No sooner had I left Oxford than the University began calling me back. Suggested readings, essay assignments, lecture lists – and yes, the dreaded collections timetable, slowly but surely began to clog up my Nexus account. 0th week, that mysterious anomaly of the term calendar, is a busy, unforgiving time – and not least of all for porters. In a frantic rush to organise yourself for the term ahead, it is all too easy to let the extraordinary work of staff go unnoticed. Briskly strolling toward Trinity lodge, I had one such experience. Richard, the on-duty porter greeted me cheerfully. “Patrick, welcome back! Did you have a relaxing break?” he asked, smiling. I stopped, had a quick chat and then went about my way, admittedly feeling a lot more upbeat than before. Realising this, I took time out with Richard later that afternoon to find a little bit more about his role around college.
Having moved to Oxford roughly twenty years ago, Richard took up employment with BT before coming to work at Trinity – a position which he has held for six years and counting. Reflecting on his time working at the lodge, just off Broad Street, Richard spoke fondly of how he “enjoy[s] meeting students the day they arrive and wishing them well the day that they leave.” He also went on to say how much of a pleasure it is “watching them mature while they’re with us, watching them graduate, and sharing a bit of that journey with them.”
Yet it is saddening to see people come and go; in fact, “it’s like losing a bit of family because you get so used to everybody being around you… but a lot of students, when they’re back in Oxford, usually pop into the lodge to say ‘Hi’, which is always nice. It makes you feel as if you’ve done something right if they’re bothering to pay a visit!”
While looking out for the welfare of students is the main focus of being a porter, Richard believes that “to do the job properly” one needs to create a friendly atmosphere.
“I like to think we look after the students here, as we would like our own children to have been looked after when they were at university. That’s the basis I work along.”
However, students and tutors are not the only people to come through the College’s gilded gates. Actresses like Joanna Lumley and broadcaster, Melvyn Bragg, are but a few of the names to have recently been welcomed by Richard. “They were very pleasant, I must say. But we don’t ask for autographs: that wouldn’t be very professional, would it?” he chuckled. “And, in any case, I don’t usually take too much notice. No ‘special treatment’ or any of that nonsense. There’s only one way to treat people, and that’s equally, with kindness. It doesn’t matter if they’re a student or the Chancellor himself.”
Looking to the future, Richard had this to say, “I have ten years left until I retire – I hope to finish off those ten years here, if the college will have me. Although it’ll be tough to leave, I feel very at home here.”
Richard Dean was in conversation with Patrick Mulholland, Comment Editor.