The Gaudie and May Dip are essential events in the St Andrews calendar. From first years with petrified faces to fourth years making sure they have relieved themselves of the curse before graduation, a lot of the student body get involved. It is perhaps my favourite tradition, as it reminds me that the academic year is almost over and summer is coming and leaves me with great memories to head home with. As a third year, this was my third May Dip experience and I had been awaiting it for some time. It certainly did not disappoint.
This year, I decided to do the Gaudie the evening before the Dip. It seems that for the last two years, I have been stuck in deadline hell but with the change in the semester structure, I was able to take a revision break (though I have been taking a lot of those) and revel in a chance to don my gown for one of the few times this year. I went with my three flatmates and it was lovely to see so many other people wearing their gowns on the walk to Younger Hall. It was just starting to get dark and we were met at Younger Hall by a sea of red and the tune of bagpipes. The Kate Kennedy Club provided flaming torches, although there weren’t enough for everyone. Nevertheless, marching along the pier with hundreds of other students was quite a spectacle and it really was a great start to the evening.
It gave me that sudden gush of love for our town, university and crazy traditions. When I was texting a friend during the event and trying to describe what I was doing she replied: “everything you say about your university sounds like a cult.” It’s that feeling of doing something unique and slightly odd that reminds you how great St Andrews is. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Gaudie next year!
Marching back up that hill from the pier to the cathedral, my thoughts turned to the fate that awaited me at 5am. I have done May Dip every year so far and each year has been entirely different. There are two ways to approach the need to be up at 5am. (As a student with only two classes a week it’s a good day if I manage to be awake by 12pm, so 5am is quite a feat.) You can either sleep and try to force yourself to get up in time or stay awake all night and crash after. We went for the latter option but it was a struggle. By about 3am, we were all tired, drunk and not keen for the cold and there was some brief suggestions of ‘let’s just go home,’ but we hung in there. By 5am we were changed and skipping towards East Sands ready to run into the icy cold North Sea.
The atmosphere on the beach was great. Everyone was excited and the bonfires were blazing, lighting up East Sands and providing some much needed heat for all the dippers. There was music, hot chocolate and bacon rolls on offer from various different groups to keep swimmers awake and, in some cases, sober them up slightly. As the sun began to rise, everyone was running into the waves and having a great time. Some people seemed not to be fazed by the temperature and splashed around for a long time, but after around ten minutes I decided I had relieved myself of the curse and headed back to the beach in search of a towel. By 6am, my drunk flatmates had just about managed to get home and I was very glad to see my bed, but the sleep deprivation was worth every second and I am already looking forward to my fourth and final May Dip next year.
For anyone who did miss out, make sure you take part next time. It is a crazy but wonderful tradition that needs to be up at the top of everyone’s St Andrews bucket list.
All photos: Henry Legg