McElwee Award Selection Day

24 January 2017


The McElwee Committee was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of applications made for the McElwee Award Travel Scholarship this year, as 28 pupils in the Lower Sixth competed to receive one of four awards to travel to Europe. After an initial shortlisting, the committee (made up of Old Stoics) heard proposals for eight exciting trips that aimed to explore an aspect of culture, history or literature.

A long day of interviews was followed by the McElwee Lecture, taken by Professor Jane Ridley. She spoke to Stoics on the topic of ‘Netflix’s The Crown and Royal Biography’. This theme explained the way in which The Crown gives an insight into the private lives of the Royals, while avoiding a sensationalist tabloid approach. Professor Ridley then explained how the best biographical writing aims to achieve a similar approach; exposing truths in a rigorous and considered way. A large number of Stoics have seen the series so the talk was relevant and engaging and also advanced academic ideas.

The final aspect of the day was a dinner, to which all applicants to the Award were invited. This was hosted in the Blue Room and both the McElwee Committee and Professor Ridley joined the Stoics, learning a little more about their proposals. At the end of the meal, Christopher Tate (Chairman of the McElwee Committee) had the pleasure of announcing the winners of this incredibly competitive process. We now look forward to the presentations that our winners will make to the new Lower Sixth in September.

Award Winners

Mint Kanjana (Lower Sixth, Queen’s) and Eleanor Trotman (Lower Sixth, Queen’s) will be travelling to Spain to explore the influence of Islamic rule during the Nasrid Dynasty. The project originated from Eleanor’s visit to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford where an exhibition titled ‘Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural’ captured her interest. Mint is similarly enthused and plans to make sketches of important architecture to form part of their presentation.

Charlie Seddon (Lower Sixth, Cobham) and Archie Figg (Lower Sixth, Cobham) plan to explore the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th Century, with a visit to Amsterdam and The Hague. They were particularly inspired by ‘The Art of the Dutch Republic: 1585-1718’ by Mariët Westermann and were struck by the worldwide role that The Netherlands was able to play in this period. The way in which this story is told through art should make a visually engaging presentation when they return.

Tom Mayhew (Lower Sixth, Grafton) and Alex Harris (Lower Sixth, Grafton) are also travelling to The Netherlands, though on a vastly contrasting topic. They plan to investigate ‘Operation Market Garden’ by going to Arnhem, Leopoldsburg and Eindhoven. Their personal family links, original source material and current interest in the military made their proposal stand out. They both spoke with passionate interest during their interviews and given Bill McElwee’s service during this period of the war, made awarding the prize to this pair seemed especially appropriate.

Finally, Ellie Dudgeon (Lower Sixth, Lyttelton) and Alex Orton (Lower Sixth, Lyttelton) will travel to Switzerland on the trail of Jean Henri Dunant: Nobel Prize winner, instigator of the Geneva Convention and founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The committee were both educated and interested by their explanation of the life of this extraordinary man and look forward to hearing what Ellie and Alex discover.

Overall, the day was filled with inspiring ideas, rich conversation and hard-fought competition. There was general agreement that the level and complexity of the applications have steadily increased and that pupils need to pitch a unique idea or demonstrate particular enthusiasm to have a chance of winning. This underlines the achievement of the eight winners and we look forward to seeing how their projects unfold this summer.

Paul Griffin, Head of History