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Dr Andy Lane

Fifty Years a Geologist  I graduated in 1963 from Birmingham University with an Honours BSc in Geology, but my interest in the topic goes way back into my childhood, living on the edge of the Cotswolds, and lucky enough to holiday most years in Cornwall.  How could anybody not get interested in fossils, minerals and rocks in such an environment? The BSc was followed by a PhD, looking at aspects of the geology of Cornwall, then it was off to Uganda as a section geologist at Kilembe Copper Mine, in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains – fascinating geology and stunning scenery! 

A spell of work for the then National Coal Board in South Wales followed, some underground production work balanced by surface surveys of spoil tips in the Valleys (this was the aftermath of the Aberfan tip disaster).  During my time in South Wales, I had a taste of teaching through the Extra Mural Dept of Cardiff University, and this changed my career direction.

In 1973 I took up a fulltime teaching post in the School of Mines, University of Zambia, Lusaka. In this period we set up a brand new Dept of Geology in the School, and working with the Copperbelt mining companies , designed and taught a very successful  three year degree course (which I believe is still running).  I was able to keep my hand in with coal by consulting with Maamba Collieries who operated in the Zambesi Valley, and helped survey potential damsites on the Luapula River on the (then) Zaire border. In 1979 I took up a short contract with the Zambian Geological Survey, working on map production, at the same time teaching part-time at the University. 

In the very early 1980’s it was back to the UK and a move up to the North East. Full time geology degree teaching at what was the Sunderland Polytechnic continued through the years (and the change to University status) till 2004 and the closure of a geology department that was respected and acclaimed throughout the region, but was never allowed to expand to a viable size.

This is not the end of the story, though. I taught geology part-time at the then Centre for Lifelong Learning in Newcastle, presenting various course and one-off talks, and running weeklong field courses. One of these even took us to Tenerife!  Lifelong Learning was in turn killed off by funding cuts, but the Explore programme (see later) has arisen phoenix-like in its place, and I contribute a little to that. I present at least one geology course a year at Age UK, Sunderland, and give occasional talks to local clubs and societies.  I still have an interest in field work (the best way to learn geology) and we recently completed a week in North Somerset with an informal group of 16.  Pressure on my time means though that future field work will be restricted to weekends or single day trips.


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