Feelings after the First Year

St. Andrews was established in 1410. It comes as a surprise to realise that it is a place without roots and without solid social foundations.

It is a retirement town. Wealthy professional people retire there and convert fisherman’s crofts and rent out their back-street houses to students. Students retire to the East Neuk of Fife for a few years of cloistered learning in the oldest and architecturally most elegant parts of town. Within one decade many of the older immigrants will have died and two generations of students will have passed through the university. Paradoxically, St. Andrews is in a protracted state of flux – the bulk of its population is floating and non-productive. In Summer when the students are on holiday, their place is taken by a vast influx of tourists and holiday makers. Each group is out to indulge themselves for a limited time and the shops cater for these tastes. You can buy expensive embossed candles at any of five shops, and electric light bulbs at only two; expensive high-quality woollens and tweeds are more readily available than cheap nylon clothes. St. Andrews must be the only town able to boast a university and no Marks and Spencer’s.

St AndrewsSt. Andrews is traditionally a place of pilgrimage. Nowadays people make their pilgrimages for the sake of the traditions. Each year, Raisin Sunday is revived, the Kate Kennedy procession takes place, people get up at six o’clock on May Morning  and on Sundays students walk the pier in their red gowns. Tradition is like a language – only alive as long as it is changing. These customs have not changed appreciably since the sixteenth century. They are no longer part of a local heritage – the majority of the participants in the last Kate Kennedy procession came from the South of England. It is the sign of a dying and barren culture that “Worries the carcase of an old song”.

On the outskirts of St. Andrews there is a small community that lives in Council Houses, who use the few corporation buses and whose children go to the local school. From here the backs of some of the university buildings are visible, and the ruins of the cathedral tower. St. Andrews is a claustrophobic and self-indulgent place with a superficial culture. These people who live and actually work locally all the year round are not influential enough to inject continuity and life into the town…



Marjorie studied at St Andrews from 1971 to 1976.

The Kate Kennedy Procession “has been a major part of the St Andrews calendar” since 1926. The procession “traces its origins to the adoration by students of the niece of Bishop Kennedy”, the founder in 1450 of St Salvator’s College, the oldest in the university.