April 2020 update

Vincent’s Club e-News
April 2020


News from the Club and its members



Vincent’s Club President, Hannah Danbury, her new committee, and the Board of VATC trust you and yours are safe and well.

Hannah herself caught the virus shortly after the last e-News but is now back at work as a Medic. To her and all Vincent’s members who are helping combat COVID-19, we want to say thank you, and take care!




 News from Members

Medicine, Lacrosse and COVID-19

Zoe Thursz
2017, Green Templeton, Lacrosse
Vincent’s Adrian Mee Team Award Scholar

As final year medical students, the last few months of our degree, after we sit finals in January, are meant to be the best months of university. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to go away on the first half of my elective to Ethiopia during February and squeeze in a few days of lacrosse once I returned. However, just a few days later, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. Instead of planning another 5 weeks’ placement abroad, playing a lacrosse test series against Wales, Scotland and Japan, and spending sunny days on Port Meadow, I found myself preparing to start work as a doctor much sooner than anticipated.

I have been working on a ‘voluntary’ basis in the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford for 4 weeks, quickly learning the ropes of how to be a junior doctor on an acute medical ward, whilst each day seeing more and more patients admitted with COVID-19. Members of staff have been redeployed from around the hospital to ensure all patients receive the best possible care. An important part of my role on the team has been helping to update the relatives of patients, as with visiting not currently allowed it is crucial to keep loved ones informed.

Outside of the hospital I have been adjusting to a sudden off season, with all remaining training, fixtures and tours cancelled, whilst learning how to train effectively using the limited equipment available at home.

In the last week I have had my graduation ‘in absentia’ and been granted a licence to practise. Now I am continuing to volunteer in the JR and will imminently begin work as a junior doctor. Starting a career in healthcare during such an unusual period for the country has been a steep learning curve. However, it has been amazing to see the camaraderie and teamwork of my NHS colleagues, and the support of the general public. It feels a privilege to be part of the response as we continue to work to help those affected by the virus.




 News from Members

Who’s in charge around here?

Andy Hobart
VATC Alumni Director
Exeter, Club President 1982-83, Rugby Union

Vincent’s Club members are leading the country’s response to COVID-19.  This is either reassuring, or faintly alarming … I’ll let you be the judge of that!

Dominic Raab is currently in charge.  He is the temporary replacement for Boris Johnson, who, much like his recent experience with coronavirus went through a very sticky moment when, as the main speaker at the Vincent’s Dinner in 2000, before winning over a rowdy audience, he had to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat!  Dominic (elected to Vincent’s 1995, LMH) was a boxer, captained the Karate team, and is likely to need to go several more rounds before he hands back the reins to the PM.

The leader of the army of Whitehall Mandarins and civil servants (of which I am one) that is charged with providing Ministers and the government with advice that is impartial, objective, and honest, is Sir Mark Sedwill.  Mark (elected to Vincent’s 1988, SEH) clearly enjoyed his sport at Oxford listing rugby union, athletics and hockey amongst his interests.  This is a man who has been the British Ambassador to Afghanistan and the National Security Adviser, so he is used to handling tricky situations.

5 weeks ago in mid-March I was at the annual Vincent’s Presidents’ Dinner in the Clubhouse to welcome Hannah Danbury as our new President.  Since then I don’t think I have in my career experienced anything like the pace of the last month, as one major challenge after another has come at us!  In the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, where I sit, we are in the middle of some very public issues; e.g. the shielding programme to support 1.5m people who have to stay at home, supplying PPE to care homes, business rates cuts, decisions around social distancing, and more.

If I’m totally frank it has been very tiring, hugely demanding, stressful, and traumatic, as we are all very conscious of the consequences of the decisions we have to take. However, it also feels worthwhile, incredibly important to try to do well, and like Zoe I feel privileged to be able to try to help.

Oh, and to answer the question I posed at the start – I think it is extremely reassuring to know that a couple of Vinnies men are in charge!


Sir Mark Sedwill pictured with then VATC Chairman, Melville Guest, when he was guest of an honour at a Club Speaker’s Evening in February 2018.




 Club History
Prince Alexander Obolensky

By Simon Lee, Professor of Law, Open University, & Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, Queen’s University, Belfast, and author of Vincent’s 1863-2013

As it was the 80th anniversary on 29th March of the death of Vincent’s rugby winger, Alexander Obolensky, many readers of Blues News will have seen some familiar stories repeated in the media. We are almost all aware of his tries against the All Blacks for Oxford and England, his champagne rugby and lifestyle, his sharp exchange with the Prince of Wales (also a Vincent’s member) in the line-up at Twickenham, and his tragic death in a RAF training accident in 1940. When given the honour of writing the official history of Vincent’s first 150 years, however, I was asked to seek out less well-known aspects of the lives of our heroes. Here are my two favourites.

First, David Frost’s magisterial history of varsity rugby records that Obolensky, a noted schoolboy sprinter, ‘used to have coffee most mornings at Elmer Cotton’s sports shop in The Turl, demanding ever lighter and thinner boots. The Cotton family did their best to meet these demands, but Obolensky’s boots were often so delicately made that they would split in the course of a match.’ Elmer Cotton’s has now left the Turl, sadly, but I love this example of bespoke customer service and of the delicate balance between lightness of touch and endurance or resilience.

Second, as my interests extend beyond sporting history and my day job in law to other influences on life such as diverse faiths and beliefs, I knew that Obolensky had written an essay in a book on religion by Oxford students, edited by Keith Briant & George Joseph, in 1936, called
Be Still and Know: Oxford in Search of God.
1935-6 was also Obolensky’s hey-day as a rugby genius. After a long search, I acquired a copy of this book. There is one especially memorable line which will appeal to traditionalists in any sphere of life. Obolensky had become accustomed to being asked why he was an Orthodox Christian, particularly given his unorthodox beliefs and lifestyle.
His answer was that, ‘what has been good for ten centuries of Obolenskys is still good enough for me’.

Simon has also drawn our attention to the sale of a most remarkable scrapbook of the only man to be awarded two Victoria Crosses in the First World War.

Captain Noel Chavasse served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He and his twin brother were both members of Vincent’s. Simon featured them in his Vincent’s Vignettes in the summer edition of Blues News 2017 (below). The article may be read on P.2 of the News archive on the Club website: http://vincents.org/news/page/2/

The sale of the scrapbook may be read about in this feature in the Mail Online:





Club News

The staff, who are on furlough, send their best wishes to all resident and alumni members.

Tom, the Steward, reports that in order to survive quarantine he is cleaning for England: “Most days I find myself cleaning, nothing ever seems to stay clean and tidy when you and your partner spend every waking hour trapped inside the same four walls!”

He is also walking a lot, “sometimes stopping outside a pub I like and imagining myself having a nice cold beer with my friends,” and points out that “the Queen forgot to say in her speech, ‘We will go to the Club again!'”

Like many of us he is gardening “in what was once our jungle of a garden, but I am now looking forward to harvesting the fruits of my labour when, hopefully, my crops are ready to pick!”

Tom has also signed up for Volunteer work with Oxford Mutual Aid which mainly involves dropping food parcels off to those who are self-isolating.

Not to be outdone by Gonzo or Andy he has created a Quaran-Tini cocktail and is also making freshly baked bread! “I do hope you are all keeping well and look forward to welcoming you all back at the Club!


Gonzo reckoned you would all like to be reminded how to make a pint of Pinky:
100ml gin, 25ml grenadine, ice to taste, top up with orange juice.

But he has been drinking his favourite cocktail, the Mojito:
50ml rum, 25ml lime juice, 20ml sugar syrup, 8 mint leaves, top up with soda and ice.


And Andy hopes you had a good Easter and perhaps had one of his favourite dishes from the Vincent’s dinner menu:
Marinated Lamb rump with mint and red wine jus. Gratin Potatoes, baton carrots and pea puree!

If you are missing the best selling lunchtime dish of Peri Peri Chicken, this is how to make it:

The secret of keeping the chicken moist is to double cook it, first by poaching in stock, then by baking at a high temperature.
For 4: Poach two small chicken, halved and butterflied, in lightly salted chicken stock until tender. Put the chicken into already simmering stock, and simmer do not boil. Cool in the stock, then refrigerate for a maximum of two days.

Make a marinade by putting 150 ml olive oil and 75ml white wine vinegar in a pan and bring to a simmer. Add 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves, 1 seeded and roughly chopped red bell pepper, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 rounded tablespoon dried oregano, 3 chopped and seeded bird’s eye chillies, 2 chopped and seeded red chillies. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Cool, then puree in a blender until smooth.

Marinate the cooled chicken halves in half the marinade for at least 3 hours in a fridge, up to 12 hours is fine. When ready, cook the chicken in a hot oven (190C) for about 40 minutes, then turn the heat down to avoid burning, but always ensure the chicken is hot all the way through before serving.
Serve with the heated extra sauce on top!


The Club committee and the Board of VATC thank you for your support at this time. The Club is managing but it goes without saying that without donations from you, the alumni, we would be in an even more precarious position. If you do not yet make a regular gift to Vincent’s there is no better time to start. Details may be found here: Vincents.org/fundraising/

Thank you!



On the positive side!

Vincent’s has over 5,000 alumni members world wide. Another member cannot be far from you! If you need help, are worried, or can offer help to another member, in any way at all, please let me know and I will do my best to put members in touch with each other.

Other ideas:

  • If you have not bought a copy already why not email me and order a copy of the Club History?
  • Why not use some spare time to access the website Vincents.org  and even fill in and scan the Update form back to me?
  • If you do have time on your hands why not register online and try to find other members that way? Email webmaster@vincents.org to ask for a password to access the Alumni register.
  • If you have any stories, anecdotes, or recollections which you’d like recorded for posterity, and possibly shared with other members in Blues News or these emails, please email them to me.
  • We would also be very keen to receive photographs of your Club memorabilia in order to create an online archive, and share with others.

Take care and thank you!





The excellent Club History: “Vincent’s: 1863-2013” may be ordered from the administrator.

 Please keep us informed of changes of address, business and email.

Have you looked at the website recently? Activate your details on the online register at http://vincents.org/

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