Since 1999, the rapid, inexpensive and non-destructive use of Th/K and Th/U ratios from spectral gamma ray measurements have been used as a proxy for changes in palaeo-hinterland weathering. This model is tested here by analysis of in situ palaeoweathering horizons where clay mineral contents are well-known. A residual palaeoweathered horizon of Palaeogene laterite (developed on basalt) has been logged at 14 locations across N. Ireland using spectral gamma ray detectors. The results are compared to published elemental and mineralogical data. While the model of K and U loss during the early stages of weathering to smectite and kaolinite is supported, the formation (during progressively more advanced weathering) of gibbsite and iron oxides has reversed the predicted pattern and caused U and Th retention in the weathering profile. The severity (duration, humidity) of weathering and palaeoweathering may be estimated using Th/K ratios as a proxy. The use of Th/U ratios is more problematic should detrital gibbsite (or similar clays) or iron oxides be detected. Mineralogical analysis is needed in order to evaluate the hosts for K, U and Th: nonetheless, the spectral gamma ray machine offers a real-time, inexpensive and effective tool for the preliminary or conjunctive assessment of degrees of weathering or palaeoweathering.