Please feel invited to write! Any personal take on the subject is welcome, from serious and scientific to quirky and fun and everything in-between.

The Friends of the Falconer Museum invite authors of all ages and backgrounds to send in a short essay relating to Hugh Falconer’s life or the museum bearing his name.

Inspired by the multifaceted life and work of Hugh Falconer (1808-1865) botanist, geologist, palaeontologist, the Falconer 150 Essay Competition celebrates 150 years since the Falconer Museum first opened to the public. The winning essay will be awarded £150 in prize money, with other prizes for three more essays. All winning essays will be published online and some will be included in an anthology about Hugh Falconer. The Friends have just received a grant from Berry Burn Community Fund to support the publication of an engaging book about this still underrated son of Forres.

Falconer was exceptionally gifted in deciphering old stones and bones that he found in the hills of India and at sites across Europe. His busy life and travels prevented him from sitting down and writing a major work, for which he might have become famous. Hence his name seldom appears with other famous scientists from the era of Darwin. However, his colleagues held him in high regard and named many plants and animals after him, including the Rhododendron falconeri and a beautiful screw-horned goat, the Capra falconeri, now sadly on the Red List of endangered species. Most of all an architectural and cultural gem is dedicated to him: the Falconer Museum in Forres, Moray.

The Tortiphant, sculpture by Dom Buxton, commissioned by the Friends of the Falconer Museum

The Friends 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 (although not a hindrance) while we hope to fuel imagination. 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 Tortiphant is the world-bearing tortoise-riding elephant of Indian cosmology, inspired by a caricature of Hugh Falconer and sculpted in 2018.


The winning author will receive £150, will be invited to read the essay at a public event marking Scottish Book Week in November, with the essay published on the museum’s website ( and in an anthology about Falconer.

The best essay sent in by a young person (under-17) will receive a £35 book token.

Two highly commended essays will each be awarded £50.

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

Format: Essays can be written in any form of prose, should be no longer than 3,000 words, should not have been previously published, and need to be sent in online via If the author is younger than 17, please do not forget to mention this.

Deadline: September 15, 2022, 3pm. The Friends of the Falconer Museum aim to inform the winners before October 2. Any questions: Please get in touch via email