‘The Great Horizon’ – new book

The Great Horizon‘ was published by Sandstone Press in November 2017.

Inspired by the stories that I’m finding in the archives of the RSGS, I’ve put together a collection of 50 extraordinary people, whose lives have touched the Society in many ways.


“If you really want some fun in a Tibetan coracle, you must get a native to take you through bad water when he is thoroughly drunk;  he fears nothing then, and if you live to tell the story you will have something to boast about all your life.”

Frank Kingdon Ward, ‘Wanderings of a Naturalist in Tibet and Western China’, Scottish Geographical Magazine (1913)

I’ve used original material such as lecture reports, newspaper cuttings, and papers submitted to the Society’s journal, the Scottish Geographical Magazine.  I’ve unearthed little nuggets of brilliance as if they dropped from the lips of these explorers only yesterday.  It’s a lovely thing, getting to spend a little bit of time with each of these people – I almost feel as if I am walking a few miles in their company, and this book allows me to share my findings with you.

And as for the Society itself, you might already know that one of its co-founders was the daughter of David Livingstone, and that Sir Ernest Shackleton was its Secretary in 1904.  But did you know, for instance, that Mary Kingsley’s first ever public lecture was to the RSGS, and that, having boldly forged a path through the African jungle, she insisted on having her paper read for her out of female modesty?   That H M Stanley and Joseph Thomson exchanged barbed compliments at the Society’s lavish inaugural banquet, or that George Mallory came here in 1922, showing the first photographs of Everest that many people had ever seen?   These stories are vibrantly alive, no matter how old or how recent they are, and I can promise you that they aren’t dull.

Here are just a few of the explorers who feature in the book:

  • Fridtjof Nansen
  • Sir Hubert Wilkins
  • Isabella Bird
  • Robert Falcon Scott
  • Sir Ernest Shackleton
  • Wangari Maathai
  • Annie Taylor
  • Sir Alan Cobham
  • Sir Ranulph Fiennes
  • Robert Ballard
  • Rosie Swale Pope

“…an immense hippo rose up on the grass alongside, about six feet from us… and grunted the news of our arrival to his companions, who also rose up, and strolled through the grass with the flowing grace of Pantechnicon vans.”

Mary Kingsley, ‘Travels on the Western Coast of Equatorial Africa’, Scottish Geographical Magazine (1896)

‘The Great Horizon’ has a foreword by Professor Iain Stewart, President of RSGS.  It is published by Sandstone Press, priced at £24.99.