College Porters are some of the best people you’ll find in the University of Cambridge. They play such a pivotal role in the lives of students. From being a friendly face, to overseeing fire drills, to providing security to the whole college, to helping fix things when it all goes wrong, to having change for a taxi when you’ve run out of cash – they’re always there for you.
I’ll never forget how warm and welcoming they were when I first landed in Cambridge from over 5000 miles away. My friends and I will always be indebted to them for everything they’ve done. To us, they are the unsung heroes of Cambridge.
This mini-series is based on porters from Homerton, Downing and Pembroke College. I was intrigued as to what their most amusing anecdote or fondest memory was – I’ve captured this below the photo. A big thank you to these colleges and their porters for letting me come in, chat to them and take these photographs.
Angus, Porter at Homerton College
“I’ve only been a porter for a year but I love being there for the students – whether that’s being there for a friendly chat, offering them a cup of tea at the height of exam stress when things seem bleaker than ever before or helping sort things out when they go wrong. I remember one night, a student popped by after finishing at the library and we had a chat at 01:30am about Brexit, politics and the state of the world.”
Michelle, Receptionist at Homerton College
“I love getting to know each and every student and watching them grow through the years. I love it when college romances happen and college couples form. One of my favourite moments is cheering as they process into Senate House for graduation. It’s one of my best moments of the year.”
Jurie, Head Porter at Homerton College
“I too enjoy photography outside of work. I’m a hobbyist wildlife photographer and have taken photos of every single big cat in South Africa”
Phil, Porter at Downing College
“One old tradition that I vividly remember was the burning of the boat whenever the Downing men’s or women’s rowing crew won the ‘Head of the River’ title. The crew would parade with an old wooden boat around college and then we would set it up on the grounds to be burnt. They would then run and jump over it, while it was on fire! Of course in heavily windy conditions they couldn’t do it.”
Dave, Deputy Head Porter at Downing College
“The Annual Rugby Run at the end of Lent is one of the more amusing traditions. The rugby lads used to run around college stark naked – we made sure nothing dangerous happened. College recently brought in a rule that running naked wasn’t allowed – so the chaps resorted to running in ladies’ knickers! They’re all good kids deep down really. You’ve just got to remember that you were a student once too.”
Gordon, Head Porter at Pembroke College
“Amusing moments? We’ve seen them all. Like when students forget their key, get locked out of their rooms when they go for a shower, then come to the Porters’ Lodge for help wearing a bin bag to cover their modesty. But in all seriousness, the main reason we’re here is the students. I’m pushing hard to empower my team on the topic of mental health as it’s hugely important and we’re often the first port of call.”
Andy, Porter at Pembroke College
“It’s an incredible honour to work in a place so steeped in history, with such a great bunch of students. Even in the height of term, there are so many little corners of college you can go to reflect and contemplate – like near the war memorial for example.”
Becky, Porter at Pembroke College
“My favourite time of the year is Freshers’ Week – when all of the new students arrive; for many of them it’s their first time away from home being completely on their own. I think of the students like an extension of my own family – you look out for them, you care for them, but at the same time, if they step out of line, you’ve got to be firm.”