The late Radcliffe Infirmary, located in central Oxford, always had a Christmas show put on by nurses, consisting of several polite items under the auspices of the Matron. In the Christmas of 1938, under the leadership of Dr. McQuaide, a new show was produced. The first half was a traditional concert by the nurses, while the second half showcased two short pantomimes by the doctors – ‘Cinderella’, an amusing professionally written piece, and ‘Virgins Vindicated’, a brief old-fashioned melodrama with title of high moral tone.
During 1939 a clinical school was founded at Oxford, but it wasn’t until 1940 that the medical students put on their first performance. ‘Dick Whittington and his Dog’ was performed by the ‘Radcliffe Raspberries’, and at the dinner after the show, the emblem of the society – a pink elephant – was conceived.
However in case the ‘Radcliffe Raspberries’ with their pink elephant mascot gave off the wrong impression, Dr. Robb-Smith – the first senior member of the society – suggested that the name of the society be changed to the Tynchwycke Society. Nicholas Tynchwycke was in circa. 1300 the first teacher of medicine in Oxford, physician to Edward I, and – most importantly – rented from the university a pub which was used by physicians for over 400 years.
Over the intervening years ‘Tynchwyke’ morphed into ‘Tingewick’, and the emblem of the society is now lovingly known as ‘Rita’. The society even has a large eponymously-named hall and foyer at the new John Radcliffe Hospital site, where the pantomime is now held. The pantomime is still the biggest event in the Tingewick calendar, witnessed by over 1,400 doctors, nurses, students, and members of the public. And it is still exclusively acted, written, designed, and produced by us – Oxford’s medical students.
As well as the pantomime, Tingewick has grown to put on a series of events throughout the year. From dances and sketch shows to gameshows and variety performance, these events raise the money needed to put on the pantomime. Such an undertaking is no easy feat of organisation. Twenty-seven talented medical students come together to form the ‘Tingewick Firm’ responsible for putting on that year’s events, ending with the pantomime. They are supported (and kept in-line) by a number of senior members – doctors and consultants – who are selected by the firm for having shown especial enthusiasm for the work Tingewick does.