Thank you, Professor Boyne, for your kind words of welcome. Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen, as your Chancellor, it is a great pleasure to be here once again with you all; and I am delighted that I will shortly have the opportunity to present the (Principal’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Community) and two Honorary Degrees. May I warmly congratulate the Denis Law Legacy Trust, Professor Janet Darbyshire and The Princess Royal.
I am not sure if there is a collective noun for Chancellors, but my sister in law is, of course, also Chancellor of another great Scottish university: the University of Edinburgh. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we shall have no talk of rivalry today. But I might just casually observe that, while we are to celebrate our 525th birthday next month, the University of Edinburgh is comparatively youthful. A mere 437 years old…
The University of Aberdeen was founded in February 1495, during the reign of King James IV of Scotland, whose marriage to Margaret Tudor linked for the first time the Royal Houses of Scotland and England. By a happy coincidence, another great Scottish institution was born in the same year. It is in 1495 that we find the earliest written record of the distillation of Scotch whisky. And next month, your proud Chancellor will make sure she toasts your birthday with a wee dram...
Just as I am proud to be Chancellor of such a fine institution, so are you rightly proud of the university’s extraordinary heritage. You must be even prouder of what it is achieving today and of its ambitions for the year ahead: ambitions that are inspired by the university’s founding purpose, to be “open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others”.
Your history has been remarkable. Your future is set to be very exciting. I am much looking forward to seeing all your new developments as they come to fruition in the next few years.
More immediately, in a moment I am looking forward to hearing the Chamber Choir perform a new work by the Head of Music, Dr Phillip Cooke. It is called ‘The Mystery of Light’ and is set to words taken from The Living Mountain, the poet Nan Shepherd’s famous book based on her experience of hill walking in the Cairngorms. The words highlight the relationships between nature, place and people, never more relevant than today.
As you know, Nan Shepherd graduated from this University a hundred years ago. She taught at Aberdeen College of Education (now part of the university’s School of Education) for her whole career, so she is part of the fabric of the university, too. I believe she is the first of Aberdeen’s graduates to appear on a Scottish five-pound note.
I trust that, in your anniversary year, there will be someone graduating who will become the second graduate of this University to feature on the currency of the realm! Your Royal Highness, I should reassure you that on the back of the Scottish five-pound note are words from the poet Sorley MacLean – a graduate of the University of Edinburgh.
I will finish with a quotation from Nan Shepherd. Famously, she wrote in her book, The Quarry Wood: “It’s a grand thing, to get leave to live”. This is a university with an extraordinary heritage of giving its students and its graduates “leave to live”. You will no doubt continue to do so over the next 525 years. May I congratulate you and wish you well for the future.
Thank you very much.