xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Mystery of the Missing Mondummery Shield.

In 1957 I was editor of  KLAXON, the student newspaper at Graylands Teachers College. In order to drum up some ongoing student interest I inaugurated the Mondummery Shield competition to find the “lovingest” couple on campus.

I called it the Mondummery Shield because in 1956,  two Second Year students, Don  Mummery and Erica Shepherd were clearly the lovingest couple on campus. In each issue I would award points and make some acerbic comments about  enthusiastic amorous couples; the college’s modern day equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.

Des Beeck, who after graduating taught for many years in Albany, designed the Mondummery Shield. It depicted two red hearts pierced by an arrow, two hands clasped in loving fondness, Cupid with his bow and  three sets of fulsome lips floating in the top right quadrant.. Why Des chose three lips to depict a trophy dedicated to true love is another story, far too salacious to outline here.

Although the college colours were blue and gold, Des painted the shield predominantly in pink and blue, complete with motto. We then unceremoniously hung it up, without any authority, alongside all the other shields of various institutes of learning that adorned the walls of the Graylands Teachers' College Hall, which at that time was cleverly disguised as an ex-Army Nissen Hut.

Des Beeck handing over the replica Mondummery Shield to the author at Challenge Stadium in 2007.

Sean Walsh, a noted scholar of Pedagogy in those days, suggested that a shield was not worth a drop of Leprechaun’s sweat unless it had a Latin inscription. After a great deal of debate Sean’s suggestion, “Non Nibbilbus Sibbilbi”, was adopted and duly printed in Romanesque script at the bottom of the shield. To this day its meaning is obscure. As Sean eventually finished up as W.A. Premier, Geoff Gallop’s Chief of Staff, there are some who think it is a message of deep political significance. The Mondummery Shield remained a popular facet of college life at Graylands until the college was closed in December 1979.

I returned to Graylands in 1972, lecturing in Science and Mathematics Education. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the Mondummery Shield was being as hotly contested for as ever. How I came to be appointed as a lecturer at Graylands Teachers College is an interesting and rather long story which you may read here: How Gough Whitlam led me to the Principalship-led-me-to.html

The Mondummery Shield Award competition remained a great Graylands tradition until 1979 when the government finally closed the doors of its “temporary” teachers college. I often wondered what happened to Don Mummery and Erica Shepherd. Don Mummery was a well known artist and art teacher. I know that he and Erica both had successful teaching careers. Better still, they married soon after leaving college and lived happily ever after.  I used to think that they were probably oblivious to the legacy of love that they left behind at Graylands. However, I did meet a college contemporary of theirs in 2007 and he informed me that Don and Erica were not entirely happy with their connection  to the Mondummery concept. Fair enough!

Sadly, the present whereabouts of the Mondummery Shield is shrouded in mystery. It is alleged that someone souvenired it in the sad, final days of the college in late 1979. At a 1957 Graduates' 40th reunion celebration in 1997, I was told by Len McKenna, a wonderful Science and Nature Study lecturer in our student days at Graylands, that he had been told the Mondummery Shield was given to Don Mummery in the college's last days. Allegedly, according to Len, Don had then burnt it.

In 2007, the 1957 college year group celebrated the 60th anniversary of their graduatuon. As this was the group which was present at the birth of the Mondummery Shield Award, I thought it would be appropriate to at least  have replica of the shield for the occasion.  I contacted Des Beeck and told him the sad news that his original Mondummery Shield was missing in action and asked if he could make a new one. He readily agreed and presented it on the night of the reunion. 

I subsequently handed this replica shield over to the Edith Cowan University Archives at their Joondalup Campus. Graylands was one of the teachers colleges that was initially amalgamated with Churchands, Claremont, Mt Lawley and Secondary Teachers Colleges in 1973 to become the W.A. College of Advanced Education WACAE later blossomed, together with Joondalup Teachers College, into Edith Cowan University. So all Graylands Graduates are ECU Alumni. Another point of interest is that Sean Walsh, of Non Nibbilbus Sibillbi fame, was the Chief Assistant to the Minister For Works, Des Dans, and was heavily involved in the design and construction of Challenge Stadium in the 1980s. It must also be noted that the replica shield does not have the Non Nibbibus Sillibi motto, but a proud Mondummery Shield title at the base.

In 2017 I contacted the ECU Archives to get some memorabilia and the gentlemen there informed me that the Mondummery Shield was by far the most talked about piece of memorabilia in the archives. I have often though how nice it would be if all of the Mondummery Shield winners (and their present day partners) would turn up at an Annual Graylands Alumni Dinner. Nicer still if the shield, if it still exists, could be mysteriously returned and displayed once more in the halls of academe. It would then be a permanent reminder of some of the great fun and games enjoyed by Graylanders in those glorious, golden days. In its absence, perhaps Des Beeck's replica could be brought off the Interchange Bench for one more run around the Halls of Academe.

It may be, that somewhere in some dank and dark corner of some backyard shed,  lies the original, legendary Graylands shield of love. Hopefully, it has not yet become a white ant’s breakfast.
If you have the Mondummery Shield please return it to the Alumni Office at ECU, Joondalup. No questions asked!

If you know where it is, please contact me on 0407 463 364 or e-mail bourke@iinet.net.au

Sunday, 17 May 2020

In a Time of Covid-19, I kid you not.

It’s official, All children in Western Australia should be in schools from Monday, May 18.

Since Covid-19 focussed our attention on students attending or not attending our schools, I have been surprised that so many commentators refer to our students as “Kids”.
When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s calling children kids was almost unheard of. Kids, we were told, were young goats.

However, today kids is the generally accepted collective noun for children. It is universally used by media commentators, parents, letter writers, state premiers, ministers for education, education department spokespersons and even by teachers and principals… and some newspaper editors.

English is a beautiful language. A living language. One of the flaws of being a living language is that if enough people use a word or an expression, or even a mispronunciation, over time it eventually becomes “Proper English”.

For instance the word “nice” in previous centuries once meant wanton or foolish, which is not nice at all. People’s usage over time of nice to actually mean nice means that it no longer means foolish or wanton. Isn’t that nice?
No doubt Kids is now well established in the lexicon of educated English.

The ABC, once the arbiter of correct spoken English in Australia, has long been cluttered with gunna, gotta, comin’, goin, watcha, would’ve, could’ve, should’ve and other previously frowned upon abbreviations.

We have also noted over time that the well-known expletive F and C words, previously regarded as vocabulary bombshells, are now more and more  used in everyday speech. They are certainly being used, perhaps overused, in film and TV presentations. A television drama I watched the other evening would have been thirty minutes shorter if the expletives had been deleted. Watch any stand up comedian these days. They will be prattling along with an occasional laugh or giggle coming from the audience. Then they throw in the heavy artillery expletive F and C words and everybody falls off their seats laughing. Oh, yes. Expletives are an obvious sign of great wit. Maybe not. It is a wonder how Bob Hope, Groucho Marx and Jerry Seinfeld ever made an expletive free living.

Those F and C words were once never, ever used in polite society, especially in the presence of the fairer sex. Now it the fairer sex who are proving very adept at dropping their own  expletive F and C bombshells.                                                                                                   

Somebody once said that the present day  coarseness of the feminine vocabulary  just proves that the feminist movement stopped women from acting like ladies but has not yet taught them how to behave like gentlemen. I don’t know who said that, actually. I hope he was killed off by a Feminazis in a gentle and caring way.

As those previously taboo words have taken permanent residence in our popular English expression, we now  need to invent newer expletives to bring back some shock value.                       When I was very young, Bloody and Bugger were thought to be very rude words. In fact, the word bloody caused a sensation when it was first uttered on the English stage by Eliza Doolittle’s character in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion early last century.. Not any more.

They have been replaced by the F and C words. No doubt in the not so distant future newer words will be found to shock and awe us.

As for kids. I spent over forty years working in schools. When I retired as a primary school principal in 2002,  I received quite a few cards. Some were even complimentary. Of all those cards, one that I clearly remember was from a mother who said, “ Thank you for helping with the education of my boys over the last ten years. I especially thank you for never calling them kids.”

I wonder if any mother in 2020 would  express such a genteel opinion. Not bloody* likely!

*Insert your own expletive of choice.