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The Spike or Victoria College Review, June 1906

Notes By the Judges

Notes By the Judges.

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It seemed to us that all the men had carefully read no the subject and thought it out for themselves, the result being a distinctly high-class debate. Regarding the question, the correct conclusion probably is that the crucial point in the war against Napoleon was the establishment of England's supremacy at sea by Nelson; without this Wellington could have done nothing. To Wellington belongs the credit of dealing the finishing blows which finally effected Napoleon's downfall. Opinions will differ as to which is the more important work, but we think that to Nelson fell the more difficult as well as the more momentous undertaking. If England had lost the supremacy of the sea at Trafalgar it is not easy to see how it could have been regained. It is not so certain that if Wellington had been defeated all would have been lost.

As to the competition, we had no hesitation in placing Victoria College first, with little to choose between Dunedin and Canterbury for second place, Taking the speakers individually, we thought Mr. B. Murphy (Dunedin) excelled in the clear logical presentment of his case. He spent perhaps a little too much time over his introduction which left him hurried at the finish, and his manner was cold and unimpressive. Mr. Cook (Canterbury) showed a good grasp of the subject and readiness in taking up the points made by his opponents. His was perhaps the best debating speech of the evening. He showed a judicial tone in giving full weight to his opponents' arguments before replying to them.

Mr. Burnard (Otago) showed the fluency and confidence associated with much practice, but trusted a little too much to ad captandum appeals. He weakened his speech by the opening personality, which seemed to have been prepared beforehand. Personalities in debate are only effective in cut and thrust combats, when one blow produces another.

Mr. McIlwraith's speech was full of good matter, but suffered from want of compression and logical arrangement. His delivery was somewhat preachy and monotonous, and this too no doubt helped to spoil his speech.

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The two Victoria College representatives, by dividing the work, were enabled to cover a wider field than the other competitors, and this probably gave them some advantage. Both Mr. Kelly and Mr. Fitzgibbon showed a clear apprehension of the question at issue, and are to be congratulated on the way in which they presented their case. Mr, Fitzgibbon s speech to our mind was the best of the evening from an oratorical point of view, although it fell somewhat below Mr. Cook's in debating power.

The Auckland delegates, Messrs. Hampson and Stanton, did very well as regards the matter of their speeches, but seemed to lack force and readiness of reply. Mr. Hampson appeared to us to make a mistake in trying to compress too much detail into his speech with the result that his delivery was too hurried and he failed to make his points tell. This is one of those cases in which we fancy the half is better than the whole.

One point to which we think attention should be drawn is the faulty pronounciation of some of the competitors. Many of the foreign names introduced, such as Grouchy, Leipsic, Ligny, Torres Vedras, and so on, proved stumbling blocks to more than one of the speakers. We also noticed traces of "twang,"— a tendency to say "vitalitee" for vitality, "veree" for very, and other solecisms, which ws regret to notice creeping into Colonial speech. We ought to be able to look to University students to keep up our English standard of pronunciation and to stop the tendency to degeneration which is becoming apparent even in New Zealand, where we used to pride ourselves with reason on speaking the best English in the Australasian Colonies. Several of the candidates would derive great benefit from lessons in voice production, and it might be considered whether the time has not arrived when elocution might with advantage be taught in our colleges, as it is in Ormond College, Melbourne, and elsewhere. As regards the general style of delivery we think Messrs. Fitzgibbon, Kelly, and Cook are especially deserving of favourable notice.

In conclusion we would like to caution the College Debating Societies against the growing tendency to long introductory or preliminary matter, which always appears to be merely dragged in for effect and gives an artificial air to the speech.