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The Spike or Victoria University College Review Silver Jubilee 1924

Gleanings from Letters

Gleanings from Letters

.... Your letter recalling former days at Victoria College stirred the pulse and created a glow of pleasure that even its emphasis of eighteen years already sped since then could not obliterate. Some of my happiest recollections centre around those Saturday afternoon working parties engaged in removing some of the "clay patch" to make room for tennis courts. These were unfinished when I left for England so the reward was of that pure sort that resides solely in the spirit of the effort.

Much tumult has arisen in the world since those days, the wealth of nations has disappeared in smoke and noise, and great treasure of life has gone untimely to destruction. No small part of that loss fell on Victoria College, and I am glad you or rather we are to remember it fittingly in the Memorial Window. I hope, too, there will be a record of all who served; these are all in the same order of Chivalry, risking all for an ideal.

I regret that circumstances will almost certainly prevent my coining down but there are numbers I would delight to meet again and should I not be able to come it will be some consolation to read about the celebrations in "The Spike" for which I enclose a postal note. If your guarantee is called 011, ask again and you will not ask in vain.

May the old College go on with renewed vigour teaching men and women how to live and serve their day and generation.

John F. G. Richards

* * * * *


...I well remember Professor Mackenzie allowing me to sit for my second year's terms in his library, when I missed his 5 to 6 exam. on the day one of the South African Contingents left the Wellington wharf.

Anyhow I know I turned up as the students were departing, and had enough sense to speak to nobody. The dear old Prof. (who used to weigh the essays) took me home and placed me in his study. I never forgot his trust in me and needless to say did not commit any breach of it, but his reliance on my honour has been a lesson that has been of the greatest value to me in life.

One other incident—about dear old classical Brown—I wanted to play in a cricket match, and if I had failed terms in Latin, I had another "swinger" subject .to get in on the afternoon of the match. At midday I had the cheek to ring the Prof, and tell him why and ask him if I might safely take it for granted I had passed in Latin. His reply was "well, if you want to play cricket, I suppose you must. You have passed, but you don't deserve to."


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.

Niue, 11th October, 1923.

... The Chatham brought your letter a couple of days back and as the schooner is due any time now I am trying to get rid of my correspondence before the rush sets in . . .

...Now in regard to the jubilee. Needless to say such a reunion is most desirable. There is nothing we would like better than to be present. I am afraid that nothing short of a miracle will enable us to be present though. My term is up at 31st March, 1925, so that a furlough with only a year to go is impossible. My wife will probably be in New Zealand for good at the end of next year and I shall see the hurricane season out on my own and follow in April. So you can see for yourself that our presence, except in the spirit, is just about an impossibility. I have done no writing since I came back from the Front. The demands of the job don't leave the leisure which is essential for such work but I daresay my wife and I will be able to fake up something—not too elaborate. If so you will receive it by the end of the year. There will be no communication with us between December and April as you know.

Your information as to the whereabouts of various old pals was very interesting to us.

I am sorry that the Jubilee does not fall a year later. I have already missed the Diamond Jubilee of my old school this year. I attended the Jubilee of ten years ago and it was a great function. However, we have just about reached the end of our tether in the islands.. .

Well, I must leave it at that...

Guy N. Morris

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).

page 95
12th January, 1924.

....Your letters with their interesting news about old friends and the proposed Silver Jubilee Celebrations at Victoria College brought on one of those attacks of home-sickness which are apt to assail even the hardened middle-aged. An exile from home in a far country greatly appreciates even odds and ends of informal ion, and so I am looking forward to seeing the special number of "The Spike." I feel tempted to send you not news, but a list of questions which I should like answered. Hut perhaps I can trust "The Spike" to contain the answers to all my unasked questions.

A confession, however, I shall make; a New Zealand University Calendar is one of my most treasured possessions, and at intervals I read through the list of names at the end from A to Z. I even keep myself moderately up-to-date by begging or borrowing recent numbers from our good friend Mr. Joynt. Could the devotion of any sentimentalist do more? With great pleasure and satisfaction I own the first thirty numbers of "The Spike" complete. (This statement is in no way to be interpreted as an advertisement, for they are not for sale).

I have changed my mind and shall ask one question, one only—has anyone at Victoria College ever examined the origin of the ways, the habits and customs of its students? Does anyone know how far the New Zealand University outlook is Scottish and Edinburgh Scottish at that, how far it is English, how far it has been Americanised, and what there is in it of pure native natural genius?

I wish that I could be in Wellington at Easter, but it cannot be. Instead I shall be here in an English Midland manufacturing town about the same size as Wellington, which earns its living, or tries to earn it, by making boots. For, since all the world seems too poor in these days to buy boots, things are not going very well at Northampton. My days are spent with the daughters of Northampton between the ages of 8 and 18 in a really beautiful school. Sometimes when I think that they are in danger of being spoiled by too much luxury I tell them about schools as I used to know them at the back of beyond in Taranaki. Taking everything into consideration English folk do not work as hard as New Zealanders.

I am really very sorry that I cannot do as you ask and write something in the way of recollections or reminiscences; it is not through want of gratitude for or forgetfulness of all that I gained at Victoria College from 1902 to 1911, nine years full of interest and experience. It is sheer want of ability, literary or journalistic that prevents me, and I am sorry for the lack. But this I can do and do gladly, I send all my good wishes for a joyful reunion at Easter. I think of you as planning and building and launching a Silver Jubilee and pouring the oil of lubrication on all its parts, and if necessary on the waters, too, on which it sails, and with all my heart I wish success to your labours. May I be numbered among those who remember "the old clay patch" with grateful affection? But perhaps by now the clay is covered over completely with more red bricks and asphalt and green grass and trees, so that no one remembers the mud in all its perfection of 1906, or as it was, for instance, on the day when Lord Plunket laid the Foundation Stone. But if everything is improved beyond all recognition I do hope that there is page 96 still some gorse in bloom on the top of the hill at the back of the gymnasium, for I cannot come back to New Zealand until I know there is. I am trying to save enough to buy a ticket for Canada via New Zealand but it is difficult.

But one last thing I must say. Since I left home I have heard and experienced all kinds of teaching in both schools and universities and I realise now, as I could not in New Zealand, the difficulty of the task that the professors at the beginning undertook. There was teaching at Victoria College from the beginning as good as can be found anywhere, and perhaps heaven made up to us for some of the things we lacked by seeing that there was at least a leavening of inspired loyalty and devotion among the earliest students.

The Northampton School for Girls has a school song which runs thus:

In gratitude for what has been,
In hope for what is yet unseen,
We build to-day
A citadel of memory,
That treasured truth and past won skill
By faithfulness we may keep still,
And guard and hold
What faith and courage won of old.

In quest of what is yet to be,
Truth, freedom, and sweet courtesy,
We plan to-day A journey and a pilgrimage.
With friendship's discipline and peace
In wisdom's search may we not cease
Or be afraid,
But to the end be undismayed.

May I bring one brick to the citadel of affectionate memory that surrounds Victoria College?

Clara Taylor.

University Training for Mothers

The following extracts from letters received from three past students of V.U.C. are published for the consideration of the Senate when they are next "reforming" our educational system:

Mother No. 1 writes:

"....I still intend coining at Easter. Indeed I am very keen on making the trip, but experience has taught me not to count too eagerly on some anticipated pleasure, for as sure as I do, Billy gorges on green plums and has a pain, or Peggy poisons her foot or some such catastrophe happens to the young X....'s. But of course these trifles will be ignored at Easter.

Speaking of children, I have three lovely kiddies (I think), but they have been a great handful. I often think how little our College education fits us for the rearing of a family. At present I am wishing my studies under Professor Easterfield had taught me a scientific method of effective punishment for my youngest son aged six...."

page 97
Mother No. 2 writes:

" .... Much as I should like to be present with you all next Easter it seems quite beyond managing: having foolishly burdened myself with a husband and family they have to be looked after, and holiday time is the time they are absolutely on my hands. Isn't it a pity they won't go into cold storage!... If some unforeseen chance lets me come to Wellington next Easter I shall be delighted.... "

Mother No. 3 sends the following:

" ...We wish we could be with you next Easter but as the only thing that could force us to New Zealand would be violent illness of the children, you will agree that "to stay at home is best." My husband tells me he has told you that we shall send something for "The Spike"—if only a message of greeting. For myself, the culmination of my university training expressed in Maths, is that

2 children plus 1 equals 3 children.

In English literature, my knowledge extends from

"Ah.... goo.... boo" to "yah,"

and in psychology I do not yet know whether spasmodic yelling accompanied by violent kicking and fisticuffs indicates "hunger" or "overfeeding."

At present our newest hopeful more resembles Bill M . . . y (with hints of George R-b-y) than any of our family: from this likeness she may turn out to be a future premiere stateswoman.

.... With best wishes for a great success in your V.U.C. work ..."