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Golden Anniversary

Friday 25th November saw our Golden Anniversary celebrations, over 50 members past and present attended, including our founder Gordon Taylor and some founder members, John Wall - founder member was unable to send but did send a message and this was printed and distributed on all the tables.

On the 50th anniversary of Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society

By John Wall – founder member

Greetings: It is with regret that I cannot attend this momentous occasion, but I am with you in spirit and always consider myself a member of the old guard. There are not many of us left and one by one I have seen the sad demise of those with whom I shared the enthusiasm of the carefree days, when the CMHAS was in its infancy.

We soon made impact on the astronomical community and quickly earned the nickname of the “Crayford Mob” through our expertise and high standard of intellectual approach, carefully guided by our strict mentor Dick Chambers, and woe betide anyone who had the temerity to lower standards. Other than that we were a drunken bunch of layabouts as witnessed by the loud laughter and noisy discussions down at the “Dukes Head” late on Thursday evenings after our meetings.

I joined the Manor House way back in the mid-fifties, when nervously, I stood outside the Manor House gate tossing up whether to go in or chicken out and go home. I decided to bite the bullet and went in, I was late, and saw the “warden” as he was known in those days, an owlish young man with horn rimmed specs, who gave me a form to fill in and demanded thirty bob.
I had joined the Astronomy Class run by Dr. Percival Wilkins. “Right up the stairs and turn left” said Len Wilcox, who was to become a good friend of mine in the future. I entered a small dingy room with green lino on the floor and sat in an infernally uncomfortable hard back chair. I turned my attention to an elderly gentleman delivering a lecture on the planets, in a Welsh accent, and noticed that there were only about a dozen people in the room. I was a trifle disillusioned, as I expected a dynamic young lecturer and a room filled to capacity. So began my long and fruitful association with the Astronomy classes and the wonderful intellectual atmosphere of the Manor House.

I made new friends and grew up with the rise of the Astronomy faculty there, dear old Dr. Wilkins found out that I was a telescope maker and I was offered the opportunity to build the first 12 inch telescope, followed many years later by the 24 inch. Dr. Wilkins died in 1960, and Gordon Taylor took charge, here at last was the dynamic young man I originally expected, and he soon suggested that we form an astronomical society. We were never to look back, and now 50 years later we are celebrating the golden anniversary.

In 1969, I invented the Crayford focuser, and was urged by Dick Chambers to write a paper for The British Astronomical Association after demonstrating it at one of our members’ evenings. I had just joined the Association and still remember shaking the hand of Gordon Taylor at my inaugural meeting, as he was then the President, and of course, my tutor. I named the new focuser for the society at Crayford and the town I was born in, and thought nothing more about it. The paper was published in the Journal and the furore started, it was modified by people who supposedly had superior engineering expertise, this amused me as I was already a designer of complex mechanisms for Vickers Armstrongs at Crayford and not an amateur engineer. In due course the posturing and huffing and puffing came to nought, and nowadays it is still the “Crayford Focuser”.

So folks, I contributed my bit to the Crayford mob, and came the day, many years later when I finally decamped and moved up country to live in Coventry. I still miss the Thursday nights, the society life, and I follow its fortunes on the website, noticing with pleasure that we have a new generation of high quality expertise to continue the existence of the CMHAS, the best and finest Astronomical Society in the world.

November 2011

Gordon Taylor, our founder, gives a short speech.

There are some great lines in this video, and we were honoured that our founder and former President of the BAA was able to attend.

'I have never meet another group like you'

a higher resolution version is available on youtube

Sorry for the sound quality, I was at the back, probably to keep me out of trouble!

Mike Rushton, our Secretary, gives a longer speech...

A potted history of the society with special mentions for John Wall, Jack Ells to name just a few.

a higher resolution version is available on youtube

Sorry for the wobbles, I as hand holding the camera and had had a bit to drink (no change there then!)

Dr Alan Chapman, one of our regular lecturers (37 years in Jan 2012), gives a speech.

Alan compares Jack Ells to William Lassell, The Earl of Ross, William Herschel!

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