Haslemere Educational Museum
Culture & Learning Since 1888
Sir Archibald Geikie Collection

Chapter 1

The Early Years (1835 to 1854)


Sir Archibald Geikie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland; son of James Stewart Geikie, a musician and Music Critic to the Scotsman Newspaper. His father had a chemist and perfumery business, but later relinquished this to follow his interest in music. He gave lessons, trained choirs, conducted orchestras and composed hymns. His mother, Isabella Thorn was the daughter of a captain in the merchant marine.


Attended Black’s Preparatory School, Edinburgh for three years. Geikie recollects the autumn visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the city of Edinburgh. He was taught mainly English with minor science. A dominant recollection for Geikie that year was the opening of the first railway in Scotland, between Edinburgh and Glasgow in the spring of that year.


On May 18th that year the school pupils witnessed the Disruption of the Kirk of Scotland, but the young Archibald was too young to understand this event.


Educated at Royal High School, Edinburgh and began his education in the classics, focusing on Latin and Greek. 1st time in the “open wilds” at a farm on the moors between Croy & Kilsyth, Central Scotland. Attempted a sketch valley scene of the Forth & Clyde Canal during this period. In August his imagination was greatly stimulated by the introduction to the Scottish Highlands, during the holidays.


A new Rector was appointed to the High School on the 3rd of January, a Dr. Leonard Schmitz. The whole school was summoned to the Great Hall and Geikie heard his speech. At about this time Archibald Geikie became seriously interested in Latin. He eventually became so good at translation that he translated the “Four Ages of Ovid”. This piece of work was past on to Dr. William Steven who was at the time writing his “History of the High School of Edinburgh”. The book would be published in 1849, making it Geikie's first work in print.

Geikie saw the inauguration of the memorial to Sir Walter Scott, the now very famous monument on Princes Street. In July that year the annual prize giving took place in the Great Hall of his school, where he received his prize a book called “Lays of Ancient Rome”.


Geikie's initial visit to London occurred in autumn that year, and part of the journey was by boat, this was Geikie's first sea-voyage. A prominent memory was the visit to the House of Lords.


Geikie began his career in a lawyer’s office in Castle Street, Edinburgh. It was suggested that he should work there for two years in the office of a Writer to the Sugnet, as part of his preliminary legal training before entering a banking career. The firm was William Frazer. Geikie found the work tedious, but did aquire some business knowledge.


A choice was offered to Archibald, either another visit to London (and the Great Exhibition) or a few weeks to the Island of Arran. The preference was obvious to him and selected the later instead. On the 3rd of September he sailed from Broomielaw of Glasgow in one of the steamboats, on a five-hour journey to Arran. The islands geology and natural history was greatly enjoyed and educational to Geikie. Wrote two articles under the title “three weeks in Arran by a young geologist” appeared in one Edinburgh Newspaper in December.


A Mr Andrew Coventry, an advocate at the Scottish bar asked Geikie’s father if the writer of the above articles would like an introduction to Hugh Millar in Portobello. Archibald Geikie eagerly accepted this. They met numerous times, a much-valued friendship developed.


Geikie abandoned his parents’ idea of a career in banking. Entered Edinburgh University to study Classics & Literature. Dr George Wilson (a chemist, author and biographer) introduced Geikie to Professor A.C. Ramsay, local Director of the Geological Survey and Alexander Macmillan, the publisher. He also took private lessons in mineralogy from Alexander Rose. One of his earliest unpublished manuscripts is "Rambles in the Lias deposits of Skye", September 1853.


He Matriculated in Humanities in November 1st that year.