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The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

Even in this, our Silver Jubilee, let us be modest. Without V.C. the tournament would have come into being, and in the course of time would have served its main purpose, the creation of an inter-University-College life. That it came when it did, and was, from the first year, an undoubted success, can, however, be claimed to be in no small measure due to V.C's optimism and enthusiasm. The idea of the Tournament was born of a tennis match between Canterbury and Victoria Colleges in 1900. Fathered by H. P. Richmond of ours, the child was adopted by Canterbury and then abandoned—a Moses in the bulrushes of Inter-College indifference. Came Pharaoh's daughter, alias G. F. Dixon, of V.C. he took the abandoned thing, fed it with the musings of many days and nights and pleaded for its life with his fellow night prowlers in the corridors of the old Girls' High School. The outcast appealed to the "homeless." When Dixon and his committee had made their plans, an unofficial note was sent to Christchurch in such persuasive terms that Canterbury in short order resumed its trust. On the 9th of August, 1901, a formal invitation was issued by Canterbury to Otago and V.C. to take part in a tournament at Christchurch at Easter, 1902, the bones of contention to be athletics, tennis and debating. V.C. accepted at once. Auckland was not invited, but V.C. promptly pointed out that even though the Queen City might be, to misquote Kipling, "the last, loneliest, apart," that was no reason why she should not be given the opportunity of drawing a little nearer. A letter from V.C. to Auckland met with a warm response and, as a result, Auckland was most worthily represented in the first Tournament by 4 ladies and 11 men. This being not a history of the Tournament, but merely a running survey of V.C's part in it, no account of the strenuous work of preparation for the first tournament can be given. But after mentioning that the Secretaryship of F. T. M. Kissel was a triumph, and that the efforts of Dixon and his Wellington colleagues was a wonderful help to the Canterbury Committee, let us pass along. With a total population of well under two hundred, with no athletic club, and with but one or two athletes (athletics itself being in a state of suspended animation in those days in Wellington) the V.C. task in making good the promise to supply competitors in all events was no light one. Still the pledge was kept, and with two championships to our credit, a record (2 mins. 3 1/5 sees, by A. S. Henderson in the 880 yards) destined to stand for 19 years, and a close contest with Otago for second place, defeat was not untinged with honour. In tennis, V.C. ladies won both singles and doubles. Our debaters talked as best they could.

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In passing on it must be mentioned as a matter of historic interest that the bronze medal as the reward of victory was suggested by Professor Easterfield (the original idea of the four colleges being a gold medal) and that the design of the medal was the work of F. T. M. Kissel.

After that first burst of enthusiasm followed a period of lean years. From an athletic total of 22 points V.C. declined through 8 in 1903 to 5 in 1904. From two tennis championships in 1902 to none in 1903, with a rising tendency to one in 1904. It was no failing of enthusiasm but simply a case of the old ones still bearing an impossible burden, and the children still in arms.

Came 1905 and Wellington's first taste of the tournament at home. Well managed, it was a success from every point of view and produced the best balance-sheet up to that date. Our athletic stock on Easter Monday night was quoted at 15½, still a long way below Otago's 52, but an improvement. Tuesday saw us the victor in three out of the five tennis championships—combined doubles and ladies singles and doubles. On the previous Saturday despite the heavy artillery of H. H. Ostler's statistics and George Toogood's dramatic oratory, Otago won the debate.

1906 at Christchurch saw us again in the athletic doldrums but in tennis we won four out of the five championships, and the late E. J. Fitzgibbon and his debating partner F. P. Kelly satisfied the Judges "That Nelson contributed more than Wellington to the overthrow of Napoleon" and were proclaimed the winners. In the view of Mr. Joynt, who was one of the judges, the debate that year reached the highest standard yet attained in the tournament.