Magical memories of the Gatty


Elspeth Smith (BSc 1968) and her sisters Frances and Christian spent idyllic childhood holidays in St Andrews, exploring the rock pools in the East Sands and carrying specimens to the Gatty marine laboratory, at that time unaware that their great grandfather James Gillespie had designed it! Here she describes her memories of the old Gatty and how delighted she is about the construction of the new Scottish Oceans Institute.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of days spent in the late 1940s and early 1950s on the East Sands in St Andrews. Granny Tetlow (my father’s mother) lived on the Grange Road, and my sisters and I would often run down the farm road – sometimes barefoot and already in our swimming costumes – and onto the beach!  Then, more often than not, we would head for the rock pools where, with a bit of luck, Mr Patrick would be. We knew him as ‘Pat’ or ‘Mr Pat’, and he worked at the Gatty.

Pat always took the time to answer our endless questions about the crabs and limpets and seaweed or whatever else we could find. He showed us animals such as lug worms and live razor shells that we would never have spotted for ourselves, and he explained what mermaid’s purses and whelk egg cases were.

He also allowed us to carry buckets of specimens back to the Gatty for him. Once there, we went in through a small back door, past a tiny office and into a magical room smelling of the sea and containing huge tanks full of a wonderful assortment of marine life including sea anemones, urchins, crabs and molluscs of every size and shape, and a variety of fish. Some of them seemed huge at the time, but that’s probably because we were very small!

I always had a love of nature study and that was probably partly inspired by these wonderful early experiences, so when I came here to study Zoology and then Biochemistry, I already felt at home.

It was while I was a student at St Andrews that I became aware that my great grandfather James Gillespie of Gillespie and Scott Architects had designed the Gatty building. It has certainly changed a lot since then!

In 2012, when I was President of the After Many Days Club, it was my great pleasure to welcome the Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit as one of our speakers. New facilities were already being discussed at that point to enable the work of the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) to be continued and expanded.

Christian and I were therefore delighted to be invited to look round the Gatty again recently by Deputy Director Dr Dave Ferrier, and to hear of all the wonderful plans afoot for the new SOI. The building designed by our great grandfather has served its purpose well and it is fitting that some of the stones from the original structure will be incorporated into the wall alongside the public pathway: the spirit of the old will live on in the new.

I hope that students and townsfolk will form as many happy memories of the new building as we have of the old.



Blanket solutions


Current students Alice Bugeja and Alex McGregor, both studying Management, founded their own unique St Andrews-focused company – selling custom-made, St Andrews themed blankets. Our intern, Francis Newman, interviewed both of them to see what the business is about.

What made you decide to start this project?

We started this project as part of our second year Management module ‘Enterprise and Creativity’. We wanted to create a unique product that St Andrews students could treasure while at university and then take away to remind them of their memories of St Andrews. Our project was very successful so we decided to rebrand and relaunch St Andrews Blanket Co. We expanded and developed the company to reach a broader range of people. As well as our original saints/sinners design we now have a “town” design for people that don’t have a relation to the University, but who have a love for our historic town.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve come across and how have you tackled them?

This was our first time setting up a business which was a challenge in itself. Everything was new for us and so we had a lot of queries regarding the branding, marketing, production and funding. Our main difficulty was sourcing the blankets and getting them printed to the high quality we wanted. After finding a company and placing our order we were informed the blankets were out of stock and it would be over a month before we would receive them. Sourcing the blankets has continued to be a challenge however we have changed supplier which has been very beneficial to us as they are more communicative, enabling us to ensure we have appropriate stock levels.


How has St Andrews helped with creating the company or knowing what to do?

The Enterprise and Creativity module allowed us to bring our idea to life. It gave us the opportunity to trial our idea and conduct market research. We both learned a lot from this experience which has enabled us to successfully continue and run St. Andrews Blanket Company. Other Management modules (including Accounting and Finance) have been very beneficial to our business, giving us the knowledge we need to successfully manage our finances.

What are your plans beyond St Andrews?

We are both in our 3rd year at St Andrews. Alice is studying Management and Spanish and is on her year abroad in Spain interning with Nissan Motor Cars. She has learnt a huge amount working for an international company and loves using her language skills, so hopes to return to a similar organisation after her degree.

Alex is currently studying Management and after university hopes to go into the financial business sector.

What’s your favourite place in St Andrews?

We both absolutely love the coastal parts of the town – West and East Sands are our favourite places to go for a walk or a run. We have had a lot of fun taking photos at these locations for our business and we have even been lucky with some sun!

Find out more about St Andrews Blanket Company!

Award-winning medic, championship-winning dancer


Lindsey Karmen (BSc 2017), who won the Principal’s Medal on the day of her graduation, won the award for Best Undergraduate in Scotland at the British Education Awards ceremony in Manchester in January. Our intern, Francis Newman, spoke with her about the award and her experience at St Andrews.

“I loved being at St Andrews,” Lindsey says. ‘The degree structure, the town, and all the activities you can get involved in make it a really special place.”

Lindsey’s academic record is stellar and her list of non-academic achievements continues to grow, but her enthusiasm for St Andrews is very evident.

Last year she won the British Dance championships with St Andrews’ dance squad, the Blue Angels, and then won the Principal’s Medal in June 2017 when she graduated from the St Andrews leg of the Scottish-Canadian Medical Programme. This year she’s won the award for the best undergraduate in Scotland at the prestigious British Education Awards, which recognise student achievement at every level.

How did she end up with the award? “The St Andrews Alumni Association nominated me for this award. I was selected as one of three finalists in Scotland and was invited to attend the awards ceremony gala in Manchester.

That ceremony was a special occasion in itself. “It was great to be in a room with such accomplished people from all types of educational backgrounds. The awards are special because they recognize vocational, and co-curricular successes alongside academic achievements.”

Winning the Principal’s Medal was also a major highlight of her last year. “It was a wonderful endorsement of the work I’d done, both for my degree and within the community,” she says. “I was lucky enough to do be part of some special activities in St Andrews – able to participate in so many different societies – and it was awesome to have that recognised.”

She retains fond memories of her time with the Blue Angels – especially their competitions. “When we won the British Dance championships, we first had a long trip to Loughborough. When we got there, no-one there had heard of us, we were complete underdogs – and yet we won, thanks to all the hard work that everyone had put in, including freshers who’d come in that year.

“What was most important about it, though, was that it was about having fun, working together as a team.”

I ask what her favourite place in St Andrews was.

“This might sound a bit sad,” she chuckles, “but in the Medical building there are a load of tutorial rooms on the ground floor and before exams a group of us would often use them for ‘revision’. We ended up ordering pizza to tutorial room 4! During revision, St Andrews essentially shrank from three streets to one tutorial room.”

Since graduating last year, Lindsey went on to Edinburgh for the next stage of her medical training. She works at the Royal Infirmary, visiting wards, speaking to patients, and learning from doctors. She’s building up towards a career in medicine, though she’s not sure at the moment what specialism she wants to head towards.

“The three years of BSc Medicine training at St Andrews were outstanding. Initially  we thought our education was good. Now, I know that the foundational knowledge from St Andrews is so good that it sets you up for success in your clinical years – it’s better than the training at this level from many other universities.”

It was more than good academic foundations that she gained from the University, however.

“I matured a lot in St Andrews,” she says. “Being an international student, coming to a different country – it was a  great stepping stone.

“Also, I made friends who I know I’ll keep forever. Our class scattered across the UK, and I’ve seen so many of them since. It’s amazing how when you leave the Bubble, you keep the connections with people.

“Being in St Andrews was probably the best three years of my life – it will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Reasons to be Cheerful: Alumni Festival Weekend 2018 in review

The 2018 Alumni Festival Weekend was a celebration of all that is good to have once been a St Andrews student. Alumni Relations Officer, Phil Pass (MA 2009), blogs about some of the best moments of the weekend which saw alumni from across the last half a century return to St Andrews to take part in events with their old sports clubs and societies.


What would bring you back to St Andrews for a few days?

For many alumni, the opportunity to join in with their old sports clubs for a game of netball, tennis or hockey, or the chance to see a Mermaids play in the Barron (Crawford) Theatre again, to experience the Bop just one more time, or to catch up with old friends over dinner proved the catalyst for a return visit for the Alumni Festival Weekend 2018.

The fourth edition of the Festival provided almost 50 opportunities for alumni to re-engage with their student life over the weekend of 13-15 April.

Here are some of the highlights from weekend’s activities, in photo form!


Alumni James Martin, Juliette Camburn, Hannah Brownlow and Iain Anderson (L to R) at the Careers Panel with the Careers Centre’s Kristyn Emmer

  • Friday started with a Careers Panel event at the Byre Theatre where four alumni from the fields of environmental management, e-learning, creative writing and communications and policy answered questions from the student audience on their careers and how to transition from St Andrews to the world of work.
  • The School of Economics also held a Careers panel with input from some Economics alumni and the School of Classics invited alumni to attend a seminar and reception in Swallowgate.
Jurassic Bop

Photo by Lightbox – Julia Caira

  • The Students’ Association also welcomed alumni back into the building for Jurassic Bop – photos on Facebook


  • The annual Rugby 7s tournament kicked things off on Saturday with teams coming from all over the UK to take part. The carnival atmosphere was brought about by large crowds, a dj and various food and drink outlets across the site with matches taking place on three pitches throughout the day.
  • Tennis alumni came back to St Andrews to try out the brand new indoor tennis centre, recently opened as part of the multi-million pound redevelopment of the Sports Centre.
  • Netball alumni took on current students in mixed games on the indoor and outdoor courts.
  • The annual Kate Kennedy Procession this year coincided with the Alumni Festival Weekend and saw a plethora of St Andrews characters from the past march from St Salvator’s Quad through the streets.

King Charles II (right) surveys the scene around St Salvator’s Quad following the Kate Kennedy Procession

  • The Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, hosted a very special “In Conversation” in Parliament Hall with alumni Iain Anderson and Susan Stewart. Iain and Susan were contemporaries at the University, both serving on the Students’ Representative Council and campaigning on matters of equality and diversity. They joined the Principal to discuss how these experiences helped to shape their careers and how they feel about the St Andrews and the wider education sector now.


  • This year marked the 10th anniversary of the first graduating class from Sustainable Development. To celebrate, Professor Bill Austin, Dr Charles Warren and Dr Rehema White from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development welcomed back alumni from the course to a reception where they could meet with current students.

Alumni, students and staff from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development

  • The Alumni Dinner on Saturday evening brought together alumni and students from the last 65 years (spanning graduation from 1952 to 2017!) where they enjoyed a University update from the Principal and enjoyed a short set from a cappella group, The Hummingbirds.
  • Other events throughout the day included Lacrosse, Hockey, Basketball, Badminton, Fencing, Dance Society’s 50th birthday dinner, Music Society, Postgraduate Society ceilidh, Yoga, Aikido, various Mermaids shows, Volleyball, Surfing, the Design Team showcase and a very special alumni edition of ‘Just a Minute’ on St Andrews Radio (STAR)


  • The traditional Chapel service and pier walk started the day for many alumni on Sunday.
  • To celebrate the Sustainable Development 10th anniversary, a special tree planting and picnic were held near the University Observatory. This was a joint event with the University’s Transitions team as the first stage of managing the woodland areas around the Observatory.
  • The Festival’s final day for 2018 also included Yoga, Dance, Women’s Cricket and Cheerleading Societies holding open training sessions and events for their alumni, while John Burnett Hall opened its doors to former residents for afternoon tea.

Keep an eye on our monthly e-newsletter, St Andrews in the News, for information on upcoming alumni events in St Andrews and around the world! 

If you would like to plan a return visit to St Andrews, the Alumni Relations team may be able to help – find more information on our Reconnecting web pages

You can follow the Alumni Festival Weekend on Facebook

*Photos courtesy of Oli Walker for Tilted Frame, Elaine Cartwright, Phil Pass and Lightbox

Ambassadors of the Bubble II: Outside the Bubble


Megan Alexander

See the first post in our ‘Ambassadors of the Bubble’ series here.

The student Ambassadors are well known in town for their work on visiting days, where they show prospective students around the University. Their other work is less well known but at least as important. Behind the scenes, dozens of Ambassadors regularly visit schools around Scotland, especially in underprivileged areas, to encourage students to attend higher education, and to consider St Andrews. Alumni Relations intern Francis Newman spoke to Megan Alexander, Vice-Principal Ambassador for Widening Access and also a student studying Classical Studies and English, about the programme.

“We work with children of a very wide age range,” Megan tells me. “From about the age of 8 up to the end of high school.”

I’m surprised – eight years old perhaps seems too young to be thinking about going to university?

“With the younger children it’s about getting them familiar with exciting concepts and trying to inspire them,” she explains. “For example we once taught kids in a school how to programme some basic robots – which really excited them.”

Meanwhile with older students – about aged 14 or above, who are starting to tackle important exams – the Ambassadors help by tutoring them on projects and by talking to them about their plans, and about access to education.

“Many of these students are foster kids or could end up being the first people from their families to come to university.”

The Ambassadors also work with charities such as the Sutton Trust, which runs summer schools in St Andrews for underprivileged students. The Trust helps them to learn how to apply to university and what is expected in a personal statement, as well as providing subject-specific teaching.

Sometimes the Ambassadors have to tackle stigma against the idea of going to university, or attending St Andrews, especially among some parents. How do they deal with it?

“It helps,” Megan tells me, “that most of the Ambassadors on the widening access programme came from similar backgrounds to the students we’re working with. For example, none of my family went to university. All of the Ambassadors who help with the Sutton Trust programme did the same programme themselves before coming to St Andrews.”

The Ambassadors don’t only work with students thinking of applying – they also work with those from similar backgrounds who are about to arrive.

“We have a mentorship scheme where third or fourth years mentor incoming first years – telling them what they’ll need to bring, or how the module system works.

“That’s what made me want to become an Ambassador – to be a part of such a willing, encouraging and important team.”

Visiting days occur regularly, and other visits can be arranged with the Admissions team. Find out more about St Andrews’ student Ambassador scheme.

Once a Saint, always a Saint

The University of St Andrews Rugby Football Club was founded in 1858. As such, it is not only one of the oldest sports clubs at the University, but also one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world.

The club is a founder member of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and has produced 22 international rugby players who between them have gained 150 international caps. The women’s section of the Rugby Club was founded in 1978 and has consistently been in the top two teams in Scotland over the past decade.

To mark the 160th anniversary of the Club, a very special weekend of reunions and celebrations will take place in St Andrews in July 2018 – further information on this can be found at the bottom of this blog. But first, let’s catch up with some of our alumni and their memories of their days in the Rugby Club…

Women’s Rugby – Annabel Sergeant

Annabel Sergeant – BEng Microelectrics and Photonics, 2010

Finest achievement: Completing my degree with 1st Class honours (Microelectronics and Photonics BEng) 2006-2010
Biggest influence: Family members
Sporting achievements: 17 caps for Scotland, 3 tries (Rugby Union), 4 tournament caps for  Scotland, 9 tries (Rugby 7s)
Top sportsperson: Donna Kennedy – She is the world record caps holder in the women’s game with 115. She made her debut in 1993 against Ireland in what was Scotland’s first women’s international.  Regardless of whether her caps record is ever surpassed, Donna is a true legend of women’s rugby.

International Honours – Chris Rea, Damian Hopley & Tyrone Howe

Chris Rea – MA Modern History, 1966

Chris Rea – 13 caps for Scotland, 1971 British and Irish Lions

I was smitten by St Andrews at an early age. Ever since my father took me to watch the 1st XV play at University Park. This is the place for me, I thought.

“The memories are as vivid today as they were forty plus years ago. For a start, it was the most enjoyable rugby of my life. Training or playing six days a week, the comradeship of like-minded young men, and the after-match mayhem. The rugby itself was joyously uninhibited and of a standard high enough to compete with the best in the country.”

Damian Hopley – MA Theology, 1992

Damian Hopley – 3 caps for England, founder & CEO Rugby Players’ Association (RPA)

StAURFC was full of diverse characters from all walks of like, and long may that continue. I was very fortunate to fulfil my boyhood dream and go onto represent my country at full international level, and the University played its part in both my academic and rugby education.

“Summer was my favourite time of the year to be in St Andrews. The light in the long summer evenings was incredible and whether it was playing cricket at Freuchie or Elie, or golfing on the New or Jubilee long into the evening, it was a very magical part of the world to live.”

Tyrone Howe – MA German and International Relations, 1994

Tyrone Howe – 14 caps for Ireland, 2001 British and Irish Lions

As an 18 year old, who initially felt a long way from home, the University Rugby Club provided me with an immediate circle of like-minded individuals and the framework within which my life and education at St Andrews would be nurtured.

 “I still love that bold symbol – the Cross of St Andrews. You knew exactly who you were representing. That was crucial for me and remained so throughout the rest of my rugby career, whether it was the crown of Oxford, the red hand of Ulster or the shamrock of Ireland.

And so the legacy goes on …

Chris Reekie, Honorary President of StAURFC, talks about being “part of a very special group” and looks to the future of rugby at St Andrews.

“Milestones are moments that celebrate the intervening years, the effort and commitment from those have who worn the Saints shirt. Every single student who has been a member of the Rugby Club has embraced the ethos of running rugby, the fun and enjoyment, which comes from being part of a very special group. Not only when at St Andrews, but years after, and all around the world. Once a Saint, always a Saint.

“I’m proud to have coached at St Andrews, and to have been involved with the 150th Anniversary, refereeing the former students against the 1st XV, before stepping out onto the pitch for Scottish Legends against South African Legends.

“Now, as Honorary President, it gives me great pleasure to catch up with many of the players who have graced University Park, to see how much affection they have for the club and the town. Future generations will follow in the footsteps of those who precede them. I have no doubt they will share stories and memories of what it is to be a Saint, and so the legacy goes on.”

160th Anniversary Dinner

To celebrate and recognise this tradition of success and achievement, the University Rugby Club warmly invites students, alumni, supporters, friends and family to attend the 160th Anniversary Dinner on Saturday 2 June 2018 at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews. The evening will be hosted in partnership with the Bill McLaren Foundation, which aims to improve lives through rugby and inspire youngsters to achieve their personal best. We are delighted to bring you an evening of entertainment with former All Black captain and rugby legend Sean Fitzpatrick, and with ex-Scotland captain Rory Lawson overseeing events as master of ceremonies.

Tickets are available to buy now from the University’s Online Shop. Please note that sales will close on Friday 4th May 2018.

Accommodation: the Fairmont Hotel is kindly offering reduced rates on accommodation for guests coming to the 160th Anniversary Dinner. Reservations can be made directly with the hotel on +44 (0)1334 837046 before 1 May 2018.

Golf tournament: the celebrations will also feature a golf tournament on the Kittocks Course (Fairmont Hotel) on the afternoon of Friday 1 June, priced £60 per person. Please email for more information.

Sponsorship: if you are interested in sponsoring the event, please contact Fergus Knight for further information.


From an act of craziness to An Act of Defiance

act of craziness

Hugh Rogers (BSc 1998) left St Andrews with a degree in Psychology and the “ability to think independently” – something that helped when, some years later, he embarked on a project that his “student self would have thought mad”. With the support of his wife his “crazy idea” has become an award-winning film. He tells his story here.

Some time after graduating, I was fortunate to become friends with Joel Joffe – otherwise known as Lord Joffe – a cross-party peer who was elevated to the House of Lords in 2000 after a distinguished career in law and finance, and one of the most humble people I have ever met. It was about a year into our friendship that I found out he had been part of the legal team that defended Nelson Mandela and the heads of the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1963–1964 Rivonia Treason trial.

In 1963 the ANC party were outlawed and their political campaigns had been quashed by the Nationalist government. When the ANC high command met in a farm house in Rivonia that year to discuss the sabotage they were planning to unleash on South Africa, they were caught red-handed with the documentary evidence detailing their plans. Those arrested – including Nelson Mandela who was already serving a five year jail sentence at the time – faced an almost certain death penalty: this was the chance for the Nationalist government to finish off the ANC and their resistance to apartheid rule once and for all.

Joel was already in the process of emigrating with his family to Australia when he was approached by the wives of the arrested men and asked to become the instructing solicitor on the case. He persuaded Bram Fisher, Head of the Bar Council in South Africa and a highly respected Afrikaner, to lead the defence team in front of a Judge who was a known proponent of white superiority in South Africa.

Bram Fisher was, however, leading a double life. He was a committed communist who abhorred the apartheid policies of his people and it was only by chance that he himself was not arrested at Rivonia on the day of the raid.

In 2007 Joel gave me a book called The State vs Nelson Mandela – his own recount of the trial and, in particular, of the brilliance of Bram Fisher.

The story of how the legal team picked holes in the prosecution case, how they brought the attention of the world to the fate of the accused and how they risked their own and their families’ lives to provide a fair legal defence in 1960s apartheid South Africa simply wouldn’t leave me alone. So I boldly announced to my wife that I was going to use “our” money to buy the film rights to the book and make a film of it. Why she didn’t file for divorce immediately is beyond me.

There followed years of rewrites, rejections and expenditure. But then – very slowly – other people (and in particular people who had experience of getting a film made) became involved. In 2016 we were awarded a small grant from the Dutch Film Council, and filming took place in September that year in the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, where the actual trial took place in 1963.

Joel Joffe got to see an “almost” finished version of the film shortly before he passed away in 2017.

An Act of Defiance was released as an English/Dutch language film in Holland in March 2017, and has since shown in festivals around the world. It has won seven awards to date, and is currently showing in festivals across the United States. After being shown to sold-out audiences in London, we are working on a UK release.

It’s been an amazing journey so far, with some high highs, and some low lows, but I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my wife Kerryn, who allowed me to embark on such a crazy idea in the first place.

So who knows where a degree from St Andrews (and the ability to think independently) will take you? We wish Hugh all the best in his endeavours!

Find out more about the film at