Miriam, a member of MUSA staff, interviews Ashley and Kathleen, two St Andrews alumni about their Raisin Weekend experiences.
Kathleen studied French and German at St Andrews from 1976 to 1980, living in Andrew Melville Hall. Ashley studied Divinity from 1978 to 1982, living in St Salvator’s Hall. Kathleen was Ashley’s academic mother. Today they are married with four children.
Ashley remembers Raisin Monday as the day of rowdiness, rather than the messy Sunday we see today. He remembers his Divinity professor grumbling, “I can feel myself getting grumpy when I look at the Quad on Raisin Monday.” Some tutors cancelled classes and many students chose to take the day off, congregating in St Salvator’s Quad at noon to compare Raisin Receipts and fool around.
Today, students bring their Raisin Receipts – often large, cumbersome objects – to the Quad, then give them up at the start of the annual foam fight. In the late 70s, Receipts were carried to the quad and kept – sometimes held all day. “For some students, the idea was to go to class no matter how stupid you looked,” Ashley says. Raisin Receipts were written in Latin, thanking academic children for giving their parents a mandatory bottle of wine. Writing the Raisin Receipt was something of a work of art for many parents, including Kathleen’s mother and father.
Kathleen still has her Raisin Receipts, which her parents wrote on thick, parchment-style card using quills and a wax seal. Ashley remembers a craft shop on South Street to which academic parents would flock to write their children’s receipts in the fanciest calligraphy they could manage. The resulting Receipts could be excellent keepsakes, unlike the majority of Receipts today, which are disposed of in the Quad.
The tradition of the awkward Raisin Receipt was in its early years. “At some point, somebody realised that there were no rules about what the Latin inscription could be written on,” Ashley remembers. “I wrote my inscription for my son on a pair of pyjamas, which he had to wear all day. I remember another classmate was dressed in a giant dice costume.” Forty years later, the Latin inscriptions are often forgotten, but the Raisin Receipts and costumes are bigger, bulkier, and more purposely humiliating than ever.
When Ashley and Kathleen were students, the tradition of the foam fight in St Salvator’s Quad was not yet established. However, the Quad was the meeting place for students wishing to compare Raisin Receipts and costumes. Towards the end of Ashley’s time at St Andrews in November 1981, janitors had begun to complain that the students in the quad were making a mess and throwing flour at each other from sacks. “This was highly disapproved of, and considered excessive and ridiculous.” These were the seeds of the now university-approved annual foam fight that Freshers know and love today.
In the 70s and today, Raisin Weekend is a cornerstone of the St Andrews tradition, an attraction for prospective students, and a time graduates look back on with nostalgia. Some customs have changed, but, in the 70s and today, lasting memories and friendships come out of the academic family tradition, and will continue to do so. Over the last 40 years, as far as traditions go, St Andrews hasn’t changed very much at all.