Born out of the heart of CUOC, DrongO is the official orienteering club for Cambridge alumni.

Its history began in the early 1990’s. By that time, JOK had been around for a few years, and the general feeling arose that it was a shame that there was no Cambridge equivalent.

The idea of an ex-CUOC club started in the heads of its first distinguished members: Paul Curzon, Colin Smith, and Tim Wiegand. Also involved were Jon Forster and Phil Slingsby who were still undergraduates at the time.

Paul Curzon had joined CUOC while he was doing his Ph.D. (1986-90) and even after that time, when he was a research assistant, he and his mates were "still all hanging around doing post-grad things, or being on the CUOC committee, pretending to still be students."

Following JOK's footsteps, the CUOC alumni club also had to have a funny name. That "DRONGO" was chosen, however, is mainly due to an inside joke within CUOC. At the time, there was an informal competition at the CUOC lunches, known as the "Drongo of the week" for the person who had done the most stupid thing. Paul recalls that "Jon [Foster] tended always to get it for e.g. locking himself out of his room with only a towel after having a post training shower."

That mini-tradition started with the "Drongo hat", which, as Jon Foster could tell us was "purchased after BUSF in 1987. The event was organised by OUOC at Beaudesert and we were sharing their accommodation in a village hall somewhere near Cannock Chase (they were always so much better organised than us). When we went back to collect our bags after the relay (we were heading straight off to the Lakes for a training week) there was a jumble sale in full swing. One of the items available was a rather fetching orange felt hat and someone, Phil I think, couldn't resist buying it. This became the Drongo hat, awarded during the forthcoming tour to the person committing the worst "drongage" of the day. The tradition survived into the summer term, with a weekly award at the club lunch, but what happened to the hat after that, I have no idea. Would be fun to think someone still had it somewhere."

With the club spirit based on these hilarious memories, the name "drongo" has always had entertaining and deeply funny qualities - at least to the people in the know. Looking at it from the outside was less encouraging: on one hand "drongo" is just the name of an Australian bird, but more significantly in Australian English, "drongo" is slang for loser or idiot. The origin of that term can be traced back to a racehorse named Drongo. It raced in the 1920s and was deemed unlucky never to have come better than second in thirty-seven starts — something we seem to greatly aspire to this club. There is also a Scottish ceilidh of the same name, where the lonely person in the middle is the unlucky "drongo" who is not allowed to dance while inside the circle.

In selecting the club name, it may also have helped that "drongo" ends in "O", thus allowing to reverse-engineer orienteering-related phrases that "DRONGO" might stand for. A number of alternatives have been suggested over the years, but none have ever been officially adopted:

  • Dead Researchers Or New Graduate Orienteers
  • Directionless Researchers Or Newly Graduated Orienteers
  • Debt Reclamation frOm Newly Graduated Orienteers

However, since only very few DrongOs are ever seen in forests, another alternative comes to mind:

  • Don't Run Or Never Go Orienteering

While orienteering provides the official shell of our club, serious competitions have never stood at the heart of it. Instead, the focus has remained on (picking) fun and enjoyment.

The DrongO Logo

DrongO Logo

The DrongO logo was a doodle that Paul Curzon drew at some point. The bird in the middle is the "drongo", an Australian bird by that name, except that Paul admits to having "had no idea what a drongo bird looked like (and didn't really care either)".

Looking closely at the logo, we can see another reference to the "Drongo of the week" competition: The orange Drongo hat is immortalised in the blob over the O of the logo.