Carol singing, 2021

Carols were once again heard on Osney last Saturday evening. A group of islanders, skilfully organised by Matt Dyson (in disguise as a Christmas tree) sang on request outside a number of houses, finishing up in the bar at The Holly Bush. The smaller singers enjoyed knocking on doors and being offered sweets and drinks, while the adults were particularly grateful for Uttara’s hot samosas and Ravi’s tots of whisky at the end of the route.

Singing in The Holly Bush (photos by Nigel Allen)
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Osney Advent Calendar 2021

This December, Osney will again host its own live Advent calendar, with a window ’opening’ somewhere on the island for each day of Advent. On 1 and 24 December, and at weekends, there will be two windows. For more information see the Advent calendar page.

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Tealights on the Towpath, 11 December 2021

We are planning to hold Tealights on the Towpath on Saturday 11 December starting at 5.30 p.m.

For those new to this event, people bring decorated lanterns to the top end of East Street riverbank to meet island friends and neighbours. There will be hot sausages (meat and vegan) and mulled wine or apple juice (bring your own mug!) There will also be a Christmas tree to decorate so please bring a bauble.

We are looking for volunteers. If you can help with any of the below please contact Alison Burdett (

  • Cooking sausages on the day and bringing them to East Street (sausages will be supplied)
  • Mulling wine on the day and bringing it to East Street (wine and mulling ingredients supplied)
  • Lending/bringing a fire pit
  • Helping to clean up afterwards

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Carol singing, 4 December 2021

We will meet outside The Punter at 5 p.m. on Saturday 4 December for this year’s carol singing. If you are planning to join in, or would like a carol sung outside your door, please contact Matt Dyson (

Singing sheets will be provided. Children welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.

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Lock gates moving along Bridge Street, 14 April 2021

This coming Wednesday (14 April) the EA will be moving the old gates from Days Lock back to the depot at the end of Bridge Street. This is the final part of replacing the gates.

Please ensure that the east side of Bridge Street is clear of cars on Wednesday, as well as any spaces opposite bike racks. A parking amnesty has been arranged with the council allowing cars to park elsewhere on the island.

The plan is as follows:

1.     HGV laden with gates to enter Bridge Street mid-morning (ETA 10.30am) Wednesday 14th April

2.     Unladen HGV to exit Osney Depot approx 12pm

3.     HGV laden with gates to enter Bridge Street mid-afternoon (ETA 2.30pm) Wednesday 14th April

4.     Unladen HGV to exit Osney Depot approx 4pm

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Lock gates moving down Bridge Street, 10 March 2021

This coming Wednesday the Environment Agency will be moving its second set of lock gates for Days Lock from the depot. These will come down Bridge Street between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on 10 March.

Please ensure that all vehicles are moved from Bridge Street, or ready to move, at this time. Bikes in the bike bays will also need to be moved.

See the EA letter for further information.

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Katie Miller

Katie Miller, who lived on Osney as a child and now lives just off the island, near the River Hotel, is raising money for some surgery she needs. See the Oxford Mail article here:

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Bill Bowell obituary

Bill Bowell died on 19 January 2021 aged 87. He had lived for 60 years in Bridge Street with his wife Edna, who died in December 2019. Bill worked as a chef when younger, and is remembered in Osney for his friendliness, for delivering the Oxford Mail and Times door-to-door, and for famously swimming with dolphins off the coast of Ireland to help with his depression.

His funeral is at St Frideswide’s Church on 5 February (family only due to COVID restrictions).


Marc Thompson writes: Bill was our newspaper delivery ‘boy’ when we first moved to the island 20 years ago. We discovered that he visited Dingle in Kerry most years to swim with Fungi the dolphin. Bill suffered from depression and the dolphin swimming he found helped with this. It is probably no coincidence that Fungi has disappeared from Dingle in the last couple of weeks just as Bill has departed this life.  He was a lovely man, gentle and kind.

Miranda Jones writes: Dear Bill Bowell delivered newspapers to Osney islanders and was always willing to  have a chat if one’s paths crossed. He would keep an eye open for people who left their keys in the door or even left their door open. A very kind and good person. Farewell Bill.

Elizabeth Newbery writes: Bill was the very first person I met on the Island when I arrived here. Bill became a good source of information for the newsletter which I used to put together before Jane.

Chris Gray writes: Bill was one of the brightest stars of Oxford Mail distribution. One colourful detail I recall is that each weekday night he would be on Osney Bridge with a paper ready to hand to the Bentley-driving chauffeur of Sir Basil Blackwell en route from Blackwell’s bookshop to his home at Appleton.

Councillor Susanna Pressel writes: I have known Bill and his family for about 25 years. He was a special and much loved man – always warm, friendly and hospitable, with a delightful twinkle in his eye and a really lovely voice. Until recently he was very active locally. …When I first got to know him, his children lived nearby; his daughter, for instance worked at West Oxford School for a long time. They have always been a close family. I’m sure he will be fondly remembered for a long time. Osney Island will be poorer without him.

Julia Marsh writes: Bill Bowell was a larger than life character when we moved to South Street in 1990, always taking an interest in our daughters, telling me I’d need to get a move on in order to catch up with the number of children he and Edna had (5)!

There are newspaper stories about Bill and the dolphins here, and about Bill and Edna’s experience in the 2007 floods here.

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Annette Steele obituary

Annette Steele died on 19 January 2021 in Sobell House Hospice after a short illness, just a month before her 82nd birthday. Annette was born in the house in East Street where she lived her whole life, for the last four decades with her beloved husband Ron, who passed away 2 years ago. She was a much-loved, kind neighbour with amazing stories of island life. Annette is survived by her son Barry (who had cared for her since Ron’s death), and four grandchildren, of whom she was very proud.

Annette’s funeral is on 15 February. The hearse will be passing down East Street at approximately 2.15 p.m. if local people wish to pay their respects.

Local tributes

Maureen Ergeneli writes: Annette was a lovely neighbour who never forgot a birthday, or Easter or Christmas, and as often as not, children would find a fiver tucked in as well. She had a great memory and to our delight she would tell us about the characters who used to live on the island: the milkman and his horse, all those who had little shops where one could buy sweets or groceries. She remembered the barges pulled by horses which were stabled at the Waterman’s Arms [now The Punter], swimming in the river, getting chewing gum from American soldiers in the war. She leaves a big hole in our lives. We shall miss her terribly.

Alison Burdett writes: Annette was a wonderful, kind neighbour with amazing stories of island life over the many years she lived here. She had a wide circle of friends and a great sense of humour, and will be sadly missed.

Pauline Massey writes: Annette Steele was a good friend to me and my family, as she was to many others. Always kind and thoughtful, phoning regularly to see how you were; she was a fine lady who will be sadly missed by all who knew and loved her.

Julia Marsh writes: Annette was a good friend.  We chatted regularly on the phone including her final weeks in Sobell House.

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University plans for students this term

Oxford Brookes and the University of Oxford have issued the following press release about plans for student teaching:

Oxford’s two universities will deliver learning online for most students until at least mid-February, in line with the national lockdown across England.

The majority of students at Oxford Brookes and the University of Oxford have been asked not to return to Oxford, with the exception of those studying specific courses relating to medicine, health, education and social work.

Students who do return will be asked to take free and fast tests for COVID-19 to minimise the risk of transmission, and to protect the health of students, staff and the wider community. Where in-person teaching does take place, both universities have COVID-secure arrangements to ensure it can continue safely. These measures have been in place since the start of the academic year helping to contain the virus, and prevent further transmission. They are kept under constant review to ensure they meet the latest government guidance and advice from Public Health England.

At Oxford Brookes University, the semester will start on 25 January with remote teaching for the majority of students, except for those on specific courses. Face-to-face teaching for most courses will not begin until 14 February at the earliest.

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student and Staff Experience at Oxford Brookes University said: “Our first priority is the health of our students, staff and the wider community in Oxford. This is a challenging time and we all have a part to play in slowing the spread of the virus. I want to thank our staff for their ongoing efforts to minimise risks, support students and ensure they can continue to learn effectively.”

The University of Oxford’s Hilary term will start on 11 January, with most students learning online. The University will continue to operate, but museums and other buildings will be closed to the public.

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, at the University of Oxford, said: “While very important for stopping the spread of COVID-19 the national lockdown will change how universities operate. We have been planning for scenarios such as this for several months, and remain confident that we can continue to support our students, and protect the health of our wider community in the weeks ahead.”

Some students may return to university accommodation in Oxford if they do not have suitable study space where they currently live, or for mental health reasons.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The universities are at the heart of this city, I want to thank them for moving so fast to ensure the safety of staff, students and residents in this latest lockdown. They have been thorough and proactive at managing the risk throughout this pandemic, I wish them and their students a safe and productive term through lockdown.”

Ansaf Azhar, Director for Public Health in Oxfordshire, said: “We have worked in strong partnership with our colleagues at Oxford’s universities throughout the pandemic and this continues as we enter the new lockdown period. We have been kept fully briefed of all key decisions. The universities are such a huge part of Oxford’s day to day life and our collective efforts in managing the local impacts of the pandemic will continue throughout the difficult weeks ahead and beyond as we deal with further developments throughout 2021.”

Latest information on COVID-19 from each university:

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