Department of Geology Centenary Reunion and book launch for
“Sorby’s Legacy: Geology at the University of Sheffield”

Alumni at the Geology Reunion in 2013

21 September 2013

On the morning of 21 September, the sun came out and participants gathered early in Durham Road, south of the Octagon Centre.

A group of about 30 boarded a coach and set off on a geological field trip to Derbyshire, while a smaller group went to Chatsworth House aboard a minibus. The field trip started at Mam Tor, the higher elevation meant that we did find the clouds, but then a geology field trip wouldn’t feel authentic without rain! The morning session was led by Andy Wright (Dual Honours Geology/Geography 1971) before lunch was taken at various cafes in Castleton. The afternoon visit, in glorious sunshine, to the Stoney Middleton area was led by John Hunter, not a Sheffield geologist (BSc Exeter, MSc Leicester), but husband of the book’s author. Meanwhile the Chatsworth group enjoyed their visit to the outstanding stately home and its impressive grounds. All returned to Durham Road before 4pm, having had the opportunity to get to know fellow alumni from a great span of decades – a good ice-breaker.

At 6pm all was in place for the Centenary Dinner at Firth Court, guests were welcomed, given name tags, provided with refreshments and had the opportunity to buy a copy of the book Sorby’s Legacy: Geology at the University of Sheffield and have it signed by the author, Alison Hunter. The evening was fine and everyone drifted out into the quadrangle at Firth Court, where eventually Mike Sarginson and Dave Ashby managed to gather everyone together for a group photograph. Guests were summoned to dinner in Firth Hall and grace was said by the Rev Malcolm Convery (BSc Geology 1963). The dinner was delicious and immaculately served by the University’s hospitality team. The chatter from 140 people catching up on news and gossip grew in volume. Alumni ranged from a BSc in 1957 to a recent palynology PhD in 2012, so there was plenty to talk about. By the time we got to dessert, Mike Sarginson’s compilation of student photographs was screened on a continuous loop and then an edited version of an 8mm film of a geology field trip (in the rain) to Scotland in 1953 caused much amusement.

Miles Stevenson, Director of Alumni and Donor Relations, gave a speech welcoming the alumni back to the University and saying how important the relationship between the former students and the University was. Emeritus Professor Alan Spears lamented the closure of the Department but was delighted that so many of its graduates had gone on to enjoy fulfilling careers as a result of their time in Sheffield. Reunion Committee Chairman Mick Harvey expressed thanks to the speakers, members of the committee, the hospitality team, Alumni Office staff and to all the people attending the event.

A display of memorabilia had been set up on tables and notice boards, including photographs and guest lists from the 50th Anniversary Dinner which had also been held in Firth Hall in 1963. A few guests had attended both events! Class photographs dating back to the 1940s were on show. Many new connections crossing the generations were formed and it was a most successful and enjoyable evening, although tinged with some sadness because the Department itself no longer existed.

The project to research the history of the Department was started by members of the Class of ’71 in 2011 and Alison Hunter was persuaded to take on the task of writing a book. As a result of an appeal via the Alumni Office for information to record the history of the Department, there was a growing demand from Alumni for a Geology Centenary Reunion. This resulted in the Class of ’71 forming a committee.

The 2013 Reunion Committee
Chairman: Mick Harvey
Treasurer/Registrar: Jenny & Dave Ashby
Author: R. Alison Hunter
Reception: Bettie Higgs
AV & Photography: Mike Sarginson
Master of Ceremonies: Andrew Bell
Geology Field Trip: Andy Wright & John Hunter
Chatsworth Trip: Rod Hill

We thank alumnus Alison Hunter (1971, BSc Geology), for the above report and fellow alumnus Mike Sarginson (1971, BSc Geology) for the image.

For more images of the day visit