Extracts from the Proceedings for previous anniversary years can be found here.
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150 years ago

Extracts from the Proceedings for 1868-69 (Session 11)

Meeting held on November 5, 1868

  Mr. JOHN YOUNG exhibited a vertical section of the strata in Gilmorehill Quarry, which he has constructed out of the pounded material of each stratum. The section is enclosed within a long wooden box, with a glass front, and is constructed on a scale of one-half inch to the foot. It exhibits in a clear manner the comparative thickness of each stratum, their natural colour, and the gradations they assume. It has been placed in the Hunterian Museum as a memorial of the quarry.

  Mr. JOHN YOUNG read a paper, "On the section of strata at present being worked in the western portion of the Gilmorehill grounds, for the purpose of obtaining building-stone for the erection of the new Glasgow University." The paper was illustrated by specimens of the sandstone, &c., and by vertical and horizontal sections of the strata in the quarry.

This paper was published in the society's Transactions for 1869 (Volume 3). It can be found here.

Meeting held on April 1, 1869

  Mr. ROBERT CRAIG, Langside, Beith, exhibited several species of arctic shells, recently discovered by Mr. Yates, junior, coalmaster, Kilmarnock, in sinking a pit, on the farm of Woodhall, near Kilmaurs. The shells were found in a thin bed of sand, one foot three inches in thickness, which in this new pit underlies fifty feet of boulder clay and upper drift, and overlies the bed in which the remains of the mammoth and reindeer were formerly found.

  Among the many shells found, the following species had alone been preserved, many having been broken during the process of extraction from the matrix, viz.:- Leda oblonga, Tellina calcerea, Pecten Islandicus, Cyprina Islandica, Astarte sulcata, A compressa, Natica Groenlandica and fragments of a large species of Natica and a Littorina.

  Mr. JOHN YOUNG exhibited a collection of upwards of 300 seeds of freshwater plants belonging to five or six species, the more abundant being a species of Potamogeton and a Ranunculus, recently obtained by him from the washing of a small piece of sandy clay, which had lain in the Hunterian Museum since 1829, being part of the matrix in which the tusk of the mammoth and horns of the reindeer found in the old Woodhill quarry, Kilmaurs, were embedded. Mr. Young said he had failed to discover any trace of marine organisms in the clay in question, and he was therefore of opinion that it was an old estuarine deposit, which at one time had partly filled up the Carmel Valley.

A fuller account of the above presentations was given in a paper published in Volume 3 of the society's Transactions (published in 1869). It can be found here.

Meeting held in April, 1869

  Professor Sir WILLIAM THOMSON, read a paper on "Geological Dynamics", in the course of which he replied to the criticisms of his views contained in the anniversary address to the Geological Society of London, by the President, Professor Huxley.

This paper was published in Volume 3 of the society's Transactions (published in 1899). It can be found here.

Summer exciursions, 1869

April 17.—Hurlet. Mr. Hull, F.R.S., Conductor. Train to Nitshill. Sections of carboniferous limestone, with intrusive trap dykes.

May 1.—Crofthead. Mr. Robert Craig, Conductor. Train to Crofthead. Lacustrine deposits and boulder clay.

’’ 15.—Thornton Quarries. Mr. James Thomson, F.G.S., Conductor. Train to Eaglesham Road Station on Kilbride Railway. Section of trappean ash in railway cutting—Sections of carboniferous limestone, trappean ash and boulder clay.

’’ —(Queen’s birth-day).—Bathgate. Dr. John Young, President, Conductor. Extensive sections of carboniferous limestone and shale, rich in corals and other fossils.

June 5.—Spout of Ballagan, Campsie Glen, and North Hill. (Joint Excursion with Edinburgh Geological Society). Mr. John Young, Conductor. Spout of Ballagan—natural sections of thin-bedded limestone capped by sandstone and trap. Campsie Glen—Ballagan Beds, overlaid with trappean ashes and trap. North Hill—sections of carboniferous limestone and eruptive traps.

A report of the June 5 excursion to Campsie Glen can be found here.


125 years ago

Extracts from the Proceedings for 1893-1894 (Session 36)

Meeting held on October 12, 1893

Dr. JOHN YOUNG, F.G.S., exhibited specimens of a White Vein-Quartz, enveloping crystallized calcite of a deep, reddish-brown colour. This is the Haematoconite of Hausman, a variety of red calcite seen in the Italian marble, "rosso antico." The specimens exhibited were found on the Corrie shore, Arran, during last autumn, by Dr. Thomas Young, of Manchester, and were presented by him to the Hunterian Museum. They formed part of a small boulder, the great contrast in colour between the pure white of the quartz and the red of the calcite giving the rock a striking and handsome appearance. Such colour appears to be rare in Scottish calcite.

Meeting held on November 9, 1893

Sir Archd. Geikie, Bart., [was elected] as President; the CHAIRMAN proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Lord Kelvin, the retiring President, for his long-continued services to the Society, and this was warmly approved of.

Mr. James S. M‘Lennan read a paper entitled "A Ramble up the Maich Water, Ayrshire." A short discussion followed.

This paper was published in Volume 10 of the society's Transactions (published in 1895). It can be found here.

Meeting held on January 11, 1894

The HON. SECRETARY (Mr. Murdoch) exhibited, on behalf of Mr. John Smith, specimens of Serpentine from the Boulder-clay near Lendalfoot, Ayrshire, and read some notes by Dr. Forster-Heddle on the occurrence in Ayrshire of this particular variety of the mineral. The find is of considerable interest, as serpentine, with veins of chrysotile, crystals of pseudo-enstatite, and precious serpentine, all of which are contained in Mr. Smith's specimen, has only been known previously to occur in Scotland at Colafirth, in Shetland. Its presence in the Ayrshire Boulder-clay seems to indicate that it may be found at no great distance in situ from the same locality. (See also March 8 extract.)

Dr. JOHN YOUNG, F.G.S., exhibited several specimens, as follows :—

1. Pearlstone, which belongs to the pitchstone group of the felspars, has a pearly lustre, and is sometimes found in small spherules, as in spherulite.

2. Uraninite or Protoxide of Uranium, from Perth, Western Australia. This mineral is of much value in the painting of porcelain, as it yields an orange colour in the enamelling fire, and a black colour in the baking furnace.

3. A new species of Sigillaria found by himself, in 1864, during the sinking of a pit to the Possil ironstone at Robroyston, north-east of Glasgow. This species had been recently described by Mr. Robert Kidston, F.G.S., in a paper to the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, as being the first British example of the Ribbed Sigillaria which had been found in strata older than the millstone grit series. Mr. Kidston had named it, after its discoverer, Sigillaria Youngiana, its provisional name having been S contracta, Brongt.

Mr. JOSEPH SOMERVILLE exhibited, with remarks, specimens of Magnesian Limestone, with Oolitic Structure, from Somersetshire—the stone of which St. Paul's Cathedral is built—also specimens of Magnesian or Dolomitic Limestone from Roker, near Sunderland, on the coast of Durham. Dr. Young and other members took part in the subsequent discussion on the structure of these limestones.

Meeting held on March 8, 1894

The HON. SECRETARY (Mr. Murdoch) exhibited specimens as follows :—

 1. Serpentine with Chrysotile, from Colafirth, Shetland, the only known locality for the latter mineral in Scotland until specimens of Serpentine containing it were found by Mr. John Smith in the Boulder-clay near Girvan.

 2. Steatite from the " Klebber Name Rock," a huge mass of the mineral which stands out cliff-like in the north end of Fethaland, Shetland. The softness of the rock, which allows it to be easily cut with a knife, has induced visitors for many years past to carve their names and initials upon its face, and the present specimen is part of the inside circle of a large O in the name Victoria, which had scaled off and fallen down.

Meeting held on April 12, 1894

The HON. SECRETARY (Mr. Murdoch) showed some fine specimens of Barytes, and part of the root of a Carboniferous Tree (Stigmaria ficoides), from the highest part of Eaglesham, Renfrewshire, which had been sent for exhibition by Mr. Allan Gilmour younger of Eaglesham. The latter specimen, which must have been transported by ice to the place where it was found, contained a portion of the large central pith, with the characteristic markings. Its perfectly round form showed that the root must have been fossilized while in a growing position, and without being crushed.

Meeting held on May 10, 1894

Mr. JOHN SMITH, V.P., exhibited a specimen of prismatic Sandstone, from Saltcoats. When the Caledonian Railway was being made, a bed of very fine grained sandstone, rendered prismatic by its proximity to trap, was passed through. Thinking from its appearance that it would make a good whetstone, Mr. Smith took a specimen, but on attempting to work it into shape he found it to be exceedingly hard, taking a polish and glitter like a cut agate.

Meeting held on May 31, 1894

Mr. JAMES NEILSON exhibited specimens of Zeolitic Minerals from the new Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway, near Bowling, including Prehnite, Analcite, Thomsonite, Lamontite, &c, making some remarks upon their occurrence. He also exhibited (2) a portion of a Glass-pot, shewing radiated prehnite-like structure from excessive firing, and (3) a specimen of Red Stilbite, said to have been got at New Kilpatrick. Mr. Neilson also exhibited a number of Worked Flints, from the Raised Beach at Larne, Co. Antrim, and read some interesting notes on the section there. Photographs of the locality and of the flints were thrown on the screen by the oxy-hydrogen lantern.


100 years ago

Extracts from the Proceedings for 1918-1919 (Session 61)

Meeting held on December 12, 1918

Mr. JAMES STARK read a paper on " The Glacial Origin of the Auld Wives' Lifts," and a short paper on "The Whangie."

This paper was published in Volume 16 of the society's Transactions (published in 1920). It can be found here.

Messrs. Dron, Macnair, Neilson and Tyrrell took part in the discussion, and Mr. Stark was warmly thanked for his interesting paper. 

For information about previous papers and discussions on the subject of The Auld Wives’ Lifts, and also about an excursion to the site, see Extracts from the Proceedings for Session 58 (1915-1916) and Session 59 (1916-1917).

Meeting held on February 13, 1919

Mr. G. W. TYRRELL delivered a lecture, entitled " Modern Views on Volcanoes.”

The older idea of volcanic activity was that steam escaping from magmatic solution was the chief agent in bringing about the ascent of the lava and the accompanying explosions. The essential features of volcanoes were the escape of lava and gases from a pipe or fissure. The gases observed, which differ in different volcanoes, were steam, hydrogen, methane, sulphur, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, chlorine, boric acid and carbon dioxide. 

In attempting to explain how volcanic vents are opened one had to consider the place of eruption and its persistence in one place, also its independence of neighbouring vents. Mr. Tyrrell then discussed the hypotheses put forward by Daly, Brun, Day and Shepherd. Prof. Daly's great contribution is the linking-on of volcanic activity with the vastly greater subterranean activity, and developed the gas-fluxing hypotheses of volcanic vents. Dr. Brun advocated the view that volcanic activity is essentially anhydrous; but this was disproved by Drs. Day and Shepherd, who actually collected the gases from the lava lake at Kilauea, and demonstrated the presence of water, although in comparatively small quantity. The other view of volcanic mechanism was that it was comparable to a steam engine; the more modern view is that the analogy is more with a gas engine actuated by internal combustion.

Meeting held on April 10, 1919

Mr. G. W. WILSON, H.M. Survey, read a paper on "The Millstone Grit Fireclays of North Ayrshire." These beds, when discovered by Mr. John Smith, were described by him as Volcanic Tuffs, but the discovery by Mr. Douglas of the highly refractory nature of the Monkcastle clay led to a reconsideration of the whole deposit of the Bauxitic clays. The outcrop has been traced from Saltcoats to Kilmarnock, and deposits of a similar nature occur at Mauchline, Sanquhar, Stranraer, and in Arran. The material is very black, hard and non-plastic, and contains many oolites. Its Al203 content runs from 26 to 50 per cent. When exposed to high temperatures rosettes of sillimanite, coloured blue possibly by titanium, are formed. This, as well as the oolitic structure, was demonstrated by a series of photomicrographs. With regard to the origin of those deposits the lecturer put forward the hypothesis of tropical conditions acting on the beds of lava, on which perhaps a hummocky surface permitted the formation of extensive pools of stagnant shallow water, with abundance of decaying vegetable matter giving rise to CO. C02 CH4 gases. The gases, by reducing action, might render soluble the iron and alumina, and lead to their segregation in different parts of the deposit. The oolitic structure of the alumina particles seemed to suggest that this mineral might, under certain circumstances, pass into solution. The deposits elsewhere are regarded by Mr. Wilson as due to redistribution. 

Mr. TYRRELL asked if any evidence had been noticed as to volume change, but Mr. Wilson said he had none, as the rock is non-porous. Mr. Macnair also took part in the discussion. 

A hearty vote of thanks was accorded Mr. Wilson.

Meeting held on May 8, 1919

Mr. H. R. J. CONACHER read a paper on the "Micrology of the Oil Shale Series." It was pointed out that the most striking features of the sandstones was the angularity of the grains, and the occasional presence of fresh and angular particles of volcanic rock. The cement of these sandstones is generally calcareous, and frequently constitutes a very large percentage of the whole rock as seen in thin section. 

Some clue is given as to the age of this cement by its relation to the oil which sometimes saturates the rock, and the age of which can be fixed by that of the igneous rock which distilled it from the shales. Occasionally the sandstone occurs as very thin ribs in blaes, or even as a single layer of sand grains along the bedding plane, as if strewn across the wet surface of mud by wind. The sandstones sometimes pass by imperceptible gradations into dense hard oolites. When a nucleus can be detected in the oolitic grain it is generally found to be a fragment of plant tissue still showing the structure, but signs of animal life are rare, except carbonised worm tubes, although an oolitic limestone may pass either upwards or downwards into an entomostracan seam. Spirorbis limestones occasionally occur, and the frequent ostracod beds present numerous interesting features under the microscope. Not the least interesting part of Mr. Conacher's notes was the very fine series of some fifty micro-sections by which it was illustrated. These were exhibited with the Society's micro-projector, and were demonstrated by Mr. Conacher. Mr. Conacher was complimented for the skill and industry in which his researches on the oil shales and their origin were being prosecuted, and a hearty vote of thanks was awarded him.


75 years ago

Extracts from the Proceedings for 1943-1944 (Session 86)

Meeting held on October 9, 1943

This meeting was held in the Geology Department, The University, where tea was served in the Palaeontological Laboratory. 

At the first meeting of Session 82, held in the Hunterian Museum on October 21, 1939, a decision had been taken that, under war conditions,“ the Society should endeavour to carry on its meetings as regularly as possible, but that the day and time should be changed to Saturday at 3 p.m.”  Five years later, at the first meeting of Session 87, held in the Geology Department on October 14, 1944, it was decided “ to revert to evening meetings to be held on the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.”  It appears that, during the Second World War, the October meetings of Sessions 83 to 87 (1940 to 1944) were held in the Geology Department of the University. Although the minutes do not record where the remaining meetings of each session were held, it may be assumed that they took place in what previous minutes refer to as “Society’s Rooms, 207, Bath Street, Glasgow"; this building was owned by the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, and, between 1880 and 1961, it was also the principal venue for meetings of the Geological Society of Glasgow. 

Meeting held on November 13, 1943

The President [Dr. John Weir] announced that Dr. E. B. Bailey had been awarded a Royal Medal of the Royal Society.

Dr. J. B. Simpson delivered an address on “The Study of Fossil Pollen Grains." He pointed out that the serious study of fossil spores has been confined to the last twenty-five years, and went on to describe the work done by others on fossil pollen grains in peat mosses and in Tertiary coals and lignites, as well as on spores in coals of Carboniferous age. Dr. Simpson's own work was the study of pollen in Tertiary coals and in coal seams occurring in Upper Cretaceous, Lower Cretaceous, and Jurassic strata. Most of the plants are still flourishing and so the fossil pollen can be compared with that of living forms. The method of study was described in some detail. The lecturer then showed lantern slides of fossil pollen grains of alder, maple, conifers, and water-lily, together with corresponding living forms. In the case of the alder and maple, it was pointed out that the British Tertiary pollen grains are allied to present-day Asiatic forms. 

Meeting held on December 11, 1943

Dr. G. W. Tyrrell exhibited a series of lantern slides illustrating some mineral deposits of Soviet Russia. The slides were made from photographs taken by Dr. D. Williams who was Dr. Tyrrell's companion on the expedition to the Kola Peninsula during the Geological Congress in Russia in 1937.

Meeting held on January 8, 1944

Dr. T. Robertson delivered a lecture on " The Limestone Resources of Scotland," in which he summarised the results of the investigations on Scottish limestones carried out recently by the Geological Survey with the collaboration, on the chemical side, of the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research. The results of this work are now available in a series of eight wartime pamphlets issued by the Geological Survey.

Meeting held on March 11, 1944

Dr. J.C.G. Anderson gave an address on “Scottish Slates” and summarised the results of the work recently carried out by Dr. J.E. Richey and himself on the slate deposits of Scotland (see Geological Survey Wartime Pamphlets, No. 40, May, 1944). An exhibit of slates arranged by Mr. T. Graham and others interested in the industry were on view and both visitors and members took part in the discussion which followed the lecture.


50 years ago

Extracts from the Proceedings for 1967-1968 (Session 110)

The obituary of James Ernest Richey appeared in the Proceedings for Session 110. James Richey was president of the society from 1929 until 1932. The obituary can be seen here.

A paper entitled "Quaternary deposits near Garscadden Mains, Glasgow" by W. G. Jardine was also published in this volume of the Proceedings. This paper can be seen here.

Meeting held on February 8, 1968

Two lectures were given at this meeting. The Proceedings contain the following summary of the first of these.

“Collecting on the Great Devonian Barrier Reef of W. Australia”
by Dr. W. D. Ian Rolfe.

The speaker, who was a member of the 1967 Joint British Museum, Hunterian Museum and Western Australia Museum expedition to the Fitzroy region, discussed how sedimentation in Middle and Upper Devonian times took place in the large intracratonic Canning Basin in northern Western Australia. Stromatoporoid reefs, which grew on a more stable, fault bounded shelf forming the northern edge of this basin, are now exposed as one of the finest examples of a palaeozoic reef complex. A great variety of facies is present and several rock units, some formerly thought to be of Carboniferous and Permian age, have recenty been shown, by refined correlation using ammonoids and conodonts, to be facies equivalents of the reef proper. Collecting was confined to concretions from the inter-reef facies which were known to yield a unique assemblage of at least six phyllocarid crustaceans and a number of early fish.


25 years ago

Extracts from the Proceedings for 1992-1993 (Session 135)

Meeting held on October 8, 1992

The new session again started with a social evening. This time it was to mark the publication of a new guide, ‘Geological Excursions around Glasgow and Girvan’. A small presentation was made to the two editors – Doctor J.D. Lawson and Doctor D.S. Weedon – and to the person who won the competition to supply the photograph chosen for its cover, Professor B.J. Bluck.

Meeting held on January 14, 1993

The original speaker intended for the 14 January meeting called off. Dr. Con Gillen (Centre for Continuing Education, University of Edinburgh) kindly agreed to step into the breach at very short notice and to give a talk on “The Kola Superdeep Borehole, Arctic Russia.”

The Superdeep Borehole being drilled at Zapotyarny in northern Russia is the world’s deepest scientific well. It is located close to the town of Nickel on the border with Norway and Finland and is situated within the Pechenga copper—nickel ore field. Drilling has been continuing for 20 years, and the present depth of l2,266 metres has been reached on several occasions, due to technical problems causing collapse and the need for parallel wells to be drilled. The upper 7km of the section consists of Proterozoic volcanics and metasediments with several ore rich horizons, Archaean gneisses form the lower part, the lowermost unit so far encountered being a strongly sheared biotite-feldspar gneiss. No granulite facies rocks have been drilled to date. It is intended that drilling will continue to the planned depth of 15km.

The lecture considered the geology, geophysics and drilling technology of the well and the geological structure of the surrounding region in the Kola Peninsula, and discussed the progress of the large-scale joint international seismic experiment conducted in the spring of 1992, in which the speaker was among a team who carried out a 45km long surface reflection profile, linked to a 6km deep vertical seismic profile within the borehole.

Library Report (Session 135)

The Society’s library, together with that of the Department, was completely reorganized this session. Thanks to a donation to the Department, by B.P., of a large amount of library shelving, the library annexe is now fully equipped. This has allowed the annexe to be filled with the Journal collection, some runs coming from storage. The space created in the library itself has been further reorganized and the full reorganization is now complete. A new library location plan will be issued shortly.

The reorganization generated a considerable amount of surplus material which the Council has authorized the librarian to dispose of. This material consists of duplicates, old stock, out of date (19th century) serials, etc. and will be removed section by section, with members having first refusal (or opportunity to purchase).

A new library leaflet for members is in preparation and will be issued to all members next session.

New books purchased this session cover as wide a spectrum as ever. The guides this year include those to the English Lakeland, Epping Forest, and the Quaternary of British regions and of China and Slovakia. Basic texts include the new edition of Holmes’ ‘Principles of Physical Geology’ (ed. Duff), and Butler and Bells’ ‘Interpretation of Geological Maps’. Derek Ager’s last, and still controversial, book ‘The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record’ is on the shelves. Two rather unusual books, ‘A Faculty for Science’ and ‘From Anatomy to Zoology’ represent part of the celebrations of the centenary of the University’s Faculty of Science.

Regular borrowers this session numbered 22 (28 last session), borrowing between them 85 items (107 last session). One item of stock was destroyed while on loan - by the explosion of a melon in Death Valley - a story so tall that the librarian had no recourse but to believe it! The book was replaced by the borrower.

C.J. Burton

Chris Burton retired from the society's council in December 2017, after 45 years of continuous service.

Appreciation: Elizabeth R. Brock

Miss Brock, known as “Sally” to her close friends, was the oldest member of the Society at her death in September 1992, aged 97. She was also our longest serving member.

Born in Dumbarton, she moved at age two to the house that was to remain her home until her death. Appropriately enough, this house was known as “Spittal Cottage”, apparently named after the source of the flags which formed the front path. Many years later, she was to search for fossil fish in the quarry in the village of Spittal which had given the house its name.

After completing her schooling in Dumbarton, Miss Brock progressed to the University of Glasgow, where she studied mathematics. As a female student, her degree required to be that of Master of Arts, subject notwithstanding. It was whilst at University that her interest in geology was kindled.

After leaving University, Miss Brock entered teaching. She first spent a short period teaching in the Hebrides. Thereafter she returned home to teach mathematics to countless pupils in Dumbarton Academy for the rest of her working life. Shortly after this return home, she joined the Geological Society of Glasgow, in 1927. She was a member of the Society for 64 years, eventually becoming one of the rare band of honorary members.

In geology Miss Brock’s interests were wide. She collected mineral specimens in the Lang Craigs near Dumbarton in the heyday of that locality. She collected fossils throughout Scotland and further afield. Though always stating that she lacked the necessary patience to collect fossils successfully, her collection showed that she was perfectly able with hammer in hand.

Miss Brock served on the Society’s Council as an ordinary member and then for 14 years until 1970 was the Excursion Secretary. This was a period of rapid expansion in the membership of the Society. This was due in no small part to her efforts in attracting additional members, particularly at the exhibition staged by the Society to mark its centenary in 1958.

Outside of geology, Miss Brock had wide interests in natural history, especially in birds and wild flowers. She was for many years a member of the Andersonian Society (later to become the Glasgow Naturalists). She was the last founder member of the West Dunbartonshire Natural History Society still to attend its meetings. A few years before her death she was active in the establishment of the Dumbarton Natural History Society.

For many years Miss Brock shared house with another spinster sister. Miss Brock worked to earn their keep; her sister kept home. Not until the death of her sister, in Miss Brock’s late sixties, did she start to learn to cook. Like anything else which she threw her energies into, she became accomplished at this too. One of my abiding memories of Miss Brock will always be her efforts to learn to speak German. She was in her 75th year when she started. Her classes involved a twice weekly train trip from Dumbarton to Glasgow. The reason for all this effort? She wished to be able to speak more easily with the locals when she went on her annual walking and mountain flower hunting trip to the Alps!

Always willing to give of her time to encourage newcomers to geology, especially youngsters, Miss Brock will be fondly remembered by all those who knew her. With her passing ends a link to the past of our Society. She could remember lectures by all of the great names of Scottish geology before the last war. To many of us who knew her well the Society will never be quite the same place without her.