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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]

Weir House

Weir House

We the men of Weir have been attached to numerous epithets; in Spike 1946 we were 'Paul Bunyans translated from the American backwoods to an antipodean campus'. We were creatures of great appetite—attacking food, alcohol and women with an equal (perhaps an identical) gusto. First let us confess that we are creatures of excess. In our twenty-one years of corporate existence we have advanced from the vision in the mind of our founder—William Weir—to the reality and across this reality, this blatant reality—we shall allow no shadow to fall.

In a sense we are Paul Bunyans, we are a young offshoot of the collegiate ideal which has reached its perfection in the cloistered quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge. The question is—are we a worthy offshoot. And twenty-odd years gives only an indication as to the answer. Twenty-one years ago Lord Bledisloe, then Governor-Governor-General of New Zealand, planted in honour of what we have always regarded as an auspicious day in the history of this college—the pohutukawa in the middle of our front lawn. To be true the tree is of meager flower and of fruits nil, yet do not take this as a commentary on the portal it shades.

William Weir provided the money which built the House and maintains it; we know little of his life and character—we cannot doubt his abundant generosity. page 55 An act of generosity has been the mainspring of many educational institutions; it is, as it were, part of their tradition—from those to whom much is given, much is expected. We do well to remind ourselves of this predominant relationship, that of benefactor and receivers of a gift, a trust, which exists in the House, and indeed in the college itself. To be a worthy offshoot of the collegiate ideal, we must show that we have not violated this trust. We must show that in return for what was done for our benefit, we have given back to the community, of which we are a small part, our best and reasonable service.

Already men from the House have entered into the wider life of citizenship and enriched it in sport, in education, in the professions, both overseas and in New Zealand. We are proud of the pattern of our communal life, various in hue but united in line and form and final representation—the deepening of individual self by contact with the ideals and ideas of others, of different background, of different temper, seeking different goals. This leads to an open and inquiring mind, an appreciation of good fellowship and a feeling of security and oneness. Unity in a common adventure always seems to bring out the best in man. And this has been present in the House from its beginning.

The discussion evenings, the house dances, and house picnics are merely part of it; and in some ways the least significant part of it. In Spike 1946, the writer of the article on Weir House professed to see little of culture in the House. His observations show him to have defined this term narrowly. The residents write in terms of self-glorification and thus proclaim themselves Philistines. Surely culture in any sense must include manner and mode of life —no consideration of this appears. Either it was regarded as too trivial for words or it was overlooked. Yet it is the one thing that cannot be overlooked for it explains the boasting and excess of which Spike 1946 complained. We are not lesser breeds without the law, we are not a law unto ourselves—but we do conform to a distinct and common discipline. The measure that you mete will be measured to you again. This discipline can comprehend both youth with its excesses and increasing maturity with its danger of adopting an over-serious attitude to life.

Weir has never been aloof from the University; however, it can at times, even perhaps at the present, claim it is "Not Understood". Self-righteousness has never been part of Weir—a vigorous interest in all student activities combined with active participation in many of them has always been stressed in the House. From Weir have come many college Blues and many University prizewinners, a fitting return to the benefactor who provided, as it were, the cradle of their endeavour. Again this is insignificant when set beside the record of those from the House who, though they have not won awards, have striven hard and in the end have conquered the hurdles a university education inevitably presents.

Even in twenty-one years there have been backslidings. College and town have complained of the uncouth stamp of the men of Weir, labelling them "unstable" and "immoral". Perhaps this notoriety is attributable to some of that older breed of men admitted in the few years following 1945—those who had returned from the war to complete an interrupted education. Were they too old for their surroundings? No—rather did their surroundings lack the sobering element of a liberal tradition, which might have helped them to regain a new page 56 canon of judgment and a new moral poise. Thie fault was not really their own; what had an institution of twenty years standing, more or less, to offer them but a meal and a bed.

Of recent years, the House has regained the spirit which the early records show was abroad in those first few years of its life; Weir is ever gaining a new respect in the University and in the City.

Beneath the flamboyance of Weir, there is then something of merit, not yet perhaps able to be dignified with the name tradition. I believe the House is tending in the right direction—that another twenty-odd years will see it firmly established as an institution of which membership is coveted, and people will say, in the words of a former president of the House,

"That's Weir House up there—great place that" instead of "That's Weir House up there—great view."

The collegiate ideal of education has always been criticised as including much that is non-utilitarian, I have attempted to show that these things despised as non-utilitarian are in effect the only things; they are basic. I say that Weir has them, that Weir will preserve them.

C. G. Hubbard.