Fellows’ Night 2022 – No. 189!

On 14th December 2022, the Edinburgh Geological Society held its 189th Fellows’ Night at the Grant Institute, University of Edinburgh. This meeting takes place each year, close to the anniversary of the foundation of the Society (on 6th December). 
The pandemic has meant that a “normal” Fellows’ Night has not taken place for a few years now.

This year we were determined to be “normal” again and so an in-person event was held at which a series of short talks were given by members and some refreshments enjoyed by all.
Four speakers were lined up for this event, but first Mike Browne (acting EGS President) gave a thank you to both Alison and Barry Tymon for their contribution to geoconservation in the Midlothian and Scottish Borders recently, and in Yorkshire previously. This work has added significantly to the total of number of local sites recognised for their geological interest across the Lothian and Borders region to 166.

The talks kicked off with Angus Millar (EGS Promotion Coordinator) (and his dog) taking up a challenge to visit 30 geoconservation sites in the month of November, and yes, he achieved this – 32 in fact and despite wet weather. Sites visited varied from Kilspindie beach erratics to the Eildon Hills, and Carlops glacial drainage channels to River Clyde oxbow lochs and active meanders. A fascinating demonstration of the breadth of geological sites on our doorsteps.

Second up was Bob Gatliff who updated Fellows on Siccar Point activities in 2022 – the embarking on the process of getting UNESCO heritage status for Hutton’s Unconformity, obtaining widespread support for the project and recognition by IUGS of Siccar Point being one of the first one hundred sites recognised for its geological heritage significance.

Thirdly, Mark Williamson (University of Edinburgh) described his geological reconnaissance of the Bilston Glen SSSI as a location for future undergraduate student visits. Its combination of mining heritage and exposures of the Lower Carboniferous (not always so clear) was described.

Finally, we heard from Prof James Floyd on his “Ships of stones” which described some fascinating collections of ornamental decoration using geologies from around the world. He explained how he discovered these treasures when engaged to give lectures on cruise ships. This had led to the discovery that not only was the best geology to be found at the islands they visited but that on board many of the ships was a wealth of geological interest as well (sadly not being recognised by many of the crew members and passengers).

In conclusion, I think everyone who attended came away with the feeling that geology surrounds us everywhere and that although not everywhere has that notice board just yet, there are a huge number of resources available through the EGS website (the Autumn Members’ Challenge is a good place to start).

We look forward to many more Fellows’ Nights in the future.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Neil Mackenzie, EGS Secretary.

Edinburgh Geocoin

The Edinburgh EarthCache Geocoin

Edinburgh GeocoinTo celebrate the rich variety of Edinburgh’s geology and the number of Earthcaches in the area, the Edinburgh Geological Society has produced a souvenir Edinburgh Earthcache Geocoin. This is an attractive trackable silver coin with views of Edinburgh Castle and Salisbury Crags. Find out more about Earthcaches and purchase the souvenir coin here.

Winter Reading

The Edinburgh Geological Society publishes a wide range of reading material, suitable for spending some winter hours catching up on recent research, expanding your horizons and planning your next excursion! Much of our printed material is available for free on this website.

The Edinburgh Geologist

Our twice yearly magazine for everyone with a broad interest in geology. Recent editions have covered the geology of Rockall, geological perspectives on the climate crisis, exploring the South Sandwich Trench, reports on excursions and book reviews. The entire archive of The Edinburgh Geologist is available online, from the first edition in 1977 to the most recent editions.

Geoconservation leaflets

The local geoconservation groups associated with EGS have published almost 40 leaflets on local sites of geodiversity interest, most of which are available online for free. From Wolf’s Hole Quarry in Bridge of Allan to Siccar Point, there is an amazing amount of information available here about the geology of central Scotland. Browse our recently-rearranged comprehensive listing here.

Books and Excursion Guides

We publish handy, pocket sized excursion guides and books covering some of the most popular areas of Scottish geology. These Geological Excursion Guides and Books are suitable for both amateur and professional geologists. These are available to order online, with a 20% reduction from RRP for EGS members.

Updating The Scottish Fossil Code

Internationally Scotland is important for its fossil heritage. New finds add to our record of past life and environments on planet Earth and help us understand the rapidly changing world that we live in today. The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 required Scottish Natural Heritage, now known as NatureScot, to prepare the Scottish Fossil Code. The requirement is in recognition of the value and vulnerability of Scotland’s fossil heritage and that legislative measures alone cannot entirely safeguard the fossil heritage.

NatureScot is seeking views on the updated and refreshed Scottish Fossil Code which is due for relaunch in early 2023. To ensure that the refreshed Code is understandable and caters for all those that have an interest in Scotland’s fossil heritage, we would appreciate your comments and advice at The Scottish Fossil Code – have your say page.

Please note that the closing date for this consultation is Thursday 17th November 2022.

Autumn Members Challenge – Visit an Important Geo-site

In the run up to this year’s Fellows’ Night, we invite EGS Members to visit somewhere new this autumn and share what you find.

James Hutton - by Alan McKirdy

Revised and expanded: “James Hutton: The Founder of Modern Geology”

James Hutton, the founder of modern geology - by Alan McKirdyNational Museums Scotland have published an expanded and revised edition of Alan McKirdy’s “James Hutton: The Founder of Modern Geology” this spring.

This is one of several initiatives in progress as we approach the tercentenary of Hutton’s birth in 2026.

You can read more about the book in this blog post:

The book is available to buy from our website >

Members’ Price is £12 (a 20% discount from its £14.99 RRP).

All other books on our website are also available at a 20% reduction for EGS members, and they will remain postage-free to members until our evening lectures and book sales can fully resume at the Grant Institute.

Isle of Arran: Glen Rosa

Geology & Landscape of Arran – walking holiday

Have you ever cast your eyes upwards and wondered why that mountain is the shape it is? Or been puzzled by that particular lump of rock that sticks out so far? Maybe you’ve admired the pebbles along the shore, and wondered what they’re made of. If so, we might be able to help!

The Lochranza Centre on Arran runs Public Geology courses each year. These outdoor education courses take you into the field and equip you with the knowledge and skills to read our landscape with new eyes. Comprising a five-day package, including bed and board, the courses are largely outdoors-based but also feature some indoor learning.

Our 2022 course will run from Sunday 31st July – Saturday 6th August, an all-inclusive week priced at £475 per person.


Geology & Geopoetics: a Virtual Conversation

Join two Emeritus Professors – Patrick Corbett and John Gordon – for an online discussion on how geology is fundamental to geopoetics using the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset as a case study.

Thursday, 11 August 2022 17:00 – 18:30 BST. Book here – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/geology-geopoetics-a-virtual-conversation-tickets-375380903387

Kenneth White (founder of the International Institute of Geopoetics) has written: “Taking geology as ground-level, (geopoetics) is a new way of being human and of living a human life on this earth”. White, growing up on the coast of Ayrshire, walking with a geological field guide, appreciated the role of geology from an early age. His writings make many references to geology and he acknowledges that geology has had an important role in Scottish culture: “Hutton’s ‘Theory of the Earth’ I see as the bottom line of the Scottish Enlightenment”. We review other references to geology in his recently published Collected Works (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) to illustrate his depth of knowledge and engagement and to set the scene for a geopoetic case study outwith Scotland.

The Isle of Purbeck in Dorset on the South Coast includes part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast and as such is a mecca for geological field trips. As part of the SW Coast Path it also attracts many walkers. With visitors such as Charles Kingsley, Thomas Hardy, J.M.W. Turner and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the area of outstanding natural beauty has attracted many eulogies and memorials over the last few centuries. It is also an area with a rich stone-working heritage – Purbeck Stone features in many cathedrals, cities, harbours, memorials with peak mining in the 13th Century. Stone is still quarried today and is the native stone used in many of the buildings. The landscape has influenced the mindscape of many poets, and their wordscape can be closely connected to the underlying geology. The Isle of Purbeck provides a perfect case study to map poetics to geology and discuss the expression of geopoetics as a means to open new worlds, and by linking the geological and cultural elements (re)discover a sense of wonder about our geoheritage and foster an appreciation of its values.

Patrick Corbett spent more than 40 years working in the oil and gas industry and academia. First, after graduating in Geology as a mudlogger working on the North Sea rigs, then later working for an oil company in Aberdeen, Netherlands and Indonesia. He left the industry to do a PhD at Heriot-Watt and stayed there for 31 years, retiring in 2020 as a Professor of Petroleum Geoengineering, Senate and Court member (Governing bodies of the University). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Assistant Director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics.

Just prior to retiring he took up writing in poetry, following in the footsteps of his father. His subject matter drew on his retirement pastime of walking the coast of the UK, its birds, its scenery inspired by a University career in petroleum science and engineering. He discovered that he was walking in the footsteps of Kenneth White and the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and was pleased that his first published poem, “Industria Cumbria” in The New European in February 2020, could be dedicated to Kenneth White, the founder of the International Centre for Geopoetics. Seeing that geologists and poets shared many aspects – use of imagination, reading and writing of words and images, interpreting the blank spaces, communication of feelings – he set up Geopoetry 2020, a well-received, online meeting in which poets broadly interested in geoscience – and geoscientists interested in poetry – could share their work. He is a Board Member of the Scottish Poetry Library and is interested in broadening the role of poetry in science education.

Examples of Patrick’s work can be found at www.geopoetrick.co.uk

John Gordon is an Honorary Professor in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews. He has worked in geoconservation for many years and is a deputy chair of the Geoheritage Specialist Group of thev IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. His interests include geoconservation, the links between geoheritage, geotourism and cultural heritage, the glacial history and landforms of Scoitland, and mountain glaciers and glaciation.

Explore Beach Pebbles at the Edinburgh Science Festival 20-23 April

Every beach pebble has got a story to tell, about how the original rock was formed and what’s happened to it since then, to turn it into the pebble you can pick up on a beach today. Join geologists from the Edinburgh Geological Society on a local beach for some hands-on activities to explore the stories hidden in every pebble.

Free, drop-in events in the Edinburgh Science Festival, all welcome!

Further information and booking: www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/science-festival-2022/

Clough Medal

Clough Medal Lecture 2021/22

On 2 March 2022 at 7pm, the annual Clough Medal lecture took place for the first time as combined physical and virtual event. The medallist for 2021/22 was Dr Tim Smithson who gave a lecture entitled the “A new beginning: recent discoveries in the early Carboniferous of northern Britain reveal rapid faunal replacement following the end-Devonian extinction”. He was presented with his medal by Dr Tom Challands, the President of the Edinburgh Geological Society.

Tim being presented with Clough Medal 2021

A brief outline of Tim’s career was described by Tom: Following his undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (UNUT), 1972- 1975) Tim started his PhD under Alec Panchen at UNUT in 1976 but, being somewhat regarded as a genius in his field, he was offered a post-doctorate position in Montreal to work with Robert Carroll at McGill University before completing his PhD. By the time he had completed his PhD in 1983 Tim had already published four academic papers. Again, before completing his PhD, he was awarded a Sir Jamed Knott Fellowship at UNUT until 1984. Tim’s academic record is all the more impressive given that the major part of his career was spent in teaching and managerial roles in further education and not as a university academic.

During his time in further education (1985-2012), Tim was still actively engaged in fieldwork and research and published 18 research papers including perhaps his most notable work is his discovery and description in 1989 of Westlothiana lizziae (aka ‘Lizzie’) at first considered to be the earliest reptile but now considered to lie on the amniote stem. Besides ‘Lizzie’ Tim has described no less than ten new tetrapods and fourteen new fish taxa from Scotland.

Between 2012-17, he became involved in the highly successful TW:eed (Tetrapod World: early evolution and diversification) project, which was led by the late Prof. Jenny Clack at Cambridge University. He currently holds a position with Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge and continues to publish on all manner of things fossilferous.

Tim’s provided a well-crafted talk telling us about the history of the people involved and also the nature of discoveries. From Prof Alfred Romer (1894-1973), through Prof Stanley Westoll FRS (1912-1995), a previous holder of the Clough Medal in 1976-77, and on until the late Stan Wood (1939-2012); Tim explained how each had played their part in filling the fossil record of the late Devonian/ early Carboniferous period between 359 and 330 Ma.

In his summary, Tim explained that:
• Vertebrates recovered quickly following the end-Devonian extinction;
• There is no evidence for either a fall in atmospheric oxygen or a post-extinction trough;
• Vertebrate diversity is much greater in the Early Carboniferous than previously recognised;
• For tetrapods this diversification probably began in the late Devonian; and
• Romer’s Gap is not a natural phenomenon but is an artefact of previous unsuccessful collecting.

The vote of thanks was given by Dr Dave Millward (ex-BGS) and who thanked Tim for an excellent talk which everyone had enjoyed. He was also thanked for a couple of things; i) being a Zoologist who was also interested in the rocks and ii) for Tim’s (and also the late Prof Jenny Clack’s) word-smithery around the naming of their fossils finds.

If Fellows weren’t able to attend physically or virtually, a recording can be found on our website.