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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926

Capping Day

page 14

Capping Day

capping day

Graduates at Home.

What needs we tell their feasts and goodly guise
In which was nothing riotous or vain.


On Thursday evening, 13th May, an At Home was given for the graduates of the year, instead of the luncheon that has been a feature of recent Capping festivities. The lower Gymnasium Hall was tastefully decorated for the purpose by Mrs. John Hannah, and Mr. S. A. Wiren, President of the Graduates' and Past Students' Association, with Mrs. Wiren, received the guests. The informality of the gathering was a happy characteristic, and the chief contributors to the entertainment were Miss M. E. Cooley, B.A., by a recitation, and Mr. F. Mackenzie, B.A., by a pianoforte solo. Professor Kirk was at his best in a discursive discourse on various views of College life that he had heard, and Mr. Campbell gave vent to the feelings of the new graduates.

The Procession.

"An ancient writer," remarked Dr. Bumpus, "informs us that the geese of Pontus waxed fat on rank poison. Whatever degree of credibility we may attach to this statement, there is no doubt that it has some truth in analogy. I have in mind the curious occurrences of what is known as Capping Day, but which I think might more significantly be termed Foolscapping Day. These indicate that the pernicious doctrines which are taught by the misguided dons of our local University College serve but to accelerate the energies and enthusiasms of the innocent adolescents who absorb them. I have no patience, therefore, with the view that this preposterous festival is merely the traditional reaction from the intense intellectual preoccupations of the first three months of the College year. It seems to me rather that it is a product of those misdirections of the mind, the novelty of which so intoxicates the undergraduate that he imposes himself upon us as the self-appointed publicity agent of the higher education. Disclaiming all desire to appear captious, I cannot, page 15 then, but regard the aforesaid three months as presided over by those three familiar embodiments of irresponsibility—the March Hare, the April Fool, and the Mad Hatter. The last-named I consider peculiarly symbolic of Capping Day."

Had the dear Doctor been unkind, he might have gone on to say that he considered the Welfare League, the Rotary Club, and the Orphans' Night, as of much more value socially than the Procession. The truth is that it performs very much the same functions. It holds the mirror up to life and shows forth the essential significance of current events and tendencies; it increases the gaiety of the business community; and it entertains the people. Life is a sad affair; we might personify it as a sad dog. The Procession is, to a certain extent, the tale of the dog. And when the student, in his May madness, jumps over the moon, the laughter that goes up possibly proves that the majority is still in the nursery, but certainly proves that the student himself is of the people, for the people, and by the people. Which is a very democratic state of affairs.

As with 1925, the Carnival Procession took place in very benign weather. Punctually to the squeal of the noon whistle, in intellectual-looking constable, the looseness of whose waist-belt led us to suspect that he was not genuine, cleaned the traffic at the intersection of Ghuznee and Cuba Streets for the advance of the Gargle and Smotherum Band, and the visitation commenced to the inspiring and appropriate strains of "Come all ye faithful." The objects of adoration were a collection of animate Guy Fawkses arranged in more or less accurate representations of local incidents and institutions. Admiral Coontz and his gobs visited us once again, and were followed by the American classical novelist, Mr. Vain Bray, whose party captivated the crowd by the diversity of their methods of hooking unfortunate fish. Sea Scouts baled lustily. Bolsheviks bombed realistically. Edward P. and another cowboy who rejoiced in the name of Coatesoffski and looked like one Charles Chaplin (a famous beauty actor) gave thrilling displays of horsemanship. The close secrets of certain industries, such as cake-baking, bag-washing, and taxi-driving, were heartlessly revealed to the multitude. The retirement of a legal magnate and the non-retirement of a lady politician were commemorated, and a bevy of beautiful damsels uniformed in the Sinn Fein frocks of a well-known educational establishment sang their way enchantingly through the easier multiplication tables. More or less delicate and artistic treatment was accorded a number of other subjects, and the populace howled at them all.

Capping Processions usually degenerate en route, mainly under the impulsion of the depraved thirsts which appear to afflict many students on such occasions, but in this case good organisation maintained the ranks unbroken to the end. The onlookers were not irritated by any of the silly sorties of other years; and the beer mug (a person, not a thing) was, if at all present, decently inconspicuous. A large and expectant throng gathered in the time-hallowed precincts of the G.P.O. to pick up the customary pearls of wisdom, but very few could hear the speeches. A superior form of humour was provided by throwing the results of Mr. Vain Bray's sportsmanship about. The crowd page 16 took part in this with zest and enjoyed itself immensely. The exchange of compliments ceased about half-past one, and the dispersal of the artists proved quite as entertaining as the main show.

On the whole, the procession was a respectable affair, quite orderly in its disorder, and very well managed—a distinct advance on the recent past.

The Capping Ceremony.

"It is pleasant to play the fool, but ..."

—Vice-Chancellor's Speech.

No longer does the pallid afternoon light dim the magic of the Capping mysteries. No longer are they celebrated in the presence of the leisured few. The little bird of democracy has whispered in the ear of Authority, and the select matinee of former years has given way to the popular evening ceremony.

Accordingly, at half-past seven o'clock in the evening of the fifteenth of May, devoted hearts in the municipal power-hou.se throbbed with the joy of the knowledge that the exquisite decorations of the large Town Hall glowed the more gloriously for their exertions; the vast multitude of people, who without a doubt had been attracted by the prospect of a free show, resigned themselves to the packed condition of the galleries and tried to feel that they were getting their money's worth; and the full choir of alumni occupying the floor-space below murmured in happy anticipation of the noises before them. Then, into the warm splendour, moving as if censers swung before them, the second procession of the day entered and solemnly made its way to the place of execution—professors gowned like bishops, professors gowned like Bolsheviks, professors gowned like professors; graduates gowned in all the colours of the spectrum; flower maidens—oh, marvellous pulchritude! and here, even in our own Victoria—gowned beyond the dreams of any spectrum; and also-rans not gowned at all, but obviously great friends of Mr. P. Schneideman and Messrs. Vance-Vivian. No wonder the dizzy crowd sang "God Save the King!" with such determination; H.M. needed a kind word or two with such competition to meet.

Thus the show commenced.

It is a superstition among celebrated men of mature age to make speeches on such occasions. It is a superstition, also, among other men (not yet individually celebrated and not all of mature age) to make audible comments upon such speeches. The comments are, as a rule, much more interesting to listen to than the speeches. But as a great man has said, formerly, in the days before the War broke the continuity of the College traditions, these audible comments had been reduced to a fine art—the art of concerted interruption. This involved listening to a speech and picking up its points as they arose. The longer the speech (they did not make long speeches in the Golden Age) the more opportunities for comment. The modern idea is simply to make a speech impossible by howling the speaker down. It is a fair valuation of the kind of speech a down-trodden proletariat must listen to nowadays; nevertheless, there was much more page 17 humour and fun and much more genuine enjoyment for all concerned in the old way. An increasing tendency to return to the old method was discernible on this last occasion; a judicious distribution of dummies might work wonders on the next.

Four valiants tilted at the windmill—Mr. R. McCallum, the Vice-Chancellor (Professor J. Rankine-Brown), His Honour Mr. Justice Ostler, and His Worship the Mayor (Mr. C. J. B. Norwood). Nobody heard much of what they said—not even the reporters—but it amounted to this: Mr. McCallum flapped his hands twice, each time to mean "Stand up and sing the National Anthem." (This rollicking melody opened the performance and closed it.) The Vice-Chancellor said (in effect, of course), "Shut up or I'll chuck the job." Mr. Ostler imparted some advice about hard labour. Mr. Norwood bade Mr. Tennant good-bye. The most valuable lessons gained from the speeches were that men with whiskers have the stronger voices, men without have the greater knowledge, and vocal honours go to the undergraduate, who has neither whiskers nor knowledge.

What is there more to report? The graduates were capped, that is, the Vice-Chancellor muttered an incantation over each one and shook hands with him (or her), the flower-maidens (one is almost tempted to write the mannequins) presented their bouquets, "Absent Friends" was sung, and, for what must be the first time in years, "Just One Stave More" was not sung. A College function is not complete without this most honoured of our songs.

These things being done, the tumult and the shouting died, the rabble departed, and the hall was cleared for the dancing.

The Ball.

When you do dance, I wish you

A wave of the sea. that you might ever do

Nothing but that.

—The Winter's Tale.

The brightest and best of the functions associated with capping was brought this year into nearer relations with the cappig ceremony. When the last group of B.A.'s had passed before the Vice-Chancellor, and long before fond parents and friends had completely evacuated the Hall, a salvage crew set to clearing away chairs and newspapers, and within an hour the floor was crowded with brave women and fair men, and thereafter all went merrily as a marriage bell, but for very considerably longer. Black & White Cabs (Ltd.) announced the next afternoon a special declared dividend of fifteen per cent.

Undergraduates' Supper.

Now to the banquet we press,
Now for the eggs and the ham,
Now for the mustard and cress,
Now for the strawberry jam.

It is doubtless to the credit of the undergraduates that their peculiar share towards entertaining the graduates at Capping page 18 time takes the form of a reversion to genuine methods of old English hospitality. Messrs. Gamble and Creed, at their new Willis Street quarters, made their annual attempt to cope with the undergraduate appetite on Wednesday, 12th March. Endeavours to distract the attention of the company were made successfully by Miss Gwen Read in two enjoyable violin solos, and by Miss Peggy Watson, and Miss Mary Cooley in recitations. While numerous toasts were proposed, drunk, and replied to, a genial and loud-spoken appreciation of the feast filled the atmosphere. Mr. Rollings was responsible for some remarks about the graduates of the year, to which Miss Cooley replied. Mr. C. James extolled the virtues of the ladies, and Mr. Davidson was heard in reply. The health of the Professors was entrusted momentarily to Mr. Campbell, and subsequently rescued by Professor F. P. Wilson. Mr. R. McCallum, M.P., made the last and most vigorous speech of the evening, and after invoking the favour of a kind Providence on behalf of His Majesty the King, we filed slowly downstairs and up again to Miss Bates's Ballroom, which was kindly placed at our disposal for the remainder of the evening.

dulce est desipere in loco