Humberside Geologist No. 14

Humberside Geologist Online

Michael House remembered,

by Dr. Peter McCabe


While doing a Google search I accidentally came across Roger Hewitt's tribute to Michael House. It brought back many memories for me. Those happy recollections of an enjoyable but rigorous undergraduate education at Hull University are a fitting tribute to Prof. House because his leadership of the department helped many of us get a training that has stood as a firm foundation for our own geologic careers.

Roger's diary entries include episodes that I recall clearly to this day. The "enjoyable and relaxing" lecture on paleontology and the thorough and exacting details in the crystallography lecture on our first day at university probably sowed the seeds of my decision to pursue a career in soft-rock geology. Arthur Fraser gave an elegant exposition on crystallography and was always patient with us as we tried to understand the meaning of those incredible psychedelic views down the petrographic microscope. However, I have never been one who felt comfortable with symmetry and constancy of angles. I felt more at home with the swirls and curves of the fossils I had been collecting since a small lad on the beaches of North Yorkshire. But it was the meandering, dendritic, anastomosing, wavy, and other fascinating forms of sedimentary rocks that really caught my attention. Brian Waugh's superb lectures got me hooked on sedimentology - a subject that I find exciting and rewarding to this day.

The superb outcrops of the Donegal coast provided an ideal setting for our introduction to geologic mapping. 35 years later I almost remember those Dalradian dykes as clearly as I remember the bullet that came through the train window as a group of us made our way from Belfast to Londonderry heading to the field area in Donegal. The bullet missed my head by about 2 feet. Thankfully it was my one and only experience of gunfire, although I have now lived in what used to be the Wild West for half of my life. 1969 was the height of "the troubles" and we witnessed sit-down protests and minor rioting in Londonderry - my first exposure to civil rights demonstrations.

The Donegal trip was the first of many fieldtrips that I went on that were led by members of the Hull Geology Department. Days in the field with Lewis Penny, John Neale, Norman Angus and others provided a superb complement to the information and methodologies we learned in lectures and labs. I certainly remember the day in the pouring rain at Cayton Bay (30 May 1969 according to Hewitt's diary). I still recall the anguish of those who had to climb back up the cliff to buy notebooks (after a thorough chastisement from Prof. House) and the seeming triumph of finding the Millepore Bed. Years later I realized some of Prof's approaches had rubbed off on me when some of my students fondly recalled similar stories about my fieldwork teaching techniques!

There are many other memories of those days at Hull University. The Harker Society gave me my first taste of the importance of geologic societies in broadening our horizons and promoting our science. John Neale encouraged a group of us to see the geology of Iceland one summer. I also remember breaking out in a cold sweat in finals when I realized I had to write a three-hour essay on "Order and disorder in feldspars"! And finally I recall the strawberries and cream after graduation and Mark Piasecki's kind words to my parents.

I'm now a senior research geologist at the US Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado. If by chance anyone from the Hull Geology Class of 71 reads this I would love to hear from you (email - pmccabe @ - but miss out the spaces).


(c) Hull Geological Society 1999 + 2007