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Resting Places: St Andrews Cathedral, Fife

Relics, a dramatic setting – and a place in golfing history: the old cathedral of St Andrew in Fife, Scotland, along with its ancient graveyard, has it all ...

The cathedral itself is now a majestic ruin which towers over the ancient graveyard.

The site of the cathedral and graveyard stem from a religious community which was located there around 732. This is when relics of St Andrew were brought to the town by Bishop Acca of Hexam. 

Legend has it that Saint Rule brought a number of St Andrew’s bones to the site by boat in 347, having sailed from from Patras in Greece.

The settlement of St Andrews rose through the dark ages to an honoured position in the Scottish Church, with a community of Augustinian Canons set up by 1144.

The Augustinians had their own St Rule’s Church but it became evident that it was no longer big enough to accommodate their needs. This prompted the building of the cathedral.

Work started on the building in 1158 and it was finally completed in 1318 and featured a central tower and six turrets. 

On the July 5, of that year, it was consecrated in the presence of King Robert I, who rode up the aisle on his horse.

The cathedral became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland as the seat of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews.

The cathedral fell into disuse and ruin after Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. 

The English also stripped the lead from it during the Wars of Independence and it had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1378. In 1409 the south transept collapsed during a winter storm and after the reformation in 1559 the building was ransacked and fell into disrepair.

Following this the site was turned into a burial ground in the 1600s.

Though it is no longer in use, there are more than 500 graves of people from the town – from golfers to bishops – who are buried in the cathedral itself.

To the south of the main building, visitors can wander around part of the cloister to examine the graves unearthed under the floor of the chapter house. 

There are many names on the gravestones linked to golf such as Auchterlone, Kirkaldy, and Hutchison, also Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair, who was instrumental in setting up the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

There is also a memorial to golf’s first professional, Allan Robertson. 

Near Robertson’s grave lies a small stone in honour of a child named David Anderson.

The child’s grandfather, Old Da Anderson, sold snacks and ginger beer from a cart on the fourth hole of the Old Course in St Andrews. The fourth hole is named ‘Ginger Beer’ in his honour. 

In addition, the child’s father, Jamie Anderson, won the Claret Jug three times, but his life later took a downward spiral and he died in a local poorhouse. 

Both Old Da and Jamie Anderson rest alongside little David, without any memorial of their own.

One of the most visited graves in the burial ground belongs to Young Tom Morris who died in 1875. Young Tom was a Scottish professional golfer, considered one of the game’s pioneers, and the first young prodigy in golf history. He won four consecutive titles Open Championship titles by the age of 21.

His death had a great impact on the golfing community and every club in Scotland contributed funds to build the cemetery’s most photographed memorial.

Near Young Tom Morris grave is that of the grand old man of golf, Old Tom Morris.

No one in the history of St Andrews did more to solidify the town’s standing as the home of golf than Old Tom Morris. He outlived all of his children and several grandchildren, yet he carried on as keeper of the green right up until just before his passing at the age of 87.

The cemetery can be visited at all times with the cathedral museum containing the oldest graves.

Main photo: Graveyards of Scotland
Photo above right: Pinterest

This is a preview of a feature article.

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