Walter Mykura (1926-1988)

Dr Walter Mykura, who died suddenly on 13th May 1988, aged 62, as a result of a road accident in Edinburgh, was an outstanding field geologist, known for his work throughout Scotland. Wally Mykura was a much-loved Life Fellow of the Edinburgh Geological Society, to which he was elected an Ordinary Fellow in 1951 and which he served as President from 1975 to 1977.

Originally from a small town in the north of Czechoslovakia, he came as a refugee to Britain in 1938 and, after war service in the RAF, graduated in geology at the University of Birmingham in 1950. In that year he joined the staff of the Geological Survey in its Edinburgh office, where he remained until a stroke forced his retirement in 1985. Such was his tenacity and purpose that, supported by his wife Alison, he made an almost complete recovery and at the time of his death was eagerly looking forward to leading the Society’s week-long May excursion to Shetland.

Even whilst a student at Birmingham, his ability to observe and discern key field evidence showed in his first publication in 1951, which was based on work in the nearby Abberley Hills. In Scotland, his published contributions are immense and his name will be ranked forever amongst the greatest in Scottish geology. He is the only field geologist in the Geological Survey ever to have gained Special Merit Promotion to Senior Principal Scientific Officer, which he achieved in 1979. He was awarded the Wollaston Fund of the Geological Society of London in 1972, the Clough Medal of the Edinburgh Geological Society in 1982 and the T.N.George Medal of the Geological Society of Glasgow in 1987. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1970 and the University of Birmingham awarded him a DSc in 1976.

Many were those that he stimulated to take up geology through his infectious enthusiasm, conveyed in well-illustrated lectures but above all in the field, where he also demonstrated his considerable mountaineering skill. He was an inspiring leader of many of the Society’s excursions, especially the week-long excursions in May every year. Perhaps the most memorable of these was that to the Isle of Rhum in 1977. He also led two notable long excursions for The Geologists’ Association, to Orkney in 1978 and to Shetland in 1983.

His official duties in Scotland, principally concerned with the production of geological maps and accompanying memoirs, began in the Pentland Hills near his home, covering the Silurian inliers, Lower Old Red Sandstone volcanic rocks and the Pleistocene geology. Later, he co-authored the 3rd Edition of the Edinburgh Memoir with G.H. Mitchell. This was followed by work in the Ayrshire Coalfield, notably demonstrating the replacement of coal by limestone. There then came nine summer seasons of field work in the geologically-remarkable Shetland Islands, concerned with the evolution of the Old Red Sandstone basins, volcanic rocks, metamorphic rocks and plutonic complexes, particularly in Western Shetland. He co-authored the Western Shetland Memoir with J. Phemister in 1976. He provided new evidence on the movement on the Great Glen Fault system as it passes northwards through Shetland. Later work on the Old Red Sandstone of Orkney enabled him to produce a completely new Regional Handbook on the Geology of Orkney and Shetland, published in 1976. This is perhaps his best-known single work and contains a guide to geological excursions in the two groups of islands. He also worked extensively in the mainland of northern Scotland.

Wally Mykura, as he was universally known and loved, became recognised internationally as the authority on the Old Red Sandstone of northern Britain, in the Orcadian Province. At the time of his retirement from the post of District Geologist in charge of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, he had already embarked on a major review of the Jurassic sediments which are only briefly glimpsed on land on the west and east coasts of Scotland, but which form such important hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs offshore.

He is survived by his wife Alison, three sons and a daughter.


Michael C Smith (1939-1997)

It is with great sadness that the Society notes the death of Mike Smith on 12th June. A member of the Society’s Council, its representative on the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Secretary of the Lothian and Borders RIGS Group, affiliated to the Society, Mike Smith was a member of the Petroleum Group of the British Geological Survey based at the Gilmerton Core Store. A quiet, extremely efficient and modest man, the Society will miss his wise counsel.

Peter McLaren Donald Duff (1927-1998)

It was with great sadness that the Society learned of the death of Donald Duff earlier this year after some months of illness. At the time of his death he was a Trustee of the Society and served on the Clough Committee, and from 1972 to 1974 he was one of our Vice-Presidents. During his distinguished and energetic career he first worked with the Geological Survey before being appointed to a lectureship, and later a senior lectureship, in the University of Edinburgh, and then to a chair at Strathclyde University. With lifelong research interests in coal and its associated sediments he was then head-hunted by BP in London to become their chief coal review geologist, a post with world-wide interests which he held until he retired in 1987. He was the Secretary of the Geological Society of London, an editor of several journals, and author and co-editor of several major texts in geology. We shall miss his cheerful presence at evening meetings and his valued experience contributed to the affairs of our Society.

Margaret C Laing (d. 1999)

Margaret C Laing was appointed a member of Council for the session 1975-76 and then was Treasurer of the Society from 1976 to 1982 and a Vice-President from 1983 to 1985, the busy period of the 150th anniversary celebrations. She will be remembered for her cheery disposition, her stalwart presence on excursions, and her ability to make others laugh when considering the otherwise dull topic of the Society’s finances.

David C Greig FRSE (d. 1999)

David C Greig FRSE was Secretary of the Society from 1965 to 1970 and its President from 1973 to 1975. As District Geologist with the IGS South Lowlands Unit, he wrote the last edition of the regional guide to the South of Scotland. He was a popular field leader, having the knack of pitching his explanations of the rocks at exactly the right level for the entire party. There was hardly a year in which he did not offer an excursion to some part of Berwickshire.

John L Roberts (d. 2000)

Dr John L Roberts, who died in November 2000, was a well known Highland geologist. He graduated in geology from the University of Edinburgh in 1958, and did his PhD at Liverpool University, where, at his own suggestion, he worked under Robert Shackleton on the structure of the Dalradian of the Southwest Highlands. In 1963, he went to the Middle East, teaching in Saudi Arabia for a year, and for two years at the American University of Beirut in the Lebanon, where he met his first wife, Lynn. He returned to Britain in 1966 to a teaching post at Newcastle University, where he remained until taking early retirement in 1986.

John published over twenty papers on the structure of the Dalradian of Scotland, many in collaboration with Jack Treagus, which made a considerable impact on the interpretation of Highland geology. The Structure of the Dalradian rocks in the SW of Scotland, based on his PhD work and publish-ed in 1974, is a seminal work describing in detail the eight phases of deforma-tion that affect these rocks and providing the first ‘modern’ account of the overall structure of the Dalradian from Islay to the Highland Border.

After retirement, John devoted his energy to writing books. Among them, An Introduction to Geological Maps and Structures is in its third edition and translated into several languages. The Macmillan Field Guide to Geological Structures is a wonderful tribute to his photography, and The Highland Geology Trail demonstrates his wish to share his love of Highland geology with others. More recently, three of his volumes on the history of the Scottish Highlands have been published by Edinburgh University Press, a fourth being completed in the last year of his debilitating illness.

Professor Sir Kingsley Dunham FRS (1910-2001)

With the death of Sir Kingsley Dunham on 5th April 2001, at the age of 91, our Society has lost one of its most eminent Honorary Fellows. Much of his life was lived in or close to the city of Durham, where he attended primary and secondary school and then went on to take Honours in geology at Durham University, where Arthur Holmes was Professor of Geology. A Durham PhD on the lead-zinc mineralisation of the North Pennine ore-field kindled his life-long interest in the mechanisms of orebody generation.

Following the tenure of a Commonwealth Fellowship at Harvard in 1932, he returned to Britain to a post in the Geological Survey. In 1950 he was appointed to the chair of Geology at Durham. Here, he obtained funding for a major project, the drilling of the Rookhope borehole to explore the deep structure of the North Pennine orefield. Completed in 1961, this confirmed the existence of the Weardale granite below Carboniferous sedimentary rocks. However, contrary to the existing theory, the borehole showed that the granite predated both the sedimentary rocks and the mineralisation and hence merely acted as a focus for the mineralising fluids rather than being their source.

He returned to the Geological Survey as its Director from 1967 to 1976, and master-minded its eventual move from London to Keyworth. His honours and awards included 12 honorary degrees, the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society, the Gold Medal of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and honorary mem-bership of many societies. He was knighted in 1972.

He attached great importance to the public understanding of science, and in retirement back in Durham he was a strong supporter of Yorkshire Geological Society events and was Honorary President of the North East Geological Society. He led parties of Open University students on tours of Durham Cathedral, demonstrating its building stones. An expert pianist and organist, he played the cathedral organ until his sight failed in old age. In his much-loved Cathedral were united the themes of music, science and religion which were at the core of his life.

Harry Gordon Macpherson (1925-2001)

Formerly Curator of Mineralogy at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, Harry Macpherson was known to very members of our Society for his enthusiasm in the collection and study of Scottish minerals. A quiet and private man, he believed in fostering close links between the Museum and the Edinburgh Geological Society, a rewarding association which we still enjoy. His death on 13th December after a long illness leaves those who knew him with many happy and enduring memories.

Harry was born and educated in Aberdeen, served with the Royal Engineers in the Far East, and returning to the University of Aberdeen, graduated with an Honours B.Sc. in geology in 1952. Study for an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Toronto University followed. Summer field work in Canada gave him experience of the high pressure hurly-burly of economic geology during employment with several prospecting companies. In 1958 he returned to Scotland as a scientist with the National Coal Board in New Cumnock, and in 1960 he was appointed a Mineral Curator in the Geology Department of the Royal Museum. Refurbishment of the northeast wing of the Museum in the late 1960s and early 1970s gave the opportunity for the development of a new Mineral Hall, opened in 1975. Here, Harry’s unrivalled skill in producing uncomplicated, attractive and educational displays was used to the full.

With his interest in the collection and identification of new Scottish minerals, he worked to increase the Museum’s research capability, introducing new techniques and encouraging younger colleagues, who remember him on mineral hunting forays lugging home huge specimens for the Museum’s collection. Macphersonite, a new mineral from Leadhills, was named after him. He retired from museum duties in 1987, and, encouraged not to waste his expert knowledge of Scottish agates, published his well-known book on Agates in 1989.

Sir Frederick Henry Stewart (1916-2001)

Fred Stewart was a canny Aberdonian. He was appointed to a Lecturership in Geology at the University of Durham (1943-56) and to the Regius Chair of Geology and Mineralogy in the University of Edinburgh (1956-82).

Stewart first worked on the igneous rocks in Skye and Belhelvie in Aberdeenshire. During his employment as a wartime mineralogist with ICI he found economically valuable salt deposits, strategically vital to the Allied war effort. He later continued with his research in the northeast of Scotland and the volcanic complexes of the Scottish islands. Fred was elected a Fellow of the Edinburgh Geological Society in 1956, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1957 and Fellow of the Royal Society in 1964. His meticulous work was recognised by awards from the Geological Society of London, the Mineralogical Society of America, and the Edinburgh Geological Society, from whom he was awarded the Clough Medal.

Appointed Chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council in 1971, Stewart became Chairman of the Advisory Board of Research Councils (1973-79). In that capacity he was responsible for advising the Secretary of the Departrnent of Education and Science on science policy in the UK covering the spectrum of medicine, pure science, agriculture and engineenng

Fred Stewart retired in 1982 to live in Argyll with his wife, Mary, the writer. He beqeathed his marvellous collection of minerals and fossil fish to the Royal Museum of Scotland.

Alexander (Sandy) Cleghorn Robertson (1919-2001)

Sandy Robertson, with his wife Margaret, was a familiar figure on the Society’s day excursions and the annual Long Excursion. Sandy was bom near Wishaw where he started work in the Co-operative Society at the age of 14. He was called up at the outbreak of war in 1939, serving with distinction in the Tank Corps in France and in Burma. On demobilisation in 1946 he entered the coal industry, later to become the National Coal Board, at Branchal Colliery near Wishaw. He studied for his Manager’s Certificate and held several managerial positions in Fife, where he met Margaret. Interested in the education of young apprentices, he transferred to the newly-formed Industrial Training Board, of which he became head. Retirement in 1981 gave him time to pursue his interests in lapidary and geology. He served on EGS Council from 1982 to 1984. In the last 10 years he turned to archaeology and took part in digs in Greece, learning Greek so as to be able to converse with fellow diggers.

Donald Robert Shelley (1933-2002)

Don Shelley was born in Stafford in 1933 and attended the Grammar School until he was sixteen. He did his National Service in Germany, joined the Colonial Service and was posted to Kenya, where he served with distinction during the Mau Mau troubles. After three years, he moved to Northern Rhodesia where he married Anne. His next posting was to Barotseland, where he stayed for seven years playing an active part in the negotiations that led to independence.

After his return to Britain, he spent a year as a policeman in the Lake District before joining the Nature Conservancy Council as a warden of the Inverpolly Nature Reserve, making his home at Knockan Cottage. During this period, he discovered his gift for passing on his enthusiasm to people, especially to children, and he was a pioneer of the Nature Trail. Not surprisingly, residence in Assynt increased his fascination with geology and he joined the Edinburgh Geological Society. He regarded the annual long excursion as one of the high points of the year and he attended whenever possible.

He and Anne set up their business in Golspie in 1970 and, despite the apparent remoteness of the shop, The Orcadian Stone Company became an internationally known company and the superb exhibition of rocks, minerals and fossils was visited by an ever increasing number of individuals. the interest shown in his collection by academic visitors was a source of great satisfaction to Don.

He has many durable memorials such as his displays at Golspie, Knockan Cliff, Ardgay, Fort William and interpretative displays throughout the Highlands. He knew Scotland and its animals, birds and rocks and there are few corners that he had not explored. Being out in the field with Don was always a pleasure and an education and his genial presence will be greatly missed.

John Anthony (Tony) Weir (1932-2002)

Born and brought up in Glasgow, Tony attended Glasgow High School. Following in the footsteps of his father, John Weir, he went on to study Geology at Glasgow University, before going on to to take his Ph.D. at Queen’s University, Belfast under the supervision of Alwyn Williams.

On 4 January 1959, he joined the academic staff of the Geology Department at St Andrews University. His research focussed on the sedimentology and structure of the Lower Palaeozoic successions of southern Scotland, in collaboration with Ken Walton, and contributed to the development of the imbricate thrust model for the Southern Uplands. In the Department he was a conscientious and loyal colleague who was always ready to help out in a crisis, and students over many years remember him with affection and respect. A number of postgraduate students were grateful for his writing up their work for publication after they had moved on to demanding jobs.

Though his parents retired to Tayport, Tony spent 5 days a week as resident of Dean’s Court, the post-graduate residence in St. Andrews, where he became a much loved supporter of that community. He was an enthusiast for steam trains (he had an encyclopoedic knowledge of railways), paddle steamers and Clyde shipping in particular. He was keen on classical music and it was not unknown for him to burst into song at informal gatherings.

His health deteriorated soon after his retiral in 1997 and his last few months were spent in hospital. His position in St. Andrews was well expressed by a hospital nurse who said that Tony received more visitors than any other patient on the ward. This was borne out by the large number of colleagues, former students and friends who attended his funeral. He remained single all his life.

Perhaps the most lasting legacy of Tony Weir is the impact his teaching made on students, which is best summed up by two eulogies sent in by former students.

“Tony had a great love of life and was one of those larger than life characters who enriched life for the rest of us. His enthusiasm and idiosyncracies greatly enlivened the study of palaeontology for undergraduates”

“When I teach fossils to my class, I try to show the same enthusiasm Tony showed when teaching us. A part of him lives on when I teach graptolites. My pronunciation of ‘Didymograptus murchisoni’ is pure Tony Weir Glaswegian and works the same magic with my students as it worked with me. He now has academic grandchildren who use his pronunciation for fossil names despite their Yorkshire accents.”


John Kenneth Oakley (1929-2002)

Ken Oakley was the Society’s Excursion Secretary from 1988 to 1993 after nobly volunteering to take over from his predecessor Ian Hogarth. His love of the outdoors and his enthusiasm for organising sport and outdoor activity for the young fitted him well for the task. With Honours in geology from St Andrews University he taught science and physics at St Mungoís, Alloa and at Larbert High School. Even after his retirement from teaching, he regularly climbed in the Alps with groups of his former pupils. He had climbed all of the Scottish Munros, and completed the last of the Corbetts in October 2000 when already diagnosed with cancer. His other interests included cricket (he umpired at Club level), hockey (his girl’s hockey team swept all before them playing ‘men’s’ hockey) and gardening (his tomato plants came with him on one Long Excursion). The Society will miss his kindly and cheerful company in the field.