AP5: Of Snails and Purple Dye

25 Feb 2012

“Do you smell something burning?”

This question sounded in an empty chemistry lab 150 years ago in 1856.

2 English chemists were trying to find the cure for malaria, one of the world’s most widespread diseases at that time. Hoffman, the older of the 2, was leading the research while his student William Perkin helped out.




William was a chemistry prodigy; he entered university at 15, much earlier than the most of us! Now, he is part of Hoffman’s prestigious team of university researchers, on a breakthrough study that can save the world!


[low-pitched, gruff voice] “When something’s burning, it usually means the experiment had FAILED. Clean up while I find out what went wrong.” Hoffman commanded. William thought: “oh man, another test-tube to clean!”

That day’s experiment was a particularly bad failure. As he looked down into the test tube, he saw a disgusting black gooey substance, like mucus from a smoker’s lung, coloured black with tar.

He started rinsing with water, it did not budge. He tried scrubbing but it still did not move! It was as stubborn as super glue!

At last, William gave up and used his teacher’s expensive alcohol. “I really hope this works!” I want to invent the medicine for malaria and save the world, not be stuck here washing test-tubes!

At last, the black thing got smaller when it was washed with alcohol! William was elated as he looked at the alcohol flowing down the drain, it was as bright and brilliantly purple as the freshest violets, and most importantly took some of the black sludge away with it. “Good riddance!”

Hoffman, his teacher came back rubbing his hands “William! finished washing? GOOD!” The 2 of them continued their next experiment, after all Hoffman always says “If you try and fail, try again!”

(move to stage left)

At home that night, William was telling Thomas, his younger brother about the black sludge and purple dye it caused. Thomas immediately piped up [high voice] “I’ve never seen purple so close. Only the King can afford to wear it.” (pause) “William do you think, just think, that we can dye purple cloth from it? Imagine, purple cloth!”

Purple dyes were collected from the mucus of snails at that time, and each snail only had so much mucus. So, only the incredibly rich, like the King, can afford to wear it. Thomas was excited!

To think of all the purple cloth they can make! They can wrap their entire house in purple, not even the King does that! But William said “No, I am finding the cure for malaria, not some sort of colouring! I’m a chemist! I must help the world!” [in Thomas’s high-pitched voice] “But since you already have it, can you please try, please please? It is an opportunity too, why don’t we grab it?”

(pause, freezing in Thomas’s action of hands outstretched)

(move to stage right)

The next day, William went to Mr. Hoffman, telling him about the possibility of making a dye, from the black sludge of yesterday. “No, we are here to cure malaria, I have too much to do to help you. if you want to be silly, do it yourself. But you would have to leave my research team. Choose yours own path.”

(move to stage center)

What should William do? Should he continue with the prestigious research team at the university? Or should he take his chances with the unknown purple substance?


3 years and many experiments later, William and Thomas are the proud owners of a dye factory in Scotland, using mauvine to produce purple clothes for the whole of England. Everyone could now wear purple and the poor snails were no longer needed.

When he discovered mauvine, which is the purple dye made from the black sludge, William Henry Perkin was just 18. He went to become an established chemist, but he never discovered the cure for malaria. Instead, he found other dyes, like Britannia Violet and Perkin’s Green. William Perkin directly contributed all the coloured clothes we are wearing today. Because of him, we can have many colourful fabrics, whether cotton or silk, to wear any colour whenever we want. Can you imagine if we still had to use snail mucus and leaves to colour our clothes?

William’s teacher, wanted to leave his impact on the world by persevering on one thing. And he did, although he never discovered the cure for malaria, he is well known for many breakthroughs in his field of research.

William had decisively jumped at something he thought was an opportunity and succeeded in bettering the life of others through chemistry. Hoffman had also led the way in chemistry research.

One of them succeeded with persistence, one with flexibility. Do we want to be William or Mr. Hoffman? But the most important thing is, they both tried and tried. Some people think that ‘fail and try again’ is the secret to success, but trying, failing and trying to make use of that failure may also lead to victory.

In any case, try and fail but don’t fail to try!

Toastmaster of the day.


This is a AP5 speech from the Storytelling Manual, Bringing History to Life.


Evaluation by Michael Chang

8 min 27 secs

There were two morals of the story,


  1. Can try and fail but do not fail to try
  2. We can succeed through persistence like Hoffman or flexibility like William
William was well developed as a character, with a background (chemistry prodigy) but Hoffman could be better characterized.
Effective use of description and dialogue in the story. Vocal variety observed during the dialogues and gestures were natural and appropriate.
A commendable speech. Keep up the good efforts and well done!



AP3: The Great Leap


Yes, all mice leap towards the cheese on the mouse trap. Why do they do that? No one really knows. Maybe this behaviour is instinctual. Maybe it’s culturally conditioned. Among mice, this behaviour is considered normal.

Take for example, the annual “Great Mouse Leap” in Town Mousey where young mice would leap at the rows of mouse traps outside the confectionary near Christmas.


Emmy grew up fuss free and carefree. However, as Emmy becomes older, she, like all others, began to feel the strange pull towards the mouse trap.


All other mice chattered excitedly about the coming “Great Mice Leap” and many of Emmy’s young friends were even planning to participate this year.

Emmy was troubled. One day, she decided to talk to the wise elder.

“Why do we leap towards to mouse trap?” Emmy asked him.

“What do you mean, why? We are mice. It’s what we are supposed to do, silly.”

“Yes, but what happens after we leap?” she pressed.

“Something good.”


“Err… we don’t know,” came the hesitant reply.

“Then how do you know it’s good?” Emmy insisted, noting a hint of doubt in his voice.

“It must be good because no one ever comes back. Now, shut up and go along, young mouse.”

That evening, she was to the very edge of the town and sat there. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t be satisfied with leaping towards the mouse trap like all the others?” she wondered. “Am I weird for asking so many questions, and for wanting something else?”

All of a sudden, she had a new question to ask: “What do you think is on the other side of the confectionary, behind the door?”

She thought hard over it and then she knew what she had to do.

It was night, the evening of the Great Leap. As the moon rose higher into the sky, the town began bursting with energy.

“I’m gonna do a swan dive!” called one mouse.

“I’m gonna do a cannonball!” laughed another.

Emmy followed the young cohort of inspired mice towards the confectionary.

Outside the confectionary, Emmy was in awe. In front of her were rows and rows of mousetraps. Atop them were tantalising looking cheese of all shape and sizes.

She hesitated. (pause)

Taking a deep breath, she calmed her instinct and tiptoed passed the traps. All the rest of the mice stared at her in disbelief. She insisted and braved on.

Finally, she reached the door, entered the confectionary and was treated to the greatest feast she had in her whole life.

A year later, it’s again time of the Great leap. Despite Emmy bringing back lots of cakes and pastries, the elder refused to end ”The Great Leap”, maintaining it was too important to their heritage and their identity as a group So every year, many mice continued to leap to their death.

Still with help from Emmy, many more mice began to ask “why” and to consider their actions.

Have you asked “why” today?

Toastmaster of the day.



This is an AP3 from the storytelling manual

Joint meeting at Braddell Heights 2 & Area S2 Contests

Update: We had a wonderful time at Braddell Heights!To all who were not present, remember to join us for the next meeting!



Are you looking forward to Tiarel’s joint meeting with Braddell Heights 2 TMC this Saturday?


Do attend even if you have no roles. Now is the best chance to visit and explore other toastmaster clubs for joint meetings (thanks to Richard for finding the clubs) while our CC is undergoing renovations! In addition, for this meeting, DTM Jenny Au will be giving a special talk about leadership.

The meeting starts at 2:45pm at Braddell Heights CC. We would meet & gather at 2pm at Tampines North CC for the car pool to the CC at serangoon, or you can go there directly.


Also, the Area Contests are on this Friday at AIA Changi. Support our club winners Richard and Kevin!

Venue: AIA Changi (near Eunos MRT)
Date: 23 March 2012, Friday
Time: 6.30 to 9.30pm

If you are trying to find entertainment on a Friday night, be at AIA Changi. Free food provided (i think!) and entertainment from the best speakers. Can’t get these anywhere else.


Extracted from a notification by Kenny Lim (VPE)

modified by Ta Susiwati (VPPR)