Adam Nicolson Visit

Monday 30th January 2023

It was a pleasure to welcome the writer Adam Nicolson to Marlborough on Thursday 26th January.
Our Shell scholars had made a study of one of his books, Sea Room, which is extraordinarily cross-curricular, dealing with topics as varied as boat-building, the lives of puffins, Celtic archaeology, geology, and story-telling cultures. Adam was exceptionally engaging and wonderfully entertaining, and enthralled everyone with his films showing him as a gauche 14-year old about to visit the remote Shiant Islands.

Later we had a good hearty meal in Ask, and then he addressed all of the academic scholars about his extraordinary book Life between the Tides, and bravely and richly linked a philosophical world-view with the lives of shrimps and crabs.

We are extremely grateful to him for his visit.

Christopher Moule
Head of Academic Scholars, Head of History


Ever since the Michaelmas half-term, the Shell academic scholars have been hard at work studying Adam Nicholson’s book Sea Room, and presenting on each chapter. They have been diving deep into what it is to own and study a group of remote Scottish islands, and to experience their enlightening solitude. So, who was there better to help us understand the book than Adam Nicholson himself, who owns the Shiant Islands in the Outer Hebrides?

It was a great honour to welcome Adam Nicholson to Marlborough College, where he discussed and shared his incredible experiences in the making of his book with our small group in Mr Moule’s classroom. Following this inspiring seminar (and some pizza), Adam gave a fascinating talk linking natural history and philosophy. It was based on his book Life between the Tides. He reflected on his eye-opening studies taken from his aquarium and four handmade Hebridean rock-pools, where he observed, measured and documented the bizarre and unexpected characteristics of micro eco-systems; he proved that there is so much more to these creatures than what one might at first assume or see. From his observations, he revealed the hidden nature of many animals including the anticipation of threat by shrimps, plant-like sea anemones fighting one another for dominance, and the origins of limpets and barnacles. There were rich photos and extraordinary short films.

Adam Nicolson pictured speaking with pupils during his visit to Marlborough

To summarise his research, he outlined his belief that in order to save our planet, we must stop only protecting ourselves from the climate crisis and instead fight for all creatures, for it is all of us who are affected by the extreme damage which we have caused. He reflected that these creatures share much, in their societies and responses to humans and mammals and he asked why we are still treating them so casually.

To conclude, it was a uniquely special occasion to have Adam Nicholson here, especially for the Shell. Therefore, I would like to thank him on behalf of the academic scholars for giving up his time to share his wonderful experiences and also Mr Moule for organising such a great afternoon.

Review by Will F

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