John Wall (1932-2018)

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  • #573930
    Nick James
    Participant

    I have just heard from Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society that John Wall died on Saturday.

    For those that don’t know, John was the inventor of the Crayford focuser along with many other things astronomical. He also built a 30-inch, f/12 refractor at his home in Dartford using the lights on the Queen Elizabeth bridge to demonstrate its optics. John also built the 24-inch telescope that CMHAS had installed at the Manor House until they left to move to their new location a few years ago. That is now at the Lime Tree Observatory near York.

    I was lucky enough to know John when he was at Crayford and as Papers Secretary I would receive papers from him describing large (and possibly slightly impractical) telescopes some of which actually got built. John definitely didn’t do conventional!

    #579005
    Gary Poyner
    Participant

    Thanks for passing that sad news on Nick.  I’d known him for many years, and always enjoyed our chats at Winchester. 

    Gary

    #579006
    Mike Frost
    Participant

    So sorry to hear the news of John’s passing. He was a member of my home society, Coventry & Warwickshire AS, in recent years, and regaled us with stories of the telescopes he had built.

    #579008
    Nick Hewitt
    Participant

    Ah, a great pity. One of the great characters of amateur astronomy. Fun to chat with, and indeed travel with (the 2001 eclipse in Zimbabwe wasespecially memorable).

    #579009
    Stewart Moore
    Participant

    Very sad news.  A great character and always fun and interesting to chat to. He must have used hundreds of feet of dexion angle in his constructions – not to mention Reliant Robin back axles!

    #579061
    Alan Dowdell
    Participant

    Sad to read the passing of John. For me he was one of the associations greats. He  was for so many years at Winchester Weekends the star of the show. Each year we looked forward to hear about the next great telescope he was making.I also have great memories of visiting his house and workshops some years ago. To some it would be a scrap yard , to John anything could be turned into a telescope.I am proud owner of a very early focusing mount which I keep in pride of place at home. I will raise a glass to him at the next Winchester.

    #579065
    David Swan
    Participant

    He was clearly a talented and well-liked man. I have just read his obit in the Times – Nick is quoted directly from his forum post.

    #579069
    Martin Mobberley
    Participant

    Just found these old pics of John on my PC. Taken by someone at Crayford if I recall……

    I think they say it all…John with his 32″ and 42″.

    What a character!

    Martin

    #579080
    Nick James
    Participant

    Thanks Martin. You can certainly see where all the Dexion went! I wonder what his neighbours in Dartford though of it all?

    #579081
    Stewart Moore
    Participant

    He was also a great enthusiast for electrostatic generators and built a very large (what else!) Wimshurst machine.  I think he talked about this a Winchester once.

    #579084
    Nick James
    Participant

    So they have. Here’s a link to the Times obit although it is behind a paywall so you’ll need to register or be a Times subscriber to read it.

    #579087
    Nick James
    Participant

    Those were the days. We made a Wimshurst Machine at school a long time ago and used it for all sorts of interesting experiments. I wouldn’t want to fill in the risk assessment for one of those now. Just think of all of those volts.

    #579085
    Steve Knight
    Participant

    Wish I’d met him.

    For those of you who do not want to make Murdoch any richer here is the obituary.

    #579088
    Steve Knight
    Participant

    Sorry, did not upload. Tries again.

    #579089
    Nick James
    Participant

    That’s a really good tribute to John. 

    #579091
    Gary Poyner
    Participant

    I saw that large Wimshurst machine when a friend and I visited him in 1980.  It was enormous, and I think he had been warned by the local council not to switch it on!  He had a smaller one too (his front room was a physics lab), which worked brilliantly.

    Gary

    #579098
    Denis Buczynski
    Participant

    Thanks for posting this published obituary of John, it was an interesting read about a very interesting man.Sad that he is no longer with us.

    Denis

    #579099
    Grant Privett
    Participant

    How much did these weigh? Thats astonishing.

    #579109
    Martin Mobberley
    Participant

    Just found some fascinating stuff that John sent me many years ago. If time allows I’ll try and dig out some more. This was John’s unique solution to making a Newtonian tube rotate, his sketch and the reflector he built. The mirror end rests on a ball and socket which takes the load when the tube clamp is slackened off……

    Martin

    #579140
    Nick James
    Participant

    Here are a few screengrabs from the infamous Channel 4 documentary “Earth Calling Basingstoke” featuring some of John’s telescopes and his mirror grinding machine. The whole documentary is on Youtube. It was not amateur astronomy’s finest hour.

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