Sunday, May 06, 2007

University Day Ceremony at Barony Hall

Entry for 4 May 2007:

New professors are invited to attend the yearly University Day ceremony, held this past Wednesday, 2 May, during which they and the new administrators (“senior officers”) are publicly recognized and get to shake hands with the mysterious Chancellor of the university. The Chancellor is the official head of the university, although it is actually run by the Principal, whom I have mentioned in previous entries. He is David Hope, Baron Hope of Craighead PC (i.e., he is life peer and therefore a member of the House of Lords and a member of the Queen's Privy Council). In fact, he is a nice, friendly, unassuming chap.

However, the new professors (all 4 of us who could make it) were not the Main Event for this ceremony, but rather a brief opening ritual. What the University Day ceremony is really about is recognizing donors, reciting the history of the university, recognizing a member of staff for their outstanding contributions, and awarding honorary degrees. This year the honorary degrees went to a minister (current Moderator, or head, of the Church of Scotland), the Advocate General of Scotland (basically the Attorney General), an entrepreneur who pioneered the manufacture of inexpensive contact lenses, and Eddi Reader, a well-known Scottish singer-songwriter. This made for a lot of long speeches, which proved to be bit difficult for those of us sitting on hard chairs in heavy, hot academic robes. Near the end, however, the long process was largely redeemed when Eddi Reader was prevailed upon to sing one of her versions of a Burns song, “John Anderson My Jo”, an appropriate and obvious choice given that the University of Strathclyde was founded by a John Anderson (albeit a different one).

At receptions before and afterwards, we variously snacked on buffet food, toasted to the health of the University, and talked to folk whom we encountered, including several people from our church, such as Jill, who entertained Diane and kept her company during the long process. We have been reading Observing the English by Kate Fox (see Oban entry), so we amused ourselves by testing her observations on the eclectic mix of native Scots and transplanted English people. So far, we are finding her descriptions to be uncannily accurate of the English people we meet, but thankfully less so of the Scottish people, who seem to be generally free-er and less inhibited.

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