Alumni Services

In James Hutton's footsteps

The class of 1980 Geology reunited in Edinburgh in May for three days of activities and a few trips down memory lane.

Group of students outside the Grant Institute in 1980

The class of 1980 Geology reunited in Edinburgh during May 2023 for three joyful days of events in glorious weather. The build up to the event was as much fun as the event itself. Forty three years since graduating had left most of the group out of touch and so a small team appointed itself to regroup the class using the powers of social media. Graduates from the UK, North America and Europe assembled, and 5 joined by Zoom from Australasia and the USA bringing 25 together for this auspicious occasion.

Old haunts 

The reunion kicked off with an ‘unofficial’ meeting at noon at an old haunt, Sandy Bell’s bar, quickly followed by a brisk walk down to King’s Buildings. A splendid official reception at the Grant Institute (Geology Department) was laid on by the Alumni Services in the Cockburn Museum. School of Geosciences Head of School, Professor Bryne Ngwenya, welcomed the reunion group and provided an update focusing on the campus and ambitions of the School today. Roger Wightman gave a heartfelt response, reflecting on their experiences as students.

We were so lucky to experience so many field trips which ranked amongst the best times of our undergrad years, not only for their social element but also for the truly spectacular geology in Scotland.

The class were particularly touched by the number of former lecturers who joined the reunion at the Cockburn Museum. 

We now appreciate more than ever the staff commitment in developing the positive and engaging culture that made our time as students such a rich experience.

Roger Wightman

Evening festivities rolled on at an airy restaurant on George IV Bridge attended by not only the alumni and their partners but also some of their former lecturers: Godfrey Fitton, Brian Upton, Ben Harte, Alastair Robertson and Colin Graham. What an honour! Earlier in the day a delegation visited Trilobite world expert, Euan Clarkson, at his home. Roy Gill and Bryan Lovell also expressed fond memories of the class in their messages.

Siccar Point

Up early the next day, and off to East Lothian to meet for coffee and croissants before heading to Siccar Point, the location of one of the class’s first field trips. The unconformity at Siccar Point was first understood by James Hutton during the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment. Hutton’s observations became fundamental to modern geological thinking and revolutionised popular beliefs about the Earth and its creation. Theologian, mathematician, and scientist, John Playfair, joined his friend James Hutton on boat trips to Siccar Point and subsequently reflected “The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time”. What better place in the world could there be for a group of Geology graduates to ponder the passing of the years on their long overdue reunion?

Reunion group at Siccar Point

After lots of postulation about the rocks, and the 65 million year gap in the geological record, the group scampered back up the steep bank above the locality for a convivial picnic in the sun; just like the old days!

Party time

The ‘big’ party started when they arrived back at Iain Bartholomew’s farmhouse in Drem, East Lothian. Teas and scones were quickly replaced by beer and wine, accompanied by lots of great food, a barbeque and a celebration candle-lit cake. Iconic late 70s music filled the air and storytelling and laughter ensued as the group continued to pick up where they left off! A slide show of selected images from field trips and more brought it all back. There were even a few rock samples to examine! After a lot of emotional farewells, they headed back to Edinburgh to sleep.

1980 Geology Class reunion cake with candles

On the final day those still ‘standing’ met for a walk around the Lion’s Haunch of Arthur's Seat stopping en route to take in ‘Hutton’s section’, of course. The path took them to the Sheep Heid, a well-known watering hole in Duddingston, and there they spent a lazy afternoon until finally dispersing, vowing to meet again in 3 years from now.

Related links

Reunion website