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май. 14, 2008 | 09:23 am

I was in Oxford for five days, at a kind of conference for programmers in medical imaging where we try to prove interoprability of our application with as many others as possible. We call it a connectathon.
We slept and ate in St. Catherines College, which is quite modern.
But on the last day, we had an excursion to Christ Church College, which dates from the 16th century. We were shown the place by a very British guide, who told some nice stories.
One of these concerned the 17th century, when the 101 students of the college lived apparently in a state of continuous conflict with the citizens, so they were subject to a curfew. At nine o'clock, a huge bell, called Tom, would sound 101 times, after which the gate of the college would be shut. 
Hearing this, I suddenly recalled a song that I had learned about 35 years ago:

Hark, the bonny Christ Church bells
One, two, three, four, five, six they sound,
So wondry great, so wondrous sweet
And they toll so merrily, merrily.

Hark, the first and second bell,
That ev'ry day at four and ten,
Cries come, come, come, come, come, to pray'rs,
And the verger trips before the dean.

Tingle, tingle, ting goes the small bell at nine,
To call the laggers home,
But there's ne'er a man who'll stop his game
Till he hears the mighty Tom.

I recited this to the guide, who confessed he'd never heard the song. Some googling revealed that the last strophe was originally

Tingle-tingle-ting goes the small bell at nine
To call the beerers home;
But the de'il a man will leave his can
Till he hears the mighty Tom.

It should be noted that I learned this in christian youth holiday camp, so that is probably why we were taught a politically corrcect version.

Anyway, I find it amazing that I had to wait so long before hearing the explanation.


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