Patrick Duff: Who is your Latinist?

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Silver Wolf

Active from 1925 to 1975 his very early years are little noted. They were sufficient to warrant a Medal of Merit in 1946. Certainly he was involved in Cambridge University Rovers and hosted meetings in his rooms. His coffee and cake was noted as excellent and as relaxation they played ‘deerstalking’ (the traditional sport of these rooms) on his table. Patrick was the University Crew Rover Leader in 1934.

He had been elected a Fellow of Trinity in 1925 aged 24, having been a student at the College from 1919. He became Regius Professor of Civil Law in 1946 and is recorded as receiving his Medal of Merit and Professorship in the same week.

Scouting was not part of his school (Winchester College) when he and his brother, J F Duff, attended. also a Rover in Newcastle and Hulme. In the 1930’s Patrick was Senior Treasurer for the University Rovers and he was on the District Executive in 1944.

Patrick Duff was present at the Chief Scout’s Cambridge visit in 1946, (he won a Stuffed elephant which he passed on to Lord Rowallan for his daughter) and next year Contingent Administrative Secretary at the 1947 World Scout Jamboree and is recalled as waving and joining in the closing ceremony. He was County Secretary from 1945 – 1974/5 and his work is ever evident in the remaining correspondence. He was also involved in work on the three crowns badgework of Ely in 1953.

He described Scouting as his hobby in Who’s Who and the fleur de lys buttonhole badge may be seen in many of his university photographs. Professor Duff was described as adventurous in his youth but dry and conservative in his later (university) life. However, Professor Duff was involved in the start of the Cambridge University Scout and Guide Club (that is the introduction of women) in 1953 and he he was also holder of Certificate No. 25 of John Sweets Lunatic Fringe. Supported by ‘Scouting’ magazine this was issued after 1971, (when the name changed from The Scouter) and was late in his Scouting career. His university obituary failed to mention this award.

Patrick Duff resigned his role in 1975 after 50 years. He was awarded the medal of Merit in 1946 and the Silver Wolf in 1961.

*****

Correspondence between Rex Hazelwood editor of The Scouter and Professor Patrick Duff, Cambridge University Scout Group, County Secretary etc.

1st Dec 1953   

My dear Rex

            Who is your Latinist?  If I was not sure that the Motto of Lord Somers was too serious a subject for joking, I should think someone was pulling your leg or that of your readers.

            “Prodesse” could not possibly have any connection with “ire, meaning “to go”; nor could “quam conspici” possibly mean “with circumspection.  “Prodesse” means “to be useful”, “to be of service”; “quam” means “than” or “rather than”; and “conspici” means “to be seen” or perhaps “to be conspicuous”. 

            I have long thought that it was an extremely appropriate motto for Lord Somers and was appalled to see your translation.  I expect you will have letters from hundreds of schoolmasters and Grammar School Scouts; but I rather hope that I may have got in first since not all your readers get the Scouter as early as I do, and some probably read the English before the Latin

Yours ever,                             

The carving, presented to Gilwell and pictured in The Scouter, that initiated the correspondence.

2nd Dec 1953

My dear Patrick

                        I am afraid I just quoted Lord Somers’ motto as it was given to me without checking it which was very foolish of me but I am not a heraldist, my latin is very rusty and I didn’t, I am afraid, even think about it.   

            I have had a letter from Christopher Stead of Keble, Oxford, this morning too.

            Would you give me something that I can quote?  I don’t think your letter would be a great deal of help to the artisan types.  Christopher Stead renders it “unobtrusive service” or “to be useful rather than to be conspicuous.” 

            What I would like to do I think is to quote your letter and his if you write me another one for publication.

Yours ever                                          

4th Dec 1953   

My dear Rex  

            Thanks for your letter of the2nd December. I hope you will pitch into whoever led you astray. I enclose a letter which may be suitable for the publication and has at least the merit of brevity.  I see that you generally put something under the signatures of your correspondents and you can describe me as “Senior Treasurer, Cambridge University Scout Group” or as “County Secretary, Cambridge” or as “Regius Professor of Civil Law, Cambridge”; but I should think it would be best to just put Trinity College, Cambridge under my name.  Any comments on the appropriateness of the motto to Lord Somers should come from you rather than me, since I knew him only at a distance.  The only time I was to have had an interview with him, my taxi failed to come and i missed my train from Cambridge to London.

            When a motto is in the infinitive, it is always a little difficult to make convincing English of it.  For the words I have put in brackets you might substitute an imperative such as “Prefer” or “Strive” but it is not worth bothering about.  Christopher Stead and I seem to be substantially agreed.  I did not know he had gone to Keble.

Yours ever                                          

Below is the brief letter enclosed by Patrick Duff

4th Dec 1953   

Dear Editor

            May I point out a mistake in your description of Lord Somers’s Arms?  The Latin motto does not mean “Proceed with Circumspection” but “(It is better) to be useful than to be conspicuous”.

*****

I am delighted by the precision of Professor Duff, his assumption that hundreds would spot it, and write to the Editor, and the concern for the inappropriate nature of the motto given to Lord Somers.  Professor Duff did not use his academic title in his Scouting work.

JWR Archivist Mar 2020