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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1913

Capping Day

page 32

Capping Day

"Invest me with a graduate's gown
'Midst shouts of all beholders,
My head with ample square cap crown,
And deck with hood my shoulders."

capping day written on mortarboard

The Capping Ceremony.

This year the Capping Ceremony was remarkable for many things. In the first place, there was no ceremony, at least there was no Capping Ceremony, much to the disappointment and disgust of the large number of people who had assembled to sec the important event.

It happened thus. Long before 3 o'clock, in fact as early as a quarter to two, large crowds of people began to assemble in the Concert Chamber of the Town Hall. Many of them were visitors who had come long distances to see friends and relations "capped." Quite a number had made special journeys to Wellington from various parts of the North Island, and a few had come from the South. By three o'clock the body of the Concert Chamber was packed with spectators but the gallery was empty and shut. The Big Hall, too, was fairly full of people.

At the appointed hour the Chancellor took his seat on the platform, accompanied by Hon. James Allen (Minister for Education), His Worship the Mayor of Wellington (Mr. J. P. Luke), and, as the Post hath it, "other notables."

Sir Robert then delivered a short speech on the usual subject of University education. We reprint some extracts from the Dominion's report of his speech:—

"The function of the University," he said, "was limited. I must have that door kept closed. I am not going to have the door open when I am speaking. The work done by the College has been excellent. The students have excelled not in New Zealand alone, but in Europe, too. . . . In my opinion, our page 33 students have not taken the position in the social life of the country which they should have taken. I ask the doorkeeper to be good enough to shut the door. I would ask the students to remember that they have a duty to the community in being teachers of the community."

The Registrar (Mr. B. Hector) then proceeded to read the list of Auckland students who had won degrees, and almost at the same time the gallery began to fill with students. We quote from the Post:—

"There was much shuffling of feel and shifting of chair, which, with such a large number of people on the move, was unavoidable. It did not appear that in the beginning any noise was made for the purpose of interrupting the Chancellor or disturbing the Registrar, who, at Sir Robert's request, had risen to read the names of Auckland students who had obtained degrees."

A "Votes for Women" placard which had figured in one of the "items" of the procession was quite innocently brought in by the "suffragette" who had carried it. The Chancellor ordered its removal, and it was at once taken out. We mention this merely because, in some quarters, much has been made out of a perfectly inoffensive action. Finally, for what reason Heaven and the Chancellor alone know, Sir Robert declared that he would adjourn the ceremony. He then left the hall, and followed by the Registrar, proceeded to the Council Chamber, much to the indignation of the great majority of the people present.

The graduates, with three notable exceptions, declined the honour of going into the Council Chamber to receive their diplomas, and groups of angry and excited people gathered in the corridor and on the stairs, and freely and forcibly discussed the Chancellor's ill-advised action.

It seems to us a great shame that the graduates should have been deprived of the well-earned honour of receiving their displomas publicly after years of strenuous work, and that so many visitors should have been deprived of seeing the ceremony which they had come, some from considerable distances, to see, on account of what appeared to most people mere pique on the part of the Chancellor. One thing is quite certain—the conduct of page 34 the students did not warrant the hasty action which led to such a fiasco—a situation almost unique in the annals of the University of New Zealand, and certainly unique in the history of Victoria College. We make no apology for reprinting in full an article which appeared in the editorial columns of the Dominion:—

"The University capping ceremony, which took place in the Town Hall yesterday, was a sorry affair. Strictly speaking, it did not take place at all, for the Chancellor (Sir Robert Stout) put an end to the proceedings before the time for the presentation of the diplomas arrived. It will be remembered that the Victoria College Council declined to take any responsibility as regards the ceremony when the Chancellor curtly set aside their suggestion that the trouble with the Auckland students should be kept out of the Wellington capping day proceedings. Sir Robert Stout himself was given an uninterrupted hearing—not by the students, who were conspicuous by their absence, but by the general public. The students came in after he had concluded but he was evidently in no mood for fun of any sort, and walked off the platform almost before the foolery commenced. In spite of the feeling that had been aroused over the Senate's decision to present the Auckland diplomas here, it is probable that a little tact and good humour from the i hair would have prevented any trouble at all, and the programme might have been carried through without any more interruption than the good-natured banter which is recognised as a legitimate part of the proceedings on such occasions. Wellington capping ceremonies in the past have been fairly free from disorder, and there is every reason to believe that on the present occasion all would have been well if the advice of the Victoria College Council had been followed by the Senate. We have no intention of defending unreasonably noisy behaviour on the part of the students, but we do say that the needless importation by the Senate of an element of discord was a mistake that it is difficult to account for. Moreover, the action of the Chancellor in cutting short the proceedings as he did yesterday gave evidence of a state of irritation not warranted by the conduct of the student."

The Procession.

This year, as usual, we advertised Capping Day in general, and the Extravaganza in particular, by an annual procession. The procession needs no introduc page 35 tion to the Wellington public, for they have come to belive, with us, in the motto, Dulce est desipere in loco.

At a quarter to twelve on Thursday morning, 27th June, a larg, crowd collected at St. Peter's Schoolroom. A disinterested spectator standing on the pavement counted twenty-two general managers of the procession.

However, in spite of this, the cavalcade got away almost to time—Maoris on the outside, and noise in the centre—but the composite parts were changed. There was a somewhat weak-kneed band, a battle-ship manned by "Princes," a motor bicycle ridden by an Indian brave, with nis squaw mounted behind him, several suffragettes, some mounted on motor-cycles, some on waggons. There were numerous ballet girls clad in approved (or disapproved) costume, and a camp oven, at which domestic science was being taught.

The usual route, crowded by an expectant populace, was covered and the motley array finally assembled in the Post Office Square. Here a royal marriage was "solemnised," and various speeches, including a memorable one by "His X," were delivered in the presence of some five thousand spectators.

From here the procession rapidly dispersed, to meet once again in the Town Hall in the afternon.

The Carnival.

There is little doubt that the Capping Carnival concert has at last found its way into the "soft place" of popularity within the heart of the Wellington public. Whether this is due to the advertising capacity of the Procession or to the fame of our dramatic powers, is a difficult matter to decide, but let it suffice that by 8 p.m. on Thursday, 26th June, the large Town Hall was filled to the point of overflowing with one of the most lenient, agreeable and appreciative of audiences.

The first part of the programme, as in former years, consisted of glees and similar musical items, and the in-evitable College songs, of which "Dreadnaughtia," with its topical allusions, evoked the cheeriest laughter and the loudest applause.

page 36

Then followed the extravaganza, entitled "The Shaming of the Shrews," and described by its perpetrators as "'ridiculous, senseless, idiotic, but laughable." The theme, dealing with the state of the world as it will appear in 1950, when swayed by the rule of woman, gave ample opportunity to the men for the donning of the popular petticoat and the burlesquing of woman's wilful ways, and under the assumed names of Miss Dorothea Baird, Miss Lily Brayton, and Miss Titell Brune, three able actors delighted the audience with their artless sayings and their mode of managing ultra-fashionable feminine apparel. Mrs. Spankhurst especially was responsible for many an outburst of hearty laughter, at the expense of the suffragettes.

For the entertainment of the politically inclined, such personages as F. M. B. Disher, Worn Til ford, and B. C. Dates came forward to discourse smartly upon Parliamentary problems while for the special benefit of students the manners and customs of three Professors, Sir Robert Stay-out, and the Rev. A. W. H. Compton were cleverly caricatured.

Part of the final act took the form of a parody of the chamber scene in "Othello," giving Miss Desperado an excellent opportunity of showing her skill in a clever imitation of Oscar Asche's voice and manner, and in this connection it is worthy of note that our old friend, "Bill" Shakespeare, rose to the occasion with an allusion so apt that many people still refuse to believe that he was responsible for Miss Desperado's speech.

Incidentally there was a wonderful airship scene, introducing an amusing parody of the notorious "Everybody's doin' it now," and a popular entr' acte, containing an effective Tableau of Nations, performed by women students.

A repetition of the concert was given in the Town Hall on the following Saturday evening, but "thereby hangs a tale" too bitter to impart.

The Dance.

On Friday evening the dance was held, and proved to be a most delightful affair. Everything went off page 37 smoothly, in contrast to the dreadful melee that occurred the previous year. The supper arrangements were excellent and the evening (and the morning) seemed all too short to us all. But alas! everything must end, even a dance.

The Suppers.

The Undergraduates' Supper was held again this year at Godber's Rooms in Cuba Street. A large number assembled after the Extravaganza, and spent a happy time.

The Gradual Supper was held at the Trocadero Hotel on the same night. The usual toast-list was once more laboriously gone through, and all were happy when the final toast was disposed of and the meeting dispersed.

Thus ended what one may justly call the most memorable Capping Carnival in our history.