Harrow County School for Boys

Philosophical and Debating Society - 1963

It is gratifying to be able to state that the Society has enjoyed in the past year as profitable and lively a season of debating as its most ardent well-wishers could have hoped for.  Directed by the flamboyant and energetic Chairman, Mr. Fulton, whose wilder extravagances were kept in check by the mild virtues of Mr. Lafferty and the cautious wisdom of another person, the Society provided some stimulating debating and saw some of its more taciturn members develop into witty, or at least forceful, speakers.  Furthermore, the Society benefitted from an infusion of talent from the previous year's fourth form.

This group was particularly prominent in what was undoubtedly the highlight of the year: the emergency debate on Cuba.  From the vantage point of a year or more, the fears provoked by that crisis may seem laughable, but a more salutary shock could not have been administered to dispel the House-of-Commons-at-3a.m.-air which had hitherto been prevalent at meetings.  True, the House had already been treated to a brilliant debate between Messrs. D. Smith and Weeks as to whether starfish made good mothers, but now for the first time the Floor threw off the dust-sheets of languor and complacency and joined in the give-and-take with passion.  The attendance at this debate approached two hundred, and by a narrow majority the House condemned President Kennedy's action - a far cry from the days of Suez, when the Society had decided that the Canal was worth a war.

From then on, even a quantity of dreary debates could not damp the ardour of the new devotees.  Among other things, the Society insisted on believing in God, as it has always done when the existence of the Deity has been called in question, rebuked the U.N. General Assembly for advocating economic sanctions against South Africa, and rejected Mr. Lewis's defense of capital punishment.   (Or did it accept it?  One's memory is impeded by the recollection of innumerable previous debates on this issue.)  The House refused to be swayed by Mr. Kasriel's advocacy of proportional representation - his motion was in the form of a limerick which it would be unedifying to reproduce - and stormily resented the Chairman's proposal to introduce fagging.

Among the talks and discussions that took place, two must be singled out:  Mr. David Smith's masterly discourse on "The Citizen and the State", and Mr. Goff's shorter offering entitled "Laisser-faire and the Welfare State."

One final landmark which must be mentioned is the all-star spectacular which provided the season's climax.  The motion that the Time Has Come was proposed by Messrs. Lafferty and Mees, and opposed by Messrs. G. Williams and Bilson (or was it the other way round? - it scarcely seemed to matter).  Each of these gentlemen is worth twice his salary merely for being on call to the Society, and one must include them with all those mentioned above as having served beyond the call of duty.  But such people have always existed in the history of the Society, and one must conclude that what made the Society click so noisily this year was the enthusiasm of all those who were dignified with the humble appellation of Members.

P. Romney

from Gaytonian, November 1963

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