Education News Unleashed

Oxford Dons Go Quackers

This coming Sunday evening, over 100 highly intellectual professors from Oxford, known as "dons," will engage in a peculiar ceremony within a college quad involving a duck on a stick and singing of the infamous "It was a swapping, swapping mallard" song. The Mallard ceremony is a rare event that takes place every hundred years at All Souls College, which boasts 75 fellows but no students. Dated back to the 17th century, the ceremony involves carrying the Lord Mallard on a chair amid a torchlight procession while singing the Mallard song, including a chorus that everyone can partake in.

In addition to the current fellows of the college, some former fellows have been invited to join in the revelry, including the former Conservative Minister, John Redwood, such that a total of 118 individuals (including women) are expected to attend. While the festivities might make it hard to avoid the singing, the public, unfortunately, cannot witness the event.

As described by the current Lord Mallard, Professor Martin West, the revelries are generally less boisterous than in earlier days. Professor West has created some new verses that will add an element of surprise to the song, which is greeted with much anticipation.

Apparently, during Cromwell’s era, the Mallard song was noted to have been sung in an "uncivilized" manner, causing a disturbance that led to Oliverian soldiers breaking into Oxford in a bid to quell the noise. Although the procession went dormant in the 18th century, it was revived in 1801 to honor the new century, and then repeated on 14th January 1901, with the future archbishop of Canterbury as the Lord Mallard.

While the procession itself is conducted every hundred years, the song dates back to about 1660 and is still sung twice a year. It starts with "The Griffine, Bustard, Turkey & Capon Lett other hungry Mortalls gape on And on theire bones with Stomacks fall hard, But lett Allsouls’ Men have ye Mallard. Hough the bloud of King Edward, by ye bloud of King Edward, It was a swapping, swapping mallard!" That being said, one of the song’s verses was considered too indecent and was taken out in 1821.

Since its founding by King Henry VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Chichele, the College of All Souls of the Faithful Departed has used the mallard as its emblem. According to a widespread myth, while excavation works were going on, a massive mallard emerged from a drainage hole in 1437.