Table toppling start to term for Oxford History Society

The History Society has been left legless this week as valuable table legs were stolen from an antique table in the Merton MCR on Friday 17 October. The legs were only returned on Wednesday following a university-wide appeal, and an amnesty offered for their return.

On Friday, the History Society hosted its opening event of the academic year, marketed as a ‘free-flowing’ cocktail soirée.

A pre-event message from the History Society read, “Come on down to Merton MCR at 8.30pm tonight for our termly cocktails. Entry is only £1 for members, £4 for non-members for unlimited cocktails. Also, don’t miss out on the chance to buy lifetime for the discounted price of £12.”

Such incentives at first seemed to have paid off, with the event being packed. Some disgruntled freshers were even turned away due to the popularity of the event. The evening began smoothly, with the History Society managing to get plenty of legs through the door. One student present told Cherwell, “It was strictly standing room only, though the event was hardly rowdy.” Only subsequently was it discovered that an antique table had been severely damaged.

History Society members were alarmed when the following afternoon they received an email informing them that “during the course of the evening, a table was broken and the legs have disappeared.” The email stressed, “It is essential we retrieve the missing table legs,” asking members to contact either Emily Ellis or Tom McPherson, the two co-presidents of the Society, if they knew anything about the whereabouts of the legs. The email also promised not to hold anyone “responsible for the damage”.

By late afternoon on Sunday, little progress had been made. Another email was sent to the Society’s mailing list, this time filled with bold type. The presidents announced the legs of the table were still missing and stressed, “it is extremely important that we find them.” The email also revealed the Society was liable for the cost of the damage if the legs could not be found, and would have to “pay extensive financial costs.”

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Although the person responsible for the breaking of the valuable antique table had by this stage come forward, it took several days for the legs to be returned. Repeated searches of the room took place, and they were nowhere to be found on the Merton MCR premises. In a statement, the two student co-presidents explained, “We can only conclude that someone else either threw them away or took them when they left the event.”

The email continued, “If you have any information about the table legs, even if they were thrown away, we would be very grateful to know what happened to them.”

Emily Ellis, meanwhile, was keen to dispel the idea that the event was out of control. She told Cherwell, “The History Society would like to say that while there were problems with overcrowding and we had to turn many people away, the event was certainly not rowdy. During the course of the evening a small table was overly leaned on and accidentally broken.

“At a later point in the evening the two table legs that had broken off the table disappeared. The History Society does not hold anyone who attended the event responsible but would greatly appreciate any information on the whereabouts of the table legs as we are still looking for them.”

The History Society can now, however, rest easy — on Wednesday afternoon, co-president Thomas McPherson informed Cherwell that “the table legs have now been found, so there’s no need to issue an appeal for their return”.

Merton College and the Merton MCR could not be reached for comment. For the History Society, it was quite literally a leg-breaking start to the academic year.