Where are they now? Martin Pengelly, NYC

By Martin Pengelly, VMC 1996-1999

I came to Mildert from Leeds in 1996, left in 1999, moved to London, worked for a few papers then went to New York in 2012. As an editor at Guardian US, I’ve covered Snowden and the NSA, the rise of Trump, the murder of George Floyd, Covid and the Capitol riot. My wife and three girls are American. We don’t get to the UK much.

But Mildert is an irreplaceable part of my life. It’s part-genetic, instilled when my brother Owen captained the rugby team and showed me the way to the bar. There are the friendships too: Owen Murphy-Evans (my best man), Tom Mallaburn (my writing partner), Eleanor Holroyd and Mike Smith (Harrogate’s finest Mildertians, probably). In Manhattan, Alex Mysak doesn’t live too far from my newsroom.

I’m asking for trouble, given I mounted strong campaigns for College Rah only to lose to Crap Duck. But if I think Mildert was about one thing, I think it was about a lack of pretension. It was about everybody having a place. It was about not caring much what others thought, particularly your supposed superiors, but respecting all while having a very good time. 

The grounding that gave me helps make covering American politics in the age of Trump not just bearable but actively fun. Reverent irreverence, I call it. It was there in the rugby team, of course, with Tom Copeland, Callum Douglas and the great Michael Gunn. It was there in the phenomenon of the Kazu, in epic games of corridor cricket, in Katie Dunn’s willingness to call me out for being a wanker in JCR meetings.

It’s hardly evidence of a crusading journalist in utero, but I’m proud of a couple of instances of irreverence to the powers that were. Both involved minor run-ins with George Patterson – a man who ran Mildert as only a true Mildertian could.

I wrote for Palatinate that Lawrence Dallaglio should not have been fired as England captain for confessing to using recreational drugs. George collared me by the tuck shop. I wore the telling-off like a medal.

I wrote a letter of protest when new signs went up, welcoming guests to “Van Mildert College and Conference Centre”. It was a nod to financial reality. I thought it could have been more subtle. George wrote back, unhappy. 

Whatever. All these years later, all these thousands of miles away, Mildert rests in my soul. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s