With his bowler hat perched resolutely and College tie worn askew beneath a collar so crisp you could cut glass with it, Head Porter is perhaps the most instantly recognisable figure in Old College. He likes to think that he rules the Porters’ Lodge with a rod of iron, but he is largely ignored by his indifferent staff. Deputy Head Porter’s arrival was the result of a devious plot of his own devising, his motives for which are indistinct at first. It quickly becomes apparent that this somewhat peevish gentleman has far more power within College than is good and proper, although without the intellect to wield it, this could prove to be his undoing.
Head Porter plays his cards very close to his chest in both his professional and personal life. Indeed, one might even think that the chap had no personal life at all, were it not for the unexpected arrival of a unknown young woman. However, men like Head Porter don’t just pop up out of the ground, and his disagreeable demeanour could perhaps find its origins in his formative years.
The young Head Porter was something of an inconvenience to his staunchly conservative parents when he arrived, ten days late, on the bathroom floor of their humble but neat cottage in an all-but-forgotten village in Yorkshire. A perpetual disappointment to his merchant seaman father, there was little warmth either from his emotionally bankrupt mother, a woman cowed into cold sorrow by many unhappy years of marriage. This made for a lonely and somewhat confused child, who although not stupid was diffident towards education.
As soon as he was able, Head Porter left his bleak beginnings behind and headed out in search of bright lights and fortune. He got as far as a working men’s club in Ely, where he found employment and lodgings. Working his way from glass collector and pot washer and growing into a strapping young man to boot, Head Porter eventually found himself not only the proprietor of this unpretentious establishment but also unexpectedly eligible. Astonished and delighted at the sudden feminine attention, Head Porter decided it prudent to strike while he had the chance, and immediately married the flame-haired young tea lady from the bowls club. What happened next remains something of a mystery, although we know it did not end well. Old College bringing him into its illustrious bosom could be the best and worst of things to happen to him.
Head Porter is an unassumingly complex character, who is both a staunch pillar of authority and also something of a comedy sidekick. His relationship with Deputy Head Porter is multifarious and becomes more tangled with time, although the moments in which they do bond are sincere. When the need to work as a team becomes mortally important, they are both relieved to put aside the sniping in favour of saving their skins.
The character of Head Porter has certainly evolved over time and now his dialogue and behaviour just pop up on the page without too much input from my good self. This is in no small part due to my great friend and talented actor and writer Paul Butterworth, who has helped me bring our favourite fusspot so brilliantly to life. I particularly like how his frequent attempts to deflect adventures and shenanigans are often swiftly followed by an enthusiastic and often inappropriate involvement, usually to the great annoyance of The Dean. Although I am fond of slaughtering my best-loved characters, our dear Head Porter is likely to be around for some while yet.