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Hidden Gems: Scotland's Agates - New Exhibition at NMS Edinburgh

Last Updated: 14th May 2018

By Roy Starkey

Professor Matthew Forster Heddle (1828–1897) was Scotland's most famous mineralogist, a renowned collector and a highly respected academic. Born in Orkney, he worked initially as a doctor in Edinburgh, and later as Professor of Chemistry at St Andrews University. A big man in all respects, and very energetic, Heddle was well-known as a lover of long walks and for carrying a selection of heavy hammers into the field.

Many Mindat members will know that I have been a dedicated Heddle enthusiast for several decades, following in his footsteps in quest of specimens, sometimes with only the merest hint of definite information to work on.

His magnum opus – The Mineralogy of Scotland was published posthumously (in two volumes), and is still regarded as THE definitive reference on Scottish topographical mineralogy (Heddle, 1901) – you can access a PDF copy here:

https://archive.org/details/mineralogyofscot01heddrich

https://archive.org/details/mineralogyofscot02heddrich

Heddle had a passion for agates, and this new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland showcases a selection of his finest pieces, The exhibition is set out in five island cases along the front wall of the Chambers Street building in Special Exhibition Gallery 3, Level 1.

The general theme of the exhibition is the ‘allure’ of agates, examining both the scientific and aesthetic aspects of agates. The display includes an introductory case explaining what an agate is, examples of agates in their rough state, a case of specimens from Heddle’s collection, and a final case of specimens from modern day collector John Mackenzie, which demonstrates that hard work can still be rewarded! Overall, just under half of the specimens are Heddle’s, and examples from the famous Blue Hole at Usan are well represented.

https://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/hidden-gems-scotland-s-agates/

The following selection of images is courtesy of my friend Hamish Johnston, Heddle’s Great-Great-Grandson, and author of his biography (Johnston, 2015).

Looking across the central hall to the gallery with the agate exhibition along the window wall


A view down the length of the exhibition at NMS Edinburgh May 2018



Information panel about Matthew Forster Heddle


Heddle display case at Hidden Gems: Scotland’s Agates exhibition at NMS Edinburgh - May 2018


The agate butterfly brooch on the right of the display was made for Celia Heddle and is 9 cm wide.

A new mineralogical display is something to be celebrated, so if you get the opportunity to be in Edinburgh over the summer, do go along and show your support to the team at NMS!

The exhibition runs from 4 May - 2 September 2018 and is open daily from 10:00 - 17:00. Admission is free.

REFERENCES
Heddle, M.F. (1901) The Mineralogy of Scotland. 2 volumes. David Douglas, Edinburgh.
Johnston, H. H. (2015). Matthew Forster Heddle Mineralogist and Mountaineer. NMS Enterprises Ltd. 270 pp.




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Comments

Thanks Roy for an excellent presentation and a nice prod for others interested in Scottish rocks.

Dave Crosby
17th May 2018 2:23pm

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