Songs and recitations: Hazards of a Palaeontologist

The D G

This particularly scathing song attributed to E.H. Cunningham Craig, was about Archibald Geikie and expresses great distaste for him when he became Director General of the Survey in the 1890's

The D.G.

(with apologies to R.K. Ford Roberts)
(Songs of the Survey by a Junior Assistant, No. 4)

There's a sharpnosed little man, Archie G
Rides the highest horse he can, our DG
And his staff devoutly pray
He the penalty will pay
When it throws him, some fine day, Archie G


His official designation is DG
We await his resignation, eagerly
For his title, you must know
Should be written with an 0,
Slipped into the middle - so - D.O.G.

The name his parents called, our DG
Ends appropriately with 'bald', Archie G
Though his father doctored hair
He has little now to spare
As his soul his poll is bare, Archie G

Chorus..... His etc

He's half weasel and half rat, our DG
But he can't be called a flat, Archie G
He's a genius, taking pains
And celebrity he gains
Sucking other people's brains, Archie G

Chorus..... His etc

When we ask him for PA, our DG
He will have a lot to say, our DG
Tells us not to covet pelf
Throws our 'C forms' on the shelf
'Do you never help yourself Archie G

Chorus..... His etc

We've relied upon your word, Archie G
Till we found that course absurd, Archie G
You have lied and relied too
Ananias if he knew,
Would the kettle yield to you, Archie G

Chorus..... His etc

The Aged Palaeontologist

The poem, The Aged Palaeontologist probably refers to John Pringle who was employed by the Survey in 1901 as a fossil collector and who was later promoted to Palaeontologist to the Survey in 1934. This poem is attributed to 'The Wee Macgregor', Murray Macgregor, AD in Scotland from 1926 to 1945.

The Aged Palaeontologist

(A hitherto unpublished poem by Lewis Carroll)

Quite recently, one evening, as it was getting late
I met an aged man, a-sitting by a gate.
'Pray tell me what,' I asked of him, 'You do here all alone?'
He said, 'I hunt for scraps of shells and bits of fossil bone.'

'I search for Acidaspis spines and Calymene tails,
For bryozoa, crinoid cups and Cephalaspis scales.
I know their habits and their haunts; I call them all by name.'
'It sounds, my friend,' I said to him, 'a most peculiar game.'

'But what I'd like to know,' I said, 'is what you really do.'
He said, 'I search for Lingula and Streptorhynchus too.
I hunt for Tylonautilus through all the Border dales,
And follow Diplograptus o'er the mountain tops of Wales.'

'That's very brave of you,' I said, 'but tell me this, I pray.
What is the occupation that you follow day by day?'
'Oh well,' he said, 'I follow in the tracks of ancient life,
and hunt for giant molluscs on the rocky coasts of Fife.'

'My poor old friend,' I said to him, 'forgive me if I ask,
That you state in language clear what is your daily task.
I cannot comprehend at all the nature of your work.'
'Oh well,' he said, 'I haunt the shores where Rhynchonellas lurk.'

I gazed on him in sadness and I said in accents mild,
'Pray try to bring to mind the days when you were yet a child.
Did no-one teach you any trade, profession or employ?'
'Oh yes,' he said, 'I gathered graps when I was still a boy.'

'But when you came to manhood, Sir, did you not wish to be
A dentist or a grocer or a sailor on the sea,
A lawyer or a carpenter?' 'Oh no,' he said, 'my wish
Has always been to spend my days in catching fossil fish.'

'But please,' I said, 'I'd like to know the things that you have done.'
'There's hardly time for that,' he said, 'but here at least is one.
I've shown there's no Llandeilo and, deny it if you can,
The Glenkiln Shales, from base to top, are Caradocian.'

'You speak in language strange,' I said, 'I would not dare to doubt,
But even yet I am not sure what it is all about.
Have you done nothing else?' He frowned, 'I'd have you understand
That once I played a leading part in Skipsey's Marine Band.'

'Perhaps,' I asked, 'you played the flute?' He answered,'oh, no, no.
I merely mention it at all because I wish to show
How I've hunted Listracanthus and Pterinopecten too
From Rumbling Bridge to Sanquhar, and from Sanquhar down to Crewe.'

'You puzzle me, my friend,' I said, 'but let us try once more.
Can you not say in simple words what you have done of yore?'
'Oh yes' he said 'with pleasure; I'm very glad to state
That I found an Exogyra in a piece of Stonesfield Slate.'

'Dear me,' I said, 'how very odd, but is that really all?'
'Oh no,' he said, 'for maybe you'll allow me to recall
By far the proudest moment since the day that I was born
When I found an Artic Fauna in the Zone of Capricorn.'

It did not seem the slightest use. I gave it up at last.
'It's very nice to have,' I said, 'these glimpses of your past.
But now that you are drawing towards the evening of your days,
Do you not think it's time for you to try and mend your ways?'

'For now that you have reached,' I said, 'such a distressing age,
Do you not think you ought to rest?' 'Oh no,' replied the Sage.
'What you propose is quite absurd. I've many things to do
And if you'll pardon me I'd like to mention just a few.

I mean to prove the Highland nappes are not as Bailey states
By finding Mesograptus in the Ballachulish Slates.
I mean to show where Jehu erred and Campbell went astray
In all their work from Aberfoyle to far Craigeven Bay.

I mean to prove that Ledi Grits are early Eocene,
The Lias is fresh-water and the Bunter is marine.
That Richey's Moines are Trias; and when encrinites are found
In Craig's old paragneisses I'll be sure to be around.

There's Weir and Leitch from Glasgow too, I wonder what they'll say
When I rename all their mussels in a scientific way.
I don't like compromising or doing things by half
So I mean to deal with Trueman in a lengthy monograph.

There's a Begg from lone Balclatchie, there's Wright from Inverteil.
When I redescribe their fossils, well I wonder how they'll feel.
And if you will allow me, Sir, before we part tonight,
I'd like to demonstrate to you that Begg is never Wright!'

'Oh, not tonight, my friend,' I said, 'I could not stand the strain,
Perhaps some other evening we will meet and talk again.'
A thought has just occurred to me. He may be here tonight.
So if you come across him, friends, please try to be polite.

Scots Wha Hae

This poem was written in 1950 when the controversy over the origin of granite was at its height. Archie MacGregor dissented from the views put forward by Arthur Holmes - himself a Survey man before he went to the Chair at Durham - and partly supported by Read, Professor at Imperial College and also an ex-member of the Highland Unit.

Scots Wha Hae

Scots wha hae wi' Bailey sped,
Over Etive's watershed
Keep the cauldron glowing red:
Death to fantasy!

Now's the day and now's the hour,
See the Front of ions lour,
See approach proud Arthur's power,
Wha will be a broken Read?
Wha will pay the slightest heed?
We know well we do not need

Wha, by Hutton's ancient Law
Magmas forth will strongly draw,
Out of Vulcan's flaming maw,
Make true granite bree.

By our Bowens racked with pains,
By our Daly stoping strains,
We will keep our granite veins,
Igneous and free.

Mobilize, and forward go
To the front and shout Glencoe,
Sanity's in every blow,
Let us do or die!

R.B. (Bob) Wilson reciting 'Hazards of a Palaeontologist' during the 1957 Annual Geologists' Dinner