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Big boulders of Scotland (lecture)

Thursday, 10 March 2022
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Event Category:
Lecture Theatre 203, Boyd Orr Building
University Avenue
Glasgow, G12 8QW United Kingdom

Noel Williams, Lochaber Geopark

In April 1871 The Royal Society of Edinburgh appointed a committee to “make inquiry about boulders in Scotland”. The Committee on Boulders had two main aims:

1. To identify where boulders of interest were situated.
2. To indicate which boulders were deemed especially worthy of preservation.

The idea of setting up this committee was inspired by large surveys which had been set up in 1867 to record erratic boulders and “enormous heaps of gravel” in Switzerland and the Jura region of France.

David Milne Home was encouraged by Professor Favre of Geneva to organise a similar survey in Scotland. In order to set up such a widespread survey Milne Home made contact with church ministers, head teachers and landowners across Scotland. The Committee on Boulders collected data over 13 years (1871–84) and published 10 reports.

We will retrace the steps of Professor Heddle and local headmaster Colin Livingstone who recorded the position of large erratic boulders, as well as glacial striations, during lengthy outings on the hills in the Lochaber district around Fort William.

Noel has written and edited guide books that have inspired thousands of mountain walkers and climbers. His great knowledge of the mountains, shown in his books, guides and magazine articles, has been garnered through painstaking research and thousands of hours exploring the hills, from being author of Scrambles in Lochaber in 1985 to being editor of Highland Scrambles South for the SMC in 2017. His interest in geology has also reached print, and he was co-author of Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis (NCC 1989) and Exploring the Landscape of Ben Nevis & Glen Nevis (Nevis Partnership 2016). He has also contributed photos to a number of different guides.

Noel was a member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue team for many years and for a while was deputy leader. He was involved in some big lowers on the North Face of Ben Nevis, including the first night-time lower on the Orion Face. He retired from the team in 2011. He has also been a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) since 1982, where he took on roles of Vice President from 1997 to 1999 and President from 2014 to 2016. He was also editor of the SMC Journal from 2008 to 2014.

As one of the founding members of Lochaber Geopark (2003/4) Noel is Chairman/Director of the charity. He has also been a director of the Nevis Partnership for many years. The charity guides policies and actions to safeguard, manage and where appropriate enhance the environmental qualities and opportunities for visitor enjoyment and appreciation of the Nevis area.

Noel taught for 10 years at Lochaber High School where he was involved in running the school mountaineering club. Several of his pupils went on to become members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. He later taught at Kinlochleven High School until his retirement in 2005.

Although he claims to be not much of a runner, Noel Williams has completed 21 Ben Nevis Races, as well as Tranter’s Round and six marathons. He has also completed quite a few new routes on the sea cliffs of Skye.

This lecture will be held as a live event in the Boyd Orr Building but we also hope to provide online Zoom coverage. We hope that members can come to the talk in person as we don’t want the speaker to be talking to a sparse lecture theatre!

The talk will be in Lecture Room 203 on the ground floor, which is straight in front of you across the foyer as you enter the building. The lecture room is very big and therefore we do not need to have a booking process. Please space yourselves out appropriately and respect the university’s requirement to wear a mask inside the building at all times.

Socialising afterwards in the lecture room and foyer unfortunately will not be posible. Therefore we are suggesting that at the end of the Q&A we go directly to the Oran Mor at the top of Byres Road where we can get refreshments and sit at tables.

Society members for whom we have email addresses will be sent an invitation to the Zoom meeting a few days before the event. If you are a member but are not on our email list, or a non-member who would like to join the Zoom meeting, please email the society’s meetings secretary to request an invitation.