Aberystwyth staff and students ‘kick the bar’ to celebrate 150 years since the university’s founding
Students, staff, alumni and friends of Aberystwyth University gathered to kick the bar on the town’s famous promenade to mark the institution’s 150th Anniversary.
The event marked the latest in a year-long programme of celebrations a century and half after the University welcomed its first students to an unfinished Victorian hotel, later to become the Old College, on the 16th of October 1872.
Founded as University College Wales, Aberystwyth, it became a founder member of the University of Wales in 1894, and later changed its name to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.
The tradition of kicking the bar has many possible suggested origins but is thought to bring the ‘kicker’ good luck.
Theories range from the bar having saved the life of a drowning student during a storm in 1939, Edward VII having put his foot on the bar during a visit in 1894, to the much older but historically dubious explanation that the spot used to be the site of the town’s gallows and that kicking the bar warded off evil sprits.
Led by Professor Jamie Medhurst, head of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Chancellors Dame Elan Closs Stephens and Elfyn Llwyd, the Founders’ Day procession kicked the bar.
The bar was this year was adorned in the University’s red and green, thanks to the work of Dr Cathryn Charnell-White, head of the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies.
The kicking of the bar was followed by the traditional breakfast event, echoing the breakfast enjoyed by the University’s founders in the Belle Vue Hotel on the 15th of October 1872 to celebrate the opening.
This year’s breakfast marked the launch of the newly published 150th anniversary book Ceiniogau’r Werin / The Pennies of the People.
The illustrated volume brings to life a wealth of stories and people from the University’s past and present through 150 objects drawn mainly from the University’s own collections archive and academic departments.
Objects featured in the 312-page volume range from early X-ray apparatus and cheese-making equipment to timeworn student graffiti on the walls of Old College and stunning works of art, and the hand-written register of the first students.
The authors featured in the publication include the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Elizabeth Treasure; chaired bard and Professor of Welsh & Celtic Studies, Mererid Hopwood; Head of the School of Art, Professor Robert Meyrick; University Chancellor Lord Thomas of Cwmgïedd; alumna, author, and former Commissioning Editor for Comedy at BBC Radio 4 Sioned Wiliam.
Speaking at the launch, Professor Treasure paid tribute to the founders of the University, whose vision and dedication led to the opening of the University in October 1872.
“Today has been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our 150th anniversary in the company of our students, staff and friends of our University and it was a delight to launch Ceiniogau’r Werin / The Pennies of the People which reflects our rich heritage and history,” she said.
“My thanks to everyone who has been involved in its production and with the events that are taking place to mark this notable milestone in our history.
“The story of Aberystwyth University is one of remarkable determination and generosity by people from all walks of life to fulfil a vision of university education for the people of Wales.
“Today, this institution welcomes students from all corners of the world with up to 100 nationalities represented here at any one time; it offers one of the best student experiences in the UK and an enviable reputation for teaching quality and undertakes world leading research that tackles some of the key global challenges we face today.
“The vision of our founders, including Sir Hugh Owen and Thomas Charles Edwards, our first Principal, along with so many others, provided the foundations for what we have become, and it is our privilege and duty to build on these for the benefit of generations to come.”
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