“My father used to say that his days at St Andrews had been among the happiest of his life”
The University of St Andrews becomes a special place to those who have studied here. Good friendships and lasting relationships are often established during the formative period of life spent here as a student, a vital part of the student experience. Sometimes former students will even marry one another. Sometimes children follow parents to the University, which retains significance for families from all over the world as successive generations return to study here. A wonderful example of this family tradition is the Barty family, 15 of whom studied at St Andrews between 1775 and 1994. There has been at least one student from each of seven generations of this Perthshire family.
Elisabeth, the sixth generation student and now a Professor Emerita from the University College Cork, has kindly allowed us to tell the family story and to use her snaps of the two composite images which hang in her house in St Andrews. These show students from 1775 to 1896 and 1932-1994.
The family’s impressive list of former students includes 4 ministers of religion, 5 solicitors, a civil engineer, a civil servant, a town planner, two academics and a teacher. One of the ministers served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and two held office as Procurator Fiscal of Dunblane. Three received honorary degrees, DDs in 1852 and 1890 and LLD in 1897, and three were honoured with OBEs – in 1930, 1961 and 1980, one of whose recipients had been created CBE in 1968.
The family’s association with the University and higher education in general was not just a matter of attendance. The family firm of Solicitors in Dunblane administered the Barty Memorial Prize from the 1930s to the 1990s. This was awarded to a Divinity student from one of the four Scottish Universities originally for scholarship in Hebrew and Hellenistic Greek. It later became an annual award to assist in the cost of a visit to the Holy Land and ultimately was amalgamated with the Roxburghe Prize. One of the fifth generation, James Barty (Elisabeth’s father), was active in the After Many Days Club and served on the Business Committee of General Council. As Elisabeth recalls, “my father used to say that his days at St Andrews had been among the happiest of his life. At St Andrews you could be yourself.”
In researching the Barty family I came across a photograph in our Photographic Collection. It is from Early Photography General Album 6, a collection of images dating from the mid 19th century and perhaps gathered by the Govan family, who ran a druggist or chemist’s shop in St Andrews.
The salted-paper print taken from a glass plate negative is mounted into the album with a pencilled label reading: “Mr Tom Barty and his brother James.” [Alb6-123] It shows two young men, probably taken by Thomas Rodger, photographer, whilst they were both students at the University. The years they overlapped as students here were 1855-58. This information helps us date the image more specifically, and to adjust the previous general date assigned to the image of c 1850. When Elisabeth saw this photograph she was thrilled: “That is delightful, and not a photograph I have ever seen before. So the photo is of my great, great, grandfather. I can hardly believe it!”