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St Trinians: It All Makes Sense

Belles of St. Trinian's

Alastair Sim and a pink horse

While we’re not normally in the Behind the Name business, the news that St Trinians is aiming to take on the boys in the Santa Anita Handicap (rather than face Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita – which does seem a wise move) was too compelling to ignore – and this move fits what might be called the ‘St. Trinian’s ethos’ perfectly.

For those who have not spent enough time living in the UK to know that the same thirty or so films are on television throughout the year, the name may sound like a harmless parish church or quaint village – but it’s nothing of the sort.  St. Trinian’s began life as a cartoon by Ronald Searle in 1942; the subject was an all-girl boarding school whose pupils have an amusing penchant for pranks, a little violence and some crime.  St. Trinian’s-themed books continued to be released during the 1940s and 1950s, and in 1954, the first film, The Belles of St. Trinian’s, was released, featuring Alastair Sim in a classic dual-role performance as headmistress Miss Fritton and her bookie brother, Clarence.  More interestingly, from our perspective, the plot revolves around horse racing – and not unlike modern racing, the horse in question is owned by a sheik – in this case, the father of one of the students.  Hijinks ensue when groups of students bet on (and against) the horse, with the usual fighting and kidnapping elements swirling around.

While the modern remaking of the franchise puts the girls (naturally, in particularly short ‘naughty schoolgirl’ uniforms – although those were also a staple of the original series) front and center, the original films revolved around Sim and the other adults, with the girls appearing onscreen to cause mayhem (or to sell Flash Harry their homemade gin) every so often. Despite his prominent role in the films, Sim might best be known to some for a role he did not play – Alec Guinness essentially ‘did‘ Alastair Sim when he played Marcus in The Ladykillers.

But back to the girls of St. Trinian’s – their school song seems appropriate enough for a filly looking to stomp on a few colts:

Maidens of St Trinian’s, gird your armour on.
Grab the nearest weapon; never mind which one.
The battle’s to the strongest; might is always right.
Trample on the weakest; glory in their plight.

St Trinian’s! St Trinian’s! Our battle cry.
St Trinian’s! St Trinian’s! Will never die.

Stride towards your fortune boldly on your way,
Never once forgetting there’s one born every day.
Let our motto be broadcast: “get your blow in first!”
She who draws the sword last always comes off worst.

I’m hoping for a horse named after a character in The Wicker Man next.

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