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The 1926 Kate Kennedy College Echoes
The 1926 Kate Kennedy College Echoes

Messrs Passmore (Left) and Kennedy, as the Lady Kate and Bishop James Kennedy, in the 1927 Procession.In 1926 two students, Donald Kennedy and James Doak, inspired by J.M. Barrie's Rectorial address on "Courage" on 3rd May 1922, and with the assistance of Principal Sir James Irvine, revived The Kate Kennedy Spring Procession.

Any history of The Kate Kennedy Club must begin with Bishop James Kennedy (an ancestor of Donald Kennedy). Bishop Kennedy was held in great esteem in the town and the University and was a deft mediator between the two. An accomplished and important churchman and statesman, he held office at the now ruined Cathedral from 1440 to 1465. His fame as a statesman was matched by his uprightness and purity of life, at a time when these virtues were rare in Scotland. It was Bishop Kennedy, a onetime student at the university, who built St. Salvators College and Chapel - with the chapel still in use - and furnished them richly. It was due to these developments that collegiate living in the university began. There is every reason to believe that Bishop Kennedy lived in St. Andrews Castle, the Episcopal palace of the day. Within the chapel is the tomb that Bishop Kennedy built for himself, the damaged remains of which bear witness to its former pristine splendour.

 The 1932 ProcessionBishop Kennedy's brother, Gilbert had a daughter named Katharine, who later married the grandson of the first lord Montgomerie and became an ancestress of the earls of Eglintene. It is probable that the Lady Katharine lived in St Andrews Castle - the Episcopal palace which Beaton and Knox both knew. As chatelaine to her uncle, who at the helm of the State and the head of the church, he had a vast amount of entertaining to do which she helped him with. Evidence is further afforded by the fact that a bell hangs in the College Tower that is inscribed "Pious James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Salvator's College, caused me to be made in the year 1460 and then called me Katherina". There is some confusion over the inscription, because the bell was recast in 1686. However, it is certain that the bell bore the name Katharine when it was originally cast. It is also recorded that when the The College Echoesbell was returned in 1686, the students celebrated with a procession through the streets. Kate was married in 1458 and it seems evident that the bell was named and hung in her honour, and possibly in token of her services to the Bishop as his chatelaine.

The origins of the Spring Procession can be found in ancient and medieaval, pagan and christian festivals about the rites of spring. Spring festivals existed worldwide and were connected with early beliefs of immortality. Fifers celebrated "cath cinneachaidh", which is gaelic for the struggle for growth or the return of Spring. The earliest known celebration practised by the students at the University was a pagan procession of Spring rites in 1432, which was condemned by University authorities as "useless, unprofitable, dangerous and damnable". This procession occurred just before Lady Katharine would have been present in St. Andrews. Imagine then the early pagan feasts of spring falling into neglect, but being St Andrew traditionally leads the Procession, as he is here, leaving the Quad in the 1950s revived by the bolder spirits among the students. Then Bishop Kennedy, a favourite with town and gown alike, brought his niece to stay - in the spring of her life and the spring of the year. The young girl was tall, fair and beautiful, adored by her uncle and idolised by the students, becoming the toast on every lip. What more likely candidate to honour in torchlight serenades? So as the years passed a festival emerged from two separate origins, and it became Kate Kennedy's Day, when students held a revel and enjoyed themselves. By the nineteenth century the procession had begun to degenerate. Sometimes it was a burlesque, at others a pageant proper. Finally it became unlicensed and was often banned, but always to reappear, always to be talked of as a great day in the city of the scarlet gown.

At last, on the 5th of March, 1881, Kate was banished for ever by the Senatus. That day a cruel blizzard swept over Scotland, St.Andrews was drenched with sea-water and the bay was lashed by a furious storm. The students thinking this was the last desperate kick of winter continued their revels. Meantime the ships Harmonie and Merlin were driven onto the rocks. The revellers streamed down to the bay to lend their aid, leaving the procession to fade into the annals of Leaving St Mary's Quad, 1920shistory. The University officials seized upon the mournful occasion to suppress the festival, which had steadily become more unbridled and had lampooned members of staff. Kate and her followers were ringed with statutes and it was hoped that she would be forgotten.
But On the 5th March, 1926 Kate reappeared in a splendour never before accorded to her. She came with the approval of the Principal and Senatus, and she visited the heads of the colleges by invitation. She rode in her uncle's coach and was preceded by an historical pageant of the University's founders, maintainers, teachers and most illustrious sons. So the proper nature of the old festival was renewed. Great sons and daughters of St Andrews, came back to life for a day, from all five hundred years of this seat of learning, "so many notable shades at once astir that St Leonards and St Marys grow murky with them. Hamiliton, Melville, Sharpe, Chalmers, down to Herkless", and a hundred others all in the order of their life, forming a vanguard for the Lady Katharine. 

Since 1926 the Club has taken pride in maintaining the tradition of Kate's spring Procession each year, with the exception of the WWII period. The University literary magazine, the College Echoes, traditionally published on a monthly basis with a spring 'Kate Kennedy' edition, is now published annually by the Club as the Procession magazine. While in 1926 the proceeds from its sale were donated to the Cottage Hospital, to this day its publication, as well as other activities carried out by the Club on a financial and hands-on basis, provide support for small charities throughout Fife.

The present-day procession favourite is without a doubt the Jester, whose favour with the kids stems from his propensity to give out sweets!

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