Graduation week, celebrating Honorands: Monty Python

Michael Palin (Photo copyright John Swannell)

On this final day of graduation week 2017, comedian, broadcaster and writer Michael Palin is to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) at this morning’s graduation ceremony. Mr Palin is best known for his work with Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He wrote and appeared in a number of films and television plays and travel series and became a travel writer. His journeys have taken him across the world, including the North and South Poles, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe and Brazil. In 2000 Palin was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to television. Between 2009 and 2012, he served as President of the Royal Geographical Society, and in 2013 he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.

Terry Jones, DLitt 2013

The University has already honoured two other members of the Monty Python team (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin), whose TV series was broadcast by the BBC between 1969 and 1974. Terry Jones was awarded a DLitt in 2013 in recognition of his major contribution to the public understanding of mediaeval history and literature, and to the Oxford English Dictionary. Dr Chris Jones in his laureation address refers to Terry Jones’s second post-Python career as a medievalist and said that, Monty Python:

“changed British society fundamentally forever with its irreverent, anarchically surreal and iconoclastically anti-authoritarian humour that has given us so many catchphrases and images, now engrained in our culture.”

The comedian, broadcaster and Medievalist gave a 600th anniversary lecture in 2013 entitled ‘Columbus, America and the Flat Earth’ which kicked off a four-day conference exploring The Middle Ages in the Modern World – one of the Signature Events of the 600th Anniversary programme.

Laureation address to Mr John Cleese, 1971 (UYUY344)

John Cleese with piglet in South Street, 1971 (PGA-R-10.28A)

The first python to be celebrated by St Andrews was John Cleese, who was awarded an honorary degree as early as 1971. Cleese was elected by the students as their University Rector and held office from 1970 to 1973. The laureation address to Cleese refers to his time as St Andrews Rector:

“He has won our hearts not by relying on his celebrity and prestige as an entertainer, for he is the most modest of colleagues, but by his devotion to his rectorial duties and his manner of performing them, which is dignified, courteous, affable, fair and wise.”

Rectorial poster for John Cleese

Sarah Rodriguez
Reading Room Administrator

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