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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1918

Debating Society

Debating Society

"Year after year debaters blaze and fade, scarce marked the dial, ere departs the shatie."


Urquent Rustice Sane

With feelings almost akin to those of shame, we review the work of the Debating Society for the past six months. When in a mood of retrospection we recall the closing debates of last year, and then think of the Debating Society of pre-war days, the great contrast that presents itself compels us to consider the position seriously. Of a truth, "How are the mighty fallen!" What is the cause of this falling off in the enthusiasm for debating? Are students cast in a more frivolous mould than in former days, when a practice dance at a kindred institution means an audience of two? Can the men at College no longer see the value of getting practice in clearly expressing their thoughts? Where are the budding orators from the law faculty? A few enthusiasts only have kept the Debating Society from becoming but a memory. However, let us hope that better times are in store for the Society, and that this year it may regain much of the prestige and Influence that it boasted of in former years.

The Union Prize for the year 1917 was won by Mr. E. Evans, with an average of 4.2 points in each debate. Miss Neumann, who will be remembered as winning the Plunket Medal, was second, having an average of 2.6 points.

The one bright spot in the year's debating was the enthusiasm of some of the new speakers. Excellent work in the Plunket Medal Competition was done by Messrs. Miller (who was not only placed second to Miss Neumann, but also was successful in gaining the New Speakers' prize), Leicester, Sutherland, and Kirk, and with these men in our midst, the competition for the Union Prize this year should be very interesting.

The annual meeting proved as uninteresting and monotonous as annual meetings (except those of the Students' Association) generally do.

It is proposed this year to hold a friendly debate with the Social Democratic Party, but owing to the lateness of commencing activities, this debate will not be held till next term. The reading circle will also be revived, If possible, and a place will be found on the Programme for a mock trial or a mock parliament.

page 52

So far, only one debate has been held this year, so that there is very little to report on. This debate, held on May nth, was on the question of the attitude of the Press in relation to the war. The censorship was upheld by Mr. Leicester and Mr. Barker, and attacked by Miss Neumann and Mr. Miller. As usual, the "proverbial red herring" was introduced, and the debate wandered blissfully away from the subject. However, this standard of debate was quite good and the speakers acquitted themselves well, showing considerable promise for the year. The Society was fortunate in having Mr. G. G. G. Watson, M.A. L.L.B., as judge, and his kindly criticism and helpful suggestions were appreciated by all, speakers and audience alike. For the purpose of the Union Prize, he placed the speakers in the following order: Mr. Leicester 1, Mr. Kirk 2, Miss Neumann 3, J. H. Sheat and W. Sheat 4th equal.

This year we have not lost many of last year's speakers "Gin" as chairman will not have an opportunity of giving so many of his well-known "impromptu speeches." Others have gone into camp, but the freshers are coming forward in great style to fill up the gaps.

The following is a review of the leading members of the club:

Miss Neumann is handicapped somewhat by her position of vice-chairman. She has a beautiful voice and knows how to use it. Whenever quietness and simplicity are required, Miss Neumann gets there with the audience and judge alike.

Among the men there are two who stand out conspicuously. They are Messrs Leicester and Kirk. Mr. Leicester has a "Bernard Shaw" touch about him. He is a fluent speaker and has a good vein of irony which tells in many ways. In reply, he is strong and quick to see his advantages.

Mr. Kirk, to our way of thinking, is an orator. Let Mr. Kirk have a sympathetic subject, let him speak first, having prepared his speech with the "prettiest" English he can find, and he will beat anyone in the Society. But in reply he needs much practice.

Mr. Miller we like to listen to. He is soothing, and sometimes quite humorous. If Mr. Miller could realise that the debating platform is not a pulpit, we have no hesitation in saying that his chances for the Union Prize would be considerably improved.

Mr. Barker is chatty. We like him. He does not make us think very deeply, but keeps us amused and not very bored. With practice, Mr. Barker should become a most convincing speaker.

Our old friend, Mr. Joseph Sheet could debate if he would. His presence of mind would make him easy on the platform, and his flow of English is good and easy.

There are a good number of new speakers this year, and competition for the New Speakers' Prize should be keen.

Mr. Martin-Smith brings a nice voice and a good manner. When he has found the pitch required for the hall and he has had a little practice he will become quite a "snag."

Mr. W. Sheat is going to make the pace fairly brisk in the race for new speaking honors. He has a good style, and with a little platform experience should develop into a good debater.

"Other things being equal," good prospects are before the Debating Society this year. Keen competition always improves the standard of speaking in a society, and the competitions seem to be keener this year than they have been for some time. Anyway, good luck to the "Talking Club."