The Society publishes obituaries of members in our Annual Reports, which are available as pdf downloads here. The obituaries of significant figures in the Scottish geological community and the Edinburgh Geological Society are also included here.

Norman Edward Butcher (1928–2017)

Contributed by Bernard Elgey Leake, School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University and Stuart Monro, President, Edinburgh Geological Society

Norman Butcher was born in Chichester in 1928, the youngest of three children of a one-time hardware shop manager who moved in 1935 to Maidstone, Kent, where Norman attended Maidstone Grammar School throughout the Second World War. His interests in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics led him to apply for a scholarship to Sheffield University in 1946 hoping to eventually study metallurgy. Although he failed to obtain the scholarship, the University indicated he would probably gain a place after he had completed his National Service, so he enrolled in the Army in September 1946. After initial training he was sent for Heavy Anti-Aircraft training near Oswestry as a gunner but by March 1947 he was in the Army Educational Corps and after training in teaching, which he was later to find useful, he was posted as a Sergeant to Germany where for most of the time he was in the Royal Horse Artillery, near Hannover working as an Army Educational Instructor. He entered Sheffield University in October 1948 to take a degree in Chemistry and chose Geology as his third first year subject and was captivated, transferring to Honours Geology for his second year which coincided with the arrival of L. R. Moore, replacing F. W. Shotton as Sorby Professor of Geology. He obtained a First in Geology in 1952.

Norman then continued in Sheffield University with a Department of Industrial and Scientific Research grant to do research on the geology of the west side of Dartmoor. In 1954 he was offered a Hastings Senior Scholarship at Queen’s College, Oxford and spent the next two years continuing research under L. R. Wager, Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, who discovered the renowned Skaergaard intrusion in East Greenland. Norman contributed to the chemical analyses of material from the intrusion as is recorded in the catalogue of Skaergaard Rock analyses held in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, 1953–1960. In 2001 Norman actually saw the intrusion from a Russian ship. While in Oxford, Norman married a former fellow Geography and also Geology graduate from Sheffield, Margaret Nutter of Brighouse, who was then a cartographer in the Oxford University Press making school atlases.

In 1956 Norman was appointed an Assistant Lecturer in Geology in the University of Reading and in collaboration with W.R. Dearman of Imperial College, who had worked as an engineering geologist for British Rail at the Meldon Quarry, near Okehampton, they published together and led a GA field excursion (Dearman and Butcher, 1959; 1959a) on the Devonian and Carboniferous rocks NW of the Dartmoor Granite, perhaps the most important of Norman’s publications, in which his stratigraphical bent was displayed. He published other work on the geology of SW England (Butcher, 1957; 1958; 1959; 1961; 1964; 1968), joint work with F. Hodson on the Carboniferous goniatites in Devonshire (Butcher and Hodson, 1960; 1998), and with M. R. House (House and Butcher, 1962; 1973) and also a study of the folding that formed the Malvern Hills (Butcher, 1962), but his time at Reading was mostly occupied in teaching and his publications dwindled. He was a master of the short note, often only one or two pages (e. g. Butcher, 1957; 1959; 1961; 1964; 1968). Perhaps influenced by his wife, he became interested in the history of geological cartography (Butcher, 1967). This exhibition of geological maps celebrated the 80th birthday of Emeritus Professor H.L.Hawkins who was his friend and mentor at Reading.

The Reading appointment was ended in 1969 but coincidently, 1969 saw the birth of the new Open University (OU). The Founding Vice-Chancellor, Prof Walter Perry (latterly, Lord Perry) appointed the dynamic Professor Ian Gass (FRS, 1983) to set up the Department of Earth Sciences which was to become one of the jewels in the crown of the embryonic Open University, delivering research-led teaching in a subject where the basic paradigms had changed radically with the advent of plate tectonic concepts. In 1970, Norman was appointed Staff Tutor in Earth Sciences for Scotland, with responsibility for setting up a network of Tutorial and Counselling Staff to deliver the courses in Earth Science and Physics being developed by the academics at Milton Keynes as the student numbers increased and the OU expanded. This involved moving to Edinburgh at the end of 1970 and was very much to Norman’s liking as the role involved travelling all over Scotland appointing staff and meeting students. He was dedicated to helping his students succeed at their studies, enthuse them with geological knowledge and take them on field trips, often with his family for the longer excursions, such as to Skye. He very much appreciated the difficulties some faced in completing their studies and visited many of them, even in remote places such as the Isle of Foula, off Shetland, to help them and he is remembered fondly by many of them. He always said that of all the duties he did for the OU, he was proudest of presenting formally the physicist Professor R. V. Jones CH, CB, CBE, FRS, FRSE, LLD (1911–1997) of Aberdeen University for an Honorary Doctorate of the OU in the Bute Hall of Glasgow University in 1978, just after Jones’ book Most Secret War was published that year. He also recalled the way OU Staff including himself, sought to ensure that the initial mailings of course materials were delivered to students despite the postal strike of 1971. Working on the muddy building site of the Milton Keynes campus was firmly embedded in his memory. Norman undoubtedly established himself as the face of OU Earth Science in Scotland and one of the real characters of the OU Earth Science Department. Norman retired from the Open University in 1992.

Norman’s contribution to geological life in Scotland extended far beyond his career in the Open University. He developed a keen interest in the history of Geology (e.g. Butcher, 1997), the contributions of notable scientific figures (Butcher, 2003; 2009) and being a Member of HOGG, the History of Geology Group. In 1995 he discovered the lost site of the house of the ‘Father of Modern Geology’, James Hutton (1726–1797), in Edinburgh (Butcher, 1997a) to which the GA Curry Fund contributed to an information leaflet in the Memorial Garden, and in 1997 was involved with the international meeting by the Royal Society of Edinburgh to mark the bicentenary of Hutton’s death. He was a conscientious letter writer or occasional publisher over matters of public interest, such as the 2001 closure of the Scottish Science Library, the proposal for an English Riviera Geopark, the amalgamation of the London Geological Museum into the Natural History Museum (Butcher et al. 1992), the appropriate permanent marking of the site of James Hutton’s house and the convoluted history plus the geology of a notorious ‘Hole in the Ground’ in central Edinburgh (Butcher 1991). Norman was very concerned about the application of geological information and lectured to the Yorkshire Geological Society on “The Penmanshiel rail tunnel disaster of 17th March 1979 and its aftermath.”

Norman was loyal member of many societies dedicated to the dissemination and advancement of geological and wider knowledge. He became a Fellow of the Geological Society and one of the prime movers in establishing a professional accreditation of Chartered Geologist. He became a member of the Geologists’ Association in 1951 and of the Mineralogical Society in 1954. He was a Founder Member of the Ussher Society in 1962 and on the early governing committees. On their 50th Anniversary he was made an Honorary Member of the Society, being one of only six Founding Members still alive in 2012. He was for a time a member of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and of the Devonshire Association (1957–1974). He joined the Edinburgh Geological Society in 1971, was elected to the Council in 1972, was the Honorary Secretary 1974–79 and was President 1983–5. He became a Member of the Glasgow Geological Society on 8th February 1973 and often visited Leake in Glasgow University just before a Glasgow Society evening lecture. As President of the Edinburgh Geological Society, he was instrumental in bringing the 4th Meeting of European Geological Societies (MEGS4) on the “Evolution of the European Lithosphere” to Edinburgh and subsequently represented the Society at the 5th meeting in Dubrovnik.

Norman had an unusually good memory for facts and was a stickler for getting deductions and conclusions precisely correct. Several of his contributions to discussions after lectures and his published letters concerned exact stratigraphical dating and exposing approximations that might not have been spotted by any but the most discerning reader. While this concern was admirably transmitted to his students, many of whom in the OU did not have any background in science or logic, it held Norman back from publishing in geology because there are usually uncertainties in geology which cannot be immediately resolved and which can paralyse publication. Dr Steve Drury, a former colleague of Norman’s at the OU recalled Norman as “the irritating old grit needed in constructing the pearl that was the original Department of Earth Sciences”. He continued “They don’t make ’em like Norman any more…”. Norman is survived by his wife, Margaret, three sons, Colin, Ian and Timothy, and five grandchildren.

Acknowledgements

We thank the family, John Mather, Louise Hollick, Walter Semple, John Cope, for information.

References

Butcher, N.E., 1957. The Lustleigh Fault in NE Dartmoor. Geological Magazine 94, 430–431.
Butcher, N.E., 1958. The Culm Igneous Suite near Tavistock, West Devonshire. Abstracts of the Proceedings of the Conference of Geologists and Geomorphologists in the South-west of England, Exeter, 1958, 21–23.

Butcher, N.E., 1959. Culm Measures Stratigraphy. Geological Magazine 95, 418–419.
Butcher, N.E., 1961. Age of the orogeny and granites in SW England. Nature 191, 486–487.
Butcher, N.E., 1962. The tectonic structure of the Malvern Hills. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 73, 103–123.
Butcher, N.E., 1964. Age of the Alpine Folds of southern England. Geological Magazine 100, 468–469.
Butcher, N.E., 1967. The history and development of geological cartography: catalogue of the exhibition of geological maps in the University Library, Whiteknights, Reading, in honour of the 80th birthday of Emeritus Professor H. L. Hawkins. University Library, Reading.
Butcher, N.E., 1968. W.G. Maton and the geological map of S. W. England. Proceedings of the Ussher Society, 2, 14.
Butcher, N.E., 1991. The hole in the Ground. The Edinburgh Geologist, 26, 12–17.
Butcher, N.E. et al., 1992. Views on the late Geological Museum. Geology Today, 8, 56–57.
Butcher, N.E., 1997. James Hutton, Charles Lyell and the Edinburgh Geological Society. The Edinburgh Geologist, No. 30
Butcher, N.E., 1997a. James Hutton’s house at St John’s Hill, Edinburgh. Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, New Series, 4.
Butcher, N.E., 2003. Lord Perry of Walton. The Scotsman, 19 August 2003.
Butcher, N.E. 2009. Donald McIntyre: Mountaineer, geologist, scholar and teacher. The Scotsman, 13 November 2009.
Butcher, N.E., Hodson, F., 1960. A review of the Carboniferous Goniatite Zones in Devon and Cornwall. Palaeontology 3, 75–81.
Butcher, N.E. Hodson, F., 1998. Carboniferous goniatites, tectonic structure and stratigraphy in Bonhay Road, Exeter, Devonshire. Proceedings of the Ussher Society, 9, 151–156.
Dearman, W.R., Butcher, N.E., 1959. The geology of the Devonian and Carboniferous rocks of the north-west border of the Dartmoor Granite, Devonshire. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 70, 51–92.
Dearman, W.R., Butcher, N.E., 1959a. Easter Field Meeting in NW Dartmoor 25–30 March 1959. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 70, 238–241.
House, M.R., and Butcher, N.E., 1962. Excavations in the Devonian and Carboniferous rocks of the Chudleigh area, south Devon. Proceedings of the Ussher Society 1, 28–29.
House, M.R., and Butcher, N.E., 1973. Excavations in the Upper Devonian and Carboniferous rocks near Chudleigh area, south Devon. Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall 20, 199–220.

Gordon Younger Craig (1925-2014)

Gordon Younger Craig, palaeoecologist, Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh and editor par excellence of Scottish geological literature for over 40 years, died aged 89 on 3rd October 2014. Gordon also played a substantive role in Society affairs for over 65 years. He was the joint longest elected member (joining in the 1947-48 session, subsequently serving as an Ordinary Member of Council and convenor of the Excursions Committee (both 1949-53), Vice-President (1961-64) and President (1967- 69); he was a Clough Medallist (1986-87 session), and was elected Honorary Fellow in the 1996-7 session). He also edited the Society excursion guide The Geology of the Lothians and South East Scotland, the forerunner of the present-day Lothian Geology, and between 1969 and 1981, led five Society excursions.

He was born on 17th January 1925 in Milngavie and graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1946 (BSc, Geology); after a further 12 months there as a demonstrator, he was appointed Lecturer in Geology at the University of Edinburgh, converted to a lectureship in Palaeontology on gaining his PhD in 1951. His PhD, undertaken during full time employment, inspired two concise but oft-cited papers in UK palaeoecological literature – on Lingula, and on the marine benthonic faunas of the Top Hosie Shale at Kilsyth. Later (1956) he published accounts of the neglected Dinantian outliers of Kirkbean, Colvend and Rerrick on the north Solway coast. After a sabbatical at the University of Colorado in 1958, he plunged into an investigation, assisted by Ken Walton, of the structure, sedimentology (turbidite sole marks) and Silurian graptolite biostratigraphy of the Kirkcudbrightshire coast, in which their recognition of numerous strike faults anticipated the later accretionary prism model. Promotion to Senior Lecturer and Reader followed in 1960, and he was elected FRSE in 1964; his prolific research output in the years 1962-72 focussed on ecological studies of shelly marine communities, both ancient and modern.

The Scottish Journal of Geology (SJG), first issued in 1965, was Gordon’s brainchild (with guidance on finance from Douglas Grant), and successfully merged the existing Transactions of the Glasgow and Edinburgh geological societies; Gordon was the last editor of TEGS (1954-64) and the first SJG editor (1965-66). The Geology of Scotland also first appeared in 1965 with Gordon as sole editor, a prodigious feat that he embraced with two succeeding editions (1983, 1991).

Fittingly, in view of later events, Gordon was appointed the first James Hutton Professor of Geology (1967-84) and was later Head of Department (1981-84); research opportunities were limited by administrative duties. Following the chance unearthing by the Clerk family of Penicuik in 1968 of the ‘lost drawings’ of Hutton’s third volume of the Theory of the Earth, Gordon, together with Charles Waterston and Donald McIntyre studiously tracked down the depicted localities and produced a sumptuous folio, with Gordon as senior author of the explanatory text (1978). Together with Jean Jones, he compiled A Geological Miscellany in 1985 (and recently reprinted) – a potpourri of humorous prose and sketches highlighting the idiosyncrasies of the geological profession. In retirement after 1984, Gordon rigorously pursued his interest in the history of geology; from 1984-89 he was President of the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences, and in 1990 received the annual History of Geology award from the Geological Society of America. In 1997 together with John Hull, he organised a Geological Society of London conference commemorating the bi-centenary of Hutton’s death, and he also edited the published proceedings. He contributed to the text and design of early exhibits at Our Dynamic Earth of which he was a founder Trustee (1995-2001). Golf and his garden at Lasswade were his leisure interests. Longer obituaries can be found in Vol 51, SJG and on the Royal Society of Edinburgh website, by Euan Clarkson and Stuart Monro respectively.

John Barry Dawson (1932-2013)

John Barry Dawson, field geologist and volcanologist, mineralogist and geochemist, Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh, and the Society’s Clough Medallist in 1989, was pre-eminent in many fields during a long and distinguished career of research into E and S African geology. Born near Leeds on 19th June 1932, he obtained both his BSc (Geology, 1957) and PhD (1960) from the University of Leeds, the latter degree for his field studies (1957-8) of the kimberlites of Basutoland (now Lesotho). From 1960-1962, he spent two formative years working for the Tanganyika Geological Survey which included mapping the bizarre alkali volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.

Those five years of African field work (coupled with his legendary rock collection!) provided the twin themes – kimberlites and carbonatites – that sustained his research for the next 50 years. In his kimberlite and xenolith investigations, often in conjunction with Joe Smith at the University of Chicago, with whom he collaborated for 32 years, Barry made the first discovery of diamond in garnet lherzolite nodules (1975), differentiated a new mineralogical suite (the MARID suite) of mantle xenoliths in kimberlites (1977), proposed a new meteorite-impact theory for the origin of carbonados (1985), and in later years used microprobe trace element and gas isotope analysis of peridotite xenoliths from S African kimberlites to investigate mantle metasomatism. His highly regarded monograph, Kimberlites and their Xenoliths, was published in 1980.

He was fortunate to witness the 1960 Ol Doinyo Lengai eruption of low temperature and low viscosity sodium carbonate lavas (natrocarbonatite), and thus was the first geologist ever to analyse recently erupted carbonatite lavas. Barry kept a vigilant watch on the volcano’s activity, publishing accounts of the contrasting 1966, June 1993 (viscous lavas) and September 2007 (ash) eruptions, as well as23 leading an expedition of invited petrology students to record the November 1988 eruption; he also documented the immiscibility of coexisting silicate and carbonatite magmas at Ol Doinyo Lengai. Other fruitful topics were the carbonatite tuffs and entrained mantlederived peridotite xenoliths of the Lashaine volcano in N Tanzania whose analysis he used to prove mantle metasomatism, and regional studies of the relationship between present-day volcanism, and the Neogene structure of the Gregory Rift and its Archaean antecedents. His academic career had begun in 1962 when he obtained a postdoctoral fellowship at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. He returned to the UK in 1964 (and joined the Society in that year) to a lectureship at the University of St Andrews, becoming Reader in 1974 and Personal Professor (1975) in the Department of Geology; in 1972 he was both awarded a DSc by St Andrews and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He then progressed to the University of Sheffield where he was Sorby Professor of Geology (1978-1989), before his final move to the University of Edinburgh as Professor of Geology from 1989 until retirement in 1997. Barry served on the editorial committee of the Scottish Journal of Geology (1969-1971), and the editorial board of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1976-1984 and 1990-1992), later as Chairman (1993-1996). In 2012 he was only the third recipient of the Collins Medal of the Mineralogical Society.

Barry published almost 200 papers and books in his lifetime and the flow continued unabated in his active retirement as Emeritus. The culmination of his lifelong research into the Gregory Rift System of E Africa was his sole authorship in 2008 of the Geological Society of London Memoir 33. He was a keen cricket follower and hillwalker – he had bagged many Munros especially in the Western Highlands. He transferred to Senior Fellow in the 2006-7 session, and died in Edinburgh on 2nd February 2013, aged 80.

Stanley Purdie Wood (1939-2012)

Both outside and within geology, the commercial fossil hunter and freelance palaeontologist, Stanley Purdie Wood, fashioned a remarkably varied and productive life that culminated in arguably his greatest find in 2009. Born in Edinburgh on 23rd December 1939, Stan left school in his mid-teens, completed a shipyard apprenticeship at Leith, served in the Merchant Navy as an engineer officer and worked for the engineering company, Brown Brothers. He then switched to selling insurance policies for the Prudential, but in 1968 began to take an interest in fossils. His first discoveries, reported in 1975, were notable new finds of elasmobranch sharks and actinopterygian fishes from the Wardie Oil Shales (Asbian).

Over the next 35 years, Stan made a series of remarkable and increasingly momentous tetrapod, fish and arthropod discoveries from Carboniferous rocks in the Midland Valley. In the late 1970’s, he recovered sparse and poorly preserved amphibians (including new species) from Viséan, Namurian and Westphalian strata including an opencast site at Cowdenbeath. The Cowdenbeath tetrapods formed the source material for student PhD’s at Newcastle University and Stan was employed there from 1976-79 as a Research Technician; during which time he obtained a science degree with the Open University.In 1980, he part-financed a multiorganizational re-excavation of the Foulden Fish Bed (early Courceyan) in Berwickshire which produced a diverse fish assemblage with several new species. In 1981, he directed a similar dig at Bearsden in the Manse Burn Formation (Pendleian), and found complete and exquisitely preserved sharks (including most spectacularly, Akmonistion zangerli, the “Bearsden shark”) and crustacea (e.g. Tealliocaris robusta).

In 1983, he set up a commercial business selling fossils from his Livingston workshop, and then in 1987 opened his Edinburgh shop, Mr Wood’s Fossils. In 1984, while refereeing a football match at Bathgate, he was struck by the curious limestone lithology in the stone wall surrounding the ground. On a hunch he purchased an adjacent stone wall for £25 from a farmer (!); a block therefrom, of the East Kirkton Limestone (Brigantian) yielded the temnospondyl amphibian, Balanerpeton woodi. Later that year, he leased and re-excavated the quarry at East Kirkton from which he unearthed the major scoop of ‘Lizzie’, Westlothiana lizziae, initially thought to be the world’s earliest reptile but later re-interpreted as an early amniote; the quarry also yielded permineralised plants and a unique arthropod fauna including large eurypterids, and a harvestman spider.

Stan moved to Selkirk in 2006, and in 2009 scored probably his greatest triumph in the Whiteadder River near Chirnside, discovering only the second tetrapod horizon locality in the world from “Romer’s Gap” (the fishtetrapod transition); the richly fossiliferous Ballagan Formation horizon (Courceyan) is contemporaneous with Foulden and the tetrapods are as yet unnamed. Stan joined the Society in the 1982-83 session, and his Livingston workshops were visited on an evening excursion in 1984; he died at Selkirk on 9th September 2012, aged 72. For further information, the most comprehensive obituary is probably The Times, 15/9/2012.

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.

Peter McLaren Donald Duff (1927-1998)

It was with great sadness that the Society learned of the death of Donald Duff 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.

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.

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.