The Wellington Speaking Union has a long and proud history.
Some of the competitions that the WSU used to organise are currently in recess. Their histories are recorded here for posterity, and in case they are ever revived. Click on each link to see the past winners of each competition.
If you can help locate the trophies for each of the below competitions, please email the President.
Premier Reserve Grade
The Premier Reserve Grade used to be the grade below the Premier Grade (revived in 2007). Teams competed for the 22 Club Jubilee Trophy, which was presented by the 22 Club to be the trophy for the then new Premier Reserve Grade. The Grade provided an intermediate step between A grade debating and Premier grade.
A and B Grade
The A and B grades used to be the two adult debating grades below both Premier Reserve and the Premier Grade. It was designed for new and junior debaters in Wellington.
The A grade competition competed for the City of Wellington Trophy, which was presented in 1974 by the Wellington City Council to replace the Parliamentary Shield as the trophy for A Grade debating competition.
The B grade competition was also known as the Captain W J Lyons Memorial Contest, which commemorated Capt Lyons, MP for Waitemata who was killed in action in Greece in 1941. The Trophy was presented to The Wellington Speaking Union by the Watersiders Debating Club in 1942.
The Rostrum Rosebowl was presented by the Rostrum Club, initially as a trophy for Union-level debating between Wellington and Auckland. It was decided, from 1992, to use it as a trophy for the new Limited Preparation Debating Contest within the Wellington Speaking Union.
The McDonald Oratory Trophy was presented to the Union in memory of Pilot Officer Leslie Joseph McDonald, a past Secretary of the Union, who was killed in action on 13 January 1941.
Pilot Officer McDonald was a keen and able exponent of the art of Public Speaking and this annual contest was a fitting tribute to his memory. In addition to his involvement in public speaking, he also served as Secretary of the WSU. The McDonald family were loyal and enthusiastic supporters of this contest. The contest was open to members of all affiliated clubs in the WSU.
Kitts Trophy for Impromptu Speaking
The Trophy was presented by the Mayor of Wellington, the late Sir Francis Kitts, in 1967 for a contest to encourage excellence in Impromptu Speaking. Sir Francis is more commonly recognised in the name ‘Frank Kitts Park’ on the waterfront. In 1999 the then mayor of Wellington (Mark Blumsky) re-established the mayoral connection with the contest by hosting the Kitts Final at the Council Chambers.
Ted Gill Contest
The Ted Gill contest for Prepared Speech was intended as a competition for those new to public speech. Winners of this or any other WSU contestÂ were not permitted to enter. The Trophy was presented by “two friends” of the late Ted Gill, who was a long-time member of the Wellington Speakers’ Club. Mr Gill’s regular visits to the Club were a highlight of his life in later years. His enthusiasm, insight and humanitarian principles were rare attributes.
Ted Gill was a Tawa Valley resident who is remembered for his love of public speaking and the fellowship of other speakers. Though residing in what one contemporary describes as ‘an old hut’, Ted would pour his rich skills into researching for debates at the library and encouraging others. When he died, two of his friends donated this trophy to the WSU in his memory.