The Hugh Miller Writing Competition 2019-2020

The Hugh Miller Writing Competition carries the name of one of Scotland’s most remarkable geologists, Hugh Miller (1802-1856), and aims to honour his legacy by inspiring new, original prose and poetry on the theme of Scotland’s geoheritage. The competition is organised by the Scottish Geodiversity Forum and The Friends of Hugh Miller.

STOP PRESS 3rd Nov 2019: We have been awarded funding from the Cromarty-based Middleton Trust to encourage young people under the age of 25 to enter! More details to follow shortly.

Help us publicise the competition: General flier (pdf file) | Kid’s flier (pdf file)


Salisbury Crags with the summit of Arthur's Seat behind. Image: Angus Miller.

This year, poetry and prose entries are invited that are inspired by one or more of the “51 Best Places to See Scotland’s Geology.” The list, compiled by a panel of experts, aims to help you find out more about Scotland’s geological heritage, and guide you to the best places to see different elements of the story laid out in our country’s beautiful landscapes. You can find full details here: www.scottishgeology.com/best-places.

While Miller himself visited many of the locations on our list, entries are most certainly not limited to his haunts alone. We hope that this writing competition, open to all ages, will encourage both a renewed interest in Miller’s work, and contribute to a catalogue of new writings inspired by one of Scotland’s greatest nature writers. We also aim to highlight the role that Scotland’s geology plays in our daily lives and foster greater awareness and appreciation of Scotland’s geodiversity.

“Hugh Miller is one of the writers who gave me ‘deep-time spectacles’; his remarkable prose helped me, as it has helped so many people, to see back into earth history, and read our planet’s ancient past from its present surface. He was, really, a visionary, and it is wonderful to see him still celebrated today.”
Robert Macfarlane, author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, Landmarks

Hugh Miller by Hill & Adamson

1. There are two categories; young people aged under 18 (on the closing date) and adults aged 18 and over.

2. Competition entries can be in any written format - fiction, non-fiction or poetry - and should be directly inspired by one or more of the locations in the '51 Best Places' list (see www.scottishgeology.com/best-places). We are looking for work celebrating Scotland’s landscapes and geoheritage. Links or references to Hugh Miller are welcome, although this is not compulsory.

3. Entries must be the entrant’s own work and not have been previously published. Apologies, but we do not accept simultaneous submissions. Entries must be no more than 1000 words in length for under 18s and no more than 2000 words for adults. Poetry in each age category should be no more than 40 lines long.

4. The competition closes at midnight on 15 March 2020. All entries must be submitted by email as outlined below.

5. Copyright of submitted entries will rest with the author. The Scottish Geodiversity Forum request a non-exclusive licence to publish a selection of entries, for example on www.scottishgeology.com.

6. The competition is open to all and there is no charge to enter. The judges will be freelance science writer Larissa (Lara) Reid, naturalist and writer Kenny Taylor, 1st prize in prose winner of the first Hugh Miller Writing Competition Jane Verburg, together with geologist Simon Cuthbert, and palaeontologist Elsa Panciroli (University of Oxford). If your anonymised work is likely to be recognisable by any of these judges, please declare this when you submit your entry so that we can assess any conflict of interest.

7. Winners will be notified by 15 April 2020. The judges’ decision is final.

Winners will be notified by 15 April 2020, and invited to an Awards ceremony in Edinburgh in June 2020 (TBC).

Prizes include:

- A weekend for two in Cromarty, The Black Isle (Miller’s hometown), which will include a free tour of the Hugh Miller Birthplace Cottage and Museum, and a guided fossil hunting trip in the local area.
- A behind-the-scenes tour of the National Museums Scotland collections, including the geological and mineralogical collections at Granton, Edinburgh.
- Books related to Hugh Miller, geopoetics and Scotland’s landscapes and geology.
- Geological maps and equipment.
- Family passes for Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.
- Fossils from Mr Woods Fossils, Edinburgh.

We are delighted to announce that our winning poets in the Under-18s category will be invited to read at Geopoetry2020 in Edinburgh, October 2020 - https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/geopoetry20

Submit your entry as an email attachment in word or pdf format to competition@scottishgeodiversityforum.org. Please include your name and contact details only in your covering email, not in the entry itself, which should be anonymous. Please also declare in your covering email if you think your identity as the author of your (anonymised) entry could be recognised by any of the named judges. These are precautionary steps to avoid any possible conflict of interest in the judging process. Thank you for your co-operation.

We aim to acknowledge all entries within 72 hours. We are happy to accept batches of entries from schools, please get in touch to arrange this.

Are you a young person who is interested in writing? Are you fascinated by landscapes and how they formed, or ancient life on Earth and the fossils they left behind? Then the Hugh Miller Writing Competition is for YOU! We really want you to think and write about your experiences. There are 51 wonderfully inspiring places within Scotland that could be your starting point www.scottishgeology.com/best-places/. You might write a poem or a short story or a non-fiction piece about the land or the rocks that create our beautiful Scottish landscapes. We want you to see with 'deep-time spectacles' into the magical world of our planet's geology.

The judges will write to every young person who enters the competition. There will be SIX winners in the under-18 age group. One of them could be you!

If you are aged between 18 and 25 years then there is a very special prize awaiting. This year we are awarding the inaugural Middleton-Miller Award for most Promising Young Writer to the finest piece of writing in this age bracket. The prize will be a £50 book token or contribution to a writing course of your choice as well as the opportunity to share your piece at an award ceremony in Edinburgh (you will also be given a £50 contribution towards travel costs for this event).

Our recent publication, Conversations in Stone: A Celebration of Hugh Miller’s Legacy, includes all previous winning competition entries, together with essays by established writers including Scottish author James Robertson, writer and naturalist Kenny Taylor, Miller experts Bob Davidson and Mike Taylor, and writer Robert Macfarlane. You can buy a copy here: https://www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/publications/geological-excursion-guides/#conversations-in-stone

Donning Deep Time Spectacles: Robert Macfarlane on Hugh Miller

Inspiration from the latest Scottish fossil finds - by Elsa Panciroli

“Passion and boundless curiosity”: James Robertson on Hugh Miller

“A key figure in our ongoing national story”: Martin Gostwick on Hugh Miller

Walking in other worlds: Getting to know Hugh Miller, by Lara Reid

Many thanks to our competition partners for 2019-2020, both for their ongoing support and for donating prizes.

Scottish Geodiversity Forum – scottishgeodiversityforum.org
The Friends of Hugh Miller – thefriendsofhughmiller.org.uk
British Geological Survey (BGS) - https://www.bgs.ac.uk/
Geopoetry 2020 - https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/geopoetry20
Dynamic Earth – dynamicearth.co.uk
Edinburgh Geological Society – edinburghgeolsoc.org
Scottish Centre for Geopoetics – geopoetics.org.uk
Lochaber Geopark – lochabergeopark.org.uk
Cromarty Arts Trust - cromartyartstrust.org.uk
The Hunterian, Glasgow - www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/
Mr Woods Fossils - www.mrwoodsfossils.co.uk
The National Museums Scotland - www.nms.ac.uk
The National Trust for Scotland - www.nts.org.uk

Our school-age winners will be given the opportunity to read at the Geopoetry2020 event in October 2020:  https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/geopoetry20

Helping SNH to promote the Scottish Fossil Code: If collecting fossils in Scotland, please do so responsibly and follow the advice on best practice in the collection and storage of fossil specimens outlined in the Scottish Fossil Code.  The Code may be viewed and downloaded from: www.nature.scot

Hugh Miller (1802-1856) was a self-taught pioneering Scottish geologist, folklorist and social campaigner. He began working life as a jobbing stonemason, and went on to achieve great acclaim as a national newspaper editor, church reformer and best-selling author on geology. Find out more at the Discover Hugh Miller website – www.hughmiller.org.

His life and work are presented in the Hugh Miller Museum and Birthplace Cottage in the Black Isle town of Cromarty – www.nts.org.uk/Property/Hugh-Millers-Birthplace-Cottage-and-Museum/

In 2014 and 2015, two sailing journeys with crews of geologists, writers, musicians, geographers and other talented people took place in the islands of Scotland’s west coast in homage to Hugh Miller. Find out more – cruiseofthebetsey.wordpress.com.

Hugh Miller was a prodigious writer, editing the Witness newspaper in Edinburgh from 1840 until his death, and publishing many books including his important contributions to Scotland’s geology in a series of books including The Old Red Sandstone (1841), Footprints of the Creator (1849), The Testimony of the Rocks (1857), Sketch-book of Popular Geology and The Cruise of the Betsey (1858). You can download these as free ebooks, for example from Project Gutenberg – www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/33221.