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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review 1912

Debating Society

page 61

Debating Society

Shaper of all sorts and sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall;
And some loquacious vessels were, and some
Listened perhaps, but never talked at all."


Urquent Rustice Sane

As the Plunket Medal Competition, the Women's Oratorical Contest, and the presidential Address are all reported elsewhere in the magazine, the report of our doing's this term is necessarily brief. There have been some exceptionally good debates, and some that might have been of a higher standard. The outstanding feature of the latter part of the year has been the persistent method in which Mr. Bates has dogged our footsteps with rain-making experiments—practically every debating night has been at least damp. This may account for the paucity of our auditors; whether that is the reason or not, it is certain that the audiences this term have been on most occasions exceedingly disappointing Even the members seem to lose interest in the Society in the second term. This is a problem which will have to be solved next year—probably by means of a better arrangement of the syllabus than in previous years. Of course, it should be pointed out that some ten or fifteen members are always keenly enthusiastic, and rarely miss a debate, so causing keen competition for both the Union Prize and the New Speaker's Prize. But we do want more of our members to take a keener interest in the meetings—to come themselves, and bring others to form a larger audience.

One of the most entertaining meetings of the year was the irregular debate in the short vacation, when Miss Coad and Mr. Jackson hurled at each other the respective merits and demerits of separate University Colleges for men and women. Needless to say, the "Separationists" were routed with considerable discomfiture. The debate was characterised by most daring statements on the part of the would-be reformer as to the effects of the feminine element in the College; personalities of a somewhat pertinent nature were by no means lacking.

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The Presidential Address, which was set down for July 27th, was, owing to the abominable state of the weather, postponed until Friday, September 27th. The substance of Mr. Ward's interesting address is published on another page.

On August 10th a debate was held on the motion, "That the time is now opportune for the federation of New Zealand with Australia," moved by Mr. Seaton, and opposed by Mr. A. B. Sievwright. After a discussion, in which all the old arguments pro and con, and not a few quite original ones, were brought to light, the judge, Mr. H. H. Ostler, LL.B., placed the best speakers in the following order:—Mr. Watson, 1; Mr. Burbidge, 2; Mr. Stevenson, 3; Mr. Hall-john, 4; Mr. McEldowney, 5.

The next debate, on September 7th, was of a striking nature, Mr. Quilliam moving, "That the measures adopted in suppressing the recent strike in Queensland were such as can and should be adopted in New Zealand under similar circumstances." This was seconded by Mr. Treadwell, and opposed by Messrs. Con Strack and McEldowney. The judge, Mr. J. A. Halan, M.P., gave the Society some exceedingly useful hints on oratory. His judgment resulted as follows :—Mr. McEldowney, 1; Mr. Cornish, 2; Mr. Watson, 3; Mr. Mazengarb, 4; Mr. Hall-Jones, 5.

Attention of members is drawn to the four debates which have been chosen for next year's syllabus.

Plunket Medal Competition.

"And he surnamed them Boanerges, which is the sons of thunder."

The eighth annual competition for the Plunket medal showed no lowering of the standard of previous years. The list of heroes still unhonoured is apparently now becoming small;for some of the heroes, conspicuous at this competition, have previously been honoured. There was, in some cases, an honest attempt to estimate the worth of some of the men chosen for discourse, notably of Charles James Fox and Jean Jacques Rousseau. The choice of a man whose work was in New Zealand was a concession to the critics, who had now to fall back upon their second ground of criticism, and state their regret that a lady had not as yet come forth to do battle with the strong. We would have been glad to note that the habit of dismissing the "efforts of the young orators" with supercilious page 63 encouragement had become unfashionable. Signs are not wanting that a change is coming, and we shall be pleased to see prevailing a more sensible fashion, which will frankly admit the high merit of the speeches and the usefulness of the competition, The impartial spectator found all the speeches praise worthy.

Mr. W. T. McEldowney presided; His Excellency the Governor was present, and with him the Minister for Education, and all others who should be present.

The Chairman's introductory remarks were more than introductory. Possibly that was why the Governor had to speak "extempore," to quote the infallible press.

Mr. O. C. Mazengarb, M.A., began the competition with a hero of Ireland that "first flower of the earth, first gem of the sea." Mazengarb greatly pleased the audience with his dramatic style and gesture His note of humour was welcomed and his pathos successful, when he described how O'Connell had watched and hoped for Ireland. "He had laboured and prayed for Ireland. There was but one thing needful—that he should be in jail for Ireland." His peroration was excellent.

The judges came to the conclusion that the speaker had really kissed the blarney stone, and accordingly held that Mr. Mazengarb was entitled to the Plunket medal.

Mr. A. E. Caddick, M.A., was not specially happy in his choice of a subject. Milton's life did not lend itself with Mr. Caddick to passionate treatment. The matter of the speech was good, and the speaker's quotations from Milton judicious and effective. His delivery was somewhat monotonous, but it was with real feeling in his voice that he pictured Milton in his old age "the blind old Samson—helpless amid a throng of jeering Philistines, heedless of their taunts, waiting with resignation his release from bodily pain."

Mr. E. Evans surprised the audience with his subject, Count Camillo di Cavour. The audience were content to take Mr. Evans on trust when he described Cavour as "no sentimental dreamer, no fanatical conspirator, but a wise statesman, the one indispensable person who wrought all the other agencies into wise and effective action." It was not quite plain how Garibaldi could cross the Alps and join with and shake hands with Garibaldi on the plains below.

Mr. J, F. Stevenson found his hero in Hampden. The subject was not new, but Mr. Stevenson's legal treatment was. The matter was somewhat heavy and platitudinous—there was too much tonnage and poundage, too little fire and passion. The page 64 speech was too digressive, but the delivery was strong The speaker was happiest when he eulogised Hampden's "perfect recititude of intention to which the history of revolutions furnishes no pareller, or furnishes a parallel in Washington alone."

The subject matter of Mr. G. G. G. Watson's speech on William of Nassau was easily the best. '1 he speaker soon reproduced the turbulent times, and made his hero stand out as a man of great achievement. His frequent use of the word "No,' sometimes in answer to a rhetorical question, sometimes with no such estate of freehold to support it, appeared to the captious critic to be unwise. The imagery was good, and the description of 'battles and sieges, mining and counter-mining, fighting on land and sea, the wild waters rushing through the broken sea walls," possessed literary worth, and lost nothing from the forcible delivery. The assassination of William afforded a fitting ending to a fine speech.

Mr. R. H.Quillam gave an accurate estimate of Charles James Fox, but did not greatly attract the audience. He did not hesitate to drag Fox's frailties from their dread abode, but the story of the life of the man for whom at nineteen a borough was hired, did not give the speaker great scope to work upon the audience. The speaker's platform presence was good, and his speech restrained, clear and well constructed.

Mr. C. N. L. Treadwell chose as his subject Sir George Grey. The speaker's manner was free and his delivery excellent. Mr. Treadwell confined himself mainly to the work of Sir George Grey in New Zealand, and his historical contribution was interesting. His references to the appropriation of the South Australian money was pleasing to the audience, and apparently commended itself to the Minister of Finance, It was a fitting night, concluded the speaker, to speak of one who had laboured for New Zealand, and who on that very night fourteen years a had been laid to his rest.

Mr. Jackson was unfortunate in his subject, and unfortunate in his delivery. There was, however, a picquant candour in his treatment of Jean Jacques Rousseau, especially in the contemplated work of posthumous slander. Mr. Jackson may have been abashed by the doings of Rousseau, but in any, failed to meet the audience, and drew inspiration from the footlighls. The speaker finished well, after being rather badly confused at the beginning. Mr. Jackson gave a good picture of Rousseau's personality, with some bright touches.

The College Glee Club item was characterised more by excellence of motive than by brilliance of result.

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The judgment of the judges (Right Rev. T. H. Sprott, Bishop of Wellington, Edward Tregear, Esq., I.S.O., and A. R. Atkinson. B.A.) was now, according to the programme "prepared." It was long in coming. Mr. Atkinson remarked that oratory was suspect by the Anglo Saxon, and that they order these things different in France, but the audience was impatient of the reasons of the Court and anxious For the award, which was as follows:—
1.Mr. O. C. Mazengarb.
2.Mr. G. G. G. Watson.
3.Mr. C. A. L. Treadwell.

His Excellency presented the medal. The President of the Society thanked everybody, and the meeting concluded.