Online course: Skulduggery on the Isle of Rum

Dr Robert Callow

This is a tale of intrigue and espionage, worthy of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and possibly even of John le Carré! It concerns a deliberate abuse of the scientific method, exposed by a covert investigation which was kept under wraps for half a century. The scientific method is often misunderstood by members of the general public. Scientists proceed by advancing hypotheses aimed at elucidating erstwhile inexplicable phenomena. These hypotheses make predictions which are tested by evidence obtained from appropriate investigations. A scientist is not expected always to be right but is required to be honest. Many scientific theories have been modified or even abandoned over the years, as further evidence emerges, without any implied criticism of the originators. By contrast, deliberate misrepresentation or falsification of evidence is never condoned.

In the 1930s, a distinguished botanist set out to demonstrate that plants on the Hebrides had survived for thousands of years during the last ice age, despite being unknown on the mainland. This was always going to be a risky strategy, as Britain has long been one of the most intensively botanised countries in the world. How this botanist set out to deceive his peers and how he was unmasked by a prominent amateur, working under cover, will be revealed in this short course. We shall discuss the revelations and notes will be provided on-line.

Days: The course will run twice, on Mondays and on Fridays.
Programme 1: 5 sessions on Mondays 5, 12, 19 & 26 October, and 2 November 2020
Programme 2: 5 sessions on Fridays 9, 16, 23 & 30 October, and 6 November 2020

Time: 10am – 12 noon

Online Learning Environment: Zoom

Price for 5  sessions Minimum No. Maximum No.
£20 per linked computer 20

Bookings will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Numbers will be limited to 20 participants per session.

Registration: In order to ensure that participants can be accommodated, please register your interest with the tutor via his e-mail address He will then reply with information for logging onto the sessions and methods of payment, either by cheque or on-line.

Recommended reading:
Sabbagh, K. (2016, 2nd ed.). A Rum Affair. Birlinn, Edinburgh,

Adult Education in Manchester and Cheshire