The University of Dundee Mace

Updated on 7 July 2023

Learn about the origins of the University mace, and what the symbolic elements on it represent.

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Symbolic of the University and its history, the ceremonial mace has been present at every graduation ceremony since it was presented to what was then University College Dundee (UCD) in 1912. 

History of the mace

As maces are traditionally found in the ancient universities, it may seem unusual for a modern institution such as our own to be in possession of one.  However, the reason lies in our historic relationship with the University of St Andrews.

When University College Dundee was founded in 1881, it did not have university status.  Students had to go to St Andrews for their exams, and it was only St Andrews that was able to confer degrees.  It wasn’t until we became an independent institution in 1967 that we were able to do this ourselves.

In 1911, the University of St Andrews celebrated its 500th anniversary with a grand procession through the town. Each St Andrews college had its own mace, and to demonstrate that Dundee was a worthy equal, it was decided that UCD should also be given its own mace. This was made possible due to the generosity of Dr Rudolph Polack, president of Dundee's Chamber of Commerce.   

View of the main length of the Mace with the words Given to University College Dundee by Rudolph Polack
“Given to University College Dundee by Rudolph Polack LLD President of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce to commemorate the 500th anniversary of St Andrews University 1911”

Inscription on the mace

Base of University mace

The inscription on the base of the mace shows us who was responsible for its design and manufacture:

  • Designed by T Delgaty Dunn (the first full time art master of what later became Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design)
  • Made by William B Smith,
  • Figures modelled by William Vickers

Not listed is William Armstrong Davidson who was responsible for the enamelled shields.

Symbolic elements on the mace

The head of the mace features various symbolic elements.  On top is the figure of Mary, the patron saint of Dundee, carrying a shield with a pot of lilies (from the town crest of Dundee) and also holding an olive branch, a symbol of peace. Around the main part of the head there are eight alcoves, each containing a figure, representing the various colleges of the University of St Andrews and subjects taught at University College Dundee.

top of mace showing enamelled shields

The original enamelled shields for which William Armstrong Davidson was responsible.  They were changed in 1967 when the University of Dundee became independent and wished to remove some of the St Andrews iconography.

Guide category Graduation