‘The Time Has Come the Walrus Said’

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Apr 24, 1948 

‘The Time Has Come the Walrus Said’ 

I have always liked uniforms, so that I have no sympathy with the suggestion made in the House of Commons the other day that the wigs and gowns of judges and barristers should be abolished.

One M.P. attacked them as “mediaeval,” as though everything as old as the middle ages must be bad. He apparently forgot that the middle ages had many excellent customs—customs necessary to life, indeed—such as eating and sleeping.

Wearing uniforms, like eating and sleeping is a custom indeed even older than the middle ages. It goes back to the days of Helen of Troy and farther. It is one of those practices, like cookery, shared by the savage and the civilized man.

The Duke of Wellington once said that uniforms were often masks hiding cowards, and no doubt many a timid man has been disguised as a hero in a red coat or a khaki tunic. But I wonder whether a coward is not a slightly braver man in uniform than he would be in non-fancy dress.

One of the objections to the use of khaki in the old days was that its color was less likely than the old-fashioned red to inspire the soldier with martial valor. This was a false prophecy, but the adoption of khaki did not mean the end of uniforms; it meant simply uniforms of a different color.

Would the M.P.’s who want to abolish judges’ uniforms like also, I wonder, to abolish all other uniforms such as those worn by footballers.

I once went to a football match in the west of Ireland in which one of the players wore trousers and another played in bare feet, and—perhaps because of this—it seemed to me that the play was not quite up to the standard of White Hart Lane.

The M.P.’s might reply that uniforms are necessary on the football field for the sake of convenience, so that a player may not mistake a foe for a friend as he passes the ball. But it is arguable that the uniform is an inspiration as well as convenience.

I remember Fred Dartnell’s once writing: “Put an Irishman in a green jersey and he becomes a man inspired.”

Even for the look of the thing, however, I am in favor of uniforms. I like to see cricketers dressed like cricketers.

I should like to see everybody wearing the uniform of his calling, indeed—not only clergymen and barristers, but butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, artists, jockeys, profiteers, income tax wanglers, commissionaires and peers.

We do not see half enough of those robes that peers seem so shy putting on. I should like to see dozens of peers strolling about Hampstead Heath in their robes on Easter Monday.

Again, would the enemies of uniforms do away with the uniform of the police? This may not be so beautiful as the uniform of the peers, but it is even more impressive.

For purposes of preserving law and order, I am sure, one policeman in uniform is equal to ten policemen in ordinary clothes, and no doubt the policeman himself feels much more authoritative when he is wearing his uniform.

Oddly enough, Mr. Gallacher’s objection to the wig and gown worn by judges is that “The whole method is designed to create a feeling of fear and terror.” It seems to me that to create a wholesome feeling of fear and terror in the right people—or rather the wrong people—is a highly desirable thing.

Would Mr. Gallacher like to see a wireless bald judge sitting on the bench during a heat wave wearing nothing but a vest and trousers and with his braces exposed?

After all a law court is not free-and-easy; and anyhow, does Mr. Gallacher really believe that a wig is more intimidating than a salute with a clenched fist?


Quotes By Robert Lynd: https://robertlynd.wordpress.com/quotes/


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