The low down on our traditions


St Andrews prides itself on tradition and, over the last 600 years, has certainly accumulated enough of it. Often cited as a key factor in a student’s decision to attend the University, traditions help unify our rather cosmopolitan student population and provide fun ways of celebrating the history of the town and region.

Undergraduate gowns:

Red for arts and science students, and black for divinity, the gowns are perhaps the most ‘noticeable’ of our traditions. They’re worn on pier walks, to hall dinners, UDS debates, and other, more formal, university events, and seem to encourage comparisons between St Andrews and Hogwarts. (This parallel was fuelled by the fact the St Andrews recently played host to the world’s first academic conference on Harry Potter. I’m not kidding.)

Academic Families:

Third year (tertian) ‘parents’ adopt first year (bejant) ‘children’. There to provide new friends and a bit of a support network for Freshers, the real fun begins during the annual Raisin Weekend.

Raisin Weekend:

THEN: The origins are hazy, but this long lasting tradition stems from the theory that academic children, appreciative of the tutelage of their parents, would express their gratitude with a pound of raisins.

NOW: Still part haze and part mating ritual, today’s Raisin features lots of costumes and the world’s largest foam fight which make it – without a doubt – one of the most fun St Andrews experience. Characterized by German newspaper Der Spiegel as a weekend of “foam, fondling, and malfeasance”, it comes as no surprise that a bottle of wine now replaces the pound of raisins.

The PH:

THEN: Patrick Hamilton, a young Protestant, was burned at the stake outside St Salvator’s quad in 1528. His initials are drawn in the cobblestones outside Sallie’s quad at the site of his execution, and, apparently his face is “burnt” into the bell tower above.

NOW: Step on the “PH” and you’re doomed to fail your degree. Only May Dip can save you.

The Gaudie/May dip:

THEN: In January of 1800, stormy weather caused a ship to run aground just outside St Andrews. 19-year-old student John Honey swam out and back to the sinking ship, rescuing all five of the sailors on board. On his last trip out, he was struck by a falling mast, causing injuries that would plague him for the rest of his life.

NOW: A torch-lit procession put on by the gentlemen of the Kate Kennedy club. Students draped in gowns begin in the Castle and advance to the end of the pier, from which floating lanterns are released over East Sands.

If the procession is solemn and respectful, the next ten hours are anything but. Students party all night before charging into the North Sea. Legend has it that this early morning plunge is the only way for students to absolve themselves of their academic sins.

Post-Exam Soakings:

After final exams, it is common practice for their friends/academic families to drench them in water as they exit the exam halls.


  1. The May Dip is not a ‘cure’ for stepping on the PH cobbles. I don’t know where this addition came from but it is wrong and should not be repeated.


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