Fishing village by the sea

While it never became such an iconic view as the image of St Andrews from West Sands, the image of the town’s harbour – with the pier, ruined cathedral and St Rule’s tower setting a stunning backdrop – is no less impressive. With help from the University Library’s Special Collections division, our summer intern Francis Newman had a look at what some of the historic photos of St Andrews from the coastline tell us about the town.

This picture, from 1845, was taken by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, who together formed the Hill & Adamson partnership. Their photography was pioneering: Malcolm Daniels describes their work as “the first substantial body of self-consciously artistic work made using the newly invented medium of photography.”  Their photos owed as much to the technical skills of Adamson – an engineer by trade – as to the artistic understanding of light and colour brought by Hill – a painter.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – ALB-77-1

Dr John Hardie Wilson was a prominent botanist and a lecturer in Agriculture at the University. He was also one of the founders of the botanical gardens that are today so well-loved by students, townspeople and alumni. In addition to his horticultural work he was also a keen photographer: he took this photo of the harbour in 1910.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – JHW-C-76

St Andrews has long been proud of its tradition of rescuing those at sea – the Gaudie, the procession which occurs on the night before May Dip every year, commemorates nineteen year-old student John Honey’s successful rescue of five sailors in January 1800. Later in the 19th century a lifeboat station was established. This was closed in September 1938 when the last lifeboat was retired to great fanfare. These photos were taken by George Cowie on that day, showing coxswain David Fenton taking the boat through the harbour for the final time.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – GMC-FD-211-b-28


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – GMC-FD-211-b-26

This postcard, from J Valentines & Sons,  is remarkable in how timeless it appears: nothing about the picture of a couple of students taking a pier walk in their gowns would be out of place today. The postcard, however, was published in 1940.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – JV-Art-855

This photo, taken by George Cowie in 1966, shows a more well attended pier walk. Cowie was one of the most prolific photographers of the 20th century, and his entire collection – around 60,000 negatives and original prints – now belongs to the University.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – GMC-FO-132.12

The Cowie photography studio was a family affair, with George’s wife Beatrice working as a technician and their son Andrew Govan Cowie following his father’s footsteps. Andrew’s unfortunate death from leukemia in 1980 came a few years after he took this photo in 1976.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – AGC-56-10

Finally, and much more recently, an almost identical view was taken in 2010 by Rhona Rutherford.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews – PD-2010-5890

The St Andrews Photography Festival 2017 began on 1st September.

All images except the last one are from the St Andrews University Library Special Collections Unit, and the originals are held by the Library. They also have a blog about their collection. The final photo is from the University Imagebank, which holds more recent photos of the University, town and surrounding area.


The Malhotra Brothers: Forbes 30 under 30

St Andrews has a proud tradition of encouraging young entrepreneurs. Several graduates have recently been featured on Forbes’ list of ’30 under 30′, which details 30 people under the age of 30 in various fields, who have already made great contributions to society and are predicted to make a big impact on the world in the future.

Few have been more successful than Rohan Malhotra (MA 2010) and his brother Arjun (MA 2012), who, after leaving St Andrews and returning to their native India, founded an investment company that aids technological start-ups. This year they were named on Forbes’ list for finance and venture capital. Rohan spoke to our summer intern, Francis Newman, about the impact that St Andrews has had on his life.


“I was in a work meeting the other day, and once I told them I went to St Andrews, someone said, ‘You must have had a blast.’ I replied that I did and asked what made him say that? He explained, ‘Everyone who went there always had a good time and never stops talking about it!’ and I think that’s very accurate – I’ll be 30 in 2018 and I haven’t stopped talking about it since I graduated!”

Rohan’s enthusiasm for St Andrews is unbridled. He has achieved many things since leaving the University, but still retains many nostalgic memories about the place that helped shape him as a person and which gave him the skills and impetus to launch a career as an entrepreneur.

“Best four years of my life,” he says unequivocally.

He remembers an early trip up to St Andrews whilst a schoolboy. “It was November. It was freezing cold. We took the overnight sleeper from London at an ungodly hour. We got to St Andrews at six in the morning; we were 17 years old, didn’t have any money, and spent hours wandering around in the miserable rain. Yet in spite of our first experience being relatively hellish, there was this charm to it.”

This unerring attraction to the charm of the place never went away. The visit, he explained, also provided him one of the three main reasons why he ended up choosing St Andrews. “The friends we had gone up to visit spoke so highly of the place. When people that you like and admire speak so highly of something, you’ve got to take it seriously.”

The University’s course structure was another reason for him to come – he was encouraged by having “the luxury of actually taking two years to make a decision on what you want to hone your skills in exactly, while doing an array of subjects.”

The third pull?  “Both my brother and I played junior golf for India – we love our golf, so it was almost a no-brainer.” He fondly remembers his time on the green as a student: “we could actually walk across the Swilcan Bridge just to go and have a drink somewhere!”

He’s also very clear about how his studies and experiences here helped him to succeed in his career.

“You realise the value of studying things like Management and Economics slightly later on – as you manage teams yourself, as you’re building companies yourself, as you’re learning how to manage people.”

He also knows how much the relationships he built at St Andrews have helped him along the way.

“For me it’s all about my friends there. They’re still my closest friends and there are lots of ways that we’ve been able to help each other out from a business perspective. We’re all global citizens and we have the luxury of having friends everywhere in the world and seeing the world through so many different perspectives, and that for me is the most exciting thing about it all.”


In career terms, Rohan and Arjun both set out to make a big impact. Their father built one of India’s largest technology education companies in the 80s and 90s. Originally the brothers thought about building a technology company of their own, but decided instead upon “building a platform where we could help scale several businesses rather than just one.”

They are “an early stage investment fund that invests in India-centric businesses,” backing new technology companies that cater to the rapid expansion of India’s telecommunications network and technology sector, and its booming middle class. Since launching their platform, Investopad, in 2014 they have backed nine companies, of which 6 have gone onto raise follow-on capital from larger global financial institutions. Additionally, they sold one of the other portfolio companies at a five times multiple which returned all invested capital back in 18 months.

“Honestly, we love what we do – it’s incredibly exciting,” he tells me. “I’m very fortunate to spend time with people who spend their lives solving problems to make life easier for others.”

He also has some advice for budding entrepreneurs among St Andrews alumni and students. “Find a real problem to solve,” he says, “and make sure that you are the right one to solve it. Don’t be an entrepreneur for the sake of being an entrepreneur. I recommend that people go and work somewhere else for a couple of years after university. I love to see people who stumble upon a problem at a larger organisation, try and solve the problem internally but are unable to for a host of external reasons and then step away, come out of their comfort zone, out of well-paying jobs, and they actually try to build a product to solve that problem.”

St. Andrews 1999

Rohan and Arjun on the Old Course on their first ever visit to St Andrews, 1999

He has fond memories of many places in St Andrews. Obviously, with his golfing experience, the Old Course remains special to him – he describes it as “the most sacred place in town.”

But he also loves Sallies Quad. “That’s another beautiful place. You see the PH, you tell the story to someone that didn’t go to St Andrews and they think you’re crazy, but for us it has so much history and such a charm.”

Anywhere else?

“The pier as well. It’s so bloody beautiful.”

I ask him what his favourite memories are. He remembers his soaking. “The day I finished my last exam, getting absolutely destroyed by my friends outside of the Management building.”

The other memory he enjoys recounting is his graduation. “When your name was called, it’s such a beautiful thing. It’s crazy, it’s such a crescendo, it’s such a glorious moment.”

It is clear, though, what the most special things about the town are to Rohan – as they are to many students and alumni past and present.

First, the people in it.

“I was fortunate to have friends from just about everywhere. The beauty of St Andrews to me, the most important thing hands down, is that there’s no country I can go to and not have a bed to sleep in. And I think that’s a very unique thing about St Andrews.”

Second, the place itself.

“I remember in my first and second years doing Economics and literally sitting in a classroom where all you can see is nothing but the blue North Sea. It’s just like – where the hell am I?

“It’s a stunning and beautiful dream world. I don’t think words can explain what St Andrews meant to me – it was such a special place.”


Photo by Oli Walker

The life-transforming power of scholarships

Throughout the history of our University, gifts and legacies have enabled us to establish scholarships, awards and bursaries to support talented undergraduate and postgraduate students – regardless of their background and irrespective of their ability to afford fees, accommodation and living expenses.

In this blog series, students from very different backgrounds describe how the opportunities provided by scholarships have transformed their lives.

Here are the first two.


Nick Daly is currently studying an MLitt in Crossways in Cultural Narratives. This two-year programme is delivered by Erasmus Mundus – a consortium of ten international universities. Nick describes his research and how the Santander MLitt Scholarship has enabled him to make the most of his first time in Europe.

“I began my studies at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela in Spain and St Andrews is currently my ‘home’ university.  I’ll finish the course at Uni Nova de Lisboa.

“My research focuses on how technology and nature shape our psychological wellbeing and prevent or permit us to connect across cultures.

“Thanks to the scholarship, this is my first time in Europe: a two-year gift to connect with land, people and history. I can build my research skills and hone my voice as a writer. I also get to enjoy important, elemental things: haggis, haddock, tea and a roof.

“I’ve been invested in – quite the honour. This motivates me to be more accountable for my time and to care more about what I learn so that I can support others as I, too, have been supported.

“I thank the folks at Santander, who are now part of my extended tribe.”


Kimberley Morrison graduated in 2017 with a BSc in Cell Biology. She received an Applied Science Scholarship for the duration of the course, and reflects here on the impact this has had on her university experience.

“At the time of writing this I have just graduated with a 2:1. I don’t think this has fully sunk in and I am more than elated!

“This journey has not been easy, but I’ve discovered that nothing of value in life ever is. I have proven to myself that I have what it takes to do whatever I want in life, and that is important to me. Looking back, I realise how much I have developed and grown as an individual. I entered higher education as an anxious, shy girl who was terrified at the idea of socialising. I never thought that university would ever change that, but how wrong I was …

“I am leaving new and improved. I can now talk confidently in front of a group, I have made lifelong friends and the anxiety issues I suffered are (mostly) a thing of the past. This is one of the best things I have ever done with my life.

“I am about to start a one-year masters research course at the University of Dundee in September. I am truly sad to be leaving this University: it has been an amazing life-changing journey that I will forever hold in my fondest memories and look back on in years to come. I don’t know what the future will hold but I go forward feeling hopeful, inspired and determined.

“I hope that one day I can also contribute to a scholarship so that another student can benefit – as I have – in the future.”

Dancing through the Summer

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Wherever St Andrews students come from, Scottish Country Dancing and ceilidhs form part of most students’ experiences in the town. For some, this association can go well beyond their time at the University. Amy Drysdale (MLitt 2009) spent this summer back in St Andrews, teaching at the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society’s Summer School. This is an event that many alumni attend each year – this year’s class also included Elizabeth Conder (MA 1999), Fiona Mackie (MA 2007), Catherine Green (BSc 1981) and Fiona Carroll (nee Quayle) (MA 2011) and others.

We asked Amy about her experiences as a student, and about what she’s doing now.

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This year’s class in the Old Wing Dining Room, University Hall

Amy explains, “The school was founded in 1927 and dancers have been flocking to St Andrews almost every summer since, apart from the Second World War years, when the dancing stopped.  Anyone who has been in St Andrews over the summer months has probably spotted plenty of gentlemen wandering around in kilts – and anyone staying in St Salvator’s or Gannochy has probably heard Scottish music emanating from the Younger Hall from morning to night!”`


“Every year when I come back to dance in St Andrews, there are always small changes – shops have opened or closed, and this year there are building works starting around University Hall.”  She says that part of the benefit of being a member of the Alumni network and receiving Chronicle is that you usually hear about these developments before you see them. Part of the benefit of being in the Alumni network is that often you hear about changes before you see them, so I can usually spot changes in the university buildings from articles I’ve read in the Chronicle.

“St Andrews has been the same for so long though that even though small things may change, it still feels just as welcoming as it always has done – the history of St Andrews is part of the fabric of the buildings and the roads.”

Besides her work with the RSCDS, Amy’s career has gone from strength to strength since she completed an MLitt in Museum and Gallery Studies at St Andrews: she now works for the National Trust for Scotland, where she supports around 3,600 volunteers across 129 properties.

“When I finished my undergraduate degree, I had an idea that I wanted to work in museums and heritage, but I wasn’t really sure how to get there. St Andrews gave me all the skills I needed, with a perfect blend of academic knowledge and hands-on experience.

“My first paid role (as a curator with the Scottish Rugby Union) came through my course tutors, and my St Andrews training gave me connections and friends right across the heritage sector.

“One of the joys of studying at such a small university, and particularly on a small course, is that you get to know the people on your course really well, as well as the former students (and the ones who follow) – it’s like having an extended family which loves to stay in touch and share stories! ” 


Amy (right) at her graduation ceremony in 2009

“I first came to the RSCDS Summer School in 2006, during my undergraduate summer holidays, and fell in love with St Andrews – so when I decided to apply for a postgraduate degree, St Andrews was the only place I could imagine coming to study.”

And what is her favourite place in St Andrews? “It would have to be the Younger Hall – I have so many fantastic memories of the hall – of university events, graduation and dancing – that every time I walk out onto that bouncy spring floor it just makes me smile!”

The Alternative Format Suite: supporting students by removing barriers

All students – all people – come across barriers in life and need guidance, a pointer or a tool to help them get over the hurdle and back on track. Student Services provide this help in a number of different ways.

Part of their role is to provide support for students who declare a disability both at entry to their course and while on the course. The Disability Team has specialists who advise students with physical disabilities, sensory impairment, unseen medical conditions, long standing health or medical conditions, mental health difficulties, Autistic Spectrum disorders and Specific Learning Difficulties.

In 2005, the University set up and equipped a state-of-the-art Alternative Format Suite (AFS) to scan and record books in audio and to print out learning materials in Braille format to support students with special needs and learning difficulties

The AFS operates thanks to the help of around 50 volunteers including local residents, University staff and students, and is managed by Paresh Raval.

Here is the first of three stories about students who have used the services of the AFS.


Paresh Raval describes the experience of Rian MacAllister (MA 2015).

“Rian MacAllister was registered blind and had very little vision. He came to the University of St Andrews in 2011 to study for an MA Honours in Mediaeval History and Middle East Studies.

“Rian had four years’ support from us in the AFS and he graduated in June 2015. We helped him with his reading materials and he was very happy studying here. During his time here he always had kind words to say about me and the volunteers who helped him to achieve his degree.

“We all grieved when Rian passed away in August, two months after his graduation, due to a medical condition that we were not aware of. I attended his funeral in Oban and met his family and friends there and have kept in touch with them ever since.

“Because they were so grateful for the support we gave Rian during his time here, the MacAllister family decided to donate the £1,000 collected at the church funeral to the Alternative Format Suite. The following year, in 2016, the family also chose to donate the funds raised by the Oban Masonic Lodge at a Family Fun Day and Ceilidh in Oban as a way of giving back.

“Their support is Rian’s legacy to future students who, like him, need the specialist services provided by the AFS.”

A Beach With A View

That view from West Sands became iconic when it was used in the film Chariots of Fire in 1981. Ever since then the same view of the town from the Sands has been captured on the cameras of countless students, alumni and tourists.

But the scene has been impressive since long before that, and here we explore the different uses of the beach over time. In 1767 – 250 years ago this year – John Oliphant visited the town and sketched the familiar view, in a drawing now held by the University Library’s Special Collections division.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – OLI-5

One of the first actual photographs of the town from this direction was taken in 1860 by Thomas Rodger, who studied at the University and lived most of his life in a house in Market Street, now the University Careers’ Centre.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – ALB-67-6

Later in the 19th century the Sands became common places for recreation, as shown by the bathing huts in 1887.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – DHF-19C

The notorious tides of St Andrews Bay occasionally proved treacherous to ships at sea. An unknown ship ran aground in front of the town in 1890: this picture was taken by John Fairweather.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – GMC-F-11.B

In the early 20th century aircraft became a common sight over the skies of St Andrews, and West Sands was sometimes used as a landing strip for light aircraft. Occasionally, however, a landing would go wrong, as happened in 1934. George Middlemass Cowie (1902-1982) was on hand to take this photo.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – GMC-4-1.9

Cowie was a prolific photographer, who lived and worked in St Andrews from 1930 until his death in 1982. His entire collection – around 60,000 negatives and original prints – now belongs to the University. West Sands was used for motorsports both before and after the war: this car race, again captured by Cowie, took place in 1950.


Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library – GMC-33-6-1

A more familiar use of the beach – dog-walking – is seen here in 1985 in a photo taken by Lawrence Levy, who is better known for being one of the foremost golf photographers of his time. His collection is also now held in the University Library.


Photograph © Lawrence Levy Photographic Collection.
All rights reserved. Image courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library, 2008-1-6751

And finally, here is the familiar view more recently, in a photo taken in 2016.

MUST NOT be used for any other purpose than that described below.

Also, have a look at our video of a walk down West Sands this winter!

All photos and drawings except the last one are from the St Andrews University Library Special Collections Unit, and the originals are held by the Library. They also have a blog about their collection. The final photo is from the University Imagebank, which holds more recent photos of the University, town and surrounding area.

Above and beyond …

Each year two different students are recognised for going above and beyond the call of duty – one for what they’ve achieved as an Evening Degree student and the other for helping their fellow students.

We asked Zoë Garvie (winner of the Fife Council Provost’s Prize for the Most Outstanding Evening Degree Student 2017) and Emily Bruton (winner of the Frotscher Medal for Helping Hands for Excellence in Supporting Students 2017) to tell us about what inspired and motivated them.

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Zoë Garvie

“I started the evening degree in 2010 as a way of testing my academic ability while continuing to work. I’d gained reasonable grades at school but unlike my friends, I didn’t apply to university because I was worried about debt. But I always hankered to learn, and took courses in everything from hypnosis to ballroom dancing.

“It was after I met my husband that I decided to go to university. However, I wanted to find out if it was going to agree with me before I gave up work full-time. The University of St Andrews Evening Degree was the perfect way to test the water.

“It’s been seven years since that first evening and during that time life has changed considerably for me, with one baby boy born in 2012 and another in 2014 – perfectly timed for the summer break! My full-time academic ambitions changed to full-time mum responsibilities but, despite practically no sleep, I still loved my studies.

“I was seduced to study at St Andrews by the Biology modules but there was not a subject or lecturer that didn’t thrill me – from IT to Geography and Geology, and from Physics and Astronomy to Psychology. I even dabbled in Anthropology and Mediaeval Scottish History!

“I have to mention Dr Rona Ramsay. She was a real mentor to me during my level 3 Biology modules and encouraged me to try her Biochemistry bootcamp. I had never before left my children during the day and when she sent me a copy of the module I didn’t understand a word of it. Now the language seems straightforward but I remember vividly when it was unintelligible and terrifying to me. My proudest moment was when I passed that module with distinction.

“It has been an absolute privilege to have come to St Andrews. The calibre and enthusiasm of the teaching is astonishing and my fellow students have been a pleasure and inspiration to meet. There are so many of us who juggle commitments and stay up all hours to fit in the time for assessments, so it is a real honour to be recognised for the effort I’ve put in.”

Zoë was awarded the Prize (which includes £100) in recognition of her academic achievements across all modules taken as part of her BSc General Science Degree. She received the Prize at the Lifelong Learning Graduation Reception on 23 June 2017.

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Emily (centre) with the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne, and panel members Ailsa Ritchie (Deputy Director of Student Services) and Rev. Dr Donald MacEwan. Also pictured are friends Naomi Boon (far left), Cameron Schoettle (far right) and nominator Harry Gunning (back right) 

Emily Bruton

“From the beginning of my time at St Andrews, I have met and tried to help students who didn’t find the transition to university life easy, or who found pre-existing difficulties harder to cope with without the familiarity of home and the support of family. This led to me being nicknamed ‘Mumma Melville’ in the halls of residence where I had earned a reputation for offering support and for giving good hugs (or so I am told).

“I suggested to the Senior Student at the time that there should be an official ‘Mumma Melville’ position in all halls of residence. Andrew Melville Hall was the first to implement this suggestion and I was voted in as Hall Welfare Rep on the Hall executive committee. This increased to two Welfare Reps the following year.

“The main role of the Welfare Rep is to act as a first point of contact for students who are struggling, and to act as a bridge between the Hall and the many services provided by the University. We have tried to do this by holding tea and cake events, for example, to raise awareness of student welfare groups such as Student Minds and Populus, and to encourage students to feel as if they matter to the University.

“As someone who has seen the early hours of the morning in many different – and sometimes overwhelming – circumstances while trying to help others, the role of Welfare Rep is therefore close to my heart.

“In a sense, the Award has given me encouragement and has shown me that the help I have given does matter – even if at the time I felt frustrated at not being able to do more, or to do better. It is symbolic of the importance of kindness and generosity and is a keen reminder of the people I have helped in the past, the people I hope to help in the future and the many wonderful people who have helped me when I needed it.”

A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference.
                                                                                                         – A A Milne

Emily was awarded the Frotscher Medal by the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne at a ceremony on 16 May 2017.