It’s the season for public school speech-days, claims R. Ellis Roberts. But in fact, most of the major speech-days had long passed, in June (it is now late July). Speech-day announcements in 1934 had included one from J.T.Christie, the headmaster of Repton, about his school’s decision to replace the Eton Jacket with the Marlborough Jacket. The Eton Jacket, he said, was “neither comfortable nor convenient” and, hygienically, “left off where it should begin.” He also said they resembled “monkey jackets” and would be suitable for monkeys, but not his boys. With such heady issues are school speech-days concerned. Mr. H.L.O. Flecker, the headmaster of Christ’s Hospital, speaking in 1934 to the speech-day of Woking County School for Boys, said that he thought that parents attached too much importance to examinations. “I think examinations are the most awful rot,” he said. I’d like to see him say that nowadays!
Roberts asks for either a speech by H.G.Wells to Eton College; or a speech by Churchill to Dartington Hall School (a progressive school near Totnes in Devon); or a letter home by a boy from either to a friend, about speech-days.
One reader objects to having Eton’s extravaganza (wall-game, steeplechase etc) labelled a ‘speech-day’. The others are not well-received by Roberts who thinks Wells and Churchill should be easy to parody. Noting that Dartington Hall pupils are supposed universally not to be able to spell, he gives the top two prizes to Prietripsis (a meaningless psuedonym, and vaguely like a rhetorical figure of speech), and Nitsuj (so we can safely say that this is a Justin of some sort). Their names are, unusually, not printed below the entries – this turns out to be an experiment that lapses after a few weeks. E.V. Warne, A.H.Ellerington and Allan M. Laing are proxime accessits.
The teasing attack on Dartington School – which lasted from 1926 to 1987 – has the best possible rejoinder in the sensational results of Competition 257! (There is an interesting account of it here.)