The Bridie Dinner Exposé

'Medico-Chirurgical President 2016/17 Charles Gallagher lifts the lid on the mysterious Bridie Dinner at GUU’s infamous Daft Friday

One hundred and seven years ago a man by the name of Osborne Henry Mavor began an impromptu piano sing-along in the Glasgow University Union to mark the end of the Martinmas academic term (that my friends, is the fancy terminology for ‘first term’.) Now little did this young medical student know, or perhaps he was so wise that he did, that what he began that night created a legacy. A legacy that many, many students for years to come would enjoy. For that, was the first ever Daft Friday.

Our hero back in 1908 is remembered by a different name today and today he has a library and a special dinner in his honour. Perhaps the name you’re more familiar with is James Bridie. James was a Glasgow boy, born and breed, graduating from the University of Glasgow’s Medical School in 1913. He found his new name through his love of writing, taking his pen-name from his paternal grandfather’s first name and his grandmother’s maiden name. Mr Bridie became a surgeon who straight out of med school signed up for the Allies and went off to the Great War. When the call came again to stand strong against the Axis in World War II, he answered that too.

In his honour today the GUU holds the Bridie Dinner in the Dining Room for very special, honoured guests before the doors open to the masses on Daft Friday night. This night is organised by the Honorary Secretary, as in 1908 James Bridie held that position, and themed in recognition of the President. Last year’s Honorary Secretary was Simon Tierney and the honourable President, who brought us back the Hive, was Rory Slater. As you may know MedChir helped found the GUU in 1885 alongside the Dialectic Society and the Athletics Club and so a special relationship exists between us. Normally the GUU respects that by giving our President two tickets to the Bridie Dinner, but this year was different.

Now I’ve given you the history it’s time for the adventure. It all begins at our very own MedChir Ball in November, ‘The Experiment’, organised by the wonderful Victoria Armour. The GUU’s executive board receive an invite to this event every year and every year they come and have fun. Now this

year I don’t know if Vicki put something extra in the wine or if it was the dazzling charms of Chairman Ton and Andrew Stewart but their exec seemed to enjoy this night especially well. So much so in fact they offered five tickets to MedChir’s executive committee to the most exclusive dinner on campus. On Daft Friday night 2,000 students don their black tie and best dresses and pass through the doors of GUU, but only a carefully selected 150 guests will gain access to the Bridie Dinner.

The Bridie has always carried an air of mystery for me, although tickets can be bought at the unholy price of £140 they aren’t just offered to anyone. The cliental is what has always enticed me about this dinner as past GU presidents and board members from years gone by descend upon the Union for the festivities and like passing through the fountain of youth (the front doors) they find the student inside them again. We met at Trung’s before heading to the GUU, everyone looking slick and excited but also a nervous apprehension as four of us did not know what to expect. Trung a veteran of the Bridie, having attended last year with past president Kris McArdle, tried to settle our nerves by telling us about the amazing cocktails on arrival.

Our invitation allowed us into the building at 6pm, two hours before the rest would come knocking. First access to browse the rooms and admire the art before we sat down for our dinner. We arrived to a full attire and fully lunged bagpiper belting it out making us feel like royalty. Inside we found a string quartet already in full motion. The theme was Pirates of the Caribbean and delicately worked into the art instead of Captain Jack Sparrow’s face was that of Rory Slater’s smiling down at us. All the stops had been pulled out in the art department with 12 foot tall boards covering the walls filled with the movie characters.

Gowns seem to be the clothing of choice for the Bridie. The SRC, GUSA and QMU execs pranced around in theirs looking all together bizarrely ancient and brilliant at the same time, only Trung amongst us in his’ robes and bronze medallion played the part properly. Then they began serving the cocktails and the challenge lay down to us by our President was that last year “Kris and I got three each”, so we dutifully obliged and picked up four each. That was probably the sign of things to come and little attention did we pay to it because the alcohol was free and it was flowing steadily.

The loud call came from one the GUU staff that we were to be seated and the doors were finally opened to the Dining Room. The room was decorated to the nines and each table had a name relating to pirates ours

being the ‘Rumrunner Island’. Very fitting for the night to come. The run of the night was a meal of seven courses, in between each was a speech. Simon and Rory’s names were down for speeches but other than that I had no idea what past committee member or other I was going to listen to. The atmosphere was jubilant and I sat with a view of the whole room taking in the crowd that had mystified me ever since first year.

My memory is rather hazy at dinner, you see we started with two red wine bottles (Don Jacobo Rioja, 2010) & two white wine bottles (Macon Village, 2014) in ice buckets on our table. This number quickly grew to six and might have ended somewhere closer to nine or ten! The drink took us and during our second course the idea came about that our caviar should be snorted, not eaten (like normal people), then the Exec decided to put the wine buckets on ours heads before singing  ‘Let it go’ to a Past President who was boring the brains off us with his 21 minute long speech. The unwanted cousins in the corner is perhaps what we were but there’s no substitute for family!

N ow I did call this is an exposé and not just the tales of MedChir’s Executive drunken exploits at dinner and so here it is… As you heard already we sat through many speeches but it was President Rory Slater’s that dealt the exposé blow. As he spoke about his love of the Union and his experience of opening the Hive he also told us about the Union’s income. Of course on every pint sold in the Union the GUU makes a profit, that’s only natural. After they have paid for the kegs from Tennets and the staff to pull the pints and the upkeep of the union and the electricity and whatever else a place like that gets charges for, the Union makes a 15p profit on every pint. Now here’s the dilemma. MedChir is the biggest buyer of kegs off the GUU and buys each keg, which holds 88 pints, at the price of £2.15 per pint, with that 15p included. As one of the Founding Societies of our dear Union, who cherishes that friendship, and holds all events in the Union bringing in one to two hundred members a night is it not time that fifteen pence was negotiated?

I would like to finish by thanking the Glasgow University Union for inviting us to what was one of the most enjoyable nights in my entire time at Glasgow. Time and time again the Union has delivered on events and long may it last!