George M. Bennison was perhaps the oldest member (Friend) of the Earth Heritage Trust, a professional geologist who had retired to Colwall with his wife Gwen in 1986 following a career as a University lecturer. Despite limited mobility in later years, he often attended our indoor events. George, having been brought up near Chesterfield, first lived in our area in wartime when he worked on radar at Malvern before returning to Durham to complete his interrupted degree in 1945.
This photograph of George was taken by Ian Fairchild at Alan Wright’s 80th birthday celebration in 2012.
He worked briefly at Glasgow University before moving to Aberdeen and then Birmingham in 1960. Along the way he obtained an MSc from Durham in 1953 and a PhD from Aberdeen in 1960 on faunas and cyclicity on Carboniferous rocks from Ayrshire and Fifeshire respectively.
His interest in coal took him to the USA during summer vacations, lecturing, visiting coal swamps, and undertaking consultancy work on coal reserves for coal companies. To perform the reserve calculations, a clear understanding of geometry of the dipping beds is required and he developed this understanding into the text Introduction to Geological Structures and Maps, first published in 1964. Students were divided into those who loved or who hated the numerous problem maps to be solved in this book, but the ability to visualize structures and to make solutions is a core test of competency of a geologist! The clarity and the appropriate level of the text was quite extraordinary, as can be judged by its continuation in the geological best sellers list through successive editions, latterly with the co-authorship of Keith Moseley, and now also our friend Paul Olver, with the 9th edition due out this month.
A second venture was The Geological History of the British Isles (1969) written with the collaboration of colleague Alan Wright. This was a standard text for 10 years but did not run to subsequent editions because of its publication just before the revolution of plate tectonics. George was an outstanding athlete in his earlier years and a keen skier, was fluent in several languages, and a life-long musician, both on brass instruments and, during his retirement, on the accordion, playing at numerous functions in the region.
Ian Fairchild was a colleague of George in the last few years of his Birmingham career and remembers him as a popular lecturer and a patient and engaging tutor, with his pipe calmly poised for its next refill. George and Gwen had two children, Tom and Yvonne, and Yvonne sums him up – a wonderful man, always so cheerful, encouraging, supportive and generous to everyone.