louis ashworth for varsity

Cambridge porters are a lot like fairy godmothers. They have magic wands (master keys), can conjure carriages (order taxis to plodge) and ensure you will not stay at the ball (staircase party) past midnight (10:30pm if your neighbours are the wicked step-sisters). My fairy godmother’s name is Jeremy. One week into first year, my fire alarm malfunctioned and went off five times in 24-hours, once at 5am. Being named the culprit, and having to do a walk of shame in front of a building’s worth of tutting, half-asleep second and third years was a career-ender. Then Jeremy stepped in, and after I assured him I had no incense or fairy lights, he told everyone it wasn’t my fault. He then whispered: “If anyone gives you shit for this, come straight to me”. Since then, Jeremy has remained an ally in tough times: he listens to my workload woes, has saved me when I’ve locked myself out numerous times and checks in on how I’m doing. “Getting portered” usually means prematurely ended parties, afters’ cut-short, and makes exam-time feel like you’re living in A Quiet Place. But porters go above and beyond to make us feel comfortable and safe. In recognition of their service, I spoke to some Cantabs who felt their porters deserved a shout-out.

Porter or Pest Control?

At Christ’s the porters also serve as pest control. A friend suffered a “near death experience” when he thought he heard something moving in the next room. He emailed the porters at 1:27am, asking “if it is an animal, how should I proceed?”. The porters rushed to the rescue, armed with torches, and concluded that it was, in fact, the radiator. Still, their immediate response to an email titled “Room Noises” and willingness to hunt down the alleged “bird or something”, proves Steve Backshall-rivalling bravery.

“Steve Backshall-rivalling bravery”

Cycling Samaritan

A student at Caius went to the porters to report that her bike had been stolen. She said “I was just chatting to the porters saying it was annoying but what can you do?”. One of the porters, Dave, overheard and said he had a spare bike at home. A couple of evenings later, Dave brought the bike in his car, and gave it to her. The student still uses the bike and is very grateful she didn’t have to spend £80 on a new one.

Parcel Force

The Churchill porters support enterprise. A friend asked the porters for some tape for her Depop parcel, but when she tried wrapping it, “it was so tragic” that one porter became Santa’s-little-helper and did it for her. With Cantabs not allowed to get jobs, the porters oil the wheels of the Depop machine.

Knitting Night Porter

At Clare, one porter used to pass his night shifts by knitting hats for students. Apparently, “you gave him your name and your college, and he would knit you a hat in your college colours”. Taking the time to keep Cantabs warm with personalised merch (and without the Ryder & Amies price tag) is a testament to the incredible kindness of Cambridge porters.

“You gave him your name and your college, and he would knit you a hat in your college colours”

Netball Nightingale

Having taken a bad fall on the netball court, a student went to the St John’s porters “in hysterics”. As well as first aid, one porter gave her a hug. Though initially she’d said she was fine, and put on a brave face, the embrace was “very appreciated”, and the porter’s warmth was a welcome contrast to the stuffy cold-bloodedness of some tweedy academics.


Mountain View

How effective is pet therapy really?

The Porters system at Cambridge is invaluable. While friends at other unis can have house parties until 5am, they will never know the joys of a post-club debrief with a 50-something ex-army man. Porters are the first defence against throngs of tourists, will call you a taxi home from anywhere in the city and provide a uni wide lost-property network. They are a constant, the likes of which is rarely found during the 8-week wind tunnel of term. Remember, next time you pass through plodge, to thank your porters, the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Backbone of our university.