Kipling was elected Rector of the University of St. Andrews—an honorary position voted upon by the students—on 11 November 1922 and was now on a visit to the University to perform his duty as Rector. As one ot his privileges he could nominate candidates for honorary degrees to be given on his installation; he chose Stanley Baldwin, Lord Clyde, Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, Sir Henry Newbolt, Sir John Bland-Sutton, and Sir James Frazer (who was unable to accept).
On his arrival at the station in St. Andrews Kipling was, according to the account in the St. Andrews Citizen. 13 October, “welcomed by the students in the orthodox way.” When he stepped onto the platform, “the students robed the Rector with a scarlet gown and placed a trencher on his head. The Rector has not fully recovered from his recent serious illness, and the students refrained from carrying him shoulder high to his carriage in waiting at the station entrance.” The students then pulled the carriage, in which Kipling was accompanied by Stanley Baldwin, Principal Irvine, and Dr. William Low, through the streets of St. Andrews to the University House. Kipling then made the following short speech in response to the students’ demand for one.
“My hard-worked constituents,” began the Rector, “I wish to give you mv best thanks for my pleasant little ride.” They were good enough to tell him, he continued, that when he came to St Andrews he would enjoy a period of quietness. Now that he had come to the cloistered peace of their University and been surrounded by the students at the station he realized it. (Laughter.) he had had many experiences, but never anything like this ride through the streets of the ancient city.
[Later that night the students returned in a torchlight procession; some of them were costumed to represent characters from Kipling’s writings, including “a creature resembling a horse which was meant to represent The Walking Delegate.’… When the procession arrived at the University House, the Rector, the Prime Minister, the Principal, Mrs. Irvine and other members of the house party came to the entrance to view the procession” (St. Andrews Citizen, 13 October 1923).]
The Rector was, of course, called upon for a speech, but he contented himself with a few happy remarks. Looking round on the medley of disguised students, he was for a moment at a loss to know how to address them.
Ladies and gentlemen and beasts, he said, yonr procession is a symbol of your devotion to every Rector, and also of how you uphold and carry on the sacred torch of learning. I am not going to make a speech, you will hear me later on, he concluded. Then, glancing once more round the illuminated throng, he uttered the exclamation, “Splendid!”
—St. Andrews Citizen, 13 October 1923, p. 2.