18 AUGUST 1939, Page 22

SCOTTISH UNIVERSITY PRINCIPALS Snt,—Your dramatic critic, Mr. Alan Dent, criticising

Mr. James Bridie's What Say They? remarks of Scotland that it is " a country where University principals are invariably nearer eighty than twenty-five." It is, in almost every respect, an advantage, in my belief, to be " nearer eighty than twenty- five," an opinion, I gather, with which Mr. Dent would dis- agree ; but, leaving that point aside, let us examine the facts: a habit which Mr. Dent's generation, being addicted to emotional orgasms, has not yet acquired.

Sir Thomas Holland, the Principal of Edinburgh, was appointed in 1929: his age was then 61 ; and he certainly was " nearer eighty than twenty-five," though few will think any the worse of him for that. Sir James Irvine was 44 when, in 1921, he was appointed Principal of St. Andrews, an age which is considerably nearer 25 than 80. Time, it is true, has reduced the octogenarial discrepancy : Sir James is now 62, and much " nearer 8o than 25," but there was a time! . Sir Hector Hetherington was appointed Principal of Glasgow in 1936, when he was 48. He is now 51, and still nearer to 25 than 80. Professor W. H. Fyfe became Principal of Aberdeen in 1936 at the age of 58 ; he is now 61, and has, alas, incurred Mr. Dent's disapproval by being " nearer 8o than 25 " during the whole period of his principalship. Sir Hector Hetherington's prede- cessor at Glasgow, Sir Robert Rait, was 55 when he was appointed Principal. The Very Rev. Sir George Adam Smith, who preceded Professor Hamilton Fyfe at Aberdeen. became Principal there at the age of 53. I have no information regarding the predecessors of Sir James Irvine and Sir Thomas Holland, but I think I have written enough to show that Mr. Dent's statement is a little wide of the mark. One ought not, perhaps, to take serious notice of a remark that is thrown off without much thought, but these are times, Sir, when the fashionable sludge about " youth " is responsible for much incompetence and confusion of mind. We are all getting ready to revive the drivel about old men making wars, and sending young men to fight in them, when the fact is that old men are doing their damndest to prevent young men from setting all the nations of the earth at each other's throats. It is, I think, incontestable that the greater part of the misery now prevailing in the world is largely, if not exclusively, due to young men. If it were not for the youthful helots of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, how much happier we should be? Has anyone noticed how young are the Irish Republicans who are avenging, by their efforts to blow up underground lavatories, wrongs done in Ireland by England seven centuries ago? These romantic urchins are not less, if no more, silly than the fatuous English intellectuals who flourish so disastrously in English reviews. Why you yourself, Sir, reasonable though you are in most respects, give too much space to sour-bellied young men whose only argument is a snarl. How bored you made us with all those articles entitled Youth Thinks This, That and the Other, articles which made abundantly manifest the sickening fact that Youth either could not or would not think it all, but was content to blah-blah.—Yours sincerely,

Honey Ditches, Seaton, Devon. ST. JOHN ERVINE.