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The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924

From Britain

page 91

From Britain

Dear Fellow Students,

An opportunity to congratulate Victoria College on its Silver Jubilee and to be back there again, if only in printer's ink, is far too good to be missed. You won't remember me, most of you, for it was only for a few months in 1913-14 that I was over, but I shall never forget the days there and the Heretics' Club and the S.C.U., the Debating Society, and Prof. Hunter's philosophy class in his study overlooking the harbour and the mountains beyond. I settled the question of the Nature of Causality, I recollect, in some twelve foolscap pages, but how I did it entirely escapes me—not so the cloud shadows which chased across the hills and darkened the blue water here and there nor that bank of gorse, golden in the sunlight below the white crosses in the Catholic Cemetery. You have a wonderful heritage; it was good to be with you and to share it even for a short time. It was a sorrowful Europe we came back to in the middle of the Great War, and it is sorrowful still. Here at home we have as many unemployed as you have of population, and on the Continent a slow war drags on, more terrible than that which preceded it, since it begins with the weakest. Child by child, woman by woman, man by man they are dying as the result of the policy which followed the "peace"—a policy which crushes the innocent and from which the most guilty escape. I have been over to Germany this year again. If you saw it you would know that, however righteous the claim for reparations, an intolerable wrong is being done. But I did not start to tell you of that, though it is part of my work, in a way, and there is little chance to forget it. Here in the neighbourhood of Birmingham we have a group of Colleges to which students from all over Europe are welcomed and which in this respect recalls the "Universities" of the Middle Ages. The College at which I am most closely engaged is for working men and we have usually four or five from Denmark or Germany among them. Negotiations with France have so far failed to meet with much response but we hope to welcome our first Frenchman next term. The amount of insight which may be got into labour problems of other countries by actually living for some weeks with men from their trade union and socialist ranks is much greater and more vital than that which one learns from books; and for those who come, too, the gain is considerable.

Our British students are drawn from many parts of the country, from "field, factory and workshop," from the ship-yards of the Clyde or Tyne to the mines of S. Wales or of Durham. "Comrades of danger, poverty and scorn,"could be written of many of them, as it could of Bob Smillie, the Miners' leader, who visited us at the beginning of this term. They are a cheery crowd nevertheless, and when there is a "rag" or a "sing-song" going "Wikitoria" itself could not be more on the spot. Nor are they less capable on the intellectual side, and they emerge triumphant from the trial of the "Essay Class" in which the essayist is free to choose his subject and to make the best of it, and then stands fire while the whole community criticises him. "The Poetry of Browning," "The Making of a Boot," "The History of Irish Nationalism," and "The Growth of Welsh Literature" have all been treated in the last few weeks, and treated in page 92 a way which would have cast no discredit on a University student. As I write, the country is preparing for the General Election and we have our ideas about that too. Football must take a back place for once! Our College "parliament" has closed down. Officially and as an institution we are non-political but if you were in the midst of us you might be forgiven for not remembering that! We care to be good citizens or we should not have come here and we know that an election is one opportunity to serve the state, though we sometimes disagree furiously as to the parties and methods which will best attain our end. Nevertheless, we remain comrades, as we did when you forgave my revolutionary tendencies of old; and perhaps one of the best experiences one ever has is that of a friendship which goes deeper than the disagreements and which cannot be broken by them. May I thank you for all you did for me in those far away days and wish the dear old College a long life and a glorious one, and may her glory be that of the wreath of amaranths which never fades away.

Mary E. Pumphrey.