Ora et Labora et Pier Walk

Weekend Recap #1

September 13, 2021

Welcome to the first of what I'm calling the Weekend Recap! As their name suggests, posts like this one will tell you what I did over the weekend. In the future, I hope to take day trips on the weekends, but this first weekend in St. Andrews was still quite eventful and exciting.

Saturday, September 11

After a leisurely week of orientation activities, I was ready to start doing some school work. I've never had so much free time on campus before classes start, and the lack of activity was making me anxious. So, some friends and I set up camp in the library and studied for about 3 hours. During this time I worked on some pre-reading for my class on the late Roman Republic, read the first chapter of my archaeology textbook, and studied the Greek alphabet.

As you know, Saturday was the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The University did not officially commemorate this anniversary as universities in the US did, but I did hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" being played on the carillon bells in St. Salvator's chapel that afternoon. It was nice to have a quiet moment of reflection and remembrance and to see some international support and solidarity.

After spending the afternoon in the library, I went to one of the beaches in St. Andrews for a barbeque with the Classics Society. Much like the non-Southern portions of the US, a barbeque here does not involve pulled pork, ribs, or brisket, but hamburgers and sausages (not hot dogs, more like bratwurst). However, unlike any barbeque I have seen in the US, this barbeque didn't even feature a grill: the food was cooked on hot coals in aluminum lasagna pans! Despite the barbeque-related culture shock, I enjoyed spending some time on the beach and meeting some other Classics students.

Sunday, September 12

The highlight of my whole week was the service in St. Salvator's Chapel on Sunday morning. I had been looking forward to attending services here since arriving in St. Andrews, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. The chapel is smaller than I expected from looking at the outside, but still quite impressive. The pews are arranged in a collegiate style, which means that there are two sections of seats in the nave facing each other. My friend wisely suggested that we sit on the side facing the tall stained-glass windows, and I enjoyed deciphering the Latin inscriptions on some of them and trying to place the Biblical scenes that are depicted.

One unique tradition at the university is that students wear their academic gowns to Sunday services in the chapel. The congregation was spotted with red undergraduate gowns and black graduate gowns, with some folks from the town interspersed between.

Stained-glass windows above the altar in St. Salvator's chapel

Above the nave is the choir and organ loft. The organ pipes are brightly polished and adorned with red drapes and gold filigree, as well as various university seals. Even more impressive than the organ's appearance is its sound, and even more impressive than that is the beautiful chapel choir. It was utterly delightful to listen to live choral singing after missing out during the pandemic and to sing with the congregation, even behind our masks.

The university chaplain preached an inspiring sermon on Proverbs 1 and Matthew 16, relating the passages to our pursuit of wisdom as university students. The sermon reminded me of why I want to pursue scholarship as a Christian: to affirm the goodness of the created order by approaching it with wonder and curiosity, and to develop my intellectual appetites in the service and worship of God. It was an apt way to begin the first week of classes, and I imagine I'll revisit the sermon throughout the semester.

My first Pier Walk! Notice the *lovely* low tide on the right. You wouldn't want to fall into that!

After the service, I stayed behind with a couple of graduate students and a few folks from the town to take communion, and I had a brief conversation with the chaplain afterward. Then, it was time to head out for another St. Andrews tradition: the Pier Walk.

There are two ways the Pier Walk might have started. The less exciting origin story is that students used to walk with visiting preachers to their ships after Sunday services to see them off. Alternatively, the Pier Walk might be a commemoration of John Honey's heroic actions in 1800. While Honey was attending a service on a stormy January day, news was spreading about a shipwreck off the East Sands. With a rope tied around his waist, Honey swam to the wreck 5 times, rescuing 5 members of the ship's crew. Although Honey survived the incident, his injuries may have contributed to his early death at age 32. * Some say that the Pier Walk is a commemoration of Honey's selflessness and bravery.

The Pier Walk is a simple concept: you walk to the end of the pier, then turn around and walk back to shore. However, it gets complicated when you add hundreds of students and consider that the way back is on a narrow ledge, accessible only by climbing an iron ladder. I was a little late for the Pier Walk, but that turned out to be for the best, since the crowds had died down considerably. Walking back from the pier is not for the faint of heart; the platform is only about 2 feet across in one section and about 8 feet high. You have to look at your feet at least a little bit to keep from tripping, but at the same time you have to avoid looking too far to your left (at the 8 foot drop onto concrete and people in gowns) and to your right (at the even steeper drop onto the rocks and seaweed of the North Sea during low tide). Add to this a red wool gown weighing down your shoulders and flapping in the breeze, and you have something surprisingly dangerous for an esteemed weekly tradition. I felt just the slightest bit dizzy on the narrow section of the pier, but I kept my wits about me, concentrated on balancing, and made it back to the mainland.

After the Pier Walk, I had missed lunch in the dining hall, so I set out to find a cheese toastie--the infinitely cuter Scottish term for a grilled cheese sandwich. I got a tad bit lost on my way to the cheese toastie stand, but I soon walked by a coffee shop that smelled too good to pass by and bought a panini with goat cheese, peppers, tomato, and pesto instead, as well as two small cannoli. Having failed to get a cheese toastie but having succeeded to get something else just as good, I took my provisions to St. Salvator's Quad and ate outside.

Thus concludes my first full weekend in St. Andrews and my first Weekend Recap. I'll be back in the weeks ahead with some even more exciting adventures, and maybe a cheese toastie if I can ever find the cheese toastie place.

*Information about John Honey and the Pier Walk found here.

*You can watch a recorded live stream of the chapel service here.