Researchers at the University of St Andrews have unearthed ancient documents suggesting that St Andrews was established as a prototype of the world’s first destination leisure resort for hedonists.
Saint Andrew, a Roman-empire era Greek man, is thought to have been the first to conceive of the idea of a retail-holiday-leisure resort, appealing exclusively to affluent people looking to have a guiltless hedonistic experience.
In documents unearthed by University of St Andrews researcher Dr Jinty McGuigan, the patron saint of Scotland is recorded at the time of his unfortunate crucifixion as expressing his unhappiness in failing to achieve his goal:
“I am vexed my brother. I have long sought after a destination filled with foreigners, leisure activities and places to drink of the brewed bean [coffee]… A place where people can live in sheer hedonistic fashion and be celebrated.”
The document, widely believed to be the last will and testament of the man, goes on to add:
“See to it that my vision is fulfilled.”
It also notes that the evening before his crucifixion, Andrew had a vision of:
“…a game involving sticks, small balls and gaps in the earth into which these balls shall be placed by the sticks. It shall be a game intended only for men and shall endow the player with feelings of superiority over fellow men.”
Dr McGuigan notes:
“Many see this as the first idea for golf, but it’s open to interpretation.”
It is unknown how many years it took for the plan to come together, but researchers are unanimous that the definitive moment was in 732 when his relics arrived in Fife. The pilgrims that brought them to the Kilrymont coastline fell in love with the dramatic weather and decided to establish the resort there, naming it in honour of Andrew, who had then been canonised.
Dr McGuigan added:
“This is an exciting moment for history, for Scotland and for our town, and I’m really pleased to see that the town has finally reached the vision that Andrew laid out all those years ago.”
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for St. Andrew’s disciples since the 8th century. In the 1300 years since, the town has seen so much drama. Playing a massive role in historic events such as the Wars of Independence, the Reformation and Kate and Wills, the town literally oozes history and tales of struggle.
Tuppy Postlethwaite, of the St Andrews Community Council, added this:
“St Andrews was the perfect vision of a town filled with luxury, affluence and leisure. The University, which is now effectively the entire town with a golf course attached, has done so much to ensure that only wealthy, entitled, privileged people live in the town for most of the year. The R&A has done its best to fill the rest of the year with more of them.
“We have done our best over the years to block developments that stray from this vision, including new schools and such, and we’re confident that we’ve been able to ensure that only appropriate establishments can survive in the town centre. The town never has enough coffee shops or upmarket outdoors clothiers, so our focus is on encouraging these retailers to the town.”
Dr McGuigan added:
“Sadly for St. Andrew, around the turn of the 20th century, people who lived in Fife decided to move into the town’s boundaries and started adding things to it like grocers and independent pubs and such, which really detract from its exclusive aesthetic.
“Successive councils have ensured that these “locals” have remained over the south side of the Kinnessburn though, and local policies on house prices in the town continue to ensure that only selected gentry can live here. It’s also ensured that these pubs with local charm have transformed into sophisticated microbreweries.”
All coming together
Mr Postlethwaite made a wry chuckle:
“Remember when Drouthy Neebors had a charming rustic feel and comfy leather arm chairs?
“But seriously, we’re also all about unique retailers providing a one-of-a-kind experience in town for our visitors. This is why we have Starbucks, Pret A Manger and Costa all on the same street, each providing a unique coffee experience, true to St. Andrew’s vision.
“Any planning applications for use of the vacant retail sites in the town are prioritised on how much coffee is involved. Due to the volume of planning applications we get, anything that doesn’t include the words ‘coffee, unique, Barbour, country or golf’ are immediately discarded.
“Our focus on coffee provision in town is secretly a homage to St. Andrew. If you look at the location of all the town’s coffee shops on Google maps, you’ll notice that they map out two very distinctive diagonal lines, intersecting one another at the half-way point.”
A homely place
Many people have noted how wonderful the town is for hedonists now. Dr McGuigan has recognised the realisation of this vision:
“One need only read through ‘Overheard in St Andrews’ on Facebook to see how others have enjoyed the free spirit of the town, but some examples spring to mind from my own experiences.
“I fondly recall once dodging golf balls whizzing down at me on the public West Sands beach when two students were teeing off, dressed in tuxedos and drinking champagne. How I smiled with such joy at such impish shenanigans. What scamps!
“Or it could simply be popping into Tesco for my brioche and caviar and seeing many of my students happily shopping, dressed only in their pyjamas and dressing gowns. One even still eating his cornflakes.
“It’s just wonderful that so many people are able to let go of the stresses of reality in this world and be themselves, and to be accepted for it too. That’s real progress.”
Former University Principal, who wished to remain anonymous, noted upon her departure from the University:
“It’s a very welcoming place. I came from an Ivy League University in America and immediately started out-earning the British Prime Minister upon my appointment.
“Not only that, but the University kindly reshuffled several departments, including the one that our future King studied with, just to give me a nice little house overlooking the coastline, only 3 minutes’ walk from my office. I’ve never felt more welcomed.”
Mr Postlethwaite added:
“Everyone in the town was delighted that the University had bought another of our buildings so that the new Principal could be housed. It was just too far for anyone to live in a mansion 1 mile away from their office. We’re not unreasonable in this town.
“We were also overjoyed that they wanted to get other people to donate £100 million to their 600th anniversary fundraiser so that they could continue to purchase more of the town to help fulfill St. Andrew’s vision.”
The Royal Connection
Local cafe owner and PR wizard Jentz Wasserman is thrilled with the town’s renewed prominence in the public eye after Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s romantic story originated in this north-east Fife settlement, that used to burn people at the stake for heresy:
“I witnessed it with my own eyes, and regularly spoke to them, when they would come to my cafe to meet for coffee and romance. It definitely happened and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
“I think it’s important for tourists to know this story, which is why I have a big sign in my window telling people about what totally definitely happened here. It’s always lovely to see the tourists standing in the middle of the busy street, forcing cars around them, to take a picture of this. From my large window, I really can see them coming a mile off.”
When asked about Will and Kate, Ms Wasserman added:
“They were just like regular people, like the kind of people who bought their shopping at Aldi. You almost couldn’t see the un-uniformed policemen when they would come in for their tea and lorne sausage on a roll. This regularly happened and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have even married were it not for them regularly coming to my cafe to meet for coffee, which they definitely did. Prince William of Wales and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, that is.
“St. Andrew would be delighted to know he played a part in the future of the British Monarchy, which my cafe totally has done, and I also feel by extension, I did too.”
St Andrews is synonymous with golf, touting itself as the home of golf despite that pesky nearby Crail Golfing Society claming to be older. The R&A has definitely done what it can to promote golf in the town.
With a whopping 128 holes to put a ball in across the town, not including its many wonderful fun courses such as The Himalayas, visitors to the town are spoiled for choice on where to stick their balls.
Crawford Montague, a spokesperson for R&A, added:
“St. Andrew would be thrilled with the St Andrews of today. Visitors from around the world can have coffee, en route to getting coffee and all within walking distance of a golf hole.
“We’re really leading the market on how much hole we’ve provided in this town for the wealthy golfers to stick their balls in.
“After golf, they can enjoy a post-golf coffee, an artisan beer or buy some new country tweeds that are really practical in the middle of this town.”
Although golf features prominently in the town, with subtle hints at its golfing dynasty like “The Golf Hotel” and “The Golf Museum”, St Andrews also has small-town charm.
Like many other tourist towns in Scotland, St Andrews has its fair share of souvenir shops that really offer a unique slice of Scottish culture for tourists to take back home with them, giving foreigners a genuine taste of what Scottish culture is.
Local tourist gift shop owner Brian Theakstone has greatly enjoyed the increased tourism in the town, and how he’s able to sell genuine historic and very accurate Scottish souvenirs from his shop on South Street, such as “See You Jimmy!” hats and aprons with kilts on them.
“It’s wonderful, you can really tell all the tourists out there because of their passion for this genuine Scottishness that I’m selling in my shop. The American golfers especially, who delight in buying our novelty tartan hats with ginger wigs or our £30 kilts, really blend into town because this is how Scottish people dress on a daily basis.
“They like getting back to their family roots, which they are able to trace back to St Andrews because of the unique book of records that only we keep in store. I love bringing people together.
“It’s also amazing to see them laughing at the Scottish street name “Butts Wynd” (which adjoins the building that is literally 3 times older than their country) as they’re vested in these genuine Scottish garments that are totally worth the money and very evocative of ancient Scottishness. It fills me with joy that modern progressive Americans, residents of the most powerful country in the world, the country that invented the airplane and later put a man on the moon in the 1960s, are able to laugh at our street names as they stand dressed in garish hats, reminiscent of Harpo Marx, that they’ve willingly spent in excess of £10 on.”