Skip to main content

Material related to Dr Brian Sissons's research

Identifier: Coll-1875

Scope and Contents

Maps, borehole records, notebooks and correspondence from Dr Brian Sissons (Reader at Edinburgh University's department of geography from 1953 until his retirement), together with slides, instruments and draft diagrams. The maps and files relate to different periods of his career, and different areas of research such as Glen Roy, the Forth Valley, Berwickshire, the Isle of Skye, the Cairngorms, and Loch Lomond. Areas of study include the Loch Lomond Advance, glacier striations, and Glen Roy parallel roads.


  1. 1:10000 field maps of SE Scotland, including the Forth Valley. These are original maps: Ordnance Survey Maps with extensive annotations. There are about 12 maps. These maps are related to item no. 2.
  2. Box containing record cards of borehole records and accompanying descriptions, all written in long hand. About 400 cards, with accompanying handwritten notes by Dr David Smith. Related to maps in item no. 1.
  3. A large file of correspondence, dating from the early 1960s to the 1980s, relating to his research; and records of radiocarbon dates obtained by Dr Sissons.
  4. Transparencies showing glacier striations in Skye and Sutherland area, mid-1970s.
  5. Box containing annotated index cards.
  6. Double-sided green box containing lectures slides.
  7. Maps related to Sissons's work in Glen Roy - late 1970s-early 1980s.
  8. Cairngorms map with annotations, related to Loch Lomond Advance work.
  9. Single item from a different set of work - map of Berwickshire, c. 1960s.
  10. Four notebooks: two field notebooks (1970s), one notebook filled by Sissons when he enlisted (1945), and lab notebook of Marie Robinson when she was working with Sissons (1977).
  11. One folder of research papers related to Glen Roy, 1980s.
  12. File on Glen Roy parallel roads containing research data (altitudes of roads), early 1980s, and one letter to Tim Lawson dated January 2018.
  13. Projector transparencies for lectures, and negatives.
  14. Transparency showing field boundaries and boreholes (?), supposedly taken from somewhere else for publication.
  15. Four instruments: one surveying aneroid (instrument to determine heights by measuring atmospheric pressure differences), one handheld leveller, and two stereoscopic glasses.


  • Creation: 1945-2018


Language of Materials


Condition Description

Good condition overall - maps need unrolling and flattening, and some surface cleaning

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open. Some correspondence may be subject to data protection legislation - please contact the repository in advance if you would like to consult this material.

Biographical / Historical

Dr Brian Sissons was born in 1926 in Batley, Yorkshire, son of Jack Sissons, a head teacher, and his wife, Elvena (nee Tilley). Between 1937 and 1944 Brian attended Batley Grammar School, where he became interested in geomorphology. In 1944 he won an Open Exhibition to St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, but was almost immediately conscripted to serve as a radio operator in the Navy. In 1947 he was able to return to Cambridge, and graduated with a First Class Honours BA in 1950. He then remained in Cambridge to complete a PhD on the denudation chronology of SW Yorkshire under the supervision of R.F. Peel.

In 1953 he came to Edinburgh and was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Geography at the University of Edinburgh, later becoming Lecturer (1954/67), then Reader (1967/82). He remained at Edinburgh until his early retirement in 1982, apart for a year as visiting Assistant Professor at McGill University, Canada in 1957/58. During this period he published eighty papers, mostly devoted to aspects of the Quaternary geomorphology of Scotland. He wrote two books, The Evolution of Scotland’s Scenery (1967), which synthetised all earlier literature on the geomorphology of Scotland, and The Geomorphology of the British Isles: Scotland (1976), which provided an update based on Sissons’s own research, as well as his students’. Amongst his main contribution to knowledge were his work on the ‘Loch Lomond Readvance’, and on Glen Roy ‘parallel roads’. Additionally, the boreholes he made with his research students in the Forth valley were instrumental in revealing the first evidence for the great tsunami on Scottish coasts of 8,200 years ago.

His research was recognised by the award of a DSc from the University of Edinburgh, the Clough Medal of the Edinburgh Geological Society, the Research Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, the Back Award of the Royal Geographical Society and an honorary membership of the Quaternary Research Association.

Brian Sissons shared his life with Betty, his wife of many years, whom he married in 1950. They had two children, Andrew and Jane.

He died in Edinburgh on the 20 January 2018, aged 91.


2 linear metres

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in July 2018. Accession no SC-Acc-2018-0124.

Condition Description

Good condition overall - maps need unrolling and flattening, and some surface cleaning

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379