Seven generations of St Andrews students

Monday 30 January 2012

“My father used to say that his days at St Andrews had been among the happiest of his life”

The University of St Andrews becomes a special place to those who have studied here. Good friendships and lasting relationships are often established during the formative period of life spent here as a student, a vital part of the student experience. Sometimes former students will even marry one another. Sometimes children follow parents to the University, which retains significance for families from all over the world as successive generations return to study here. A wonderful example of this family tradition is the Barty family, 15 of whom studied at St Andrews between 1775 and 1994. There has been at least one student from each of seven generations of this Perthshire family.

Elisabeth, the sixth generation student and now a Professor Emerita from the University College Cork, has kindly allowed us to tell the family story and to use her snaps of the two composite images which hang in her house in St Andrews. These show students from 1775 to 1896 and 1932-1994.

Composites of some of the Barty family, from the personal collection of Professor Elisabeth Okasha. The left hand composite shows students from 1775 to 1896, the right hand from 1932-1994 (including Professor Okasha, bottom centre).

The family’s impressive list of former students includes 4 ministers of religion, 5 solicitors, a civil engineer, a civil servant, a town planner, two academics and a teacher. One of the ministers served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and two held office as Procurator Fiscal of Dunblane. Three received honorary degrees, DDs in 1852 and 1890 and LLD in 1897, and three were honoured with OBEs – in 1930, 1961 and 1980, one of whose recipients had been created CBE in 1968.

The matriculation record for Patrick Barty (1798-1870) from 14 February 1811 (from UYUY309).

The family’s association with the University and higher education in general was not just a matter of attendance. The family firm of Solicitors in Dunblane administered the Barty Memorial Prize from the 1930s to the 1990s. This was awarded to a Divinity student from one of the four Scottish Universities originally for scholarship in Hebrew and Hellenistic Greek. It later became an annual award to assist in the cost of a visit to the Holy Land and ultimately was amalgamated with the Roxburghe Prize. One of the fifth generation, James Barty (Elisabeth’s father), was active in the After Many Days Club and served on the Business Committee of General Council. As Elisabeth recalls, “my father used to say that his days at St Andrews had been among the happiest of his life. At St Andrews you could be yourself.”

A record of the conferral of the degree of D.D. upon Rev. James Strachan Barty (1805-1875) on 13 March 1852 (from UYUY452/17).

In researching the Barty family I came across a photograph in our Photographic Collection. It is from Early Photography General Album 6, a collection of images dating from the mid 19th century and perhaps gathered by the Govan family, who ran a druggist or chemist’s shop in St Andrews.

Image of Thomas (1838-1900) and James Barty (1841-1915), probably taken by Thomas Rodger circa 1855-1858. This is a salted-paper print, taken from a glass plate negative, found in the Photographic Collection.

The salted-paper print taken from a glass plate negative is mounted into the album with a pencilled label reading:  “Mr Tom Barty and his brother James.” [Alb6-123] It shows two young men, probably taken by Thomas Rodger, photographer, whilst they were both students at the University. The years they overlapped as students here were 1855-58. This information helps us date the image more specifically, and to adjust the previous general date assigned to the image of c 1850. When Elisabeth saw this photograph she was thrilled: “That is delightful, and not a photograph I have ever seen before. So the photo is of my great, great, grandfather. I can hardly believe it!”


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3 thoughts on "Seven generations of St Andrews students"

  • Barbara Crawford
    Barbara Crawford
    Tuesday 31 January 2012, 10.01pm

    What a wonderful record of a distinguished Barty family student pedigree! There must be very few such family associations with the University and one of which Elisabeth, Leila and Mona are rightly proud. I am also proud to be a fellow student of Elisabeth and closely associated with her and her family for over fifty years!

  • museumoftheuniversityofstandrews
    Thursday 2 February 2012, 10.59am

    Reblogged this on Museum Collections Blog and commented: An impressive story of seven generations of the same family who have all studied at the University of St Andrews (from our nice friends in Special Collections)

  • Elisabeth Okasha
    Elisabeth Okasha
    Thursday 23 February 2012, 12.40pm

    One of my relatives has pointed out that I am wrong in saying that the photograph dated 1855-58 shows my great great grandfather. In fact it is my great grandfather, James Webster Barty. This does not in any way detract from my delight in seeing this photograph for the first time, but in the interests of accuracy I would like to correct the error. Elisabeth Okasha


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