Ever expanding observatory
Somehow, George persuaded his wife to let him take over a hunk of the garden for an ever expanding outdoor observatory. It took George two years to make a large mirror for his most noted telescope, a 24” reflector. It took him a further year to build the heavy duty mounting, and the tube. The final telescope weighed 1.25 tons.
Telescope completed c1950s
The telescope was completed in the early 1950s, and by this time, he was working for Cox, Hargreaves and Thomson in Middle Road, Preston. The factory, now a small terrace of houses at the top of the road, was originally the paint shop belonging to Preston Manor. It was while working here that he produced an optical component to photograph the blast of an atom bomb test , and one of the reflectors now at Herstmonceux Observatory. He was also responsible for the optical component used by the old Speaking Clock.
‘The Sky at Night’
A long time member of the Astronomical Association, at some point he must have come to the attention of the producer of “The Sky at Night”, and Patrick Moore. For many years the 24 inch telescope appeared in the opening titles of the show. His telescope was considered to be the biggest privately owned telescope in the UK at the time. There were several broadcasts in the 1960s from the back garden in Sandyhils Avenue. This caused havoc in the narrow road, with huge outside broadcast vehicles hogging all the space, and chaos in the house, with the family banished upstairs to the bedrooms.
A live broadcast?
George was most interested in the moon, but he is ensured a small measure of absurd fame with a farcical broadcast in 1961. Patrick Moore and he attempted a live broadcast featuring Jupiter and Saturn, but the weather refused to co-operate. The clip is sometimes repeated on TV, with George swinging the telescope around to catch small breaks in the clouds, to constant remarks of “total obscuration”, and a well timed one liner: ”Well, there’s nothing else to point it at!”.
Read Part V here