With the wilting of the leaves, the shedding of the trees and the increasing darkness of the nights, ball season is very much upon us here in St Andrews. As a result, minds are turned to picking outfits, sourcing wellington boots and the restrained and dignified consumption of alcohol within that party Valhalla, Kinkell Byre on what is one of the most notorious nights in the social calendar of St Andrews, Welly Ball.
However, before our minds turn towards the delights of our impending dalliance with a chicken dinner and some of the finest house red, there is work to be done. If we hark back to days of yore, from gladiatorial bouts to the great tournaments and hunts of medieval Europe, the day’s sport would always be concluded by a grand feast. The often underplayed part of Welly Ball is that it is the after party for the St Andrews Challenge, an annual event hosted by the University of St Andrews Clay Pigeon Shooting Club.
The largest university-run event in the United Kingdom, the challenge is in its 15th year of existence. This renowned shooting tournament regularly attracts over 240 competitors from universities all over the country with a large number of participants coming from rural-heavy universities from across the United Kingdom, such as RAU (Royal Agricultural University) and Aberystwyth. As a result, a large number of skilled and experienced shots descend on our corner of Fife to showcase their skills and talents, making competition incredibly stiff.
The home side remain firmly in the running however, with three men’s teams, three women’s and one alumni. In fact, desire to shoot this year was at an all-time high, with the club having to turn shots away from the event, which will be held at the club’s traditional home of Auchterhouse Country Sports, which is located just north of Dundee.
The set up for the day consists of 50 sporting with a 100 flush, with prizes going to the winner of ladies high gun, men’s high gun, men’s team overall and ladies team overall. Magnums of champagne are the (most suitable) prizes, the perfect way to celebrate as well as get prepared for Welly Ball.
Bedecked in the traditional uniform of red trousers, tweed and innumerable layers to fend off the biting cold which all too often penetrates Auchterhouse Country Sports’ shooting traps, the Clay Pigeon Club will once again take up the gauntlet of representing St Andrews in style.
The Challenge, however, is but a taster of what one of the University’s most active sports clubs has to offer for the discerning student shot. The club has around 250 members, welcoming seasoned shots, complete beginners or social members alike.
For those who want to cock a gun, take aim and fire, shooting practices are held every Wednesday and Saturday, taking place at the aforementioned Auchterhouse Country Sports. A mere twenty
pounds gets you transport to and from St Andrews, access to guns and a vast quantity of cartridges, all under the watchful eye of experienced club members for what is a relaxing afternoon of shooting the breeze – in some cases quite literally.
The fun, however, does not end there. The club prides itself and has for many years of being one of the most social and sociable in St Andrews. Socials are hosted most Wednesday evenings, where our now infamous jungle juice is gulped down with great amounts of vim, vigour and vivacity, before the club heads off en masse to one of the many vaunted nightspots which are dotted in and around St Andrews. A number of club dinners are held throughout the semester, providing the chance for members to relax and indulge in salubrious surroundings. It could therefore be said that the club’s motto could be “gin and guns”, though obviously not at the same time.
So, if the thought of taking part in The Challenge or simply starting up a new sport has taken your fancy, then clay club is the club for you.
We are very confident of a good showing in this year’s challenge and are looking forward to enjoying a well-deserved Welly Ball afterwards.