Hugh Miller Writing Competition

The Hugh Miller Writing Competition  2019-2020

Image: © Nigel Trewin

“Creatures whose very type is lost – fantastic and uncouth… boat-like animals, furnished with oars and a rudder – fish plated over, like a tortoise, above and below, with a strong armour of bone… others glistening in an enamelled coat as if beautifully japanned.”

Hugh Miller describing his Devonian Fish fossil finds, Old Red Sandstone 1841

Full details of the third Hugh Miller Writing Competition for 2019-2020 will be posted shortly. The competition will launch on 10th October 2019 and close at midnight on 15th March 2020. 

For information about our previous competitions and the winning entries, please see below.

Footprints in the Sand: The Hugh Miller Writing Competition II carries the name of one of Scotland’s most endearing geologists, Hugh Miller (1802-1856), and aimed to honour his legacy by inspiring new, original prose and poetry on the theme of Scotland’s rich fossil heritage. The competition was organised by the Scottish Geodiversity Forum, The Friends of Hugh Miller and other partners.

Poetry and prose entries were invited that are inspired by fossil discoveries made in Scotland over the last 30 years. As a prolific writer on the subject of fossils, particularly his beloved Devonian fish, Hugh Miller’s texts also provide the reader with a wealth of potential inspiration. We hope that this writing competition has encouraged both a renewed interest in Miller’s work, and contributed 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 filling gaps in our understanding of the evolution of life 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

THE Winners

Prose Winner: Thomas Halliday, University of Birmingham School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Prose Runner-up: Ross Barnett, University of Durham
Poetry Winner: Alex Woodcock, Published writer / poet – and a stonemason
Poetry  Runner-up: Gillian Dawson, Renfrewshire
Highly commended in Poetry: Alison Seller, Cromarty
Highly commended in Poetry: Fiona Ritchie Walker, Published poet, Montrose


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

Read the winning entries from the first Hugh Miller Writing Competition: Testimonies of the Rocks: the Hugh Miller Writing Competition 2015-16



Scottish Geodiversity Forum –
The Friends of Hugh Miller –
Our Dynamic Earth –
Edinburgh Geological Society –
Scottish Centre for Geopoetics –
Lochaber Geopark –
Royal Scottish Geographical Society –
University of St Andrews Geobus –
Cromarty Arts Trust –
The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow –
Mr Woods Fossils –
The National Trust for Scotland –

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:

Thank you also for the prizes donated by geologically-inspired Scottish artists Jane Hunter ( and Julie Arbuckle (

More about Hugh Miller and his writing

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 –
His life and work are presented in the Hugh Miller Museum and Birthplace Cottage in the Black Isle town of Cromarty –

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 –

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 –

help us publicise the competition

Download a poster