The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926
The Capping Ceremony
The Capping Ceremony.
"It is pleasant to play the fool, but ..."
No longer does the pallid afternoon light dim the magic of the Capping mysteries. No longer are they celebrated in the presence of the leisured few. The little bird of democracy has whispered in the ear of Authority, and the select matinee of former years has given way to the popular evening ceremony.
Accordingly, at half-past seven o'clock in the evening of the fifteenth of May, devoted hearts in the municipal power-hou.se throbbed with the joy of the knowledge that the exquisite decorations of the large Town Hall glowed the more gloriously for their exertions; the vast multitude of people, who without a doubt had been attracted by the prospect of a free show, resigned themselves to the packed condition of the galleries and tried to feel that they were getting their money's worth; and the full choir of alumni occupying the floor-space below murmured in happy anticipation of the noises before them. Then, into the warm splendour, moving as if censers swung before them, the second procession of the day entered and solemnly made its way to the place of execution—professors gowned like bishops, professors gowned like Bolsheviks, professors gowned like professors; graduates gowned in all the colours of the spectrum; flower maidens—oh, marvellous pulchritude! and here, even in our own Victoria—gowned beyond the dreams of any spectrum; and also-rans not gowned at all, but obviously great friends of Mr. P. Schneideman and Messrs. Vance-Vivian. No wonder the dizzy crowd sang "God Save the King!" with such determination; H.M. needed a kind word or two with such competition to meet.
Thus the show commenced.
It is a superstition among celebrated men of mature age to make speeches on such occasions. It is a superstition, also, among other men (not yet individually celebrated and not all of mature age) to make audible comments upon such speeches. The comments are, as a rule, much more interesting to listen to than the speeches. But as a great man has said, formerly, in the days before the War broke the continuity of the College traditions, these audible comments had been reduced to a fine art—the art of concerted interruption. This involved listening to a speech and picking up its points as they arose. The longer the speech (they did not make long speeches in the Golden Age) the more opportunities for comment. The modern idea is simply to make a speech impossible by howling the speaker down. It is a fair valuation of the kind of speech a down-trodden proletariat must listen to nowadays; nevertheless, there was much more page 17 humour and fun and much more genuine enjoyment for all concerned in the old way. An increasing tendency to return to the old method was discernible on this last occasion; a judicious distribution of dummies might work wonders on the next.
Four valiants tilted at the windmill—Mr. R. McCallum, the Vice-Chancellor (Professor J. Rankine-Brown), His Honour Mr. Justice Ostler, and His Worship the Mayor (Mr. C. J. B. Norwood). Nobody heard much of what they said—not even the reporters—but it amounted to this: Mr. McCallum flapped his hands twice, each time to mean "Stand up and sing the National Anthem." (This rollicking melody opened the performance and closed it.) The Vice-Chancellor said (in effect, of course), "Shut up or I'll chuck the job." Mr. Ostler imparted some advice about hard labour. Mr. Norwood bade Mr. Tennant good-bye. The most valuable lessons gained from the speeches were that men with whiskers have the stronger voices, men without have the greater knowledge, and vocal honours go to the undergraduate, who has neither whiskers nor knowledge.
What is there more to report? The graduates were capped, that is, the Vice-Chancellor muttered an incantation over each one and shook hands with him (or her), the flower-maidens (one is almost tempted to write the mannequins) presented their bouquets, "Absent Friends" was sung, and, for what must be the first time in years, "Just One Stave More" was not sung. A College function is not complete without this most honoured of our songs.
These things being done, the tumult and the shouting died, the rabble departed, and the hall was cleared for the dancing.