The Spike Golden Jubilee Number May 1949
And Now, in Our Golden Jubilee Year ..
And Now, in Our Golden Jubilee Year ...
Nearly fifty years ago, when Euphemia and Selina were respectable christian names, and bowler hats were worn, King Dick, corpulent, mass-bearded, wary, having stormed into power, sat astride a horse on an Old Clay Patch. With Sir Robert Stout, he had helped to found a University College in Wellington, the Capital City. There remained the question of a site, and a building.
As the College was coming into formal existence, far away in antipodean waters, and at home, there were stirrings of patriotic pomp as men poured out in ships to South Africa. Swinburne lay in a madhouse, as mad as a March hare; Bernard Shaw was beginning to strut the stage. Here in New Zealand, Edith Searle Grossman was writing about the intellectual Englander, the exile in a primitive country; William Satchell was searching the North Auckland gumfields for material for a novel. Victorianism was going out, and Victoria herself had only a little time to live. Vigorous writers were singing the praises of social advancement. The alert Left was appearing. By the skin of her teeth, this College gained the name of Victoria.
The student group in this new College did not become articulate for three years. In June, 1902, a slim volume appeared with the curious title The Spike. Very shortly, names formidable in College literary circles were appearing in these pages—Seaforth Mackenzie, F. A. de la Mare, Siegfried Eichelbaum. It became established as a biennial production—in June the literature, in October the statistics. There were extravagant details of Club activities, mute portraits, some Georgian verse, much frolic, the most extraordinary-looking sports' teams, and a (very rare) scratch of original writing. It became patterned and formalised. The chapter-heads, drawn very early in the piece by the late Fanny Irvine Smith, remained unaltered for years. Well-known students and officials were celebrated in random verse which delighted to pun on such words as 'stout,' 'ostler.' ' hector,' 'gamble,' and 'beer.' To us, in 1949, it looks a very stiff and uninviting field of literature, but a valuable source of very human statistics.
I have been temerarious enough to revert to the original title—The Spike—to use the baptismal name again. Why should it be thought necessary to revert to a title which has been out of use for several years, and which, so I am told, cannot help but be typographically ugly? Let me quote from The Spike, Vol. 1., No. 1:
Much time and trouble was taken in choosing an eligible name for this venture. The idea was to hit on one that would cling in the elusive student memory, and, at the same time, would suggest the idea that our magazine is to be run as a free lance, dealing out to each and all their just meed of blame or praise without fear, prejudice, or favour ..." " Hast thou The Spike? was the cry. It was never a Spike, or any old Spike, or just Spike; it was The Spike. Except for the saving of a little printer's ink, there seems nothing to justify the action by an Editor in the late 1930s of dropping the first word from the title. So I have put it back.
Since Vol 1., No. 1. appeared, there have been three Memorial Numbers—a War Memorial Number (1921), a Silver Jubilee Number (1924), and a Foundation Number (1934). Counting out the hrst-named as being of a special nature, I found it hard to believe when I started out, and read the other two for the first time, that the Editors had had a settled policy before they began. Now, on the eve of publication, I see why. One must always be suspicious of a Memorial page 11 Number. In its marmoreal innocence, it never quite knows whether it should shed soft tears for the past, gloat over the gloss, estimate the achievement, or just laugh with peals of silvern laughter at the folly of it all.
It seemed a grand scheme to invite everybody who had ever put pen to paper to write something, and pick out the choicest cherries. And that's precisely what I did. To a museum in Canada, and a parliamentary lobby in Finsbury; to apartment houses in Paris, and universities all over the earth, the letters went out. Dons, lawyers, fellows, doctors, professors, businessmen, students, housewives, all were paged. The result, of course, had they all answered, would have been disastrous. But, as previous Editors have found again and again, there was no danger of that. One has to print everything that comes, even if it stumbles in on one leg.
In spite of heavily sounded warnings, when I began, I felt that on this occasion a whole field lay spread before me—like a huge orchard, with ripened, inviting fruit. But, once bitten, the fruit tended to freeze. Inside it proved taut and dry and grey. Slough off the persevering skin, where the old purposes are fought out by the familiar opponents—take out the conscientious sagas of hockey and cricket and football—and, save for a loyal, luscious pip or two, the new fruit glitters rosily in somebody else's oasis. What is here is a very mixed basket.
A peculiar and impressive difficulty was the appearance side by side with this small magazine, of a formal history of the College by Dr J. C. Beaglehole, and a new edition of The Old Clay Patch. I am anticipating that the former will trace the rise of the College and its institutions, re-fight the battles of the sites, and resurrect the various crises over freedom of speech and university reform; and that the latter will reproduce the odes and poems and songs which perpetuate the memory of Seaforth Mackenzie, Siegfried Eichelbaum, Hubert Church, J. C. Beaglehole, Marjory Hannah, Ronald Meek and the rest. But it was left to these pages of mine to record the latest and newest thoughts of all Victorians who still live and who were accessible. The generations were meant to speak with their own voices; to say what they think of the sights and sounds of our mid-century years. The History will tell of them, The Old Clay Patch will repeat what they used to think. I wanted them here to speak from the past about us. That is the magazine's primary raison d'etre. With a disappointing response to my appeal, it would be foolhardy to suggest that this coat-of-many-colours does so more than patchily. Some reprinted broadcast talks span the years; a group of retired members of the staff document the earliest days; some of our best younger poets are represented; there is a whiff of hard thought from Oxford; and a couple of short stories. But altogether, this section is rather like the exhausted literary leavings of fifty eight-month years of exasperated, if adventurous, effort.
The Roll of Honour was an adventure in research. It was undertaken primarily to ensure that those who died would not be forgotten as long as Victoria College exists; and its grievous length testifies to the very severe sacrifice made by the student group during the struggle with Fascism. These men lie in many a battlefield of which they did not dream. In Greenland and Guadalcanal, in the Atlantic and the Azores, at Trieste and Tripoli, they died while serving their country. Our College will always speak with reverence of them and of their deeds.
Considerable care has been exercised that no names should have been omitted, or included in error. In this connection, I should like here to express my very great thanks to the three Service Departments for readily supplying me with complete Casualty Lists, and for checking the names that I submitted to them; and to the small band of helpers who assisted in the prodigious task of setting the complete College Rolls from 1899 against the Armed Forces Casualty Lists. If there are errors or omissions, I should like to express my regrets here to relatives and friends of those concerned.
It may be that someone willing to undertake the task of compiling a World War II Memorial Number will be found. For that reason, the names are published here under the Service headings. It is not possible in this issue to publish further details, but those which have been assembled are left in the hands of the Victoria University College Records Officer.
I should like to record my sincere thanks to those who conscientiously and laboriously completed club histories; to my assistant editors and Mr J. B. Trapp for substantial help in the selection of plates, the arrangement of material, and the reading of proofs; and to Messrs Angus and Robertson, Sydney, for their permission to reprint the short story and poem by the important young ex-New Zealander, Douglas Stewart.
And with that, I send this prim, many-coloured birthday cake to its dubious fate, confident that the bright young literary things will not read the annals of the sports' clubs, equally confident that the leather-hunters will scorn the verse; and supremely certain that all will want the Editor's scalp. That is the price one must pay for helping in a Jubilee venture.
R. W. B.