Reading in the quad by John Hayden


Dear English Students,

What a torturous two years you’ve traversed. As the virus tightened its vice-like grip, uncertainty, anxiety and disappointment washed over us, as the liberties we all took for granted slowly eroded – no International Writer’s Festival, the thrill of the ODT Extra! Spelling Quiz diluted, and our celebration of all things oratorical – the annual Year Level Speech Competitions – dramatically pared back.

Nonetheless, in spite of the assorted difficulties of life during Plague Times, you have continued to showcase the tenets of GRACE in excelsis. The NCEA-endorsed among you stand proudly in Girton’s hallowed hallway, inspiring the hundreds who walk past every day to strive for their own versions of such success. The results in the ICAS and Kiwi English competitions speak for themselves, and while the ODT Extra! Spelling Quiz took on a new digital form, it was business as usual this year, with two Columba teams gaining Top 3 placings out of 570 schools nationwide.

Abridged though they were, the speech competitions served to show once more Columba's enviable public speaking reputation, with the worthy winners wowing us with their winged words. Similarly, the publication of New Zealand’s only student-dedicated and student-driven anthology of writing and art, ‘Song of Wings’ came to pass this year – that your words, thoughts and feelings overflow from its sleek pages speaks volumes about your skill, ambition and perseverance. Plague be darned.

Tied in with your literary journal’s genesis is yet another student-led initiative – 2021’s Read-A-Thon, where not only through generous sponsorship from the University Book Shop, but also your friends and whanau, the fledgling Song of Wings took flight. To see so many of you voraciously reading in the cosy environs of our wonderful school library (a venue delightfully curated by the inimitable Ms Wooton) for 12 hours is a testament to your thirst for knowledge and ravenous appetite for storytelling – even Dunedin’s Mayor was impressed. In an era where travel is a distant memory, through the wonder of the written word you’ve met New Zealand soldiers, Victorian nobility, countless refugees, Korean entrepreneurs, Egyptian royalty and teenagers from New York, Kabul, Shanghai and Stockholm, with whom you share common loves, hates, passions and fears. English is an intrepid international journey.

Together, we have imagined, planned, drafted, edited, created and responded to texts. You have written, evaluated, reviewed and presented a myriad of pieces for pleasure as well as a measure of your progress and achievement. Some performances have been masterful, others have required polish. But they have been unequivocally yours, and you can all be proud of your toil. Some of you have had your skills recognized elsewhere – in this very chronicle, in the Otago Daily Times, or in a variety of other local or national competitions. Whatever the outcome, and in such uncertain times, there is something you can be certain of – Mrs Cheyne, Mr Corbishley, Mrs Corkhill, Mrs Harris, Mr Hayden, Mr Tagg, Ms Togneri and Mrs Walker are unfailingly proud of you and your persistence, positivity, diligence and achievements in English so far this decade.

Yours sincerely,

The Columba College English Department 2020/21