Great Dowsers of the Past: Major-General James Scott Elliot (Part Three)

by Michael Guest

Part One of this article first appeared in the March 2003 issue (#131) of the Rod & Pendulum newsletter. Part Two was printed in the July issue (#133) of the same newsletter and Part Three was printed in the September issue (#134).

“Dowsing: One Man’s Way” was reprinted by the British Society of Dowsers in softcover. Please contact the British Society of Dowsers to see if it is still available.

What drew me first to Scott Elliot was that he was an archaeologist manqué. When I encountered dowsing, my first serious attempt to apply it was made on an archaeological site. What could be better? Buried foundations and remains of buildings and Roman roads, some possibility of verification and the satisfaction of being able to sense invisible targets which others couldn’t. Plus the nice touch that others would do the hard digging to reveal what I had found.

Jim Scott Elliot, however, became a much more dedicated and energetic archaeologist than I. He had after all served in the Royal Engineers where strong physical exertions were no stranger and he had the run of private grounds in the country where exploration could be made easily. He describes the Gledenholm case in his book “One Man’s Way”.

In 1966 he was searching part of the Dumfriess hill country for Bronze Age living sites, having previously identified three possibilities by map dowsing. When he dowsed the area from the ground he felt it was confirming his finding so he selected one of the sites for a trial excavation.

His second trench produced immediate results in that he uncovered the top of a palisade trench and post holes. Having proved the existence of a site, he continued to map and ground dowse the area. “As I see from my notes, on 27 July I tried out three of my young girl helpers with the V-rod over the edge of where I thought there was the edge of a hut and in each case the rod turned for them at approximately the right spot. They were thrilled.” Also at a later date two of his professional archaeological friends came to see the site and were tried out with the V-rod over the edge of the same hut and the rod turned for both. “They were flabbergasted, I was pleased!. One of them now accepts the value of dowsing but neither to my knowledge ever made use of it in his work!”

Subsequent investigation into the site revealed amongst other things an amount of carbonised wood. When this was radio-carbon dated it came out at BC 1010 (+/- 90 yrs), a date accepted in Scotland as the late Bronze Age. Not a bad result for map and rod.

Scott Elliot relates that when he was a very ‘young’ dowser he had spent half an hour telling a group of eminent professional archaeologists in Edinburgh that they ought to adopt dowsing to assist them in their work. “Of course, I got nowhere!”

As he was about to leave, one of them asked if a dowser could find a piece of metal in man’s body. He replied that he should be able to if he was trained in that sort of work and he implied that he had not. The questioner promptly took off his jacket, laid himself on a table and challenged Scott Elliot to find a piece of metal that had been lodged in his back since the first World War.

“I was horrified as I had never done anything like that before, but with five grinning faces looking at me I had no alternative but to try. So I got going and in about three seconds I had put my finger on a part of his back whereupon he said ‘By God, you’ve got it!'”

This endears Scott Elliot to me because I had a similar experience after giving a talk on dowsing to the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. I was cornered by a bunch of excited SF fans who’d been having a go with my rods. They asked me to dowse the IQ of one of their number. Never having done anything like this but not wishing to seem a chicken, I thought of Roy Talbot’s maxim: ask your rods. So I sat the victim on the floor, pretended he was an underground stream and did a count-up for his IQ figures as one might count down to depth a stream. After some very tense moments my rods were saying 145-150 which, with some trepidation, I announced to the expectant crowd. There was a moment’s silence and then I was told his IQ had just been assessed for Mensa and he was rated 148-153. Collapse of sceptical parties. Incredulous sigh of relief from dowser!

One of Scott Elliot’s most famous feats of map dowsing relates to predicting the location of oil fields in the North Sea and the UK offshore areas. He published his results in “One Man’s Way” (1977), including a map showing where he had predicted a number of possibly fruitful areas, with the actual finds shown for comparison.

In BSD Journal 259 (March 1998) Philip Copestake (who works in the oil industry) published a survey of dowsing and its role in oil and gas production. He writes: ” … by 1976, fourteen fields had been discovered in the areas previously highlighted by him as worth investigating on the basis of dowsing. The method used by James Scott Elliot was to map-dowse the edges of the oil accumulation, followed by a check on the rock porosity, and whether commercial quantities were present (at the time of dowsing.)”

Unfortunately Scott Elliot’s map does not reproduce very well so I cannot show it here. It consists of 27 smallish circular target areas within a range of latitude and longitude lines. Interestingly only 7 targets contain strikes, although others are very close to later and minor strikes. Twenty of his targets are without result. In general, therefore, one must say that his findings were impressive but questions do arise about the large number of misses, which may be due to the out-of-date data regarding oil In that area. If we had a full update on everything known there, Scott Elliot might be completely vindicated.

One occasion in the 1980s allowed me to provide some support for his map-dowsing even if it did not go as far as demonstrable proof. We were organising a West Midland Dowsers site visit to Meon Hill, an Iron Age hill fort a few miles SW of Stratford upon Avon and I asked his advice on one or two aspects. He responded with a batch of map-dowses, predicting the positions of the now obliterated outer ramparts. I prepared a programme whereby members would traverse parallel with a hedge, indicate where they thought the bottom of the ditches might be, thus enabling me to compare results with Scott Elliot’s site plan which no-one except me had seen. The results were very close indeed to Scott Elliot’s predictions but cannot be proved except by an excavation which is extremely unlikely ever to happen.

Scott Elliot always emphasised the need for demonstrable proof of dowsing and never more so than when he gave a talk to the BSD on 10th October 1981 about areas of force under churches and cathedrals. In 1969 he had been intrigued by John Michell talking on this subject, suggesting they might be due to streams of underground water crossing under the buildings. Scott Elliot doubted this as no proof was offered but he started to have a dowse around places like Winchester Cathedral and found some such indications. After testing some 35 cathedrals he came to the view that the areas of force were due to large holes which had been filled in. Cathedrals were sited significantly over them. After much investigation and thought, he reached the tentative conclusion that they had been caused by meteor strikes. His attempts to prove this were not successful and so the matter was left in abeyance for others to pursue, which, to the best of my knowledge, has never happened. His closing words were: remember the whole of this investigation is at present dependent upon my dowsing alone and of course my dowsing may be at fault. Such is the modesty of a great dowser.

Reprinted with the permission of Michael Guest, editor of Rod & Pendulum, the bi-monthly newsletter of West Midland Dowsers/Northamptonshire Dowsers. Information about these dowsing groups is carried on the BSD Website.

© Copyright, Michael Guest