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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 18. September 3, 1953

Bledisloe Medal

Bledisloe Medal

One of the cultural highlights of the Tournament was the Bledisloe Medal, a three-yearly oratory contest, which attracts the cream of student orators. A copy of the winning speech is sent to Lord Bledisloe, with an account of the speakers.

First speaker was Kevin O'Connor of Maasey. His subject was a religious one—Mother Mary Joseph Aubert. He was a slower speaker than the other contestants, and his voice had a dreamy, melancholy, almost dirge-like quality, which was certainly effective for his subject, but almost produced coma. Had he appeared at a later stage in the evening he would have reduced his audience to slumber. His speech compared Mother Mary to Joan of Arc. because of the "charity" each possessed, apparently. Mother Mary had aroused the "chivalry of Wellington"—miraculous feat! He made more of this than of her founding of the Home of Compassion. Towards the end he became a little more enthusiastic, a little more moved, but his techniques were a trifle too obvious.

O. S. Robinson of Olago (the winner) spoke on the coming of the Maori. He is an accomplished speaker, perhaps a little fast in his delivery, but memorable for his way of fitting the rhythm of his speech to the theme. He started a little pompously . . . "We British people are proud of our seafaring heritage, and rightly so ... " Then he went on to detail the dimensions of the canoes. At this stage he was speaking a little too quickly, and sounded like a traveloguo commentary. Then we were subjected to a heart-rending account of the farewell to Hawaikl and an account of the rigours of the voyage. The body of the speech was woven round the canoe-song of the Aolea, and was a fine dramatic effort, effortlessly controlled, with a powerful and changing rhythm.

Victoria's No. I

Victoria's Conrad Bollinger was third speaker, on Samuel Duncan Parnell. His speech was carefully [unclear: simpified] to suit his subject, and an attempt to show the glory of a workingman in simple oratory. The glory was rarely obvious, and the style was a little reminiscent of a lecture. The thread of the oration was the young Parnell's insistence on a 40-hour week in 1840 and all that this stood for in the history of the New Zealand trade union. Only in the last quotation did the speech become moving. The speaker sounded a little aloof from his subject—one which seemed to warrant a little bright-eyed Labour enthusiasm.

A. C. Coulam, of Auckland, spoke on "Mr. Justice Alpers"; his speech was clearly spoken, in an accent which contrasted rather vividly with that of the other speakers. The speech sounded rather like a condensation of Judge Alpers autobiography, "Cheerful Yesterdays." One slip was his mention of "semi-cloistral sequestration," a phrase which effectively drew the attention of his audience away from the speech. His best work was put into plugging the phrase "a man of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows." Easy to listen to, he had an excellent style but his material was not really very interesting.

Otago'a second speaker, R. S. Orator, chose Bishop Selwyn as his subject. He has not a strong voice, but a pleasant one, with good variation in pitch. His stance also was not as confident as that of the other speakers. Only occasionally was his speech impediment noticeable. He gave a good survey of the Bishop's life, using balanced sentences and some neat epithets. He was appealing, but not moving. He improved in his peroration.

J. C. Chamley of Auckland opened his speech on Samuel Marsden by quoting Scriptures. He has an effective stage presence but his voice seems a little incongruous with his general appearance, though it is very telling in places. Sometimes too high-pitched and reedy at beginnings of sentences, he spoke of Marsden's courage in coming to primitive New Zealand and its dangers.

Victoria's No. 2

Miss M. O'Reilly spoke on 'Men of Conscience." dealing with conscientious object on. She started off a little coldly, and then began to infuse feeling into what was at first a factual speech. She made a good case for the "conchies," a veritable historical record. Then she became specific and dealt with the worst case. Mark Briggs, and the inhumanity to which he was subjected. Her peroration, delivered with spirit, went a long way towards winning a possibly hostile audience towards her own view on a controversial subject.

The winner was O. S. Robinson, of Otago, by the unanimous decision of the judges, K. H. Melvin, Dr. R. G. McElroy and Dr. T. R. Vernon, who commented on the high standard and well-prepared addresses. The medal was presented by Professor Davis.