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The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924

New Plymouth, 1923

page 93
New Plymouth, 1923.

"I have been seriously informed that it is the 50th anniversary of V.C. we celebrate next year—in which case those of us who were there "in the beginning" are almost too venerable to attend!

In these present days of luxury, one often marvels at one's powers of endurance in the things of former days. Then I used to hie me forth every eventide from the southern end of the city to that remote northern quarter where the Girls' College was then (and is now) for that was our only home. Mostly I walked; sometimes, when funds permitted, I rode on the horse trams—but that took somewhat longer! It took an hour each way to walk, so that I very often spent two hours on the way to get one hour's lecture.

The very beginning of V.C. was that day in the year 1899, just prior to April 17th, when intending students met the newly arrived professors at the Education Board Buildings in Merce r Street. I remember the occasion very well, because on the day before when returning from Island Bay on the lumbering old horse bus, I had noticed a very perfect gentleman who gave up his seat inside and had, as an alternative, to ride most distressedly on the back step. He did it, however, so graciously as to excite the admiration of all of his fellow passengers, including myself. On the morrow I recognised the Knight of the Bus as Professor Easterfield. (He did not subsequently take up a residential section at Island Bay tho'.)

The first Capping Ceremony was held in June of that same year, also in the Education Board Buildings. There was not a noticeable amount of enthusiasm evinced by the students, probably because the graduates were not yet those of V.C. Still, quite a number of Wellington's public, who were, no doubt, witnessing such proceedings for the first time were positively scandalised. How they must have been educated up to things since! The Chancellor on that occasion was Sir James Hector, and the Registrar, I think, Mr. J. W. Joynt. They entered the hall at the head of platform notables (among whom I remember the late Mr. F. E. Baunie, M. H. R.—because he was greeted as "Freddy") and the students feebly chanted "The Animals Came in Two by Two." By the way, there is a Mr. R. H. Rockel, M.A. on the staff of the Boys' High School here who claims to be "the first graduate capped at Victoria College. Mr. T. Jordan whom you mention was a graduate of that year, (sing here "Only one more river and that's the river of Jordan"), also Mr. Bee, a master of Wellington College (ejaculate here "How Bee").

We had come in a 4-horse drag (what antediluvian ways of locomotion we had then to be sure!) from the Girls' High School where we had discarded outdoor for academic dress. After the ceremony the vehicle did not appear to be forthcoming, so five of us, lady students, decided to go back on foot. This was a brazen thing to do in those correct days—I can still see my stern parent beckoning me back—but even so, we might have proceeded demurely along under the protecting shadows of the Victoria and Featherston Street warehouses, but we went of course via Willis Street and Lambton Quay. The passing crowds were strange to academic dress and judged us to be "connected with some church." We soon found the general scrutiny and remarks too solid, so decided to have a momentary respite in page 94 a teashop. We accordingly altered our course for the D.I.C. which we found closed for the weekly half-holiday. There was nothing for it but to try the frequented Quay again. We entered the nearest available place—McEwan & Churchill's. On account of the crowded state of this establishment, we had to seek the uttermost end of the place, finally coming upon a nice secluded back room. This we entered thankfully and somewhat hilariously —only to meet the astonished gaze of five of the College staff' (I have always remembered our numbers were evenly matched). We really felt we were intruding, so altered our course again—but Professor Maclaurin, then single and unattached, intercepted us at the street door and persuaded us to retrace our wearied footsteps and join them all at tea. Decent, wasn't it?

You do not mention F. A. de la Mare. I do not recollect one single College function of his time but "Froggy" was there. It was his most emphatic opinion that we made "abject fools" of ourselves, those of us who marched in procession what time Wellington, in the year 1901, was en fete to greet H.R.H. the Duke of Cornwall and York (our present king). The banner we carried —I helped—was displayed for the first time on that occasion and bore the striking device—

"We Have Eyes But No Site"

colours maroon and light blue.

Speaking of colours, we have had several trial spins, but I think the crudest arrangement was that brown hat-band with V.C. embroidered in yellow that we wore during the days of the Boer War, and that called forth remarks not only from the small boy but also the grown up man in the street.

I never was a keen sportswoman, but I am looking forward to being present at the debating fixtures next Easter. In the old days, the V.C.D.S. was very popular and everyone most enthusiastic. This I believe still to be so. A. W. Blair was the first Hon. Sec., F. D. Thomson the second, myself the third, and Davy Logan the fourth. I have still copies of the syllabus for 1901 and 1902. One of our most instructive and interesting evenings was in 1900, when the Secretary was tried "before the bar of the House" for alleged peculation. By the unanimous verdict of the Lords (who were really the ladies present) he was acquitted. "Froggy" was Clerk of the House on that occasion and bore with all due solemnity the janitor's broom as the mace. How he became possessed of that implement is best known to himself, for wasn't our janitor a stern old chap! (He was really the property of the Girls' College!).

One evening during that same session, I was Chair Lady. One smiles now when one brings to mind the young bloods present, many of whom are at the present day among N.Z.'s leading lawyers. They were out for fun that night and I felt a mighty impulse to slap some of them, Davy Logan in particular, who kept rising to "a point of order," but they were really good lads and well disciplined and like the gentlemen they were, immediately obeyed the ruling of the Chair, even tho' held by a woman.—Annie Down (Annie H. Tasker).