Alumni Services

McEwan Hall Memories

Thank you to everyone who took part in our survey and for all your marvellous reminiscences about your time at University and of the McEwan Hall.

There were a number of recurring themes running through your memories, including being late for examinations, learning to dance, being in the presence of the great and famous and, even, regaining consciousness after donating blood and admiring the magnificent murals.

McEwan Hall

Live hens and a North Sea voyage

Selecting a winner was a challenge as all of your memories form an essential part of the history of the building. In the end we decided upon a story which captures the courage, the daring, the tenacity and the downright cheeky playfulness that embodies our students past, present and future.

This posthumous award goes to Alexander James Houston, MA English and History. His story is told here by his daughters, Alison Bayley and Janetta Taylor, both Edinburgh University graduates, who kindly submitted it in his memory.

This is one of my late father's favourite experiences from his days as a student in the 1920's. His name was Alexander James Houston, and he was a contemporary of many returning service men from the First World War. During Rectorial Addresses in the McEwan Hall, it was common to launch missiles, such as bags of flour, from the top gallery on to the audience below. On at least one occasion, live hens were released from the gallery. History does not relate if he was guilty. One year he was kidnapped by the opposing political group and put aboard a trawler about to sail on the North Sea. The weather was atrocious, but he was an excellent sailor and arrived unscathed when the boat docked in Aberdeen. His father, a captain of one of the North of Scotland steamers, was in port that day. He was absolutely furious at the prank but was grateful that his son was such a great sailor. Our own memories are much tamer!

McEwan Hall 1957

Flour bombs and tissue papers

We would also like to thank Dr Alan Brown who kindly submitted this wonderful photograph of himself and his University chums in the McEwan Hall during the installation Dr James Robertson Justice’s (film actor and naturalist) as Rector.

The good natured and boisterous affair was accompanied by singing and joviality from the many students present. As you can see from the photograph, golf umbrellas were a prerequisite for protection from the streams of flour bombs and tissue papers launched from the galleries above.

You can still share you memories

The competition has ended but you can still share your memories of the McEwan Hall via our LinkedIn group.

The University of Edinburgh Alumni LinkedIn Group