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The Isis

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"The Isis" is an alternative name for the River Thames, used from its source in the Cotswolds until it is joined by the Thame at Dorchester in Oxfordshire It derives from the Latin or pre-Roman Celtic name for the Thames, Tamesis, which in the Middle Ages was falsely assumed to be a combination of "Thame" and "Isis"note 11 Notably the Isis flows through the city of Oxford


  • 1 Rowing
  • 2 Angling
  • 3 Related uses
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References


The name "Isis" is especially used in the context of rowing at the University of Oxford A number of rowing regattas are held on the Isis, including Eights Week, the most important Oxford University regatta, in the Trinity term summer, Torpids in the Hilary term early spring and Christ Church Regatta for novices in the Michaelmas term autumn Because the width of the river is restricted at Oxford, rowing eights normally have a staggered start near Donnington Bridge and must then aim to "bump" the eight in front ie catch up and touch or overlap with it sufficiently The leading eight aims to "row over" ie finish the race without being bumped

There used to be ornate wooden barges on the river bank here at the southern end of Christ Church Meadow to house rowing facilities and for viewing races Now the barges are gone and there are boathouses instead a little further down the river near the confluence with the River Cherwell Poplar Walk in Christ Church Meadow is used as a route to and from the boathouses

The name "Isis" is also used for the men's second rowing crew of Oxford University Boat Club, who race against the men's second crew of the Cambridge University Boat Club, Goldie, before the annual Boat Race on the Thames in London


The Isis, like much of the Thames, has long been popular among anglers for its freshwater fish, including trout and crayfish The Oxford region is home to several angling clubs W F Wallett, a popular Victorian clown, shares in his memoirs his own humorous anecdote about fishing in the Isis with the celebrated circus proprietor Pablo Fanque:

For a few days I amused myself with Pablo Fanque fishing in the Isis Pablo was a very expert angler, and would usually catch as many fish as five or six of us within sight of him put together This suggested a curious device You must know that Pablo is a coloured man One of the Oxonians, with more love for angling than skill, thought there must be something captivating in the complexion of Pablo He resolved to try One morning, going down to the river an hour or two earlier than usual, we were astonished to find the experimental philosophic angler with his face blacked after the most approved style of the Christy Minstrels2

Related usesedit

Thame and Isis, carved by Anne Seymour Damer

The keystones of Henley Bridge depict carved faces intended to represent the Isis and the Thame Thame is a bearded man, while Isis is female3

Each of the Formula Student cars manufactured by the Oxford Brookes racing team uses the name ISIS in the beginning of its chassis numbercitation needed ISIS is then succeeded by the year number; for example, ISIS XII was the 2012 chassis, nicknamed "Miss Piggy"

The ISIS neutron source is named after the river Isiscitation needed

See alsoedit

  • Bumps race
  • Christ Church Meadow
  • Folly Bridge
  • Port Meadow
  • Rowing on the River Thames


  1. ^ The name is first recorded c 1350 as Isa, and in its modern form in 15771
  1. ^ a b Mills, David; Room, Adrian 1998 A Dictionary of British Place-Names Oxford University Press 
  2. ^ Wallett, W F 1870 Luntley, John, ed The Public Life of WF Wallett, the Queen's Jester: An Autobiography London: Bemrose and Sons p 73 
  3. ^ Kendal, Roger; Bowen, Jane; Wortley, Laura 2002 Genius & Gentility: Henley in the Age of Enlightenment Henley-on-Thames: River and Rowing Museum pp 12–13 ISBN 9780953557127 

Coordinates: 51°44′34″N 1°14′59″W / 517429°N 12497°W / 517429; -12497

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The Isis

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