A bit of history

The Edinburgh Geological Society is one of the UK’s largest and oldest geological societies, with a membership of about 550 drawn mainly from Scotland but also spread worldwide. It was founded in 1834 with the stated aim “to encourage public interest in geology and the advancement of geological knowledge”, an aim to which we still adhere today. The Laws of the Society drawn up at that time set the framework for the Society’s activities, though they have since been modified many times to reflect changing times in our affairs. The Society’s Archive, held in the Special Collections of the Library of the University of Edinburgh, records its long history. With close links to the British Geological Survey’s Edinburgh office, the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, and National Museums Scotland, the EGS benefits greatly from having many professional geologists among its members to underpin the programme arranged for the amateur membership.

The winter programme

At the core of the Society’s activities for members are the winter lectures and the summer field excursions. The Society’s “year” runs from October to October. About 10 lectures are given fortnightly on Wednesday evenings from October through to March. These are currently held in the Grant Institute, on the King’s Buildings site of Edinburgh University on West Mains Road, which houses the University’s School of Geosciences. The lecture programme is notified to members in the first Billet of each year which is sent out in late September. Lectures are generally aimed at the informed amateur and range across a wide variety of subjects, covering geological research and theory world-wide, as well as key areas of Scottish geology.

We join with the Geological Society of Glasgow, our sister society, in inviting a celebrity lecturer to present the James Wright Memorial Lecture which is given in Glasgow and in Edinburgh in alternate years.

Then there is our Fellows’ Night, an evening when any member can give a short talk or display on a topic they are involved with. This is where we discover the talent among us and people can have feedback on what others think of their ideas.

Summer excursions

From April to September we arrange field excursions so that members can get a feel for the rocks and the geological structure of Scotland: “the best geologist is the one who has seen most rocks”. The programme of excursions is published in the Billet in early April. Six to eight Saturday excursions go by coach from Edinburgh for a full day in the field, and shorter trips on three or four Wednesday evenings visit localities close to or within the city.

Further afield, there is one weekend excursion and one full week’s excursion every year. These are usually to highland or island locations in Scotland, where we feel that the EGS has a special role to play, but occasional weekends have been spent in the north of England, and the week’s Long Excursion has in the past been to Eire, to Northern Ireland, to the Isle of Man and to southwest England.

Keeping in touch

The Billet comes out four times a year and is the main contact between the Society’s Council and its membership. As well as giving details of forthcoming lectures and excursions, the Billet notifies members of all Society affairs and carries announcements of geological events organised by other bodies. Any member can submit items for the billet, provided they are clearly relevant to the Society’s business and of interest to other members. Contact details for key officers of the Society are given inside its front cover.

The Society’s website at www.edinburghgeolsoc.org has full information about the Society, its activities and its publications. Keep an eye on it for updates and last-minute news as the year goes by.
The Edinburgh Geologist is the magazine of the Society where members can submit articles on any geology-related subject. It is published twice a year and provides a revealing view of the various interests of the Society’s members. The Edinburgh Geologist is also the official organ carrying annually the Proceedings of the Edinburgh Geological Society.

The social side

Field excursions often seem as much social events as scientific occasions, when people meet up with their friends and catch up on news. The Annual Social Evening, held in the first week of December to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Society, is ourown Christmas party where we get together for an evening of good food and good company. And after every evening lecture people meet and talk over tea and biscuits.

Geological Publications

The Society publishes a number of field guides to the geology of different areas of Scotland, which guide readers to the most important rock exposures in any area and explain their significance. These are available to members at reduced price (see enclosed list), while their public sales are an important source of revenue for the Society.

The Scottish Journal of Geology is our scientific journal, of international standing, edited jointly through the Edinburgh and the Glasgow Geological Societies who contribute equally to its funding. Published twice yearly, it is sent to all except Senior, Family and Associate members. Junior Associates can buy it at a reduced price. Funding
The Society’s income comes partly from the subscriptions of its members, partly from sales of its publications, and partly as investment income from financial reserves built up over the years. There are no paid staff; all office bearers work on an honorary basis. The costs of most Society activities are met from within the Society’s funds. However, members attending day excursions are asked to contribute part of the cost of hiring a coach. The residential weekend and week-long excursions are paid for out of members’ own pockets, though with a subsidy from central funds to cover the expenses of invited geological leaders.


The Clough and Mykura Funds, accumulated from bequests and memorial contributions, are used to provide several awards. The Clough Medal is the Society’s premier award, presented to a distinguished geologist who is invited to lecture on his or her subject on the occasion of the presentation of the medal. The Clough Memorial Award is a monetary prize to a young geologist who is similarly invited to lecture on his or her research. Small grants from the funds can be given to support specific field research projects.

Library facilities

The Society itself purchases geological texts which are housed in the University of Edinburgh’s Robertson Engineering and Science Library on the King’s Buildings campus. EGS members are entitled to reading and borrowing rights at all branches of the Edinburgh University Library.

GeoConservation Groups and geological conservation

Local Geodiversity Sites (previously known as RIGS) have been designated throughout the UK for special protection because of their importance to the development of geological knowledge. The EGS hosts three GeoConservation groups which get involved in the conservation and interpretation of a number of Local Geodiversity Sites across east Scotland. Society members are involved in site conservation and the publication of descriptive leaflets for the public, and also in proposing possible new sites for designation.

Governance of the Society

The Society is a registered charity whose affairs are looked after by a Council composed of 14 Office-Bearers and 6 Ordinary Members. Its composition is stipulated in the Laws of the Society. Members of Council are elected at the Annual General Meeting of the Society each November, and any full member of the Society may stand for election. The Council’s work is carried on through a number of subcommittees whose members come both from Council and from the general membership:

  • The Excursions Committee plans the excursion programme.

  • The Publications Committee plans the publication of our excursion guides and liaises with the editorial board of the Scottish Journal of Geology.

  • The Clough Committee administers the Clough and Mykura Funds, deciding who shall receive the Clough Medal and Clough Memorial Award, and allocating grants from the funds.

  • The Planning and Finance Committee acts to support the Honorary Treasurer in reviewing the Society’s financial affairs, and promotes ideas for new initiatives in Society activities.

  • Lothian & Borders GeoConservation, Stirling RIGS and Tayside Geodiversity are all subcommittees of the Society.

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