5 In University & Grad School

Last but not Least: Gaudie & May Dip

Hello! Welcome to the third (and last) edition of the traditions of the St Andrews students!

If you’re a late comer to this series, you should also check out Part I and Part II!

The end of the school year brings a lot of exciting things in St Andrews : The May Ball ends the year on a high note, waiting in line like morons to buy May Ball tickets is also a must and finally, the soaking, in which Magistrands (seniors) get thrown buckets of water in order to mark the end of their degree at St Andrews.  On top of all this, the end of the Candlemas semester brings two of the greatest traditions of the university.

The Gaudie is another procession (told you we loved processions)! Before sundown on April 30th every year, students gather and light up torches before walking down to the pier while singing the Gaudeamus (we also sing that song on every possible occasion). It is in honour of a student of the university, John Honey. In January 1800, a ship wrecked near the St Andrews pier and Honey jumped into the freezing sea to rescue multiple sailors from drowning. It is said that he was hurt during the rescue and he died of his injuries years later.

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The leads me to the memorable tradition of May Dip.  At dawn, on May 1st, students run into the North Sea. It sounds crazy and in reality it IS crazy!

Let’s take this from the beginning though. I told you we had all these curses at uni, right? Wearing the wrong gown, academic incest (you’d be surprised!) AND most interesting of all, the curse of the PH.


The PH stands for Patrick Hamilton, who was a student at the university. The PH are cobble stones marking the spot where he was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1528.  They say that any student who steps on the cobble stones will be cursed and fail their degree. Although it is a bit of a superstition, people do take it seriously. You can see people jump over the PH or even push their friends out of the way. I personally have only stepped on it at graduation! If you do step on the PH before then, there are two ways to break the curse. 1. Run naked around the quad 3 times. 2. Do May Dip. Most people choose May Dip! They say it rids you of your sins…

My personal experience

I had dance rehearsal on May 1st and I was finishing the edit of a term paper so I decided to get a few hours of sleep, while my friends were out partying to be able to stay awake all night (most people do try to stay up!). At 4AM, my flatmate and I woke up, not without difficulty, and started making our way to the East Sands.  You can view a very short (and boring) video I took while on my way to the beach by clicking here.

It was SO early and the breeze was kind of chilly. While I wanted to be part of this tradition, I was still unsure if I was going to jump into the freezing sea or not. I did put my bikini underneath, just in case! We had looked at the sunrise time online, but when we arrived at the beach, the May Dip was already well underway. Below is roughly what it looked like.


It’s the crack of dawn and students completely own the beach. There are paramedics and police to supervise and help in case of emergency, and journalists from across the world come to report on this crazy tradition. There are also a bunch of bonfires along the beach so people can come and warm up after their dip. Students are dressed, half-dressed or completely naked. I saw way too many naked people and it is also the reason why I didn’t film anything more when I got to the beach…let’s keep it PG for the Interweb!

My friends were so drunk that I never found them on the beach! Seeing everyone running into the sea really made me want to do it though! My amazing flatmate cheered me on and so I decided to do it! I took my clothes off and after a lot of “ok!..no wait…ok now! ..no no!” I finally ran into the sea.

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To be completely honest, it was probably the worst feeling ever. I ran for a few seconds before realising I was starting to freeze and so I dipped my whole body into the sea before trying to find the strength to run out. {That’s about when I realised why people drink to do this!} By the time I was back on the beach I couldn’t feel my feet and my legs were physically hurting! I quickly grabbed the towels and blankets from my flatmate. If you want to imagine the violence in which I did that just imagine Bilbo in the Fellowship of the Ring when he sees the ring on Frodo’s neck! That was me, but with blankets!

I was pretty upset that I didn’t have my friends with me when I did it because all their photos look like they had so much fun, but I mean this picture that my flatmate took is priceless! It will forever be cherished! While I also thought I was going to be violently ill (or lose limbs) after running into the North Sea half naked on May 1st, in retrospect, I’m super happy I did it! I think it’s a once in a lifetime experience and a memory I will never forget! Being sober helps with keeping the memory too 😉

I hope you liked this series about St Andrews! Did your uni have any crazy traditions? Please feel free to share below!

Have a wonderful Sunday!xx

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