Requiem for the Argonaut – the Gatty Boat

Professor Herbert Macgregor (BSc 1958) has fond memories of his time at St Andrews as a Zoology student. Here he shares one particularly vivid memory of the summer of 1957, when he and his classmates ran into some adventure on board the ‘Argonaut’ – the old Gatty boat.

The idea was to go out with a dredge and see what we could scrape off the bottom of St Andrews bay. Great! Much better than sitting all day in that dreary teaching lab in the Bell Pettigrew under the ever watchful eye of that wonderful old soul Chrissy Sutherland – God bless her woollen socks!

Ten of us stood expectantly on the St Andrews quay while Dave Clark brought the Argonaut alongside and checked that we had the right gear aboard. Dave was one of the St Andrews fishermen, baggy trousers, old blue woollen rollneck, soft cap and the iconic pipe. He was a man of very few words who had worked the bay since he was boy.

All aboard scrabbling for the best seat up on the foredeck. Dave entered the little cabin that housed the ancient Victorian Lister petrol/paraffin single cylinder plonker, cranked it up and off we went, out along the pier and into the sunlit freshness of the bay, with the Bell Rock lighthouse 10 miles  dead ahead to the east.  This was great! I was glad I’d decided to do Zoology!


Pictured are the undergraduate students on board the ‘Argonaut’ in the summer of 1957. Herbert Macgregor is seated on the extreme left.

Two hours later we were two miles offshore, with the May Island peeping round the headland to the south. We’d had a go at dredging and brought up some interesting stuff. Two of the party were seasick but in general we were happy – and hungry. Time to head for home?

Then something happened. The Lister coughed and died. The reassuring part of this was that Dave didn’t seem the least concerned, even though tide and wind were driving us slowly but surely out into the North Sea. I had two years’ National Service in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers behind me, so I asked Dave if he would like me to take a look, which I did.  Uh Oh! The magneto, arguably the very heart of the engine, had – disintegrated.

Now remember, in 1957 there was no Health and Safety, no VHF, no EPIRB, no life jackets, no oars, no sails, nothing, and the sun was going down. Two more went down with sea sickness. The outlook was grim.  We were – yes – doomed.  Dave, meanwhile, settled down beside his steering wheel, filled and lit his pipe and did nothing. “Ach, Dinnae worry yerself laddie” he said in a way that only a Fifer can.

An hour later, when the shore had receded to the skyline and things seemed desperate, Dave relit his pipe just at the moment when we spotted a tiny dark shape making its way towards us. Being a native of the town I recognised Tom, another of the local fisherman, seated in the stern of his boat, puffing his pipe and headed in our direction. May the Good Lord be praised! We were about to be rescued! Tom went straight past us without even looking in our direction and then, at the last minute, turned and shouted to Dave “What’ye doing sittin oot here? “Oh just fishin” says Dave. Whereupon Tom took us in tow and we headed for home.

A few weeks later, the Gatty bought a new boat.

Fast forward over 50 years and the Gatty not only has a specialist, highly robust vessel for operation in shallow waters at high speeds (with not a pipe in sight) – the University has also recently announced plans for a new £10 million marine laboratory, which will cement Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in oceanic research.

new marine lab

Artist’s impression of new Gatty Marine Lab by East Sands, photo courtesy of University of St Andrews


Introducing the 2016/17 Sabbatical Officers

It’s been over a month since the 2016/17 Sabbaticals took office, and they have been taking advantage of a quiet Students’ Union and Athletic Union to plan and prepare for the year ahead. Naomi Boon, current Alumni Relations intern in the Development Office, caught up with the new sabbs to see what they expect from the year ahead…

5 sabs

Photo courtesy of Tommy Rowe

Sabbatical Officers 2016/17 (From left to right) Jack Carr, Director of Representation, Charlotte Andrew, Association President, Taryn O’Connor, Director of Events and Services, Caroline Christie, Director of Student Development and Activities & Ben Peddie, Athletic Union President.


Photo courtesy of Lightbox Creative St Andrews

Final plans for Freshers’ Week are coming together and with the line-up being announced via the official Facebook page, excitement is building. From September, the Union will be packed with hundreds of excited students, getting their first experience of St Andrews.


Photo courtesy of St Andrews Students’ Association

Taryn, Director of Events and Services, has organised GLITTERBALL 2016 which sold out in just a few minutes with online sales, and has been heavily involved in the Just So society and The St Andrews Revue, making her very experienced in events management.

She is looking forward to working alongside the students this year, to be able to share innovative ideas and bring new acts to the Students’ Association. However, she acknowledges that her biggest challenge is to please everyone- to offer a diverse range of entertainment and events in which all students feel comfortable participating.

For Athletic Union President Ben, it’s an exciting time to be joining the team at the Sports Centre. As a keen rugby player, he is looking forward to this year’s Scottish Varsity Match at Murrayfield, where it is expected that upwards of 10000 students, friends and alumni from both St Andrews and Edinburgh University will attend.

varsity for sabb blog

Photo Courtesy of Saints Sport

One key aspect of Ben’s manifesto was his intention to develop a ‘fan culture’ within the student body, creating more opportunities to watch sport in St Andrews. Next semester will see a new series of Wednesday Night Lights fixtures, aiming to bring students out to the Sports Centre on a Wednesday evening to watch a variety of different sports.

4 sabs

Photo courtesy of Tommy Rowe

Charlotte, Association President, is feeling positive about the year ahead. Her key focus areas will include Widening Access initiatives and increasing the amount of University-managed accommodation, as well as working on her policies centred on alumni, the environment and national representation.

Director of Representation, Jack, will focus on having the student voice heard, particularly in terms of increased study spaces, and to improve support within academic schools for students with extenuating circumstances.

Caroline, Director of Student Development and Activities, was last year’s On the Rocks Festival Director. Her intentions for the year include being available for drop-in sessions, launching the student volunteer portal to recognise students for their devotion to extra-curricular activity, and to work with the Careers Centre to expand opportunities based around student activities, in charity, sport and the arts.

We wish each of the sabbatical officers all the best for the coming academic year!

We are keen to hear from former Sabbatical Officers so please do get in touch at we would love to hear stories from your time in office, and any words of wisdom you had to impart on our newbies!


St Andrews representation in Rio 2016

When the eyes of the world turned on the West Sands for a few brief moments during Danny Boyle’s spectacular Opening Ceremony four years ago, you may have been forgiven for thinking that was the closest St Andrews has got to the Olympics. Well think again – Development & Alumni Relations Intern Naomi Boon has been investigating…

After the excitement of London 2012, when the Olympic torch passed through the streets of St Andrews and our very own St Salvator’s Quad, the Games have moved on to Rio. However, the St Andrews association continues, with graduates and associates of the University competing in both the Olympic and Paralympic games.


Photo courtesy of the University of St Andrews

Charlotte Taylor (MA 2008, MLitt 2009) represented Team GB in her first Olympic games this year in the rowing lightweight double skull with partner Kat Copeland. This is only her third season with the GB rowing team, and whilst the pair failed to win a medal this time around, she is an inspiration for the Boat Club here, and indeed for all student athletes.


Photo courtesy of British Rowing

Clare Cunningham (MA 2000) will be competing in Rio 2016 in the first Para Triathlon to be held in the Games. After an early career in international swimming, winning gold at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona with a world record time in the S9 50m freestyle, she went on to study English at St Andrews and much later, whilst balancing a full time career in London, became involved in Para Triathlon. In 2009 she became World Para Triathlon Champion and looks forward to competing in this year’s Paralympic games in September.


Photo courtesy of

Paralympian track and field athlete Gemma Prescott, who graduated from St Andrews in 2006 with a Master’s degree in Maths, is competing in her third Paralympics in Rio in F32 throwing events, after representing Team GB in Beijing and London.

Open recurve archer, Tania Nadarajah (MA 2002), who won bronze at the 2016 European Championships will be competing in her first Paralympic games in Rio after taking up archery as a hobby in 2014.


Photo courtesy of Archery GB

Finally, Katherine Grainger (LLD Hon 2013), who holds an honorary degree from the University, has just won silver with her double scull partner, Victoria Thornley, making her the most decorated British female athlete of all time!


Photo courtesy of BBC Sport

These athletes continue the trend of a long history of Olympians with a strong St Andrews connection. Retired staff member, Jack Ferguson, was part of the British Water Polo Team at the 1952 and 1956 Olympic games, and of course, our present Chancellor, The Rt Hon Lord Campbell of Pittenweem CH CBE PC QC, is a former British record holder for the 100m sprint (1967-74), and competed at the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay.

Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave, both honorary graduates of the University, are in Rio as part of the BBC’s coverage team, keeping us up to date with all of the latest action. Redgrave won gold at five consecutive Olympics from 1984 to 2000, while Sir Chris Hoy is the most successful British Olympian of all time with six cycling golds from 2004 to 2012.


Photo courtesy of BBC Sport

This Olympics has seen the reintroduction of Golf to the Games for the first time in 112 years, and the addition of Rugby Sevens this year has raised the profile of the sport enormously, especially the women’s game. Over the three days of extensive coverage of the Women’s Sevens, Scottish Rugby had over 60 enquiries from girls and women in Scotland about how they can get involved in the sport. Despite Team GB missing out on a medal, this is the kind of inspiration the girls were hoping to provide, involving more women in rugby across the world.


Photo courtesy of

The Olympic and Paralympic inspiration will hopefully spark an even greater increase in student participation in sport at St Andrews in the 2016/17 academic year, as we encourage our Saints Sport athletes to be the best they can be. #evertoexcel

If you know of other athletes or Olympians, past or present, with a St Andrews connection, please get in touch at, we’d love to hear from you!





St Andrews students and alumni set to take centre stage at The Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival and this year will bring over 3000 unique and inspiring events to the capital. 3rd year Marine Biology student and current Alumni Relations Intern in the Development Office, Naomi Boon, gives an overview of the St Andrews students, past and present, who will be taking part in the Festival in the coming weeks.

Mermaids, the University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund, will bring 6 productions to the Fringe this year, and many of the students involved have been back in St Andrews rehearsing tirelessly to perfect their shows for the Edinburgh stage (I’ve heard them singing every day… the Barron Theatre (or Crawford Theatre for our slightly ‘less-recently-graduated’ alumni) is right beside the Development Office!)

Delay Detach by award-winning playwright and St Andrews alumna (2015), Joanna Alpern, portrays the impact of mental illness on a friendship from childhood to old age. Delay Detach will be the 7th production for St Andrews student theatre company, Sonder Theatre, which aims to raise awareness of the impacts of mental health through the show, mutually supporting Health in Mind and Time to Act Mental Health.

delay detach

Photo courtesy of Mermaids

The University of St Andrews Gilbert & Sullivan Society will be performing popular comic opera, The Mikado, following the tremendous success of last year’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. The Mikado is a fantastically funny satire on Britain, set in Japan, full of witty one-liners and catchy tunes. Mermaids are also bringing to the Fringe an original one-act comedy by recent graduate Catriona Scott, Shakespeare Syndrome.

The St Andrews a cappella groups have also been preparing to take to the stage at the Fringe. All-female a cappella group, The Hummingbirds, will participate in the festival for the first time this year, performing LOVE IS NOT OUR FORTE from 15-20 August. The set is made up of their own light-hearted twist of modern pop songs chronicling their struggle to find love. 3rd year group member, Emma Greer,  describes this as a great opportunity for the girls to do what they love most in front of a brand new audience, as well as being able to see so many other talented artists perform.


Photo courtesy of Alex Shaw Photography

The Alleycats, The Accidentals and The Other Guys also look set to impress with their quirky sets. The Alleycats will be presenting Gap Year, a set which will take you on an “adventure of a lifetime”, brimming with energy, wit and enthusiasm, whilst the Other Guys have promised their audience will be left “royally entertained” as they bring their Well Sung set to the Festival. Following the enormous success of their new video back in May, The Accidentals will be performing Tone Down for What, participating in the Fringe for the 5th year running.


Photo courtesy of The Alleycats

The St Andrews Revue will be presenting their sketch show Loop which claims to be “mind-blowing comedy”, and has already proved popular with students after their performance as part of this year’s On the Rocks Festival in St Andrews, the largest student-run arts festival in the UK.


Photo courtesy of The St Andrews Revue

In affiliation with Mermaids, Blind Mirth will also be bringing their dynamic improvised comedy to the Festival, and Wanton Theatre will be performing a Jacobean parody of Romeo and Juliet in their show, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

It’s not just for students!

There will also be a strong St Andrews representation from our alumni across the Festival, from alumni authors participating in the Book Festival, to comedians, poets and musicians.

The Blueswater and Cat Loud will be teaming up to perform an intimate, humorous and bluesy cabaret, whilst the Tooth & Nail and Patch of Blue theatre companies, both founded by St Andrews alumni will be presenting Hummingbird and We Live by the Sea, unique and unconventional theatrical productions.


Photo courtesy The Blueswater band

Live at the Apollo regular, and St Andrews alumnus, Andrew Lawrence will be performing The Hate Speech Tour, and one of the founding members of The St Andrews Revue, Amanda Litherland will be performing in Amanda and Madi: Buffering.From the school of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dr Lewis Dean and Dr Kate Cross will be performing their show Choose Your Own Science Adventure as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, which sees academics debating and discussing controversial research with their audience.

The Fringe really does offer someone for everyone, and it’s great to see so many St Andrews students and alumni involved. If you are going to be visiting the Festival this August, be sure not to miss some of these spectacular shows from our talented St Andreans.

P.S. If you’re involved in a show that we’ve missed, let us know by contacting!