In memory of Trevor Elliott

Trevor Elliott

I was very saddened to learn yesterday that Trevor Elliott, former Herdman Professor of Geology at the University of Liverpool, has died of cancer.  Trevor was a great geologist and a lovely man, whom I have a lot to thank for.

In the summer of 1998, just after I'd graduated from Liverpool, Trevor phoned me up and asked if I wanted to come back and work for him on a project studying Carboniferous turbidites in County Clare.  I said I'd love to, but there was a hindrance to the fieldwork: I didn't have a driving licence.  Would my fellow GPG Boy, Phil Hall, who did, be allowed to come on board too?

Probably oblivious to what he was letting himself in for, Trevor said yes, and Phil and I were employed on a six-month contract, beginning with eight weeks fieldwork in Clare.  It was the autumn, and the Atlantic storms were coming in.  We had a great, mad, memorable time, collecting data from the tops of cliffs and the bottoms of bays.

Cliffs of Carboniferous turbidites, Loop Head, County Clare.

On the little Mac computer Trevor provided us with, Phil and I kept a diary, and I hadn't looked at it in ages.  Re-reading it last night brought back a lot of fond memories, and I would like to remember Trevor with some extracts from the weekend he came out to visit us:

Thursday October 15th 1998

[Trevor had flown over with us at the end of September, sorted out a hire car and accommodation, then gone back to Liverpool.  Phil and I had then been alone together in the field for two weeks, staying in a small cottage just outside the village of Carrigaholt when he returned.]

We only discovered that Trevor was in Ireland when a note was left on the car windscreen parked at Kilcredaun Lighthouse saying "Hi - rather than disrupt you I am going over to Ross & Loop Head to check over some points - I will see you later. Trevor". This was a bit of a surprise, to say the least, but as we are well away from most methods of contact (except post, which is a little slow) there was no way Trevor could let us know he was coming. Phil got quite excited about having a visitor, and discussed cooking a nice hot meal for our guest, saying he would welcome Trevor with the words 'come in Trevor, take your clothes off and sit down'. Phil claimed that he'd meant to say 'take your shoes off' but I'm not convinced.

Friday October 16th 

Friday was fun - wet and windy in the morning, which we spent traipsing through boggy fields to Rehy West and Rinevella Point, lunchtime in Keating's (the nearest bar to New York, allegedly), before the weather cleared up. After a couple more destinations we came back so that Phil could do some cooking. Thankfully nudity wasn't required.

We went down to The LongDock in the evening and much alcohol was consumed, causing many strange conversations to develop. One lad was telling me about Kilkee being swamped with mackerel last week when a huge shoal of the fish got trapped in the bay. Apparently the beach was five feet deep in fish, which must have numbered hundreds of thousands. Why did no-one tell us so that we could go and see?

At the same time Phil found out that the chap we met on the first day was Brian The Transvestite and that he has a wife and two kids. Eventually Trevor and I left to walk home, leaving Phil to stagger back later. The night sky was wonderfully clear and on the trek back to the cottage I tried to hold a coherent conversation with Trevor about stars and stuff. I doubt I succeeded.

Saturday October 17th

Next morning was time for a trip to Ballybunion. What Trevor hadn't made clear before we went out boozing last night was that our excursion would require an early start. At 7 the next morning I tried to recall how much Guinness I'd put away in those few hours in The Long Dock and whether the five hours sleep I'd had was sufficient.

Phil was in a dishevelled state and not quite aware what time it was, but he was designated to be the driver, so we left just as the sun began to appear, driving to Killimer to get the ferry across to Tarbert before continuing onto Ballybunion. Unfortunately, we were ten minutes late for the ferry and had to wait for three-quarters of an hour before it returned, resulting in Phil and I trying to get some beauty sleep whilst we waited.

Eventually we made it to the Kerry coast and negotiated many electric fences, some cows and a raging torrent of a stream just to get to the cliffs. But what a sight they were - giant, twisted layers of rock with a pair of waterfalls plummeting onto the boulders below - probably one of the most dramatic stretches of coast I've ever seen. The pitfall of such impressive formations is the tide completely traps you in the bay if you don't cross a certain gully by the midpoint between high and low tide. Phil and I, novices at the art of tide avoidance, nearly got cut off, and only Trevor's urgent beckoning saved us from a night on the rocks.

The Carboniferous coastline of Ballybunion.

In the evening we were taken out for a free meal in Halpin's Hotel in Kilkee, courtesy of Trevor. Such fare as never seen before - Phil had bruised ocelot on a bed of kelp and tortoise spit, Trevor ate griddled badger with croquette mangoes in a sauce of stewed seagull brains, and I had a big plate of chips. Truly though it was a wondrous banquet and I would heartily recommend it to anyone in possession of taste buds.

[Trevor departed again early the following morning, leaving us to the cliffs and wild weather once more.]


From new cuisine to old rocks, we learnt an enormous amount from Trevor during that trip, not least in always going the extra mile to get more and better geological information.  It was a pleasure to work with him, and I wouldn't be where I am today without that opportunity he gave me.  Thanks Trevor, we will all miss you very much.


Anonymous said…
What a lovely tribute!