Reading the Collections, Week 27: University Calendars and the office of Bedellus

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At the end of July, John Jardine, University Bedellus, retired after 29 years’ service with the University. In that role as mace-bearer, almost the personification of the corporate identity of the institution, John was one of the key figures in University ceremonies in this most traditional of institutions. He was the University officer who placed the hood over the heads of thousands of new graduates after they had been capped by the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor. With his mace, John was on duty each Sunday for Chapel where he led the academic procession. He held this ceremonial role alongside his considerable responsibilities as Senior Janitor of the University, in line-managing uniformed staff in Estates and working closely with the University Security Manager. Throughout he maintained a cheerful calm competence, and anyone who has been marshalled by him as he formed up a procession at graduation will remember his dry wit and impudent sense of humour.

It was raining after the final graduation ceremony in June so John left the silver-gilt mace in the safe-keeping of his team and was invited by the Principal to walk beside her to lead the procession from the Younger Hall to the quad; a fitting acknowledgement of his service to the University. Image: R Hart.

It was raining after the final graduation ceremony in June so John left the silver-gilt mace in the safe-keeping of his team and was invited by the Principal to walk beside her to lead the procession from the Younger Hall to the quad; a fitting acknowledgement of his service to the University. Image: R Hart.

For this week’s Reading the Collections post, I turned to the University Calendars (StA LF1104.C2) to trace previous occupants of John’s post as Bedellus over the past 150 years, and to reflect on this invaluable but late-lamented core printed source for the history of the University. I say ‘late-lamented’ since only when it was no longer being produced was it clear just how significant a resource it had been, and how much it was missed. The University website has become the repository for some of the information which used to be found in the Calendar but elements are no longer publicly accessible and searching the website back to 2003 is always challenging.

Front cover of a typical Calendar, this one being the copy held in the Hebdomadar’s room, now in muniments.

Front cover of a typical Calendar, this one being the copy held in the Hebdomadar’s room, now in muniments.

University seal matrix (1414x18), whose imagery includes heraldic insignia of the founders, and perhaps a rectorial court with bedellus holding the mace.

University seal matrix (1414×18), whose imagery includes heraldic insignia of the founders, and perhaps a rectorial court with bedellus holding the mace.

First, a bit of background. The Bedellus, or beadle, is mentioned in the earliest records of the University. The mace is referred to as the ‘beddell wand’ in an early inventory of the fifteenth century property of St Salvator’s College (UYSS150 Chartulary B) and the imagery on the medieval seal matrix (1414-18) can be interpreted as including a figure holding a mace.

The bedellus was a medieval University official common to the Scottish Ancient universities, responsible for janitorial matters such as security, buildings, announcements and administering exams as well as ceremonial duties as mace-bearer, in which capacity he led processions (see http://www.gashe.ac.uk:443/isaar/C1796.html).

First University Calendar, 1852. This contains lists of all graduates, chancellors, principals and professors, bursaries and prizes as well as University regulations and resolutions.

First University Calendar, 1852. This contains lists of all graduates, chancellors, principals and professors, bursaries and prizes as well as University regulations and resolutions.

There used to be an Archbeadle as well as a Beadle at St Andrews. The Calendars reveal that the Archbeadle’s post was occupied by Melville Fletcher from 1839 and that his son David succeeded him in 1867. Perhaps the origin of the Calendars dates back to Melville Fletcher, who was appointed as University bookbinder in 1831. He seems to have maintained his publishing business alongside his University job – there are a number of books published by him in our collections from 1839 to 1866, the year in which he died. In 1852 he asked for permission from the Senatus to publish a list of graduates for the last 51 years.

The bedellus role was held by the Janitor of St Mary’s College in the person of David Hutchison from 1865-1881.The senatus minutes record that at the vacancy at St Mary’s in 1881, “Robert Lang of the Police” was likely to be appointed. He held the post until 1902. This shows early evidence that the University preferred to appoint a man with a military or public service background – indeed that was still a desired criteria for those applying to fill John’s shoes last month. There was no Bedellus listed from 1902/3 until 1931/2, during which time there is reference instead to a Janitor or Superintendent of Works at both the United College and St Mary’s College. In 1931/2 Ernest David Snow is given the title of Bedellus and Janitor at the United College and Walter Mitchell is Janitor at St Mary’s: those two remained in their posts until 1953/4. That year there is a new Janitor at St Mary’s but Snow continues in office as Bedellus and Head Janitor of St Salvator’s College until 1966/7. John’s precedessor Jim Douglas was Janitor in St Mary’s before becoming Head Janitor and Bedellus. Latterly his role is listed differently in the latest Calendars, as his responsibilities had evolved to ‘Assistant Support Services Manager and Bedellus’ at the time of the publication of the last printed Calendar (2001-2).

Page from 1887/8 calendar showing list of University officers including Archbeadle, Beadle and Janitor of St Mary’s College.

Page from 1887/8 calendar showing list of University officers including Archbeadle, Beadle and Janitor of St Mary’s College.

John after his final chapel service - there was a round of applause and not a dry eye in the house.

John after his final chapel service – there was a round of applause and not a dry eye in the house.

The senatus minutes in the 1870s record that one suit of livery each year was to be provided for the Janitor of the United College. In his distinctive dress uniform, John Jardine has fulfilled his ceremonial role with great aplomb. He will be much missed and we wish him well in his retirement.

The Calendars are an invaluable record of the people and structure of the University and they provide 150 years of dependable facts; they are much used in answering routine enquiries about former students and staff, curriculum and statistics. Here are images from a sample of Calendars from 1852-2002.  They show the varied and invaluable information which can be gleaned about the operation of the University which explains why they are the most frequently used series in the muniment collection!

Calendar 1865/66. Left: True calendar – list of significant dates. Right: Summary history of the University.

1865/66. Left: True calendar – list of significant dates. Right: Summary history of the University.

1885/6 Lists of significant items held in the University – here list of the most remarkable portraits of those distinguished individuals formerly connected with the University.

1885/6. Lists of significant items held in the University – here list of the most remarkable portraits of those distinguished individuals formerly connected with the University.

1893/4 List of graduates showing here first woman to pass for the MA under new regulations – Agnes F Blackadder

1893/4 List of graduates showing here first woman to pass for the MA under new regulations – Agnes F Blackadder.

1928/9. Top Left: List of members of University Court. The Calendar is the only and the definitive place to find such information annually. Top right: 1928/9 The Calendar gives a guide to the Senatus order of precedence, with seniority of professors clearly given by date of appointment. Bottom left: 1928/9 Date of appointment and promotion of staff is recorded. Bottom right: 1928/9 This list of staff includes early female appointments as lecturers. Ettie Steele was the first PhD student in the University and worked closely with Principal James Irvine until his death in office in 1952.

1928/9. Top Left: List of members of University Court. The Calendar is the only and the definitive place to find such information annually. Top right: 1928/9 The Calendar gives a guide to the Senatus order of precedence, with seniority of professors clearly given by date of appointment. Bottom left: 1928/9 Date of appointment and promotion of staff is recorded. Bottom right: 1928/9 This list of staff includes early female appointments as lecturers. Ettie Steele was the first PhD student in the University and worked closely with Principal James Irvine until his death in office in 1952.

1967/8. Left: Details of bursaries and those receiving them are given. Right: The Calendar is the place to find statistics on student numbers.

1967/8. Left: Details of bursaries and those receiving them are given. Right: The Calendar is the place to find statistics on student numbers.

1978/9. Lists of degree results – and in the good old days the class of degree was publicly announced.

1978/9. Lists of degree results – and in the good old days the class of degree was publicly announced.

2001/2. Top left: Last Calendar to be produced before the website took its place. Here is the list of emeritus professors and principal with the date of their retiral. Top right: List of prizes available with conditions attached Bottom left: Significant academic information and regulations was defined and printed in the Calendar for public reference. Bottom right: The list of courses available at the University in this year.

2001/2. Top left: Last Calendar to be produced before the website took its place. Here is the list of emeritus professors and principal with the date of their retiral.
Top right: List of prizes available with conditions attached
Bottom left: Significant academic information and regulations was defined and printed in the Calendar for public reference.
Bottom right: The list of courses available at the University in this year.

RH

3 responses to “Reading the Collections, Week 27: University Calendars and the office of Bedellus

  1. I remember when I was an undergraduate in the early years of the 60’s the head Janitor was Sergeant Snow, a great character. With his tall bearing and handsome chiseled face he was every inch the former soldier and a perfect gentleman. In fact he had served in a cavalry regiment, and had the reputation of being an excellent horseman. On Kate Kennedy’s day he came into his own, playing the part of Charles I and mounted on an impressive horse. He still had his neatly trimmed military moustache, despite his by then white locks. He had been Janitor for well over a generation even then.
    Julia Melvin (nee Gandy)

  2. Reblogged this on IncomparaBubble and commented:
    Our colleagues in Special Collections at the University Library have written a blog about the recently retired Bedellus, John Jardine, who many of our recent alumni will remember John fondly as he was the person placing the hood over their heads at graduation ceremonies. The post investigates the history of the role of the Bedellus and John’s predecessors over the years.

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