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Harold Edmund Wilson, 1921-2004

The leading geologist of his generation in Northern Ireland, Harold ('Harry' to some) was particularly concerned to promote the practical value of geology.

Harold Edmund Wilson was born in Belfast on 25 July 1921.He graduated with a War degree in 1942 and after military service, where he attained the rank of major, returned to Queen's University, Belfast in 1946. There he obtained a First Class BSc in Geology (1947) and an MSc (1948). For the academic year 1947-48 he was an Assistant Lecturer in Geology at the University.

In 1948 he joined the Geological Survey of Great Britain, serving in Edinburgh and Belfast as a field geologist and working in the Scottish Highlands, the Midlothian coalfield, and across Northern Ireland.

In 1963 Harold moved to Leeds as District Geologist for North Wales and in 1967 he returned to Belfast to direct the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland. Leading by example he pressed work on apace in spite of 'the troubles'. He initiated the Engineering Geology Special Map of Belfast (published 1971), the first such thematic map published in the UK. He wrote the first Regional Geology of Northern Ireland (1972). He put together the first 1:250,000-scale geological map of the north of Ireland (1977), a masterpiece of diplomatic skill linking the work of the Belfast and Dublin surveys as well as Liverpool University's mapping in County Donegal.

Keenly aware that the public should understand geology, his memoir on the Giant's Causeway Coast (1978) was another 'mould-breaking' piece of work. Published in two volumes the first was relatively short and had a section entitled Geology and Man. The longer second volume had the details; "It will only be read by a few specialist geologists" Harold said.

Between times he drew up the Mineral Licensing Regulations for the Province and was the recipient of a Nuffield Travelling Fellowship (1970) that enabled him to visit geological organisations around the world.

In 1977 he became an Assistant Director of the Institute of Geological Sciences, moving to London as Head of the Special Surveys division. While holding this post he directed the move of the Survey to its present base outside Nottingham. His opinion on this can be found in his book Down to Earth (1985) written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the British Geological Survey. With typical good humour Harold writes about those colleagues he mentions "I hope they will forgive me".

He was a member of the Council of the Geological Society (Vice-President 1976), a founder member of the Institution of Geologists, a member of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy and the Irish National Committee for Geology, and a Past President of the Belfast Geologists' Society.

Harold retired in 1982, returning to his home in Northern Ireland where he was involved in university teaching and geological consultancy. Latterly he rarely missed the local 'old hammerers' lunches. He died on 26th October 2004. He leaves his wife Valerie, their sons Michael, Stephen, Nigel and Simon, and all their families.

Tony Bazley