Redbrick, detailing life on Birmingham’s campus 100 years ago


This little humorous piece appeared in The Mermaid in February 1918.  It was just signed by a set of initials: M.D.H.  The only student with those initials at that time was Mary Dorothy Horton who, it appears, was born in Solihull in October 1888 and died in Oxford in 1977.  She was a Medical student between 1916 and 1918 but does not appear to have ever qualified.


A College ABC


A’s the Ambitions with which we all start;

They’ve generally dwindled before we depart.


B stands for Bournbrook, our lost Paradise –

Not that our present abode isn’t nice!


C is the Cercle Français, where we go

To air our best French (not of Stratford-atte-Bowe).


D’s the Debating Society, proud

Of its speakers (it’s certain their voices are loud!)


E’s Entertainments; there used to be lots,

But now they appear like the measles – in spots!


F stands for Founder’s Room – place that’s taboo

To hilarious meetings, by will of the few.


G is the Guild: we wish they’d appeal –

They would only express what the rest of us feel!


H is the Hostel: I’ll say nought about it –

I’ve only one skin and I can’t do without it.


I stands for Inter. – Exam or Debate:

The one is a pleasure, the other a Fate!


J’s for June, all too short for those who would cram in a

Year’s work before they face the Examiner.


K is for Knighthoods – attained all unsought, too;

They fill us with pride (or, rather, they ought to!)


L stands for Lecturers – a hard working crew

Who vainly endeavour to teach me and you.


M’s for “ Mermaid ” – charged with wit like a battery!

(To persuade them to print this, there’s nothing like flattery.)


N is the Notice Board, where you may find

Announcements of meeting to suit every mind.


O is the Officers’ Training Corps bold.

Do you know they can even “form fours,” I’ve been told.


P must needs be Professors, so sage and so wise,

They loom like the gods before our dazzled eyes.


Q is the Question that some of us hear –

That “And what are you doing?” – which fills us with fear.


R’s for Results, the lists that we scan

With our hearts in our boots – deny it who can!


S stands for Students and Staff – but I’m blest

If what each says of other I even suggest!


T is for Terminals, brain-racking things,

When the little you’ve learnt takes the swiftest of wings.


U’s for the Uniform worn by the Corps;

It might look quite smart, did it fit a bit more.


V’s for Vacation, much-needed and pleasant;

Alas, how far-off us it is at the present.


W’s Work ; the best people do just

The least that they can – that’s as much as they must.


X is the thing that, with zeal that’s fanatical,

They chase who aspire to degrees Mathematical.


Y’s for the Youth that abounds in the College,

So sure of itself, so profound in its knowledge!


Z is the Zeal we don’t all display

In attaining our goal; but we’ll get there some day.