Fellowship: Historical Blog

February: St Andrews Love stories

Comments Off 26 February 2014

Perhaps it is the cobbled streets and dreamy gold burnished skies above sweeping beaches, maybe it is the drafty old town houses that are too expensive to heat, driving doe eyed St. Andreans into one another’s arms. Whatever the reason, St Andrews is officially recognised as a town of romance. Principal Brian Lang proudly announced at the 2005 graduation ceremony that one in ten students would marry a fellow St Andrean. In 2010, the BBC published the headline ‘Prince seals a ‘match made in St Andrews’’, commemorating the then impending marriage of Katherine Middleton and Prince William. Since then, the couple have been exquisitely married and welcomed to the world a beautiful baby boy. St Andrews love stories, however, do not always have such a magical, fairy-tale ending.


Tom Morris Jr. was born on April 20th 1851 in St Andrews. His father, Tom Morris Sn. was a renowned golfer. His son was quick to fill his polished brogues, however, winning the Open Championship in 1868 at the age of 17, making him the youngest champion in the game’s history. Tom went on to win another three times, in 1869, 1870 and for a final time in 1872. Father and son often competed together, a formidable pair on the course.

On September 11th 1875, the team teed off against the Park brothers on the North Berwick course. Twenty four year old Tom was happily married to Margaret Drinnen, he was a successful and pioneering golfer; the young couple were truly a St Andrean dream. That morning, however, Tom received a telegram to say that his beautiful wife had gone into labour, and they were needed urgently. With only two holes to play, the father and grandfather-to-be decided to finish the round before, the then long, journey back to St Andrews. The pair rejoiced, having won their match they were going home to a new family and their fairy-tale ending.

When they arrived, however, all was not well. Margaret had gone into a difficult labour and both she and her child had perished. Both had passed before Tom and his Father returned. Tom Morris Jr. was bereft. On December 25th, a long and painful three months later, his heart gave out.

Passionate visitors to St Andrews, both lovers and golfers alike, to this day leave golf balls at his grave, which lies within the walls of the Cathedral. Even in 1875, St Andrews was famous for its passionate populace. Though far from the happy ending, Tom Morris’ Romeo and Juliet romance has captured and broken hearts for over a hundred years, another tale for our streets to tell.

Back in the here and now, however, if you’re not quite feeling the love this month, remember that there is always a frog or two before you find your Prince (or Princess!) The Fellowship wish you a very happy February, and will return in March with the next instalment of the historical blog.

Fellowship: Historical Blog


Comments Off 22 January 2014

Now that term is looming in the near distance, your thoughts may be beginning to turn to more academic preoccupations. Yet with a whole week of revelling still ahead of you, this is the perfect time to indulge yourself with the latest installment of the Fellowship’s historical blog. This month’s theme is less local and instead will discuss a more national topic, exploring the life of Robert Burns and the annual celebration in his honour.
2014 is set to be a very important year for Scotland. Not only the host of the Independence referendum, but, this is also a time of Homecoming. These are special years filled with events, encouraging ex-patriots to come back to their homeland and celebrate their heritage, together en mass. This year, up and down the nation heritage sites have installed special programs to help you to trace your Scottish family tree. This is the perfect time to celebrate your new (or old) home, and in what better way than by attending a Burns Supper, if you haven’t RSVPed already, that is!
25th January is Burns Day, traditionally celebrated by a Burns Supper, a highly social, cultural and Scottish affair. During these communal feasts of Haggis, neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (potatoes), there is often dancing, many traditional speeches including the tongue in cheek toasts to the Lads and Lassies, and the recital of many Burns’ poems. The highlight of the night for any supper trying to impress, is the dramatic reading of Tam O’shanter, Burns’ ghostly epic, fueled by whiskey and charged by tablet (a very sweet, dry type of Scottish sweetie made with milk and lots, and lots of sugar) Such a grand celebration might seem like a lot for an 18th century poet, but Burns far transcended mere words on the page.
Robert Burns was born of January 25th, 1759 in Alloway. Despite their humble origins, Robert’s tenant farmer parents were determined to give their son a good education. It is hard to imagine that the little crofting family knew where their literate son was headed, or indeed, the legacy he would leave behind. The result was that Robert grew up some what restless. His body was subjected to the arduous labour of 18th century farming, but his mind was otherwise engaged. Burns’ poetical success was rooted in his upbringing and love of nature. He wrote from the heart and captured the city readers with his pastoral verse.
Having developed a romantic soul from reading the verse of poets such as Alexander Pope, Burns married Jean Armour at a young age, fathering two twins early on. Jean was not Robert’s first love and was far from his last. Before meeting Jean, Burns wrote Handsome Nell for his lover Nellie Kilpatrick. Robert and Jean’s life was almost ripped apart by Mary Campbell, the inspiration for the stunning poem Highland Mary. Mary’s death put an end to their planned escape to the West Indies, and Burns settled back down to his life with Jean. It was not all bad from Burns at this time, however. Despite the death of his lover, at age 27 Robert Burns was already known across Scotland for his poetical command and influence. This new found fame for the ‘Ploughman Poet’ as he was christened, lured Burns to Edinburgh, where he was to find influential friends and companions.
Burns’ time in the city is infamous. In later life, Burns’ political voice would raise a few eyebrows, but his voice was clear from an early age. To a Mouse, one of his most famous poems, hints at Burns’ political and social distemper:
Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
Edinburgh played host to many of Burns’ illicit relationships and illegitimate children. His time there would paint him as the rouge and great lover that he would be immortalised as. Despite his pen flowing still, Burns returned home to Jean after just 18 months, having spent his small fortune from his published works. He took up a job as an Excise Officer in Dumfries in 1789. This was a far cry from his previous working background, and the irony not lost on the poet himself. Burns died just 7 years later aged only 37. His life, fame and loves had all been fast, passionate and tragically short.
Despite all of this, Robert Burns became the voice of a nation. His poetry was fueled by passion and heart and captured the nature that surrounded him. Walter Scott, who was just an infant during the height of Burns’ fame, would draw upon this inspiration and their writings would bring tourism to the natural bounty of the Scottish country side.
While certain entries in Burns’ canon are evidently autobiographical, Ae Fond Kiss, Highland Mary etc. it was the poet’s ability to capture a persona in verse that really immortalised his works. Perhaps most famous of all is Tam O’Shanter, which epitomises Burns’ talent for characterisation. The characters spoke to every reader, and despite the slightly archaic images, still do in many ways. It is hard not to imagine poor Jean Armour as Kate, at home with her children, waiting for Robert to return from Edinburgh,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
Although the Lallans can be hard to come to terms with, a Burns’ supper is certainly something that has to be experienced at least once in a life time.
There are many more detailed accounts of the life of Robert Burns for interested readers, including the very authoritative ‘The Bard’ by St Andrews author and Professor, Robert Crawford.
The Fellowship of St Andrews would like to extend their warmest wishes to you all for the New Year. Welcome back St Andreans, we hope that this semester is one of your best yet!

Fellowship: Historical Blog

November: Armistice

Comments Off 24 November 2013

The cold drives hard down the narrow streets of St Andrews at this time of year, as the nights draw in early. Even the inhabitants of Market Street think long and hard about running to Tesco for that spare pint of milk. Winter has come to our little town. Before the festivities can begin, however, a few thoughts have to be spared for Armistice.

On the 28th of July, 1914, Britain declared war. The Great War lasted longer than expected. It was believed the war would be over by Christmas 1914, but  instead it expanded four long years, a catastrophic timeline of blunders, failed plans and bad timing. Conscription was soon introduced to keep up with causalities and fatalities. Men between the ages 18-41 were called to the front. There were, of course, reserved occupations, including; miners, farmers and widowed men with children. WW1 also allowed ‘conscientious objectors’, those who opted out for Religious or Pacifist beliefs. Students, however, were not protected from conscription, and those who hadn’t signed up for the call in 1914, were called in 1916.

Each story is individual, and each man fought his own war. Some men, such as Charles Gillespie, were graduates. He had graduated from the university in 1914 with a Bsc honours. The second Lieutenant of the Highland Light infantry, he sadly died on September 20th1915, a year after his time at University. Others, such as Charles Hood had only just started his degree at St. Andrews. He was a student of arts from 1916 until Candlemas in 1917. He was a Corporal in the 17th Battalion, Princess Louise’s (AKA the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.) He died at Lieu St Amand, on the 18th October, 1918, mere months before the end of the war.

The names, battalions and fates of the students of St Andrews are lovingly and carefully recorded in ‘The University of St. Andrews: Roll of Honour and Roll of Service 1914-1919’. A digital edition is available online.

When the war finally ended, life was far from easy. The university and town, however, continued. Within twenty years Europe had reached breaking point, and the king announced that Britain was once more at war.

The town and students rallied once more, and again ventured into Europe. WW1 had introduced mechanical warfare, and the precedent was set for WW2. Despite the introduction of DORA, St Andrews and Britian had never truly faced any threat from the Great War. WW2, however, was a very different case. The home front, those too young or too old to fight, rallied. Some beautiful pictures of St. Andrews Home Guard are available at; http://thaneofife.org.uk/homeguard.html. (The Fife Military project also has a whole wealth of information about the area during this conflict! I encourage anyone interested to have a look)

The Home Guard are most memorably identified by the BBC sitcom Dad’s Army. Despite the gentle comedy of this programme, the Home Guard played a very essential role during the war. They guarded their town, kept the air raids running smoothly and maintained a military presence in every town. In St Andrews and other coastal towns, they were essential. The long, flat beaches of St Andrews made it a perfect target for Nazi landings, and all eyes eagerly watched the coast.

Leuchars airbase also played a very important role in the war. While they were not the starting station for the Battle of Britain, Leuchars performed daily maritime patrols. In February 1940, 224 Squadron Hudson located the German prison ship, the Altmark. This allowed for the interception by HMS Cossack and the eventual liberation of over 200 British prisoners.

Despite precautions, St Andrews did not escape the war unscathed. On the 6th August 1942, St Andrews was bombed by enemy planes. A man in Dundee was fined for using an unshaded torch, because it was believed that a breach of the blackout had led to the St Andrews bombing. In truth, the bombs had probably been targeting Leuchars or one of the bigger cities, such as Aberdeen and Edinburgh. An interview with an eye witness of the bombing is available on the BBC website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/modern_scotland/39_45/air_raid_warning_red/

There are many more stories of war to be unearthed in our little town, and men and women continue to fight for their nations and peace today. Even when World War conflicts reached our shores the students and town worked together to preserve St Andrews. Monuments outside of the Cathedral and inside St Salvators Chapel preserve the memory of all the men and women who fought for Britain, and St Andrews.

Now we have looked back at our rich past, it’s time to look to our bright future!

The Fellowship of St Andrews invites all of you to join us and the people of St Andrews, to celebrate the beginning of winter with the turning on of the town’s Christmas lights, On NOVEMBER 30TH AT 5PM. This lovely occasion will be followed by a show stopping Ceilidh at 6pm.

We are all very excited to be celebrating the end of the 600th celebrations with our much anticipated ball at 9pm that evening. We look forward to celebrating with you all!

If the frosty mornings and Christmas lights don’t signal the start of winter, then the annual Mermaid’s Christmas Ball certainly will. The Christmas ball promises to be as elegant, festive and exuberant as ever! A tradition not to be missed out on.

600th Finale; 600 years of history

Fellowship: Historical Blog

600th Finale; 600 years of history

Comments Off 15 November 2013

Explore St Andrews was initiated by Freddie Fforde. All of his hard work and expert knowledge is available for you to read, however, rather than let this great resource go to waste, the Fellowship have taken it over. Every month we endeavour to post a themed blog about St. Andrews. If this is something you are interested in, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

As the 600th Finale approaches the Fellowship has decided to put together a very special piece for this month’s historical blog. Join us as we trace sixty decades of St Andrews’ exciting, gruesome and bizarre history.

In 1410 a group of Masters formed a school in St. Andrews. Within two years they had attracted the attention of by Bishop Wardlaw and by 1413, six Papal bulls were issued, transforming this school of higher education into the official University we attend today.

Following the inauguration of the university, an official Mace of the Faculty of arts was commissioned. The mace is thought to have been completed around 1419. Today, we have three Maces for each main faculty of the university; Arts, Sciences and Divinity.

In late May, 1451 St. Andrews Castle was filled with the sound of a crying infant, only just born. At the age of nine, he would be crowned King James III of Scotland. Unfortunately, he would go down in history as one of Scotland’s, most ineffectual kings.

This decade was also witness to the formation of St Salvator’s college, founded by the bishop of St Andrews, James Kennedy, the college was instigated in an attempt to reform the university.

1472 saw St Andrews elevated in the religious world, when the Bishopric of St Andrews became the Archbishopric. The first man to hold this position was Patrick Graham.

The 1400s were witness to the birth of the University of St Andrews, as well as the formation of St. Salvator’s College and the commission of the first faculty Mace. Despite being stuck out on the edge of East Scotland, St Andrews was also home to a number of important political events throughout these decades. Our attention turns now, from these humble beginnings, to the dark and blood sodden 1500s.

The 16th century started off well. In 1512 St Leonard’s college was founded by Alexander Stewart, (Archbishop) and John Hepburn (Prior of St. Andrews). Originally an education centre for novice Augustinians, the building was later sold off in 1754 when St. Salvator’s became the seat of the United College.

In 1525, George Buchanan graduated from St. Leonard’s College, and later became its principle in 1566. A brilliant humanist scholar, Buchanan was reputed to have taught Mary Stewart (later Queen of Scots).

Three years later, however, turmoil was stirring in Europe.

Patrick Hamilton is believed to have been a great-grandson of James II of Scotland. He had studied in France, before returning to Scotland and becoming a regent in the Faculty of arts in 1523. Time in Europe, however, had persuaded Hamilton of Lutheran teachings, which he began to spread in St. Andrews. On 29th February, Hamilton was burnt at the stake for heresy. It is believed he took hours to die. A tiled PH marks the spot where he burned to death.

Less than ten years later, Hamilton was joined by Henry Forrest (1533) and later, George Wishart (1546) who was burnt near the mouth of castle sands. Their names can be found on the Martyrs Monument on the Scores, along with Walter Myln (1558) and Paul Craw (1433).

1538 saw the formation of St Mary’s College, founded by Archbishop James Beaton. Initially, St. Mary’s taught Canon Law, Civil Law and Medicine.

Less than 10 years later, however, St. Andrews was once again the stage of controversy. Cardinal David Beaton issued the death warrant to heretic Wishart in 1546. Before his death, Wishart shared the first Protestant Communion in Scotland at St Andrews Castle. Later that year reformers besieged the castle. Beaton was most brutally murdered for his actions against Wishart; it is believed he was hung from the window from which he had watched Wishart burn to death. A painting of an artist’s impression of his last moments can be seen in MUSA.

John Knox, much affected by Hamilton and Wishart’s terrible deaths, preached in St. Andrews in 1559. Following his powerful sermon, Catholic images and idols were destroyed and the once magnificent Cathedral pillaged. By 1560, the reformation had spread to the rest of Scotland.

In 1580, graduate and renowned scholar Andrew Melville was appointed the head of the re-founded St Mary’s College. Having already helped reform the ailing Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities, Melville, took on the role of teaching Divinity and Oriental Languages. He was, however, somewhat controversial in his methods and doctrine and left the Faculty for a while. In 1590 he was made Rector of the university and Dean of Divinity in 1599. Seven years later, however, Melville was exiled from Scotland by the King.

The 1570s and 80s were also witness to a number of witch trials. Witch burning and drowning was common in Europe. It is believed that their bodies were buried near the site of Martyrs monument on the Scores; however, this has never been proven.

The 1500s were a dark time for Europe, and St. Andrews didn’t escape the bloodshed. Mary Queen of Scots was believed to be the first woman to play golf in Scotland, at St. Andrews. She played on the course mere days after her husband, Darnley’s murder, causing suspicious glances to fall her way. The 1600s continued, however, along the rocky path of post reformation Scotland, and it is to these decades we now turn our attention.

In 1612, the university received a large number of scholarly donations, forming a large percentage of the university library. Many of these were from James VI, although it is often stated that he never did pay for the books he bequeathed.

A terrible outburst of plague ravished Scottish cities in the 1640s. As such, parliament was held in St Andrews in 1645. The hall it was held in is now called Parliament Hall where the UDS has its weekly debates.

In 1679, darkness once more descended upon St. Andrews. Archbishop Sharp was attacked by Covenanters, led by John Balfour, at Magus Muir. He was murdered on the spot. This is re-enacted annually in the Kate Kennedy Procession. Magus Muir is only a short cycle away, and worth going to see if you too are a keen historian. Now only a small patch of grass, there remains a plaque to Sharp and his daughter, both of whom were murdered. The Covenanters were all hung for their crimes nearby.

Just as the reformation, education and the plague made it to this little seaside town, so did the Jacobean revolution. An interesting, albeit brutal chapter in Scottish history. In 1715 a number of St Andrean students supported the Jacobites. St. Leonard’s College had a number of protests. However, once these had been quashed in 1719, the university made it clear that their loyalties lay with the current Monarchy. This was probably for the best, come 2005.

By 1747, the university was falling into disrepair and St. Leonards and St. Salvator’s were amalgamated.

As part of the 600th celebrations, Hilary Clinton was awarded an honorary degree, however, she was not the first notable American to receive this honour. In 1759, Benjamin Franklin was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws as recognition of his experimental work on electricity.

The 1700s saw the university in decline and financial crisis. Despite this, however, they continued on. The 1800s were to see a number of drastic changes, however.

The century began with an act of bravery from St Andrean students. On January 3rd, John Honey dived into the sea to save five members of the Janet of Macduff, a storm ravaged vessel, from the brutal North Sea. Today, one of the Computer Science buildings has been erected in his name, however, more traditionally, students walk the pier in their Red gowns on Sunday mornings in recognition of his bravery.

In 1862 Elizabeth Garrett attempted to matriculate at the university. She was, however, unsuccessful and turned away. It would take another 30 years before the first woman graduated from St. Andrews. Agnes Forbes Blackadder graduated in 1895, after many petitions. 2012 saw the formerly named New Hall, renamed in dedication to our first female graduate.

1865 saw John Stuart Mill, ‘the father of modern economics’ and contributor to utilitarian ethics, become Rector of the university.

While 1889 provided some much needed financial security for the university thanks to a bequeath from David Berry.

Ten years after Garrett’s failed attempts to matriculate, the university created the LLA, Ladies Literate in Arts, which allowed women to gain a distance qualification from the university. In 1892, the university officially allowed women to matriculate as students, providing professors were willing to teach them that is!

The growing city of Dundee was hungry for education during the 1870s, and in 1874 a proposal was made that a college should be formed. This was tested by extending lectures from St Andrews, and in 1878 Dundee College, affiliated to St Andrews University was officially formed.

The 1900s saw the dawn of modern warfare. In 1914 and 1939, Britain joined the allies at war. Men aged 18 and over rallied over Europe to fight for their country. Students from St. Andrews proudly joined the fray. The ‘Roll of honour and roll of service’,  as well as the books of remembrance document the names, battalions and fates of the Students of St. Andrews who fought for Britain during the Great War and WW2. A memorial for them can be found inside St. Salvator’s chapel.

In 1967, Dundee and St Andrews officially split from one another, and the newly formed Dundee University took on the more vocational subjects once offered here, including; Law and engineering.

1970 saw a revolution for the seat of Rector when John Cleese was elected to the post. He took his place quite seriously, and was loved by all. Other notable rectors include Field Marshall Haug, J.M Barrie, Rudyard Kipling and our current rector, Alastair Moffatt, who is not only a proud graduate and proponent of the university, but his wife and sons are also graduates!

1978 saw Alex Salmond, now leader of the SNP, graduate from the university. While 2005 saw the graduation of Prince William from the university.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, however; the 2010’s, saw you, whoever you are, matriculate at the University of St Andrews.

Throughout 1900s and 2000s, St Andrews University has excelled. Students, staff and alumni have had many breakthroughs in a diverse range of areas. 600 years have taken us from humble origins through very hard times, yet we have survived. Our vivid history is remarkable and truly something to be proud of.

The Fellowship is proud of this heritage, and the brilliant future we have ahead of us. We encourage every student to go ahead into the world, proud and exhilarated, with the knowledge that they have come from an institution so diverse and accomplished. Good luck in whatever you do, we hope that in the next 100 years, someone will be documenting your endeavours.

We look forward to celebrating this wonderful institution and it’s powerful legacy with you on November 30th 2013 at the 600th ball!

Special thanks to Alina Ryzhonkova for her assistance with this edition.

The Last Night

First Hand

The Last Night

Comments Off 26 April 2012

Most Interesting Place?


Most Interesting Place?

Comments Off 22 March 2012

The shopfront of J&G Innes, on the corner of South Street and Church Street, is perhaps the most notorious frontage in town. With the figures of St Andrew that sit neatly amongst the dark carved wood and gold lettering, there’s more to this book shop than you might first expect. Continue Reading

Rae the Builder


Rae the Builder

Comments Off 22 March 2012

Recently, we uploaded a photo post featuring the name ‘George Rae’ on the door handle of a South Street house. I mentioned how he had been the architect also of the Royal & Ancient Continue Reading

Field Trip


Field Trip

Comments Off 15 March 2012

Taking the module Medieval St Andrews ME3309. This is where the drawbridge used to be

Stamping ground


Stamping ground

Comments Off 08 March 2012

Keep an open eye, look beyond the shop fronts and distracting offers grabbing your attention Continue Reading

In print


In print

Comments Off 08 March 2012

This is my, tiny copy of Courage. I only read it for the first time the other week, and given its current high profile Continue Reading

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