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The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924

Some Memoirs

page 39

Some Memoirs

Dear Spike

I fear I have nothing of national importance to lay before your readers at the moment. My views are well-known, and you will doubtless find that the cream of your other contributors express my sentiments to a hair. However, as you say, a glimpse at the early life of one or two of our ancient heroes may please those interested in the origin of worth and beauty.

We'll take old de la Mare for a start. I know he has often discoursed on the same theme, but he may have missed something. There have been rumours that I once lived with the man. I admit the fact unreservedly. I am told that unscrupulous landladies now entice young students looking for board by representing their establishments as the original of that happy home. It held nine in our day, and each man a footballer, which was good for the game, but rather a crowd in the bathroom on Saturday evenings. There were only two seasons in the year then and balls of one kind or another were always in the air in that devoted house. One well-filled week, when two windows and a chair went west—whither most of the sportsmen have since followed them, alas!—was brought to a climax by a raid on the pantry following a moonlight run, and a pale young student was put to the door. Our representations that it was probably Frog who took the pie were coldly disregarded—Caesar's wife was always a fool to him. However, the culprit said he could not go till we had got someone respectable to take his place and he was there when I left. The Frog then, as ever, was on the side of law and order. He said that football on the landing outside his door, with suppressed cries of .... well, cries, disturbed his studies, then at a precarious stage of their extended career. Truth to tell, and this in confidence, Froggy worked so hard all day in the Government Buildings that by evening he was somewhat spent, and the gentle sounds that proceeded from his bedroom door were not those of a man in travail with his books. He said he would give up football the year the first team went over to Sydney—so he did, until the trial games came on. The sporting writers on the other side said he reminded them of Seeling. His chief weakness as a footballer was inability to tell occasional unfair opponents quickly and succinctly what he thought of them. Perhaps it was as well, later regrets would have been inevitable with such a polite man—so polite, indeed, that he has been known to circle a standing tramcar three times on his trusty "Red Bird" to bow to an unobservant College lass. Each time he nearly floored the conductor and on the third round a small boy was moved to shout "Look out Mister, he's comin' at yer again"!

Reverting to boarding days, despite his respect for decorum, it was de la Mare who hit the ball over the wall one Sunday morning when we were conducting some experiments in the yard of the next-door house, then unoccupied. To retrieve it, an invasion of the domain of Allan MacDougall's uncle was essential, and my brother Gib was selected, almost unanimously, for the ticklish task. He got the ball all right but the old gentleman caught him on the rebound, so to speak, and discoursed at some length on Sabbath desecration. His genial nephew descended later on, and apologised like a Highland gentleman, and we were asked to page 40 dinner to meet his uncle on more level terms. On succeeding Sabbaths de la Mare was only allowed to bowl, and never to swear above a whisper. I suppose there are still many who remember the stir in the College when it became known that Allan MacDougall could interpret and partially understand the English lectures of those days—the Rhodes Scholarship was virtually his from that moment. My family had troubles of the ball kind earlier than that with one Rawdon Beere, a fair and slender youth. Yes, yes, same man. He owned a hockey stick when the Club was formed and naturally became Captain forthwith. We lived up Hill Street way then, and Beere came round on moonlight nights to show us, in a vacant section, how to pass the ball to the centre when goals looked probable. Did I say he was Captain? He was also centre. Well, one night the stage was set and centre was just about to score with a screamer, but the ball bumped and finally came to rest in an adjacent bedroom belonging to an Inspector of Police, who had foretold this result some days earlier. He was absent when his hopes were fulfilled, and Beere said it was no good our waiting about for him as we lived so handy! Rawdon kept a book in those days in which he wrote a weekly criticism of each player in his team. No-one grudged him a few weeks of that simple pleasure, but the final outcome, of course, was the formation of a Football Club.

Dixon, G. F. was an original member of the Hockey Team, and the grace and agility displayed by some of us in evading accidents at practice down on the old Thorndon reclamation soon infected him with an overwhelming desire to have an Easter tournament. I'm told he still gets restless and excited and a trifle overbearing as Easters approach. The very first trials took place in a corner of the old Parliamentary Tennis Courts one Saturday afternoon, when Pat Foley offered to beat all-comers at the hop-step-and-jump. He did too, until Gib cleaned him up with two feet to spare. Pat's other accomplishments included goal-keeping for the senior hockey team. Our training for the first meeting was a strenuous business. Dixon had been on a walking tour the previous Christmas and was as hard as a brick, and every Sunday a devoted band would hike out to Makara or Titahi and be forced to race Dixon up every hill on the way home—heel and toe methods only, the bulk of us getting some minutes start according to length of hill and G. F's optimism. At first the scratch man won everything and became so insufferably cocky that we were forced to bend the knee a trifle round the unseen bends—George couldn't quite understand our improvement, but it brought him on no end in his training. However he soon chucked running in favour of managing. Clad in a new Norfolk suit each year, with increasing badges and presentation walking-sticks and a tremendous air of here-comes-my-team—dont-show-any-of-em-a-bun-till-Tuesday, the man was an institution in four cities. Those who saw him not were in like ease with the unfortunates who missed Avignon au temps des Papes—you may put a footnote about that if you think the present day standard of erudition demands it.

You may wonder that I say little of the dear old Profs.—I knew most of them by sight of course, but our ways seemed to lie apart, doubtless to their lasting regret. We collaborated occasionally none the less. One of them once asked me to fix all the lights so that none could be turned out during the progress of the winter balls. I cannot say why—those were quiet, old page 41 fashioned times when all the Bolsheviks were still in Russia and there were no debates as to the wisdom of creating the Universe. And I must decline your invitation to comment on the rival charms of the various relays of women students I have known, though between ourselves I believe I know the answer to that, one too. It is really a good thing you are cramped for space. Failing that argument I don't know how I could have withstood the applications of Davie Smith and a host of others to be included in these memoirs.. V. B. Willis, for example, sent along a synopsis of his bi-annual replies to the toast of "The Ladies" at the festive gatherings peculiar to Eichy's hospitable home, and so on. They must await another Jubilee or write to you themselves.

Apologising for the solemn tone inseparable from all thoughts of these spectres of the past, I am, etc.,

A. H. Bogle.