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Frank May, 1934-2006

Family, friends and colleagues of Frank May were shocked by his sudden and unexpected death, walking on the Pentland Hills near his home in Edinburgh, while keeping fit for his 2006 field season in the Scottish Highlands.

Frank was introduced to the Highlands while a student at Kingston Polytechnic (now University) by Head of the Geology Department, Doug Whitten - who each summer packed the whole department into a lorry and took them camping in Assynt. The direction of his future career was consolidated when he accepted a PhD project to map the northern part of Lochalsh, in the West Highlands, supervised by Professor John Sutton at Imperial College, London.

Frank proved to be a dedicated, thorough, careful and meticulous field mapper, never happier than when he was out in the field tracing complicated outcrops and complex structures, and never daunted by adverse weather conditions. It was therefore inevitable that he would apply to join the British Geological Survey and would be accepted into the Highland Unit to complete the geological mapping of the Scottish Highlands, a task to which he dedicated himself for almost 50 years.

Frank's first assignment was as part of the BGS team mapping the Loch Lochy Sheet 62E, followed by work on the Elgin Sheet 95. In the succeeding years he worked on a series of sheets adjacent to the Great Glen, including Dalwhinnie (63E), Glen Roy (Sheet 63W), Invermoriston (Sheet 73W), Glen Affric (Sheets 72W) and Kintail (Sheet 73E). Parts of these areas are relatively inaccessible, being reached only from tented camps and by boat.

Frank went on to map the Shetland Islands and Fair Isle (Parts of Sheets 123, 124, 125, 126 and 128, 166, 59N-02W, 60N-02W) where he formed a good working relationship with Professor Derek Flinn. As well as mapping metamorphic rocks Frank was equally conscientious in mapping the Quaternary 'Drift' deposits. Frank's contributions to the mapping and interpretation of the geology of the Highlands is recorded in maps and sheet memoirs, in several of which he was the lead author, and also in his original field slips and fair copies, now housed in the Survey Offices at Murchison House.

In addition to his mapping duties Frank was called upon log the geology of tunnels for hydroelectric schemes and to report on mineral (copper and kaolin) in Shetland, barytes in Aberfeldy, and sand and gravel deposits in the Highland Region. He also acted as a professional witness for the local authority during a claim by the railway company to close the track between Kyle-of-Lochalsh and Inverness following a landslide on the southern side of Loch Carron, which lay within his PhD mapping area.
From time to time he was called upon to lead excursions for local geological societies to the areas in which he was working. After retirement he was contracted by the Survey to revise geological map sheets in the West Highlands along the Moine Thrust, work which he was looking to continue during the 2006 field season.

Frank's memorial is to be found in his maps, memoirs and published papers. His colleagues in the Highland Unit of the Survey agree that he was the best geological field mapper of his generation and a worthy successor to the original surveyors (Peach, Horne and Clough) of the geology of the West Highlands.

Frank is survived by his wife Annette, children Linda, Gavin and Lucy and one grandchild.

Tony Barber