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100 Years Ago

100 years ago next term, on 4 June 1920, the first debate was held between teams from King’s High School and Warwick School. The teams were called ‘The Literary and Historical Debating Society’ and ‘The Myton Debating Society’, but it was indeed King’s High versus Warwick by any other name. King’s High Headmistress Miss Edghill, who would leave the school less than a year later, chaired the contest which took place at King’s High’s ‘Big Hall’ on Smith Street. 

King’s High opposed the motion ‘This House believes privileges should attach to social status’! Head Girl Mildred Habershon led the opposition, which was reinforced by Winifred Chadband, who claimed that all strata of society had worth, and cited the French Revolution as a dire consequence of an unfair society. Hilda Salkeld, who would be Head Girl for an unequalled six terms, and Jennifer Roe, also opposed the motion for King’s High.          

A victorious King’s High team was awarded the spoils by a vote of 39 to 35 votes, showing that the house did not think privileges should be attached to social class. 

During my own time as a King’s High debatrix, from 1979 – 1981, I and a team also comprising a nucleus of Yvonne Seaton, Gillian Humphreys, Sally Peters and Julie Hull, did not manage to equal our foremothers’ success. I recall we lost a debate to the boys, which took place in the King’s High dining room, because we failed to convince the judges that the end did NOT justify the means. Our problem was that the boys based their argument around Machiavelli, and although the King’s High team had heard of him, none of us knew why he was notorious.  In those pre-Google days, we lacked the firepower to flame their argument. 

The tide, however, turned back in King’s High’s favour last term, when a Warwick School team was unable to persuade the panel that flights should be limited to one per year for all. The King’s High team of Maud Beidas, Emilie Linfoot and Gigi Thomas gave a spirited display to reject this belief, with the added frisson that Gigi’s twin brother, Cameron, spoke for Warwick School! Clearly the current King’s High team has a more successful track record against Warwick School than the one of forty years ago which contained the mother of one of them. 

Now we have established the lead, perhaps we should hold a centenary debate. We could even compete for an annual Habershon Trophy, named after our first successful captain. 

Polly Beidas