My introduction to Astronomy, by John Williams of Little Neston

Listening to Steve Southern at the first session of 2008-2009 and his introduction to the new electronic issue of the News Letter, he stressed the fact that it really is the member’s paper and we were all encouraged to contribute to  its production, such articles would be welcomed by the editors. He said, for example, “when and how did you first find an interest in astronomy”.

I was about 8 years old when my father called me out into the back yard and pointed up to the sky, “that silver glow you see is called the Milky Way” he said. This was in a very small house in Walton not more than 400 yards from Everton’s football ground and the year was probably 1934; I was impressed when he told me it was made up of millions of stars. Now, I wander where he learned that, he was not a reader, there was no Discovery Channel and the ‘wireless’ was not the best medium in those days for conveying information on scientific subjects.

On another occasion he called me out again to show me a wonderful Aurora Borealis, beautiful reds, oranges and greens. He was a lovely Dad, he taught me so many things. I have seen a couple of Aurora’s since, but not as striking, one from a plane flying from Gander to Prestwick the week after 9/11 and another, two years ago in Bergen with my son, on an 80th birthday trip, a
present from him and his fiancé.

I saw the Milky Way several times when stationed with the garrison in Malta in 1945, there was no light pollution at all at that time. I imagine it will be very different now.

On our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife bought me a telescope because she knew of my interest, it was a 70mm refractor, from Dolland & Aitchison, not knowing the difference between a telescope and a teapot, she had her friend Margaret Mitchell go with her to choose it, Margaret was for a time treasurer of the LAS and she and I often talked about astronomy, with my wife just looking bored. On two occasions Margaret took me to meetings, I think they were held in Colquitt Street this would be about 1975, sadly Margaret died four or five years ago.

Another very old friend was George Bundred who as Mayor of Knowsley had a lot to do with the Pex Hill project, and I believe was present at the official opening of the observatory with Sir Patrick Moore.

After putting off joining the Society for years, I finally made the journey to the Museum about 10 or twelve years ago and was made very welcome by the many people who I have come to know. I am still not very good at observing, but get a lot of encouragement from so many members particularly John Knott. One evening at his home with our Patron Mr Stephen Hughes for company, we made copies of the folio of Moon maps, kindly made available by Dr Eric Jones.

To conclude, a cheering sight on my way to the meetings is the sign outside one of my locals, ‘The Seven Stars’, in Thornton Hough.

The sign of The Seven Stars pub, Thornton Hough, Wirral, Circa 2008

The sign of The Seven Stars pub, Thornton Hough, Wirral, Circa 2008