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Variety of prizes on offer in essay competition organised by The Friends of the Falconer Museum celebrating the life of Hugh Falconer

By Garry McCartney

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The Falconer Museum at the top of Tolbooth Street was closed during cost cuts by Moray Council in 2019.
The Falconer Museum at the top of Tolbooth Street was closed during cost cuts by Moray Council in 2019.

CASH prizes are up for grabs in a contest to celebrate the life of Forres’ most famous son.

The Friends of the Falconer Museum have organised The Falconer 150 Essay competition - and are using an award of £1850 from the Berry Burn Community Fund to produce and publish an anthology of essays about the life and work of Hugh Falconer.

Vice chairman John Barrett confirmed the group is delighted with the support.

He said: “It gives a positive affirmation of the importance of a seminal figure in Victorian science and a native of Forres. The grant also confirms the value of the Falconer Museum to Moray and is a vote of confidence in our work in supporting and promoting it.”

He added: “The grant will enable engagement in a positive cultural project, in line with the Friend’s purpose as an educational adjunct to the museum.”

Inspired by the multifaceted life and work of botanist, geologist and palaeontologist, Hugh Falconer (1808-1865), the competition celebrates 150 years since the museum first opened to the public.

Upstairs displays in the Falconer Museum, summer 2019.
Upstairs displays in the Falconer Museum, summer 2019.

Friends committee member Christiane Friauf said: “We invite authors of all ages and backgrounds to send in a short essay relating to Hugh Falconer’s life or the museum.

“We are open to any personal take on the subject.

“Authors could write about the arduous work of a naturalist or ambiguous recollections of visits to the museum or even imagine a conversation Falconer might have had with a research assistant in the field.

“Scientific knowledge is not required - we hope to fuel imagination. For example, what was it like to find a fossil bone and realise that it might have belonged to a mammoth? Or what is going on in the head of the Tortiphant, the world-bearing tortoise-riding elephant of Indian cosmology, inspired by a caricature of Hugh Falconer and sculpted in 2018?”

Dr Hugh Falconer.
Dr Hugh Falconer.

Falconer was gifted in deciphering the stones and bones he found in the hills of India and across Europe. His busy life and travels prevented him from writing a major work, so his name seldom appears with other famous scientists from the Darwin era.

However, his colleagues held him in high regard, naming plants and animals after him, including the Rhododendron falconeri and a screw-horned goat, the Capra falconeri, now on the Red List of endangered species.

Ms Friauf said: “Most of all, an architectural and cultural gem is dedicated to Hugh: the Falconer Museum which stands at the heart of the Royal Burgh. The anthology will celebrate him, the town that sired him and the museum he founded.”

The winning author will receive £150, be invited to read the essay at a public event marking Scottish Book Week in November, and have the essay published on the museum’s website (http://falconermuseum.co.uk/) and in the anthology.

The best essay sent in by a person aged under-17 will receive a £35 book token and highly commended essays will each be awarded £50, so if under-17 please mention the age of the author.

All the winning entries will also be published on the museum’s website and may be included in the anthology.

Essays can be written in any form of prose, should be no longer than 3000 words, should not have been previously published, and need to be sent in online via FalconerMuseum150@gmail.com.

The deadline is September 15 at 3pm.

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