How an incidental steeplechase became a defining tradition of Trinity College

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...the Juttoddie Cup for steeplechasing over fences, cows and gas mains ...
- Fleur de Lys, 1931

For almost ninety years, an unusual obstacle course has been many commencing students' first 'baptism' of the traditions of the University of Melbourne's oldest residential college, Trinity College.

Known as 'Juttoddie' (pronounced, Yew' toddie) - after the two collegians who founded the strange race in 1931 - the actual course and format of the original steeplechase have changed over the century. What has remained consistent however, is the element of irreverent fun.

This online exhibition charts the origins of the famous 'race', the figures behind it, and its lasting legacy over almost a century of a student event that continues to be a defining experience for every Trinitarian.


'The first observation that has to be made about Initiation is that it is fundamentally un-British.'

- Fleur de Lys, 1928

...To take a mean advantage of a man in his position as "Fresher" does not appear to be the best way of expressing the dignity of seniority!
- Fleur de Lys, 1928

In the decade following the conclusion of the First World War, as servicemen returned to Trinity College to recommence their civilian lives, discussion around the appropriateness of initiations for incoming 'freshmen' students proved to be an almost annual and contentious subject among the college's residential students.

How long initiations of freshmen had been a 'tradition' at Trinity College was unknown, even to the students of the 1920s. In all likelihood the practice had lapsed and been revived at various times over the fifty years since the College's establishment. Certainly, prior to the First World War, there were initiation 'ceremonies' and the end of hostilities brought with it another period of revival as returning servicemen sought to re-establish the pre-war traditions.

In an editorial published in the College's student magazine, the Fleur de Lys, in 1924 it was observed ruefully that within a few months the majority of students would barely have been in college for more than four terms. This, at a time many students might have spent several years in residence, studying medicine, law, or similar extended degrees.

'That is to say, the freshmen, and those who have barely emerged from that reprehensible condition, will make up the bulk of the College.

Seniority itself, as the anonymous writer explained, was not a mark of social superiority or intelligence. Nonetheless it was to be respected by the younger among the student cohort, for the senior 'is a depositary of the Tradition of Trinity.'

'Seniority is a surety that he has absorbed the Tradition of the College and that he is more fully representative of Trinity, past and present, than he could possibly be in his earlier years in residence.'
- Fleur de Lys, 1924
It represents the antithesis of fair play ...
- Fleur de Lys, 1930

Issues around the recognition and distinction of student seniority, College tradition and - intermingled in the discussion - the question of initiations remained a frequent theme throughout the 1920s by the student body; and showed no signs of easing as the College entered the following decade.

At late as 1930, essays continued to litter the pages of the student Fleur de Lys magazine linking the practise of initiations as a somewhat punitive practice imposed by the senior students on incoming 'fresher' students as a means of establishing their status within the student community.

Many were stridently against it. 'The first observation that has to be made about Initiation is that it is fundamentally un-British', resident tutor Gordon Taylor wrote, appealing to the collegiate community that year, in an essay titled 'Concerning Initiation and the Cult of Seniority':

'It represents the antithesis of fair play, being the coercion of the few by the many - of the neophytes by the old hands. It is not associated with the good traditions of the English universities, but is a product of the "poor white" communism of the American colleges.'

'The controversy concerning College initiations is like Hope - it simply cannot die. Again and again during the last decade the matter has been a leading question.'
- Fleur de Lys, 1930
A good tradition should last for ever, but not so a custom ...
- Fleur de Lys, 1926

Others were less convinced by such arguments. The Social Club - precursor to the present-day Trinity College Associated Clubs (TCAC) - had weighed up these aspects in the years after the war, considering both the British and American initiation traditions.

'Differing circumstances require differing methods', an anonymous rebuttal to Taylor replied. Trinity had devised a practice that seemingly fell half-way between the English and American models, which had undergone relatively few changes since being re-introduced.

'The underlying motive of the returned solider element in reviving the old practice before they left the place seems to have been a desire to ensure the existence of a strong community spirit. They felt that initiations were necessary to maintain it. ... This is still definitely the main object of initiation.'

The issue continued to simmer however. The stage was set for the catalyst that would break the stalemate.


In 1931, two Trinitarians - Colin Juttner and Thomas 'Hal' Oddie - founded a 'fresher' tradition that has continued for almost a century.

Obviously they were bits of wags ...
- Stanley Moss TC 1946
Colin Juttner
Colin Juttner, TC 1929
Thomas Harold 'Hal' Oddie
'Hal' Oddie, TC 1929

In 1931, in an effort to put an end to the debate, two students - Colin Juttner and Thomas Harold 'Hal' Oddie - established a steeple-chase around the college grounds for 'fresher' students.

Colin Percival Juttner was born in to the German community of the Barossa Valley township of Tununda on 2 September 1910, only four years before Australia and the world was plunged in to the depths of the First World War. He was born to Dr Frank Julius Edward Juttner, a well-respected medical practitioner, and his wife Florence, the daughter of Rev. H.C. Hayes, the former Master of St Peter's College in Adelaide. With this family connection, it was at St Peter's that Colin completed his secondary education before following his father's footsteps, both in studying medicine and at the University of Melbourne, entering residence at Trinity College in 1929.

Fellow country lad Thomas Harold 'Hal' Oddie, son of grazier Thomas Alfred and Marion, came to Trinity from the well-established Ballarat family. His grandfather and great-uncle, Thomas and James Oddie, had been prominent figures of the growth of the goldfield's town in the mid-nineteenth century. A few months younger than Colin, being born in July 1911, Hal was the youngest of a family of five children. He moved to Melbourne in his early teens to attend Glamorgan Prepartory School for Boys in Toorak, as a boarder, before continuing at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, assisted by scholarships.

At Trinity, the two young men formed a tight friendship, no doubt in part through their shared studies in the medical field (Hal would go on to become a medical physicist), on the sports field, and with an evident mutual sense of irreverent humour. As fellow alumnus Stan Moss (TC 1946), and later College Bequest's Officer, would surmise, 'obviously they were bits of wags'.

'The two young men had been regular patrons at the SP Bookie run out of the Barber's shop, next to Naughton's Hotel on Royal Parade, opposite the college.'
- Stanley Moss (TC 1946)

A shared eagerness in taking a punt on the horse racing also drew the two young men together. Up until 1931, Australians wanting to place a bet could only do so through a course bookie. However, the increasing prominence of telephone and radio during the preceding decade (the first public radio station opened in Sydney in 1923) gave rise to the Starting Price, or 'SP' Bookies who would gather around pubs and clubs, touting their business. One such SP Bookie ran his operation from the Barber's shop next door to the popular student watering-hole of Naughton's Hotel, opposite Trinity, on Royal Parade. Juttner and Oddie were frequent visitors.

Less successful than they would have liked at the SP Bookie, the two men decided to try their fortunes closer to home, back across Royal Parade at college, and run a book on a race of their own making. With the contentious question around student initiations still open, the pair established a race named in their own honour and, for three pounds, purchased a small trophy to be awarded as the prize for the winner of a freshman steeplechase around the Bulpadock. A tradition unique to Trinity College was born.


'And behold he cometh forth from his chamber as a bridegroom, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.'

- Psalm 19.5

...the Juttoddie Cup for steeplechasing over fences, cows and gas mains ...
- Fleur de Lys, 1931

'This indenture made the fifth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and thirty one between Thomas Harold Oddie and Colin Percival Juttner, both of Trinity College in the University of Melbourne, gentlemen (hereinafter called the Donors) ...'

On 5 August 1931, the new 'race' was official brought into being through the creation of a Deed of Trust. Juttner and Oddie formally assigned their 'electroplate cup called and inscribed with the name of The Juttoddie Cup' to a body of trustees - fellow collegians Francis Denys Cumbrae-Stewart (TC 1926), Douglas Macnicol Sutherland (TC 1929), Eric Langley (TC 1928), Charles Andrew Campbell Brown (TC 1929) and Leslie Eyre Parker (TC 1931).

A plan was drawn for the race's course. Commencing just north of the main gate - where in a few year time the new residential block, Behan, would be constructed - the runners headed east towards the cricket pitches (later, the bowling green) on the northern edge of the Bulpadock - the expanse of lawn in the middle of Trinity College - before heading southwards across the open ground towards Tin Alley, before rounding the Chapel and returning north to a finish line at the western end of the Clarke Buildings.

It was not enough to simply run the course however. To add to the challenge, competitors were handicapped depending on their perceived likelihood of success with a quantity of bricks which had to be carried throughout the course, all the while navigating the Bulpadock's fences.

The winner of the great event was Mr. Barry Johnson, who put up a meritorious performance in competing the course three times, as his heat was re-run, following a protest.
- Fleur de Lys, 1954

In a cleverly veiled social commentary on the College Warden of the day, John 'Jock' Behan (himself a college alumnus (TC 1903), and Victoria's inaugural Rhodes Scholar in 1904), Juttner and Oddie had incorporated various elements of Trinity student life in to their steeplechase.

Behan was renowned for his strict disciplinarian approach to college rules. Academic gowns, compulsory attire at the time, were to be maintained in clean, presentable condition. Fences, of various shapes, forms and purposes, were an important aspect of the grounds, protecting the gardens from students misadventure and likewise keeping the domestic cows in their place on the Bulpadock.

However, students were often forced to defend the torn state of their gowns on account of having to fetch firewood for their studies. In response, Behan had 'wood-carriers' made up out of carpet with handles at either end, one for each study, to avoid the problem.

John Romanis (TC 1929), in residence during the inaugural race, later explained their inclusion in the race:

At Juttoddie the bricks were carried in the wood-carriers, the fences were the obstacles and, as on all other important College occasions, such as being interviewed by the Warden, gowns were worn by the competitors.

The practice of using the wood-carriers to hold the bricks does not appear to have lasted long however, and within a few years, by the mid-1930s, students were clutching the bricks with their hands, gowns flowing back behind them, as they soared over the Bulpadock fences - with varying degrees of success.


'Further, they pitted their skill against that incorrigible band of scoundrels - the books and the tote'

- Fleur de Lys, 1960

Since what must be must be, weight the scales of fair play with a little cash.
- Fleur de Lys, 1955

'Possible the activities of so many tote operators and bookies merely brings out sporting interests to a level commensurate with the high standard of living implied by the College fees, but the heartless cynicism of these men, who acted both as tipsters and despoilers, suggests that their number was the result of an intelligent appreciation of the College's gambling instinct.' - Fleur de Lys, 1964

Being that it was Juttner and Oddie's mutual fondness for taking a punt that gave birth to the curious steeplechase, it is little surprise that from the moment of its inception the unscrupulous figures of the Bookies loomed large over the race.

Bob Beard (TC 1949) remembers his undoing at the tote in those immediate post-war years:

Juttoddie was an event each year where those who came to speculate could place their bets. I recall the occasion of my disgrace, with Jim Court and Andrew Grimwade (both TC 1949), togged up like real bookies calling the odds and taking bets - and of course they, being as sharp as they always were, never lost!'

The arrival of the gentlemen of the Tote rather appropriately ... signified the commencement of the afternoon's racing, which went reasonable smoothly except for one mysterious incident, when a helicopter dropped from the skies and spirited away the leading runner in the event.  His fate is unknown by one must suspect the Tote.
- Fleur de Lys, 1962

It soon became customary for the Bookies to play a rather more active role in the race's outcome. As runners disappeared out of sight from the spectating crowds at the northern end of the Bulpadock, behind the Chapel, groups of 'Knobblers' would, well, 'knobble' the race favourites. The party of freshers that emerged out of the other side from the Chapel would often be missing the lead contenders.

The practice of knobbling become more and more extravagant as the years went on. What had began as simply 'holding the man', reached something of an apex by the early 1960s. Juttoddie has always taken it's thematic cue from world events, bringing a distinctive contemporary feel to the day's events, and at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 runners and the gathered crowd were treated to a most unusual spectacle.

Former alumnus returned as College Dean, Professor John Poynter (TC 1948), recalls the sequence of events:

Every year the bookmakers, who ran a book on the Juttoddie, used to try and nobble the favourite. This particular event was spectacular as halfway through the race, a helicopter came swinging round behind the Chapel and landed on the ground. The leader of the race, the favourite, was kidnapped and trapped in the helicopter and disappeared into the sky!

Clad in the traditional gabardine trench coats associated with the world of espionage, a group of collegians had enlisted the services of Reg Ansett's commercial helicopter fleet based on the Yarra River to land on the Bulpadock mid-race. 'Secret Service agent' Boyd Munro (TC 1961) leapt from the aircraft in order to grab leading favourite Ian Lowry (TC 1962) and whisk him skyward, in an act of extraordinary rendition decades before the term was coined.

Some thirty years later, at the running of Juttoddie in August 1993, Munro and Lowry along with many fellow alumni of 1962 returned to Trinity to witness Ben Hasker and Janet Teitzel suffer a similar fate.  It was a step, as the Trinity College newsletter noted that year, to return to 'a more traditional form of Juttoddie without the messiness which has been all too prominent in recent years'.


Latin maxims quoted by the cream of the College judiciary, as the Books and Tote (those sanctifiers of sin), the freshmen and the bricks were tried in turn.

- Fleur de Lys, 1967

The ancient rites of blessing and cursing were performed by the theologs, and the races began.
- Fleur de Lys, 1953

In the immediate post-war years the format of Juttoddie continued to involve, becoming more structured and setting a template, key aspects of which have continued to evolve to present day. By the early 1950s, the inclusion of theological students to bless the bricks, the runners - and curse the tote and the books - had established itself as a fundamental part of the event's ritual.

During the earlier decades of the twentieth century and well up into the 1960s and '70s, students of the Trinity College Theological School (TCTS) were often both contemporaries in age to their fellow Trinitarians studying at the University of Melbourne, and likewise lived in residence at college. Attendance at Chapel was compulsory and a much stronger thread of the broader ecclesiastical life permeated throughout the residential student's collegiate experience.

Among the opening events on the day of Juttoddie, the Theological students - or indeed, a visiting Bishop, or even on occasion the 'Pope' - would process with great solemnity to the starting line to perform the sacred rites of blessing the competitors, their brick and in equal measure curse 'those sanctifiers of sin', the Bookies and the tote.

Bob Beard (TC 1949) described the ritual in his freshman year: 'An important part in the proceedings was the 'blessing of the bricks':

... where the Theologs of Trinity assembled, where, suitably attired in clerical garments, they intoned:

'By virtue of our high decree
As Theologs of Trinity
We hereby say 'Accursed be he
That wastes his cash in ursury.

Then a blessing was bestowed on the bricks with further intonation:

'From all misuse and knavish tricks
This office we perform for nix.'

By virtue of our high decree
As Theologs of Trinity
We hereby say 'Accursed be he
That wastes his cash in usury'

Juttoddie, 1957 - The Black Sabbath

'The "theologs" broke loose from Hell with the goodwill of the whole College and rendered unto all "evil for evil."

- Fleur de Lys, 1957

At the running of Juttoddie in 1957, a strange reversal of the usual formalities preceding the race cast a dark pall over the whole event, which has carried over the decades in the memories of those alumni present that year as the infamous 'Black Sabbath Juttoddie'.

The Theological students, usually on hand to bless the bricks with divine reverence and curse the tote, instead appeared as warlocks, ghouls and other demonic figures to curse the bricks - and bless the tote! College Chaplain, the Rev. Alfred Bird, himself lead the assemble as Mephistopheles and proceeded to claim the College as his own and, at the conclusion of the race, presented 'the "cursed" Cup to the winner amidst an air of satanic fire'.


Juttoddie has changed much since those early days ...

... and, though on occasion it may have got a bit out of hand, has now
developed into nothing more than 'good clean fun'

- Nik Sakellaropoulos (TC 1986), 1994

In 1973, the Trinity College Associated Clubs (TCAC) committee determined not to hold Juttoddie. Even in the midst of World War II, the race had been run but on the eve of the college moving to co-residency, it was temporarily rested. A hint might be found in the Warden's directive to the senior student, Chris Maxwell (TC 1971) in a letter of 11 April that year:

'You are aware of my determination that no significant initiatory elements must be permitted to gain a hold in Juttoddie, contrary to the honourable traditions of this College set by the students themselves for forty years.'

It was Sharwood's last year as Warden. He would retire and his successor, Trinity's Fifth Warden Rev. Dr Evan Burge, would finalise the college's move to co-residency the following year. In July, Maxwell wrote to advise the Warden that 'the Committee has decided not to hold Juttoddie this year.'  In replying, Sharwood expanded further on his earlier concerns.

When the event was moved from Third Term to First Term, the Committee of the day knew that there was a risk that Juttoddie would be seen as some form of initiation ceremony. It was hoped by all concerned that this would not occur, but unfortunately events proved us wrong. It would be a most retrograde step to allow initiations to creep back into College life after some 40 years without them.

As academic gowns - now too expensive to be treated as 'props' - gave way to hessian sacks, Sharwood's concerns continued to dodge the race over the following decade as the college transitioned into co-residency. In Burge's first year, the 'entering of women in the Cup for the first time' was the main point of discussion among 'the old-timers at the track.' A thinly veiled sexism described a 'revamped course, made easier to ensure that one, at least, in the fillies heat would finish'.

'There comes a time when ladies can no longer restrict themselves to the more docile feminine pursuits and must partake in the somewhat perculiar notion gentlemen have of pleasure, to prove that they are equally as strong as the 'stronger sex'. Such a time was Juttoddie.'
- Maxine MacDonald (TC 1975)
'It is a tradition that will forever remain an integral part of the Trinity experience.
- Lucy MacDonald and Chris Drok (TC 2010)
... we shall never again be guilty of misspelling "Juttoddie" - a word which commemorates two members of the College who gave more to College tradition and spirit than they probably realized half-a-century ago.
- Trinity College Newsletter, October 1980

Do you have a Juttoddie story?

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