Men-only Kate Kennedy club now open to women
FOR more than 85 years it has been the exclusive men-only club for students at Scotland’s oldest university. But a late-night coup by two members of the Kate Kennedy Club at St Andrews University means women will finally be allowed to join in.
In a move which has caused ructions in the normally sedate surroundings of Prince William’s alma mater, a splinter group has formed the Kate Kennedy Fellowship.
The new group, which has the backing of the university’s principal, Professor Louise Richardson, will admit female members, breaking a tradition which goes back to 1926.
Set up to honour the niece of Bishop Kennedy, a founder member of the university, the Kate Kennedy Club has its roots in the 15th century.
It fell into disuse but was revived in 1926. It is most famous for its annual procession in which students dress as historical characters connected with the town, such as Mary Queen of Scots, John Knox and Andrew Carnegie. A male first-year student is selected on the morning of the event to dress as Kate.
Prof Richardson withdrew official support for the club and its procession in 2009, e-mailing all students to tell them its values were “completely at odds” with those of the university.
Earlier that year, she became the first principal of the university not to be offered an invitation to join the Royal and Ancient Golf Club due to her gender.
Yesterday, she once again wrote to students telling them the new Kate Kennedy Fellowship was “altogether more in keeping” with the university’s ethos. She also praised the two male students, Sunny Moodie and Pat Mathewson, who broke away to form the new club.
Prof Richardson said: “The traditions around Kate Kennedy have been a long-standing part of the lore of this university and the annual procession has been a highlight of the town’s activities.
“Three years ago, shortly after my arrival in St Andrews, I withdrew university patronage from the Kate Kennedy Club on the grounds that all members of our community should have equal access to the traditions of Kate Kennedy, that no group has a right to arrogate to themselves the role as sole preserve of the university’s traditions, and that in this day and age we cannot tolerate discrimination against women.”
Prof Richardson said she was “delighted” to endorse the new group, which will elect a core group of 36 fellows, and said she looked forward to the “best and most inclusive Kate Kennedy Procession ever”.
University insiders said they now expected the existing Kate Kennedy Club to die a “slow death”, with the support of life members and the right to host the procession set to pass to the new organisation.
Mr Mathewson, one of the students who broke away to form the new club, said: “All students will be members of the Kate Kennedy Fellowship. We will also appoint a number of Kate Kennedy fellows from the student body.
“They will be tasked with the practical work of organising the Kate Kennedy Procession, the opening and May balls and the numerous other charity and volunteering opportunities that are such an important part of the Kate Kennedy tradition. Every student is invited to apply.”
In a statement, members of the existing club said: “We have always been open to discussing our membership and will continue to consider these proposals. We look forward to welcoming the town and students to the Kate Kennedy Procession on 14 April and the May Ball on 6 May.
“We hope the university will not attempt to prevent us from putting on these special events that the townsfolk and students have enjoyed for over 85 years.”
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