This Sunday April 2nd sees a unique celebration of St Andrews’ rich history taking to the streets of the town: the Kate Kennedy Procession. 150 students, locals and university staff will parade in historical costumes, re-enacting eminent figures from St Andrews’ illustrious past, culminating in a ceremony in South Street in front of Holy Trinity Church.
This annual event is organised by an exclusive student society, the Kate Kennedy Club, which was named after Lady Katherine Kennedy, the illegitimate niece of a former bishop of St Andrews.
Founded in 1926, the club is composed of around 30 matriculated students who are selected by the club’s members. Female students were barred until 2012 despite increasing agitation from female students at the unfairness of an all-male association. This so annoyed the Duchess of Cambridge, or Kate Middleton as she was when a student at St Andrews, that she helped found the University’s first women-only drinking club in protest. While women may have been admitted since 2012, it took them another 10 years to win office within the club. For the first time in 97 years, this year’s procession is being organised by a woman, Tatiana Apostol, who was the first-ever female bejant (first-year student) to play Kate last year; she will be the first-ever female Marshal of the Procession.
The event runs from 2pm to 4pm, starting at St Salvator’s Quadrangle, then moving on to North Street, Market Street and South Street. Led by a barefoot Saint Andrew and the City of St Andrews Pipe Band, the procession sees figures from 700-years of St Andrews history parade through the town’s cobbled streets. Characters depicted include cardinals, queens and kings to golfers, bishops and even former St Andrews University rector John Cleese; another unique feature of the event is that it brings town and gown together.
The heart of the procession is the mystical Lady Katherine Kennedy, the adored niece of St Salvator’s College founder Bishop Kennedy. Legend has it that ‘Kate’ would come visit her uncle and was idolised by students. Every procession day, St Salvator’s church bells ring to mark her arrival, one among which the bishop named after his beloved niece. Tradition dictates that Lady Kate is played by the “most promising first-year member” of the student-run Kate Kennedy Club. She is drawn through the town in a daffodil-festooned horse and carriage, cheered on amid an atmosphere of spring celebration.