Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks: A Selection
, edd. J.A. Gere and John Sparrow (1981; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985) p. 95:
Mahaffy, asked by a young man in a Dublin street if he was saved, paused and answered: 'I am, but between you and me, it was a damned close squeak.'
E.M. Walker and B.C. McGing, "Mahaffy, Sir John Pentland (1839–1919), college head and classical scholar," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
His caustic wit sometimes made him unpopular, especially in his own university. This is hardly surprising given some of his bons mots. When told, for instance, that Provost Traill was ill, he replied, 'Nothing trivial I hope'. And at a viva voce examination he asked a student why Dr Barlow had been made a fellow. 'I don't know', replied the student. 'Correct', said Mahaffy. 'You get a mark for that. Nobody knows.'