Hertford College is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of John Torrance MA over the weekend.
John was an Emeritus Fellow of the college, having taught politics here for many years, and was a specialist in Marx. He was also unique in having served two terms in the office of Vice Principal. This period coincided with the era when Hertford was transformed – as described by John in his obituary of Principal Geoffrey Warnock – from “one of smallest, poorest, and least regarded of Oxford men’s colleges into a mixed, middle-sized college with sound finances, new buildings, an expanding fellowship, a progressive admissions policy and good academic results.” We owe him a great debt.
In retirement, John wrote poetry which was published in the collection Waterwheel (Overstep Books, 2013). One section features poems written for his friend from school days, the poet and writer, Jan Farquharson, who was dying of cancer. It includes a poem called Twilight which is shared below.
We remember John’s humour, intelligence and commitment to Hertford and share our sympathies with his partner Barbara and children Benedict, Jonas, Rebecca and Tristram. The college’s flag is currently flying at half mast.
Twilight gathers in the bedroom window.
Rachmaninoff in a minor key, turned low,
wanders on melancholy steppes of sound,
and shadows, rising from the ground,
climb up the trees, which sway a little, like anchored ships.
I spoon soft mouthfuls between her slackened lips.