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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1909

Plunket Medal Competition

Plunket Medal Competition.

"What is Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her?"

For the fifth successive year a delighted audience listened, spell-bound to the brilliant rhetorical outbursts of our orators and to a recital of the deeds of such a catalogue of heroes as would have gladdened the heart of old Homer himself. The speeches, though some, as Dr. Newman remarked, were reminiscent of the midnight oil, were all of high order of excellence. The standard of previous years was creditably maintained and altogether the performance reflects great credit upon the work which is being done by the College Debating Society.

R. Girling-Butcher led off, taking as his subject Horatio Nelson. His manner and diction are graceful, but his voice wants volume, and there was a lack of enthusiasm in his speech which prevented him from carrying his audience with him and left a sense of vagueness and incompleteness behind.

W. J. McEldowney followed on Oliver Cromwell. After an introductory tirade, aimed apparently at the House of Lords and "that mighty, but less venerable oppressor Capitalism," McEldowney warmed to his subject and delivered a splendid speech. In enthusiasm for his hero he was second to none. He had taken a great subject and treated it in an adequate manner, showing a wide and comprehensive knowledge of the circumstances of the time and a capacity for transcending the mere facts themselves and grasping their essential significance. This was undoubtedly one of the finest speeches of the evening and well worthy of the distinction it won.

J. M. Hogben enlightened the iguorance of the audience as to the merits of somewhat unknown individual—Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Liberator of Hayti—and remonstrated in good set terms with those misguided persons who refuse to credit the negro with genius. Hogben presented perhaps the best example of enunciation—he has a fine delivery and an excellent command of language—but his effect is somewhat marred bu a tone of expostulation, as though he were expecting every statement he made to be contradicted.

Once again our old friend Napoleon was dissected for our edification, this time by J. Ogg, who excelled himself in the page 28 subtle distinction that Napoleon "was not bloodthirsty, but did not spare blood." He took the somewhat incomprehensible course of dwelling at much greater length on the weakness than on the greatness of his subject and left a feeling of doubt as to whether he rally regarded Napoleon as a hero at all, and not merely as a more than ordinarily great sinner. His speech was undoubtedly well thought out and diligently prepared, but the reputation he has acquired as a humourist stood him in bad stead and his most sublime flights of rhetoric, his most magnificient array of polysyllables, were inclined to be received with unbecoming hilarity.

M. H. Oram in his well-known dramatic style brought his hearers to the verge of tears as he described the messengers of death bearing the news of Lincoln's assassination north, south and west, over the continent of America; while J. W. Ross, in slow and measured toues and carefully chosen language, recounted the doughty deeds of the House of Gordon and the glorious martyr—hero of Khartoum. One could not help regretting that Ross was not allowed more time to give a fuller exposition of his subject.

In following Drake through the trackless forests of the New World and over the pathless waves of the Pacific, R. Kennedy gave full rein to his imagination and displayed as vein of poetic fancy that his friends had not given him credit for.

With his speech on David Livingstone, G. W. Morice carried off first honours of the evening. His dramatic narration of the death of the great explorer in the lonely wilder of Central African, was the finest effort of the competition and was listened to in absolutely breathless silence, while his appreciation of the effect of Livingstone's word in the development of Africa was a fitting conclusion to a great speech. We congratulate Morice heartily on a well-deserved success and give expression to a hope that he may appear more frequently at the ordinary debates and no longer hide his light under a bushel.

The voting resulted as follows:—
(1). G. W Morice 82
(2). W. J. McEldoeney 80
(3). M. H. Oram 52

The medal was presented to the successful contestant by the Hon. Mr. Buddo in the absence of His Excellency the Governor. The Mayor, Dr. Newman, presented some pertinent remarks in humorous guise, and Professor Adamson drew attention to the cold treatment which the brick walls of Salamanca Hill received from an apathetic public.

page 29

A successful feature the evening was the songs and glees rendered by the Glee Club during the interval.

Robert Kennedy, Hon. Sec. V.C. Debating Society.