The ‘Ever to Excel’ Bell

In our latest blog, Simon Harper (BSC 1987) recounts how St Andrews gave him and his wife, Ann (née White, BSc 1985) much more than just a degree: it equipped them with the enthusiasm, determination and community spirit to raise £100,000 to buy a new ring of eight bells for their local church in the middle of the ‘deepest financial crisis the UK had seen in a generation’. Here is their story. 



Ann and Simon with daughters Lucy (left) and Emma (graduating)

“Ann and I first met in the University’s Hamilton Hall – the iconic red-bricked building overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course. Ann was the Senior Student in 1983–84 and I followed her lead in 1986–87.

“Following University, I trained as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen, then Price Waterhouse and am now Finance Director of the insurance broker Lycetts, while Ann, after earning a prize in Economics, went on to pursue a PGCE at Jordanhill College in Glasgow. She has been a primary school teacher ever since.

“We were married in July 1988 and moved first to Newcastle and then in the early 1990s to Ovingham – a small village in the Tyne Valley – with our elder daughter Emma. Our youngest daughter Lucy followed in 1997. In the centre of the village is an ancient church with a Saxon tower containing three bells – one dating from 1350, one from 1505 and the third from 1879. They were difficult to ring due to their age and the condition of the frame.

“Around 2008, a small group of us had begun to investigate installing a new ring of eight bells and by October 2009 we had launched an appeal to raise £100,000 to do just that. By this point I had been working in the financial sector for many years and was then Operational Director of Finance at Northern Rock. I was therefore well qualified to appreciate the challenge before us as we’d set our target in the middle of the deepest financial crisis the UK had seen in a generation.

“With the benefit of hindsight, our goal was extremely naive but enthusiastic.

“So we were quite staggered when, after numerous fundraising events – including a walk along Hadrian’s Wall – we achieved our target in just over 18 months. By January 2012 the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, the same company that cast Big Ben, had installed our ring of bells in Ovingham.


“Tradition dictates that even if a bell is recast at a later date (for example, if it has cracked) any inscription on the original will be repeated as an enduring reminder of the donor. Ann and I sponsored a bell which now bears our names and those of our daughters, Emma and Lucy. But it also reads:

AIEN ARISTEUEIN – Ever to excel

in recognition of the fond memories that we will always have for St Andrews. We met there, we made long-lasting friends there and it has given us a sense of belonging and community that we have carried with us throughout many areas of our lives – including our careers.”