Photo of Sir Patrick Moore meeting Shane McGowan of the Pogues (RIP) in 1971

Forums General Discussion Photo of Sir Patrick Moore meeting Shane McGowan of the Pogues (RIP) in 1971


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    Matt Dawson

    This little detective story is strictly for Sir Patrick trivia completists!
    Sir Patrick’s musical life is well documented. In ’80 Not Out’ he recounts accompanying Albert Einstein on violin for a rendition of Saint-Saëns ‘Swan’, he was an accomplished xylophonist, and composer of marches (perhaps not so accomplished), and was of course a close friend of Queen guitarist Brian May. Being a (retired) professional rock musician/amateur astronomer myself, I love finding out about these musical connections with astronomers. William Herschel was also a professional musician and composer. Anyway, I digress……

    I grew up in Langton Green, a small village near Tunbridge Wells. We had two schools in the village, Knowle Court primary school and Holmwood House prep school.
    Sir Patrick taught geography at Holmwood House from 1947-1953 and he used to come back each year to hand out prizes on prize-day well into the 70s. Shane McGowan of the Pogues was a student there from 1968-1971. He actually won a prestigious essay award in 1971. Both these facts are from their respective Wikipedia entries.
    I can verify that he indeed handed out prizes on sports-day 1971 because I won a copy of the Observers Book of Astronomy (1967 edition) signed and dated 26th July 1971. I can’t remember what I won it for, certainly not for academic achievement. I probably won the egg-and-spoon race or something. I treasure my copy of this little book; it set a spark that still burns today. Some years ago I was on an Asteroid Day panel with Pr. Brian Cox and he told me the same book sparked his interest in astronomy! Bob Beramiam, the headmaster always photographed these events and posted them on the school bulletin board so a photo of this historic encounter certainly exists somewhere. Furthermore, I remember that many proud parents had 35mm cine cameras so a record of Sir Patrick shaking hands with Shane McGowan is out there. I still have family in the area, so next time I visit I will pop by the school to see if they still have these old photos. Maybe they even have a list of 1971 prizewinners, some of whom might still live in the area and be contactable. The joy of retirement is having the time to pursue these pointless but intriguing stories, and of course more time for observing from my site in Calabria, Italy. My personal field of interest is contributing what I can to the BAA 29P Schwassmann-Wachmann campaign organised by Richard Miles, and also asteroid lightcurves organised by Wayne Hawley.
    Matt Dawson FRAS


    Fascinating post, thank you.


    Richard Miles


    Well then where do I start??
    I met Prof. Brian Cox at a BBC event in London to celebrate 55 years of The Sky at Night and strangely enough I mentioned to him that my school prize in 1963 was The Observers Book of Astronomy, which I read from cover to cover during a train journey heading off on holiday that year. He of course mentioned his encounter with ‘TOBOA’ which might also have been in 1971 like you. So you, me and Brian C. have that one thing in common!

    I cut a lot of the colour plates out of TOBOA (together with some from the non-PC “Boys Book of Astronomy” by Patrick) and stuck them on the front cover of my school scrapbook, which I carried around with me to the various lessons. I still have it somewhere ….

    Matt Dawson

    It really is a great little book! Thank you Sir Patrick. Your story is fascinating too! I was also school chums with Cdr. Henry Hatfield’s kids, and I remember the telescope he built out of biscuit tins. I dont know if its the one he used for the ‘Hatfield Lunar Atlas’ but it was a sight to behold!

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