The Spike or Victoria University College Review September 1927
"Glory and loveliness have pass'd away."
Although it is a debatable point whether Keats in his dedicatory Sonnet to Leigh Hunt was referring specifically to capping ceremonies, nevertheless his melancholy words may stand as epitaph on the grave stone of Capping, 1927. Capping is over now; yet it cannot possibly fail to go down to history as one of the most extraordinary that has ever been held in any university the world over, no time or place excepted. Once upon a time, and indeed in some universities to-day, it was customary to regard Capping as the summit, crown and glory of the university year; to regard it, that is, as a period in which those who had long laboured in the search for light, should receive some measure of mead and honour for their success in gaining a first step in the direction of the Delectable Land; and as a period in which the thankless lot of undergraduates should find temporary surcease in dance, song and student gaiety. Alas, this is not now the case at Victoria. The old order passeth, with hardly a struggle or death-bed groan. Although the Representatives of Democracy swept away from university life such "useless" ceremonies as public conferment of degrees, yet they left it to the discretion of the various college councils to decide as to whether there should be held any forms of congratulatory ceremony in honour of the graduates of the year. Thus the way was left open for some retainment of old time forms and ceremonies. But the Victoria College Council, on some obscure ground, and also in direct opposition to the recommendation of its own Professorial Board proved itself deficient in both discretion and wisdom by holding such an emasculated ceremony in the College Library. And the result? ... One can but draw the veil and hope the Council is not yet too old to learn by experience.
Yet it would not be fair to the Council to lay all the odium upon its shoulders. Some should be reserved for the Students' Association. Is it far from the mark to suggest that had the Executive of the Students' Association shown itself to possess some modicum of that initiative, courage, resource and ability which one usually associates with a student Executive, it would still have been possible to celebrate capping of 1927 with some show of that student abandon which is usually one of the high lights of any capping proceedings? But what for instance, did the Executive do about the Extrav? Though in possession of an extrav. early in the year, no move was made until it was too late and thus the extrav., of which we had such high hopes, perished a miserable death. All the blame for this regrettable state of affairs was con page 5 veniently thrown upon the apathetic indifference of the student body. Again, what did the Executive do in regard to the Undergrads. Supper? Apparently took no move beyond a half hearted sounding of one or two caterers in town, and then, when they received an insulting rebuff from one of those so called "gentleman" profiteers, take things lying down and let everything drop. Would it have been impossible, one asks, to hold such a supper in the college gym'. Finally, what did the Executive do about the Capping Procession? Another mystery: though presumably they let themselves be brow beaten by the Professorial Board. In each and all of these instances, the Executive, by pursuing a firm and determined course, could have changed the capping of 1927 from a failure into a success. But nothing was done, or if anything was done, it ended in an inglorious and lamentable fiasco. Truly "glory and loveliness have pass'd away."
What inspired the above reflections was the thought of having to chronicle for "Spike" the capping celebrations of 1927. And as it is useless crying over spilt milk, possibly the best thing to do is to get on with the task. First then the evening given by the Graduates and Past Students' Association.
The Graduates' Association Evening.
This was held on June 7th at the Pioneer Club rooms and proved a great success. Through the energy of the Committee of the Association, both old and new graduates were soon at ease With each other, and things went with a swing. The President of the Association, Mr. G. E. Craig, in a few brief words, suitably welcomed to the bosom of his association the graduates of the year, on behalf of whom, Mr. C. Arndt replied. Then Prof. Murphy in a characteristic speech stressed the necessity of graduates realizing that in the world to-day, graduation should not, nay must not, mean the end of study if one is to rise to the top of one's profession. Mr. F. Mackenzie played, Mrs. Hannah recited, Mr. Rishworth and Mr. Byrne sang. A delightful supper served to round off a very enjoyable evening.
On Wednesday June 8th the Library was closed to all students. Its hallowed and historic calm was rudely interrupted by sounds of hammering, banging and profane speech; from Wednesday until Friday, Mr. Brooks, the Chairman of the Prof. Board, and their henchmen and henchwoman, worked hard at removing the Library heaters, erecting a huge platform, resplendently covered with scarlet baize, and arranging several hundred chairs in orderly lines. After such exhausting work both excitable principals looked worn, haggard and harassed.
Capping itself was held on Friday June 10th at 3.30 p.m. When the Registrar had lined up the graduates to his satisfaction in the cold corridor, he filed them into the Library like an executioner his victims to the block. After a space of a few minutes the principal guests of the afternoon arrived, to wit: His Excellency, the Governor-General, Sir Charles and Lady Alice Fergusson, the Rt. Hon. J. G. Coates, a picture in pale pink and page 6 dark scarlet, with Mrs. Coates, Sir Robert Stout, Sir Francis Bell and some of the foremost citizens of Wellington. Soon the company was seated upon the platform. For a moment there was a rustling of gowns and paper, then a hushed silence, as Mr. McCallum worthy Chairman of the College Council arose, and in a speech of which any rhetorician might be proud, touched in a light and graceful fashion, upon such topics as: bequests to the College; hostels; the necessity of paying deference to the Governor-General; disorder in college life; beneficent desire of the College Council to make courteous men and women, etc., etc. (applause). Everyone consequently experienced a Decided moral uplift. So much so indeed, that some were surprised that Mr. McCallum did not lead the assembly in prayer.
In a speech of undoubted sincerity, the Governor-General pointed out that it was the duty of university people to bear in mind four things. First, Loyalty and all that it meant to Empire, Throne and Country; second, Service, which meant a close touch between man and man, and an effort to reconcile the interests of industry with those of humanity; third, Self-reliance; and fourth, the need for a vitalising religious influence without which all learning was as dust beneath the labourer's foot. His Excellency then presented the diplomas to the graduates, congratulating each in turn with a few well-chosen words. After this, the speakers seemed to have gained their second wind. The Prime Minister, in complimenting the College Council on its splendid work provoked a ripple of laughter by remarking that the academic robes he was wearing in no way represented a prolonged sojourn in halls of learning, but were purely honorary. Sir Robert Stout proposed a vote of thanks to the teaching staff of the College, on behalf of whom Prof. Florance replied in a characteristic style. Finally the Chairman sent a stir of life through the assembly by announcing that afternoon tea would be served immediately. Those who had been taking a clandestine forty winks awoke, while those who managed to keep awake relaxed their strained looks in pleasurable anticipation. Soon the library presented quite an animated scene ....
Although this is probably neither the time nor place, yet we cannot forbear to commiserate with those two heroes who spent the following Sabbath endeavouring to persuade the re-installed library heaters to become hot—only to find at the end of the day that they had forgotten to turn on the hot water circulating tap in the boiler room. Life must have seemed very humorous to them at that moment.
The Capping Ball.
The capping celebrations were concluded with the Capping Ball, held on Friday evening. The hall itself was what the Press called "lightly but artistically decorated" with streamers of pink paper hanging as a canopy overhead, and shading from palest pink to deepest rose. The lights were shaded to match and under the galleries trellised alcoves twined with pink roses and coloured butterflies proved popular for those sitting out. Of the frocks we are not competent to speak though we understand they were of ninon, crepe-de-chine, taffetas, georgette, charmeuse, velvet and lace. But of the assembly we are; the Youth, page 7 Beauty, and Chivalry of Wellington danced the fleeting hours away in worship at the shrine of Terpischore. The music was excellent—of its sort. The supper likewise, but without any relativity about it; it did noble work in fortifying the strong and sustaining the weak. It was not until an early hour in the morning that the orchestra went on strike, and a general move was made for home. It is rumoured that those who had to go far, have gained considerable knowledge of the habits, language and practices of that strange nocturnal being, the government office charwoman. For others again the cock crew at least thrice ere they Lethe-wards did sink. Altogether the ball would have proved the purple patch of any and every capping celebration. Certainly of Capping 1927 it could not be anything else.