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Elspeth Reid, 1942 – 2003

Elspeth Reid died suddenly in a road traffic accident on Saturday 22 February 2003. Elspeth was initially a linguist and her first degree was in English and French Literature at Edinburgh University where she graduated MA in 1963. After teaching in Madagascar she went onto gain a postgraduate diploma in Applied Linguistics at Edinburgh in 1968. She then returned to Africa – to Malawi and Tanzania, where her two children were born. When the family returned to the UK, Elspeth and her husband David purchased and worked a croft in the Highlands.

Once the children were old enough to go to primary school, she took the opportunity to start an Open University degree – her initial interest being ecology. However she was quickly attracted to geology, which was to become her major interest for the rest of her life. She graduated from the OU in 1982 in Earth and Environmental sciences. Not content with that she went on to complete an MSc at Aberdeen University on Sedimentary basin development in the Hebrides, aided by a Mobil Research Scholarship.

Elspeth began to realise her potential as a teacher and to develop her abiding belief in the value of life-long learning. She taught first, second and third level science courses for the OU. She also taught Earth Systems Science, Environmental Geology and Forestry and Conservation at Inverness College, but she was more than just a teacher. She helped students to learn but was constantly learning herself about how she was imparting learning and how she could improve on those skills. The documentation of this process led to the award of membership of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Elspeth gave selflessly to the cause of education and particularly Earth Science Education in its broadest sense. In the late 1980s she became very interested in NIREX’s investigations into possible sites for a deep repository for high-level nuclear waste. She wrote a very readable book entitled Rock Solid, (Tarragon Press, 1990), to inform the public of the geological issues that must by taken into account in making decisions about underground nuclear waste disposal. She was a member of the Scottish Qualifications Authority Geology Assessment Panel and of the emerging Scottish Earth Science Education Forum.

She was a prime mover in the RIGS movement in Northern Scotland and a member of the steering group on Scottish Geoconservation. Elspeth was a founder member of the Highland RIGS and its Chair from its inception (1995). Elspeth also took part in the initiative to establish a Scottish RIGS Association and put in place a National Strategy for RIGS in Scotland. The best tribute to Elspeth would be that the RIGS movement in Scotland grows and flourishes and especially in her beloved Highlands.

Elspeth was also an active researcher. In 1990 she was awarded a prestigious Churchill Travelling Fellowship and studied the geology and geomorphology of the Namib Desert. She completed her thesis for a PhD in the Department of Environmental Science at Stirling University (2001) and had recently begun research in the south Loch Ness area on the Dalradian, with colleagues from St. Andrews University. At the time of her death she was revising a paper on the chronostratigraphy of Mid and Late Holocene slope evolution.

Elspeth’s was a life overflowing with things to do, learn and tell others about. All of us who knew Elspeth could not but be affected by her warm personality. We have all been touched by her spirit – we are the better for having known her.

Stuart Monro
, compiled from contributions by her geological friends throughout Scotland