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Mike Golden 1947-2015

GoldenExploration geologist, consultant and polymath who specialised in technical Russian translation services and retrieving vintage paper-era data

Mike Golden passed away peacefully on 31 August 2015.  Mike was a talented geologist, an unparalleled friend whose social life was associated with PESGB and music.

Mike was a polymath: musician, scientist, linguist – fluent in Russian, French, Swahili and Ukrainian – environmentalist, gentleman farmer as well as a raconteur.  His sense of humour was legendary. 

He was born in 1947 in Greenock and attended the grammar school.  His love of climbing and walking in the Scottish Highlands with their amazing geology made his decision to follow a career in geology a relatively easy one.  He took his first degree at Glasgow University, followed by a PhD at Bedford College, London.

From his early days as a PhD Demonstrator at Bedford College, Mike was an enthusiastic mentor for aspiring young geologists.  Bedford’s study focus at that time was on the East African Rift and undergrads were regaled with stories of rock collecting in the Rift Valley (local tribesmen wielding sledgehammers while the post-docs drank pink gins!).  He may well have been the first to introduce the term ‘FUBARite’ to the petrology lexicon of Bedford College. 

In 1971 Mike and Martha – another geologist – were married, and together they undertook field work in Kenya, Finland, Sweden and Scotland before spending two years teaching at a university in Nigeria.

On returning to UK, they bought Rowly Barn near Cranleigh with three acres, and set about turning it into a family home and small-holding.  In the years that followed, they raised pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, dogs, cats and five children. 

In the meantime, Mike worked as an exploration geologist with Esso and subsequently Amerada Hess.  At Amerada Hess he established himself as an early authority on the exploration potential of West Africa and the West of Shetlands.  His sideline was selling freshly butchered meat from his farm to staff, conveyed to the central London office by a conveniently passing data delivery service.  One day the van was delayed and by the next day the huge, now defrosted, delivery left a trail of blood as it was dragged in across the marble foyer and up the lift to the office fridge only to find it full of lunch for an imminent Board meeting. 

In 1992 Mike set up his own consulting company, Golden and Associates, providing geological consultancy and specialist technical Russian translation services in oil and gas exploration.  This involved considerable travel throughout the former Soviet Union, Africa and Asia.  His particular focus on this area was based on his early acquisition of excellent Russian language skills and extensive understanding of Russian logging suites and other exploration data.  He accompanied his clients on their New Venture and geological field trips across Central Asia and only once did his language skills falter.  On departing Ashgabat airport the group’s exit papers were found to be out of order and it was only by writing a ‘3 sides of A4’ apology to the State in Russian that the group was finally allowed to join the plane.

He also set up the electronic databases based on scanned vintage paper data.  Collection was a real challenge as vintage stores were often literally decaying.  Mike notably found key well logs in an old shed under a sleeping stray dog. 

Mike was famed for thinking outside the box.  His geotechnical expertise was again put to the test in Georgia in 2008, as he unravelled yet another daunting mass of Soviet-era data.  This was despite the well-meant “help” from authors of the original “creative interpretations”, and required much face-saving people-skills on his part.  He then harnessed up the team (of sled dogs) and drove them forward through the challenges posed by that famous Georgian hospitality; including: floods, weddings, visits to the home of Stalin’s favourite wine, a dry well, and endless greetings and farewells.  Mike managed the whole experience with the wit and warmth that touched us all.

Music was another of Mike’s loves.  For over two decades he sang in the Vivace Chorus in Guildford.  He was a great singer with a wonderful bass voice and sight-reading skills and an incredibly friendly and supportive member of the choir: kind, gentle and generous, regaling many a member with anecdotes from his Russian exploits and an enormous help in ensuring that the singers got the pronunciation exactly right when singing in Russian. 

Over the last two years, Mike’s health deteriorated.  However, in March this year he wrote as follows: Although my knees are wobbly,…I have no plans to hang up my clogs, and intend to die in harness.

The end, when it came, came quickly.  The day before he died, Mike was told by the doctors that they could do no more for him.  “”Well”, he said, “I hope I can go out with good humour”.  And so he did.  He spent the day with family members in what he jokingly called the ‘departure lounge’, remembering the many good times they had shared, telling stories, sharing jokes and laughing a great deal.

We will all miss him.


From Mike’s family, colleagues and friends who were helped, inspired and touched by Mike.