Oxford Ramble

Speed the Plough



A Taste of Ale

Six for Gold

Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell

The Robber Bird

Three Quarter Time

The 25th



The Boar's Head Carol

Oxford Ramble track 9

A carol sung annually at The Queen's College, Oxford. The carol can be traced back to 1521; the tune to which it is now sung probably dates back at least to the eighteenth century.

The Hymns and Carols of Christmas provides seven examples of Boar's Head carols, as printed in William Husk's Songs of the Nativity (1868), alongside Husk's description of the Boar's Head ceremony as performed at Queen's:

"The ceremony now attending the bringing in the boar's head at Queen's College is as follows: -- The head (the finest and largest that can be procured) is decorated with garlands, bays, and rosemary, and is borne into the Hall on the shoulders of two of the chief servants of the college, and followed by members of the college, and by the college choir. The carol is sung by a member (usually a fellow) of the college, and the chorus by the choir as the procession advances to the high table, on reaching which, the boar's head is placed before the Provost, who sends slices of it to those who are with him at the high table; and the head is then sent round to the other tables in the hall and partaken of by the occupants."

Also, this no doubt entirely apocryphal story:

"There was an amusing tradition formerly current in Oxford concerning the boar's head custom, which represented that usage as a commemoration of an act of valour performed by a student of the college, who, while walking in the neighbouring forest of Shotover and reading Aristotle, was suddenly attacked by a wild boar. The furious beast came open-mouthed upon the youth, who, however, very courageously, and with a happy presence of mind, thrust the volume he was reading down the boar's throat, crying, "Græcum est," and fairly choked the savage with the sage."

You can hear a live recording of this song from 2012 at A Folk Song A Week Week 70 – The Boar’s Head Carol / Babes in the Wood / The King