Bearing the dead sheep

Graduation yesterday, and as usual I volunteered to help out – it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon (it’s so cool to be part of a ceremony that includes a whole lot of traditions straight out of the middle ages), and it’s always nice to see the students reach the end of all their hard work and get their degrees – it’s a good reminder of what the university is here for. Though as I was watching the students line up I realised that this is the first year I’ve not known any of the BA graduands – in previous years I’ve always recognised many of their faces, because most Arts students end up taking an English paper somewhere along the way, so most would have passed through my office at some point, picking up marked work or passing on messages for their lecturers.  But now I’ve been away from the English department for long enough that I’ve missed an entire cohort of undergrads while I’ve been on this secondment. Not that I’d want to give up my work in CEISMIC for anything, but it’s a weird feeling.
My job at graduation was to be a banner bearer (which I love doing, because it means I get to play dress-ups and wear academic regalia – I’m ever so slightly proud of having earned the right to wear the pink silk hood that represents my BA 🙂 ).  There’s a large silk banner representing each of the faculties, and they are carried at the front of the procession as the students and academic staff enter the venue.  It turned out that I was the only banner bearer at our ceremony (there’s four different ceremonies over the course of the week, each for different groups of faculties) who’d been a banner bearer before, so I was appointed lead banner bearer, and had to carry the banner with the university’s crest (familiarly known as “the dead sheep”).  Not only that, but it meant I had to lead all the other banner bearers, with only the Esquire Bedell (the academic who carries the university’s mace into the ceremony with much gravitas – it’s one of those medieval traditions that the mace has to be present for the degrees to be officially conferred) ahead of me in the procession.  And it was the Esquire Bedell’s first time doing the job, so he wasn’t 100% confident on where he was supposed to go, so I was told if he went the wrong way, it was my job to lead everyone else in the right direction and hope he noticed and caught up with us!  Luckily he got it right, but I was feeling pretty nervous at the idea that I was the back-up plan if it all went horribly wrong – especially because I’d never paid all that much attention to the route before – I’d always been further back in the procession, so I could just follow the person ahead of me and not need to worry.
Anyway, all went well, we didn’t get lost or lead the entire student body on a wild goose chase around the arena, and nobody fell over walking up the stairs to the stage (surprisingly tricky to do when your view is obscured by a huge banner).  Another graduation ceremony successfully accomplished, with all the proud parents only seeing the pomp and splendour, and not knowing about the chaos that’s going on behind the scenes 🙂
Apparently there’s a photo of me and my fellow banner bearers on the university’s facebook page.

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One Comment

  1. I see why it’s called a dead sheep. It certainly doesn’t look very lively!
    A mace? I’ve often heard teachers say they wished they could knock some sense into some heads, but this is taking it too far! What next? The “Board of Education” (paddle used by prinicipals in the olden days, 1950s, when school administrators were allowed physical punishment of unruly children).
    I’m glad everyone went in the right direction!

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