Scotland’s Gold, a presentation by Alan Souter

Wednesday, 14th February, 2pm, Elgin Town Hall

Our first talk of the year was a wide ranging introduction to the extraordinary properties of gold, the geology and chemistry of this precious metal, the power it has exerted over centuries, and the practical means of finding it. This was a most interesting and enjoyable talk by an experienced gold seeker, and one of our most popular talks in recent years; an audience of 46, including guests and new members who joined on the night

Alan Souter was the principal teacher of geography at Speyside High School and had always had a general interest in geology, but once he discovered gold he was “ smitten by gold fever”. Gold has no practical use, unlike oil or coal, but its intrinsic value means that it has formed the basis of many currencies in the past (the gold standard), and many countries still hold substantial gold reserves. It is unlikely that an amateur gold prospector would find great riches, but gold has a strong aesthetic appeal. And its innate value and attraction has lasted for millennia.

Gold (Au on the periodic table) has many unique properties :
• It is very dense – one pail of gold weighs the same as 18 pails of water
• Gold’s specific gravity is 19.3, compared with ice, 1.
• Highly malleable and durable
• A good conductor of heat
• Does not react with other metals
• It is a primordial metal, ie it was formed at the same time as the earth
• Further deposits of gold, nearer the surface, are the result of later meteor showers.

Today, gold is found near volcanic fault lines (e.g. California), which in Scotland means that deposits are located near the Highland Fault Line, the Moine Thrust, the Southern Uplands etc. Gold is often found near seams of quartz, or mixed with pyrites (fool’s gold). Deposits can be revealed after flooding or landslips. Different sizes of find have different names – nugget (rare), picker, flake and speck, the latter being the most common.

Permission must be secured before panning for gold from the Crown or landowner either private like the Buccleuch estates or public like Forest and Land Scotland. Alan gave a lively account of his own adventures looking for gold in Scotland with a variety of equipment. He was mistaken for a dead body while lying face down in a stream wearing a wetsuit.

Alan has written a book about gold – Smitten By Gold, published by Stenlake Publishing ( priced £13.95.

Any mistakes in this report are mine alone!

Sara Marsh

Posted in Indoor Meeting.