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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1934

The Spike — Victoria University College Review — Foundation Number. November, 1934

page 7

The Spike

Victoria University College Review

Foundation Number. November, 1934

Hunter building

Thirty-Five Years

". . . The beauty, the courage, the honour are our heritage. Never in the course of history has a long-suffering world held them more in need. Half the world is starving and the rest bordering on chaos. What the next twenty-five years may bring no man may say. . . ."

F. A. de la. Mare.

Editorial, 1924 Silver Jubilee Number "The Spike."

It is now ten years since Mr. de la Mare wrote those words, ten years in which the University has seen many new faces enter its portals, and many old ones go forever. Change—that is eternal. The crazed beat of the jazz drum may echo where once the soft violin held sway, the lilt of Strauss's mellow waltzes may have been lost in the throb of Noel Coward's maddened "Twentieth Century Blues." Change—the University more than any other institution knows that word. Change in ideas, change in teaching. We look at the old photographs printed in this very issue, and our first thought is—how different it all seems. How different the clothes, how different the ideas.

Yet the tradition of the University remains. Our footballers still wear the old olive green and are proud to wear it, and will be—forty years on!

page 8

When Mr. de la Mare wrote those words he little thought that ten years hence there would be another Reunion on The Old Gay Patch. That Reunion, held on the occasion of the presentation of the Portraits of the Foundation Professors, must remain forever a happy memory to all those students, past and present, who were lucky enough to be there. Another milestone in the College's life, another proof that Victoria College does not forget her heroes.

Thirty-five years ago they started their work at Victoria College, four scholars from an old world coming to a new. Four students who knew the glory of old Halls steeped in the traditions that generations of other students had given them; four men who were willing to be pioneers in the realms of Learning.

There was not even a red brick building on a clay patch here to welcome them. There was no building that could be pointed out to the interested newcomers as "Victoria College." That was but a name on paper—a name to which an Act of Parliament alone gave tangible evidence of existence.

How well those four men, and the others who so staunchly followed in their footsteps, made Victoria College a name to conjure with, can be seen from the events of the past thirty-five years.

They began their work when the World was yet growing, when there were still new frontiers to be conquered, still new cities to be built. The country of their adoption was yet young and there was much work for everyone to do. There were still many adventures, now chronicled as achievements in the pages of History, yet to be thought of; there was yet to arise the god of War in his most terrible mood yet seen on this Earth.

Even as they began their work the war drums were sounding. War drums, which compared with those heard in the later days, were but dim. And those four men brought to the College an understanding and a training which, during the four terrible years of the Great War, served Victoria College's sons in stead in those damp and terrible trenches.

So it was that when at last a red brick building on a rudely cut and churned up clay bank, was opened, those men felt a thankfulness indeed—a gratitude that their College had at last a Home. Far from ideal it is true; from the very nature of the limitations of the spot there was born a warm affection for that small patch carved out of a clay hill, immortalised in the writings of The Old Clay Patch. And surely this is reward enough for imperfection.

What brought this affection for the raw College on the hill? A paragraph of the Editorial in the War Memorial number of The Spike reads:—

It is curious how slender and impalpable are the most golden of the threads which bind us one to another. A look, a touch, and the world will never be the same for us again. The sound of a voice and one moment may leave a lifetime's memory of regret or joy. A hot catch may be all we remember of many long summer days, but it holds together a vision of green turf, and sunshine, and of youth. A quick tackle in a hard game and not politics itself can make us quite forget that this man is forever a brother. A night by a winter's fireside, a passing jest, a quick retort, the just word, the generous concession, and we see into hearts which may not thereafter be alien. Close communion for a common cause, and for the rest of our lives, if need be, we shall forgive and forget because we must be true to that thing we dare not throw into the blue waters of forgetfulness. In such soil are the roots of life cast. In the aftertime the greatest joys are in remembering"

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How true those words. How true of the men our College built on that steep has known. As years roll on and breath grows short, we can still see, and live again the days spent in the comradeship of our youth. Days, when a cricket bat was not a heavy unwieldy lump of wood, but a magical wand, with which to do great deeds, when a Latin prose was difficult but not entirely impossible, and when a run up steep western steps was not unthinkable if it meant being on time for a lecture. Intangible indeed the ties that bind us to our College, but what further proof can anyone ask of their existence than was) shown by those past students on May the Fifth, 1934.

The days of The Old Clay Patch have gone. The rough clay has given place to ordered lawns, and the green of shrubs and trees; the bright new bricks are mellowed by the years, and already ivy is bringing to them a new and softer beauty. The Library has the dignity given to it by those thirty-five years of service. The Memorial Window mutely tells of a sacrifice by Victoria's sons—a sacrifice supreme in man's humble ken, and on the walls four portarits have joined that of Sir Robert Stout, the founder of the College, portraits of four men who carried High Scholarship into a scholastic wilderness, and who gave to those they found there a new ambition. To them all honour. To those who followed so ably in their footsteps, we can too but give our humblest thanks. And to Victoria University College, our College, we can but do all that lies within our limited ability to show that we are proud to be her sons.

The words of Mr. de la Mare are even more true in 1934 than they were ten years ago. In the words of The Times:—

"The problem which is now perplexing mankind is to discover by what flaw or flaws in our system it has come about that the world, never better equipped both in knowledge and in machinery to produce all its needs, is forced to see so much of that knowledge and machinery lying idle while millions of willing workers are unemployed and in want. . . . . There is plenty of material here for searching study by men not obsessed by any theory or dogma but anxious to get at the facts and to frame policies to meet them.

"The situation of the world to-day is a challenge to world statesmanship, a challenge which statesmen must take up for themselves."

The world situation is also a challenge to every thinking man and woman. Many of our troubles have been brought on ourselves by the stupidity of our own selfishness. We cannot, we dare not, return to the conditions of 1899, but of one thing we can be certain.

In the example of the lives of those Foundation Professors lies the solution of this problem. Whatever the system, whatever the policy followed, if we make such unselfish service as personified in the lives of those four men the keystone of society, the tragic paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty would not exist.

Then, too, we should in some small way have repaid those four men, who came from ordered lands to a rude Colony, and built in a once indifferent city, despite heartache and rebuff, a tradition of service and sacrifice. Whether or not we, Victoria College's sons and daughters of to-day, earn high honour and renown in the future is beside the point. What is important is that we remember always, as we did on the Fifth of May, 1934, the noble example of our Foundation Professors.