John Graham Ramsay

I was in the second cohort, I think, to take the new MSc course in Structural Geology and Rock Mechanics that John set up with Neville Price. I had met him in early 1970 when he gave a lecture at the University of Edinburgh and Mike Johnson introduced us. After the MSc I stayed at Imperial with John as my supervisor for my PhD until 1974 when I emigrated to Canada as a research assistant with John Starkey who had spent a sabbatical with John during the first year of my PhD, and whose petrofabric technique I used. I started my research on the shear zones at Laghetti with two weeks of field work with John, who lived with his wife and three children in a campervan while I camped. The evenings were spent in the campervan, inking in the map and compiling the strain measurements. And the children’s anoraks were tinged pink when I spilled a small bottle of drawing ink which leaked into the storage box below! Subsequent work was mainly in the NW Highlands where the deformed quartz-arenites were more amenable to the x-ray technique I was using. Towards the end of the MSc year, I recall being paired up with Chris Hartnady as we mapped the imbricate zone on the east side of Loch Eriboll and we tried, unsuccessfully, to keep up with John as he mapped them out, and being amazed at his resulting map.

John cultivated a very vibrant research group at Imperial. Not only did we have the older research students and post-docs but there were close links with those from the Sutton and Watson group and also from sedimentology with Doug Shearman and Peggy Wallace. There was Ernie Rutter, the Cobbold, Cosgrove, Summers trio, Rick Sibson, John Watkinson, Rod Graham, Mike Coward, Stan White and Alison Ries and my year group of Nigel Woodcock, Martin Casey and Rob Kerrich. John also attracted other eminent geologists to Imperial for a sabbatical or a shorter visit. Bill Fyfe came to lecture every other week and Fyfe-Price-Ramsay interactions were very stimulating. Prior to my time at Imperial, John had hosted an excursion along the Moine Thrust Zone for a group from Toulouse and a few of us were fortunate to be allowed to join him on the reciprocal excursion to the eastern Pyrenees in 1972, I think – another bonus of his reputation. On leaving Imperial, a year after John moved to Leeds, I went to Bill Fyfe’s department in Canada for 4 years. Since then, I have spent my working life in Scotland and it is his research here, as a PhD student working around Loch Monar with its refolded folds, that will come first to mind. It is these years at Imperial that have had a lasting impression on me; not so much the actual advice given but rather watching how he worked, his commitment to detail, the hard graft of a long evening after a long day in the field and – even – his wielding of a mop when a student had had too much to drink!

Since John’s move to Zurich, we would meet occasionally at conferences but it had been very many years until we met for the last time in Vienna in 2017

I send my condolences to Dorothee, to his three daughters and to Christine.

I attach three photos: one of my earliest from October 1970 at Coombe Martin in North Devon on our first excursion. Mervyn Paterson is in the group. One from a post-conference excursion to Cap de Creus in Catalonia in 1979 and one from my final meeting in Vienna in 2017.


Sarfaq Ittuk, Nuuk-Ilulissat, Sisimiut, the 12 of us

Iain Allison

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