The Kate Kennedy Procession successfully brings history to life once more

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Photo: Alex Brown
Photo: Alex Brown
Photo: Alex Brown

This past Saturday, the sun shined on a colourfully costumed coterie of characters that traversed the streets of St Andrews, their array of gowns and crowns appearing perfectly at home in the shadow of St Salvator’s Chapel. Beginning with St Andrew himself, dressed plainly in blue and bearing the saltire cross, the Procession provided a glimpse of the town’s lengthy history in a physical, interactive format. Over 130 characters, all portrayed by members of the local community, emerged from Sallies Quad over the course of the afternoon, much to the entertainment of the crowded streets.

St Andrew’s entourage included a fishwife offering sweets to the spectators, Benjamin Franklin with his signature kite, and port-swigging poet Robert Fergusson, in addition to dozens of painstakingly painted shields and banners toted by red gown-clad students. The Procession prides itself on authenticity, a fact taken into account by the participants in the parade as they remained in character for the audience’s benefit. Onlookers were given opportunities to converse with their favourite historical figures at regular intervals throughout the Procession, which was halted every ten or fifteen minutes so that the murder of Archbishop Shairp could be reenacted.

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Photo: Alex Brown

Considered a highlight of the event, the grisly scene featured the Archbishop being thrown from his carriage and executed by three zealous murderers, this year portrayed by fourth years Tommy Vermeir, Will Carlough, and Gustaf Herslow.

Unsurprisingly, the pinnacle of the Kate Kennedy Procession was the arrival of the Lady Kate herself. Per tradition, Kate Kennedy is selected by previous years’ Kates as the most promising bejant of the Club’s nine freshers. Unveiled first to members of the Procession and then to the town at large, Kate Kennedy rides in her historic carriage Victoria alongside her uncle Bishop James Kennedy, each year played by the Club president. This year the honour of donning the legendary beauty’s iconic white and blue robes went to Toby Gobourn, who assumed the mantle of Kate Kennedy for the afternoon.

Photo: Alex Brown
Photo: Alex Brown

Although the excellent weather contributed to the impressive turnout, the appeal of the Procession clearly went beyond simple convenience. Students cracked open their windows, locals arrived with children in tow, and employees briefly abandoned their posts, all to witness the quintessentially St Andrews sight of queens, bishops, and horses meandering down Market Street amidst the sounds of bells, trumpets, and choir singing.

Being the 90th official Procession in town history, the parade was the culmination of a weekend dedicated to celebrating all things St Andrews. Spearheaded by 90th anniversary convenor Julian Urruela, tourists and Club alumni were encouraged to participate in a variety of activities beginning that Friday, from a scavenger hunt to a jazz night to multiple literary talks. The organisation of the Procession itself fell under the responsibility of Gus Giddins, last year’s Kate Kennedy and this year’s Marshall of the Procession. Necessitating the coordination of over one hundred individuals and several horses, the success of the day could have been no easy feat on his part.

The Anniversary Marquee was used for a final time on Saturday night, where a ball in celebration of the 90th was held. Club alumni, Procession participants, and members of the local community attended the evening of dinner and dancing, an intimate affair aimed at commemorating the efforts of the KKC at ensuring an unforgettable weekend. The dinner also marked the unveiling of the new Club banner, which was followed by the updated Club crest receiving a grant of arms.

Photo: Alex Brown
Photo: Alex Brown

On the heels of food, wine and speeches, guests were treated to entertainment from singer AJ Brown and, later, DJ Freight Train, who carried the dancefloor into the small hours of the morning. The knowledge of a job well done contributed to the exuberant atmosphere in the marquee, as guests and Club members alike celebrated the triumphant end of a crowded 48 hours. Club member Josh Hopkins, who painted the sky and the right pillar in the decorative rendition of the new crest, expressed his enjoyment of the weekend’s activities, particularly Friday’s golf tournament.

Eventually the night came to a close, marking the official end of the 90th Anniversary Weekend. Difficult as it may be to surpass what is regularly such a large undertaking, the 90th Procession managed to impress upon both spectators and participants the milestone year that we have all now experienced. In keeping with our university’s more modern traditions, it was fitting to finish the affair with a ball. Party guest Alasdair Gent described this closing event as being “near perfect,” though he did lament the last minute removal of the scheduled ceilidh from the evening’s program.

Ultimately, the Procession served to remind us of the individuals who have walked the streets of St Andrews throughout history. Based on this past weekend, it is evident that the Kate Kennedy Club has at the very least another ninety years ahead of it, giving us the chance to see history come alive for many more years to come.

Photo: Alex Brown
Photo: Alex Brown

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