There are a great many words that I would choose to describe students at St Andrews. However, not all of them right for publication in a reputable newspaper, so in this case debaucherous and seagull-hating will have to suffice. Yet, although there are so many ways to describe the modern strain of student, both here and around the UK, the word heroic seems like a stretch. When the word is used it is a cause of mirth and satire, for those who leave their butter available for the rest of their house, or that doomed person in a social group that happens to own a car. The concept of heroism in the true sense of the word seems to be missing in our town, to quote Bonny Taylor ‘where have all the good men gone?’
Happily, The Kate Kennedy Club, known for holding historic events such as the famous Kate Kennedy Procession and the Silver Arrow Archery Competition, are here to remind us of one alumni who is truly deserving of the word heroic: John Honey.
The year was 1800, 5 February was the day, and nineteen-year-old student John Honey, along with many St Andreans like him, were on the beaches watching the Janet of Macduff, a ship that had run aground in the stormy weather that had gripped the town. It is poignant to think of what the scene would have looked like today, as a modern crowd of students would no doubt have reached for their phones and applied filters as wind battered the vessel. While no one may have been Instagramming the plight of The Janet it is also true that when John Honey struck out to help, with nothing but a rope tied around his waist, he left the vast majority simply gawping on the sand.
Later the scene would turn to one of relief, as Honey proceeded to save all five crewmen aboard The Janet, even surviving a blow from a falling mast in the process. He would go on to suffer ill health from this day onwards, and die at the age of thirty-two. However, his legacy of heroism has endured, with his depiction in one of the St Salvator’s Chapel stained glass windows, the renowned John Honey Award and, of course, the Gaudie.
On Monday 30 April Gaudie Convenor Hamish Brady will lead a torchlight procession from Younger Hall on North Street on a pier walk like no other, commemorating the selfless actions of one of St Andrews’ greatest figures. It is encouraged to wear red gowns out of respect for the event, which will feature traditional choral and bagpipe segments before a collection for charities supported by the Kate Kennedy Club. This is not only a chance to show respect for the town’s history, but also a reminder that anyone, regardless of age, can rise above the rinse and repeat of life to do something truly remarkable, if only they are willing to take their chance.