Porters call police about stolen hats

15 February 2008

Carly HiltsKatie SpenceleyTrinity porters have been left fuming after two Cambridge university students cycled off with their bowler hats last Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, RobinsonCollege student, second-year Mathematician Chris Oates and his friends were illicitly playing football on TrinityCollege grounds when they were approached by two students on bicycles asking to join in the game. (Did they join in on the game?)As the group started up a new match, two Trinity porters, resplendent in their distinctive bowler hats, remonstrated with the students for leaving their bikes on the lawn. When the porters realized that none of the students were TrinityCollege members, they insisted that they left the grounds. After the Robinson students exited through the Great Gate, the two groups from the football match went their separate ways. Chris Oates then described how he saw the two strangers riding their bikes down Trinity Street: “I was somewhat surprised that they had come back, but didn’t really think anything of it.”But there was something slightly irregular about the students’ reappearance – the strangers both appeared to be wearing bowler hats. Oates said: “I don’t believe anyone saw them actually snatch the hats, although the Trinity Porters afterwards informed us that they were taken by surprise by the sudden and unexpected attack.”The two miscreants rode away towards Kettle’s Yard, doffing their newly acquired headgear to students and stunned porters as they made their escape.After the shock of the theft, Oates and his friends stayed to talk to the porters, concerned that if they left hurriedly they might be associated with the culprits – and, just as they feared, the porters did assume a connection between the Robinson college members and the hat thieves they had been playing football with. “I was astonished by the sudden change in attitude of the Trinity porters. Without their hats they were angry and confused,” Oates commented.After giving their names to the Head Porter at TrinityCollege, the students were allowed to return to Robinson. But upon their arrival at the Robinson gates, they found that the porter on duty had been instructed by Trinity to keep an eye out for any suspicious-looking bowler hats. Despite the Robinson porter’s sympathy to Chris Oates and his friends’ plight, other staff at the college were not so understanding.In an email sent to the Robinson students involved in the incident, Senior Tutor Liz Guild said: “I know that Trinity bowler hats are regarded by some as trophies; but let’s call a spade a spade, this is theft. The College will take a dim view unless the hats are returnedwithout delay.”The black bowler hats, worth around £50 each, are distinctive part of the attire exclusive to Trinity porters. Though most other college porters do not wear them, the tradition is shared with Trinity’s sister college, Christ Church Oxford.An anonymous Robinson student said: “This incident draws into question the necessity of the bowler hat on a porter – it serves no function other than outright pretension. “If this headpiece is inciting crime perhaps it is time to abolish the bowler for good.”When contacted by TCS, both Trinity college’s porters and the Junior Bursar declined to comment.