Drew Thomas |
Students in every university town or neighborhood have their favorite pubs, whether they be for a night of debauchery or a quiet night out with friends. Depending on the weeknight, the same pub might host both activities. Whether gathering with a sports club, going out after a seminar, or showing confence visitors the local spots, pubs are a gathering place for all sorts of university occasions. At Pubs and Publications, we don’t have nearly enough posts on the ‘Pubs’ side of our title, so I would like to introduce you to Malcolm Ritchie, owner of St Andrews’ own Aikman’s and the Cellar Bar.
Aikman’s, one of the last independent pubs in St Andrews, is a narrow pub with a bar at ground level and space for live music. They host music twice a week, featuring many local acts. Malcolm loves supporting new musicians, as he says ‘playing in a pub is a great way to find out how good you are’. KT Tunstall, who grew up in St Andrews, used to play there.
‘Playing in a pub is a great way to find out how good you are.’
– Malcolm Ritchie
Downstairs in the cellar is another bar with a low ceiling, vintage stools, cushioned benches along the walls, and small tables that constantly get moved around depending on the groups. There are shinty sticks hanging on the exposed beams of the ceiling. As any good uni pub does, Aikman’s sponsors many university clubs, including shinty, archery, korfball, and badminton, among others.
Aikman’s has been in St Andrews for over thirty years. Malcolm started the pub with his wife Barbara in 1985, a couple of years after graduating from St Andrews with a degree in history. He named it after Andrew Aikman, who used to own a delicatessen on the premises, which was the first business in St Andrews with gas lighting. The upstairs bar used to be the prep room and the cellar was the apprentices’ dormitories. He fashioned Aikman’s after a pub he used to frequent in his undergraduate days, which has long disappeared.
On a good night you can find Malcolm downstairs pulling pints and telling stories to all who will listen. He likes to talk of former times, such as when Max von Habsburg frequented the pub. Malcolm states he didn’t know Max’s background until he saw him in the paper at a royal wedding in Spain. Prince William only visited on a single occasion, as although the pub has two exits, they exit onto the same street, which didn’t meet the prince’s security requirements.
In a university town, the faces change frequently. Every year a quarter of his guests are replaced. But although the faces change, Malcolm insists the atmosphere remains the same. ‘Pubs were the original community centres’, he said, ‘where people gathered because they were comfortable meeting people outside of their normal circles.’ But as happens often in university towns, some of those relationships turn into more than friendships. Malcolm says he knows of at least twelve couples who are now married that first met in his pub. Think about that the next time you buy someone a pint.
Drew Thomas is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Philosophy from Saint Louis University and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University. His PhD is a study of the rise of the Wittenberg printing industry during Martin Luther’s Reformation. He is currently the Technical Editor for Pubs & Publications, the Communications Manager for the Universal Short Title Catalogue and the Project Manager of the Caroline Minuscule Mapping Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @DrewBThomas or on Academia.edu.
Image (c) Drew Thomas