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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1908

Plunket Medal Competition

Plunket Medal Competition.

Eight unfortunate—or misguided—members of the Debating Society made their appearance in the Concert Chamber of the Town Hall on 12th September, on the occasion of the fourth pyrotechnic display by competitors for the Plunket Medal.

M. H. Oram opened fire on the subject of Queen Victoria who "was a woman before she was a queen," and "although she was a woman yet she was firm" (Professor von Zedlitz page 57 much moved.) One felt that Oram meant to be serious; he spoke in a serious manner, but much of his matter seemed out of place in an oration. D. S. Smith followed on John Hampden. Nervous at the beginning, Smith soon warmed up to his subject and delivered a fine sketch of his hero. There was a force and sincerity about his speech which appealed strongly to the audience, and no one can doubt that he deserved first place. C. H. Taylor spoke of Robert Louis Stevens on and chiefly of his struggle against suffering. Taylor also suffered apparently from nervousness—which unfortunately rendered him incapable of showing his real quality. The Spike cannot agree with Taylor that Stevenson was a "man of note in history." John Mason erred greatly in his speech on the first Earl of Chatham. Lack of preparation, circumlocution and profundity were the chief features of his efforts, and, John, with his audience, lacked conviction. J. M. Hogben spoke of General Wolfe. Julius lacked somewhat in matter but held his audience well; his description of the oars splashing in the River St. Lawrence considerably lowered the temperature of the torrid gallery, the occupants of which followed him up the heights and to the charge but refused to die with his hero. E. Armit devoted his attention to Edmund Burke. From the literary point of view Armit's effort was the best of the evening, hut he lacked fire. His subtraction of Burke's faults from his virtues left the audience feeling that there was a minus quantity of the latter. Napoleon, as in 1905 when he was murdered by John Graham, provided the piéce de résistance of the evening. On this occasion he was stage-managed by A. M. Salek. Salek was particularly successful in placing the accent on the wrong words, and a grateful audience smiled its appreciation on several occasions. Salek is quite a young member of the Society, and with more experience may well hope to become a successful orator. H. E. Evans was the last speaker and asked the audience to admire William III. The "dangerous demagogue" delivered an essay rather than an oration'. He, like Oram and Smith, tried to convince his audience that his hero was absolutely without compeer, at least in one respect. Evans's lack of force and enthusiasm marred an otherwise excellent effort.

During the interval which was occupied in counting the votes, the occupants of the gallery gave a painful exhibition of the truth of Professor Picken's presidential dictum, viz., that "the sources of witticism soon run dry." Had the Debating Society Committee been possessed of any page 58 energy and a little consideration for the public, it would have been an easy matter to have arranged for a programme of songs.

The result of the ballot was:—
D. S. Smith 1st.
E. Armit 2nd.
H. E. Evans 3rd.

The Hon. Mr. G. Fowlds, in the absence of His Excellency the Governor, presented the medal and delivered a short address. Professor Picken added a few remarks, and the Hon. Mr. T. W. Hislop who "had not expected that he would be called on to speak" recited his oration as glibly as any of the competitors. The piano which figured on the programme came into requisition to accompany the singing of the National Anthem.