CDAA Bygones - Memories Of CDAA Past

General Information


This is a series of occasional snippets drawn from club archives by our secretary David Pugh, mostly, but not exclusively, from the club's old "Apollo" magazine.

CDAA Bygones - Memories Of CDAA Past


(Source "Apollo" magazine autumn 1983)

This year's local watch by our Association of the Persid meteor shower was a great success both in terms of the meteors observed as well as being a very exciting and enjoyable evening for all concerned. Maximum this year, on the night of August 12/13 was very favourable as more members could take part, being a friday evening, the Moon was only four days old and would be setting early and, most important, a clear night was forecast.

The watch was held in my back garden in Hawthorn Road, Great Clacton. Chris, Brian McCarthy and his friend Lucas were the first to arrive at around 9.30pm. At that time 40 Hawthorn Road was already a hive of activity with the preparation of the evening's observation forms, getting out star atlases, deckchairs, cameras and the cutting of lengths of cotton by my daughter Emma.

This annual pagan ritual was soon under way at 10.00pm with the traditional circle of deckchairs all facing outwards complete, and each member equipped with his important ritual symbol of a length of white cotton and starring skyward, as if waiting for the gods to arrive! Obviously there was a strange secret society practising in Great Clacton this summer's night!

The youngsters Brian and Lucas soon showed their keenness and sharp eyes as they recorded the first meteors of the evening. Soon, other members arrived to join the circle including Kevin and Colin with their photographic equipment, and Andy. Ian later arrived after first practising looking through the end of a pint glass! However, unlike the rest of us Ian had completed a long night's vigil the evening before, recording 31 meteors by himself.

By David Pugh

The Associations Observatory

(Source: 'Dome on the Green' by Christopher Haskell)

It may surprise current members to know that we once has an observatory. In 1974 after some considerable effort with regard to local Council negotiations, years of fund raising and the obtaining of a suitable site, an obsevatory was built just inside the perimiter fence of the local High School.

Photographs of the observatory and its official opening by Ian Ridpath

Sadly, the placing of the observatory realtively close to the schools boundary fence led to its downfall. Over a number of years we were plagued by a high degree of vandlism which was proving increasingly expensive with regard to maintenance for the club. Eventually, major damage was incurred when a 'shot-put' was thrown through the dome. With equipment being stolen and repair costs beyond the clubs finances, the obsevatory was abandoned.

By Bob Leon

Chris Haskell was the founder member of the CDAA who sadly passed away at the age of 36 as a result of a congenital heart condition. A full account of the trials and tribulations detailing council discussions and site selection are given in Chris's book. The main text has been written by Bob Leon and gives his personal view and interpretation of events.

Winchester Weekends

(Source: 'Dome on the Green' by Christopher Haskell)

"Although my first impressions of the BAA’s Winchester Weekend held at King Alfred‘s College are fully described elsewhere in the text, l felt it would be fitting to spend a little time reminiscing in the hope that some of the magic experienced by those of us who have attended will influence others to think about joining us in future years".

Photographs of members and attending speakers at Past Winchester Weekends

"It has always been the policy of the BAA to hold weekend courses in various parts of the country, and Winchester (which has just celebrated its twenty—fifth anniversary) has always been the choice of our members. Other venues used have been in such places as Dundee, Liverpool, Horncastle and Canterbury, but for some reason Winchester has always been the most popular. lt normally takes place in late March or early April, from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. Further information about the weekend courses and BAA policy can be found in the ”BAA Memoirs." Volume 42, part 2, available from the BAA Office, Piccadilly, London."

By Bob Leon

This text was written (by Christopher Haskell) many years ago and I believe the Winchester Weekends may still be taking place. One possible source of information regarding this might be found here.

Clacton Astronomical Convention 1984 with Special Guest Patrick Moore

(Source: 'Apollo' magazine Committee News)

This note comes from the minutes of a committee meeting held on 12th January 1984 and details the preparations for a Convention to be held in Clacton where Patrick Moore appeared as special guest.

President’s Report

Because of the importance of now organising the Convention it was agreed that other normal committee business should be postponed until after the Convention and David therefore asked the president Chris Haskell for the latest developments regarding Patrick Moore's visit. The rest of the evening was then taken up with detailed arrangements for the Convention on Feb.25 16.00 - 21.00hrs. The Essex Hall would cost £31.25 to hire. Glyn and Peter Wiggins offered to use their projectors. Press to be contacted. It was agreed that the Association would prepare a buffet, £40 being allocated and an` admission charge of 50p to cover the buffet. Possible accommodation fee of £12 for Patrick Moore overnight. Letters to be sent to Chelmsford, Orwell, Norwich, Rayleigh and S.E.Essex Astro Societies. Possible audio—visual during the buffet. David to prepare welcoming address etc and Chris to introduce speakers. Association to buy film for the event. Colin John agreed to act as photographer.

Further committee meetings were held on the 8th and 2lst February specifically to update and finalise arrangements for the Convention. Items discussed included the following :- Three additional speakers arranged - Charles Radley, Ken Dunlop, and Glyn John as opening speaker from our own Association. Letter sent to Patrick Moore on Feb.5. Harry Thompson agreed to liaise with the District Council to try to improve facilities, As a result Connaught Room made available for catering and Chairman of the Council to host. After a long discussion on catering problems it was then decided that outside caterers should be booked with up to £100 of Association funds allocated. BBC and Anglia TV to be approached in addition to Press.

At the second committee it was stated that Country Cook Caterers had been booked for £87 for 80 guests after contacting several caterers in the area. It was agreed that admission charges to the Convention should be increased to £1 adults , 75p children as a contribution towards an estimated final cost of the convention of £150 - £160. Agreed to buy pose to present to Chairman of the Council's wife. Michael Hendrie Director BAA Comet Section has been invited. David, Dennis and Robert to meet council staff on 24.2.84 for final arrangements with seating etc. Dennis to meet caterers at 4.15pm on the 25th, parking being set aside for them in Grove. Welcoming reception with Council Chairman to meet Patrick Moore at 3.15pm - David, Chris, Dennis, Glyn and Harry. Robert to welcome visitors to their seats. Howard Turner offered to act as doorman. Tickets produced by Glyn. Peter Wiggins to record event and coordinate slides with help from Colin. Peter Farthing and Stephen Fairchild to reserve spaces in car park and show visitors the observatory as required. Dominic to show visitors to the Essex Hall.

Dennis McCarthy

Clacton Astronomical Convention 1984 with Special Guest Patrick Moore

(Source: 'Apollo' magazine Words from the Chair)

This note comes from the 'Apollo' magazine following the Convention

Dear Members and 'Apollo’ Readers,

Well, an important- episode in the history of our Association is now behind us, and I must thank everyone concerned for making the East Anglian Astronomical Convention the great success that it undoubtedly was.

For those members who do not already know, a brief history of how the convention came about in its final form maybe of some interest. Originally, like most things, it started in a small way. Chris thought that our Association would enjoy the opportunity of meeting and listening to Patrick Moore here in Clacton, and it would be particularly significant if this could be achieved during Dr. Moore’s two year term as President of the British Astronomical Association.

On that basis Chris corresponded with Patrick Moore for nearly two years, trying to fix a date. His long perseverance with this project was however eventually rewarded around last Christmas when Patrick finally confirmed February 25 1984. However, at this point, small things started to become bigger things and rapidly!!

It was Patrick Moore’s policy, as President of the B.A.A., to try to encourage regional gatherings between the B.A.A. and affiliated societies as not everyone can get to the monthly meetings in London. Our association was therefore suddenly being asked to host a regional Convention of astronomical societies in East Anglia, with Patrick Moore as one of several guest speakers, - a mini 'Winchester’ in Clacton. Furthermore, whilst Chris had suggested dates in February, March and April, Patrick had decided eventually on the first option, giving us very little time to arrange what was clearly now going to be a function requiring greater organisation and resources than previously anticipated. However, I should add at this point that despite the expected headaches, your Committee were delighted with the outcome of Chris's efforts.

Several special committee meetings were held after Christmas to sort out all the detailed arrangements for the Convention. One major problem which Chris took on board was contacting other local societies at short notice to see how many of their members would wish to attend. Just to give you some idea of one difficulty here, the B.A.A.‘s addresses for the secretaries of two societies were out of date, and Chris had to contact Ipswich and Norwich libraries for this information on the pretext of wanting to join their societies.

With a five hour convention planned; it was clear that invited guests were going to get hungry Therefore a buffet was added to the programme. It was originally decided to arrange this ourselves, kindly organised by Chris’s parents. However, with the cost of hiring crockery/buying disposable plates etc. combined with the additional organising needed, it was later decided instead to hire private caterers, particularly as the firm chosen were very reasonably priced for the numbers involved.

However, in negotiations with the District Council, it soon became apparent that the Essex Hall would not be large enough for both the lectures and buffet, whilst the Prince's Theatre was far too large and expensive for the expected 80 guests. (Patrick Moore did not want a large public gathering on this occasion).

At this Point the Chairman of the District Council, Councillor Peter Patrick came on the scene and kindly to our rescue, thanks to approaches made by Harry Thompson. The Chairman offered the Connaught Room and his parlour for the buffet, and wine for all guests, we were naturally extremely delighted to accept his kind hospitality in jointly hosting the Convention and welcoming Patrick Moore.

Patrick Moore, driving all the way down from Stoke-on-Trent, arrived dead on time for the reception in the Chairman's parlour, press photographs etc. The rest, most of you know, except that our Press Officer, Peter Wiggins should have a report of the Convention itself ready in time for the nest issue for those members who unfortunately couldn't make it through studying for degrees etc.

I would particularly like to thank our President Chris Haskell, all committee members and other members who assisted at the Convention, as well as the membership generally for such a splendid reception for Patrick Moore and our other guests. Peter Wiggins, who recorded the lectures, will be able to provide cassettes of Patrick's and Glyn’s lectures and other speakers as required for those members interested - a nice recording to look back on.

I really hope that our small association has at last got the ball rolling and that this will be the first of many joint conventions with other local societies, each trying their hand at hosting such a function. Particularly for those of us involved in organising the regional convention it will be nice, for example, to enjoy the South-East Essex Astronomical Society's tenth anniversary ‘Extravaganza’ on April 28 as visiting guests and enjoy their hospitality.

In addition, by the time you receive this issue of ‘Apollo’ a number of members will have returned from what I hope will have been another splendid weekend course at Winchester to recharge our enthusiasm for observational astronomy, and gain new ideas and acquaintances.

Of course, with summer evenings now just ahead of us, observing conditions are getting more comfortable with warmer evenings. Twilight conditions are now beginning to impinge on the dedicated deep-sky observer but don’t forget the Planets. These are now more favourably placed for observation, particularly Saturn and Mars in the coming weeks. Also, of course, old friend the Moon is always well worth a look, clear skies permitting.

We have some first rate new eyepieces at the Observatory and the improvements to the drive make observing so much easier, so PLEASE HAVE A LOOK. The observatory is there for ALL members and more regular observers such as Robert and I are always pleased to help.

A very well done to all our contestants in the first ‘Astromind‘competition at our January meeting, and especially our first champion Ian McCrea. For those members not present, Chris's chosen specialist subject was the ‘Apollo Programme‘, Robert Ivory ‘Stellar Astronomy’, Peter Wiggins ‘Radio Astronomy‘ and Ian McCrea ‘Galaxies & Cosmology‘. Ian managed to hold on to his first round lead in the second two minute general astronomy round, finishing with I8 pts, but closely pursued by Robert with 15 pts I hope to see more members in the ‘hot’ seat next year, and perhaps our friends in South Africa would also like to try this type of quiz which proved very exciting.

Chris hopes to hold a summer social and fund raising event to help cover the Association’s outlay at the recent Convention. Also with observatory equipment and projects in mind for the coming year, future guest speakers and reconsideration of our insurance cover, our small Association naturally always needs some fund raising events, On Saturday May 19th at the Red Cross Hall, Holland, we have our summer Jumble Sale - and I would like to make a SPECIAL APPEAL here. Last year we had a good number of able helpers on the day and the queue of people at the doors was as good as always. However, overall not a lot of jumble had been collected and therefore takings were well down despite the kind help provided by members on the day. Therefore, to make our Jumble Sale in May a real success I would really appreciate the help of each of you, if you can, to collect some jumble from neighbours and friends during the next few weeks. I find putting small slips through doors a couple of days before you collect gives people time to get some jumble together. If you‘d like to try this idea, I've enclosed a sheet with this ‘Apo1lo‘which just needs cutting up. THANK YOU. Good observing and Jumbling!

David Pugh