Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)
Obituary Of Ken Goward, FRAS (1952-2009)
Ken was a member of OASI from 1998 until his death in 2009, and chairman from 2003 to 2008.
Ken was a devoted husband and father and always had time for everyone. He had always been interested in astronomy and after he retired from the police force he bought a telescope. He only used it a few times, but he enjoyed it. He then decided to join the local astronomy society, OASI, to learn how to use it and to meet people of like mind.
Ken loved the hobby of astronomy. On Wednesday nights it had the added bonus (for him) of taking him away from the house together with its duties of changing nappies and feeding after our boys were born! Ken enjoyed visiting Orwell Park Observatory and found it frustrating when, in his last few years, he was no longer able to ascend the stairs. He loved researching the history of astronomy and writing articles on his research, and his numerous writings included subjects such as the history of Orwell Park Observatory and the history of astronomers such as G B Airy and Will Hay.
Through various connections, Ken became one of the founding members of the SHA and through that met frequently with renowned astronomers such as Dr Allan Chapman and Sir Patrick Moore. I'm still not sure how this all began (being at work all day, I never knew what he got up to!) but once Ken became involved in something, there was no stopping him!
I'm very happy that Ken managed to realise his dream of visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He was absolutely delighted at being able to make the visit and I don't think that he stopped talking about it for months afterwards! He did have other interests too, such as traction engines and steam trains. Sadly, he never finished building the railway layout in our loft for the boys.
Ken was always there to make you laugh and we will miss him greatly.
Like everyone in OASI who knew Ken Goward, our former Chairman and Treasurer, I was much shocked and saddened when I received the news that he had passed away during the night of 26-27 February 2009. This was particularly hard news to bear because he'd taken the trouble to email the OASI Committee shortly after his recent operation, and at the time he seemed to be making a very good recovery. Ken's funeral at Tuddenham Church on Tuesday 17 March was without doubt a memorable occasion. The attendance included representation from the East Anglian Traction Engine Society, the Society for the History of Astronomy (SHA), of which he was Treasurer for several years, and OASI. Some mourners had clearly travelled a considerable distance to attend. There was not one dry eye in the church when his younger brother read a poem he had specially composed. On behalf of everyone at OASI, I would like to thank Lorraine and family for accommodating everyone so well on the day.
So what is Ken's legacy? Everyone who knew him has their own recollections. I remember Ken as someone with a great sense of humour, able to crack jokes at the drop of a hat, more often than not with a totally politically incorrect element, but always told in such a way that caused no offence. For someone who took on the role of Chairman of OASI while, in his own words, he was still "the new kid on the block", he achieved so much for the Society and the wider astronomical community. Never afraid to get his hands dirty, Ken's initial achievements included fitting magazine racks and the central noticeboard in the Belvedere area. He forged links with other astronomers interested in the history of the science and went on to become a founding member and Treasurer of the SHA, and in doing so did much to raise the profile of OASI throughout the UK. Through his passion for the history of astronomy, and his research into the history of Orwell Park Observatory, he made us realise just what a unique facility we have; something of which to be truly proud. He was instrumental in persuading Dr Allan Chapman to become our Honorary President. As a result we have been extremely fortunate to enjoy several memorable lectures by Dr Chapman as well as his official naming of the 26 cm Tomline Refractor. Ken also personally took an active role in the refurbishment of the OASI Library and the arrangements for the opening ceremony, carried out by a SHA colleague, Peter Hingley. I particularly remember being part of the crowd enjoying the buffet in the dome after the official opening! Ken always took an active role in supporting visits and open weekends, often encouraging traders to attend. He helped to publicise events on Radio Suffolk and appeared on BBC Look East!
I remember a visit to the National Space Centre in Leicester. The main attraction was definitely not the Space Centre itself but the Victorian pumping station next door! Much to Ken's amusement his two boys took particular delight in a practical demonstration of what happens to waste after it is flushed down the toilet ("flash in the pan", as Ken would have said).
Ken was always supportive to me and others involved in constructing the 48 cm Millennium Telescope; he always enjoyed a laugh, and particularly appreciated a cartoon published in the OASI Newsletter by Les Lamb, at a critical phase in the project, featuring a 48 cm shaving mirror!
I will miss Ken's kindness, wit and good humour. He always said that the real strength of OASI was in its membership; not down to him. He was a true gentleman.
Ken joined OASI about three weeks after I did, in the late summer of 1997. I had not met him before, but soon realised that he was an enthusiast, and liked to become actively involved in the hobbies of his choosing. He told me that he was treasurer of the East Anglian Traction Engine Society, and was their publicity officer. He had recently taken part in the three counties road run, a two day event. But I realised that he was a man in transition, and his loyalties were in the process of changing from steam to stars. He already had an interest in space exploration, and had been employed as an apprentice by Marconi, working in the construction of electronic equipment associated with space flight. Two years prior to joining OASI he had bought himself a telescope, an equatorially mounted 200 mm reflector. But he had found the night sky confusing, and joined the society in the hope that he would gain knowledge and skills in observing. He did make progress, and built a base for an observatory in his back garden in Mistley, with suitably sturdy telescope mount. But the arrival of twin boys in August 1998 distracted him, and he never completed the observatory, or used the telescope as he had hoped. In fact when he moved house a year later to Tuddenham, I took care of the telescope, and did so for two years - and I didn't use it either. It remains in its wrapping at his house.
Ken and I enjoyed the Society, and felt welcomed by both members and officers. We did notice however that if we wanted to learn, we had to make the effort ourselves, and not just sit around hoping that people would somehow come to us. I remember quite early on in our membership there was a lunar occultation on a Wednesday night, and Ken and I were allowed to observe it through the main, 26 cm refracting telescope, which we looked upon with some reverence. That was Ken's first piece of real astronomical observing (and mine!) With a thirst for more knowledge, Ken and I had wondered if the Society would organise some sessions for beginners. The Committee invited us both to attend its next meeting to discuss our ideas. We produced a paper describing our ideas: the Committee accepted our proposal, and gave us the task of organising it with their backing. Thus began what are now called "Astronomy Workshops", to which Ken thought we should give the tongue-in-cheek title "Informal Interactive Astronomy Workshops". Without Ken's enthusiasm and encouragement I don't think the Workshops would have come about. It was mainly during the six months when we were developing the idea of the Workshops that I realised Ken's level of enthusiasm, and the value of such commitment and support in getting a project going.
Once the Workshops had become established, probably three years later on, Ken turned his interest to the Society's annual Open Weekend. There had been many elaborate and well organised Open Weekends in times past. However, Open Weekends had latterly become rather a matter of routine, and Ken offered to take on the task of organising the next one, recapturing some of the style of earlier years. With a lot of work, and liaison with Orwell Park School, suppliers of astronomical books and Anglia Cameras (a then local camera and telescope shop, now closed), he started a new style of Open Weekend which offered much more to our visitors. This task he continued for three years, the high point being the inclusion of a sample of Moon rock, for which he had to install a special safe to ensure its security prior to its return to NASA.
Observing never became Ken's astronomical interest. But astronomy is a multi-faceted hobby, and Ken followed an earlier interest. With his usual enthusiasm and dedication, he delved into the history of astronomy, and the stories behind the people who had made it such an important science. He wrote articles for the OASI Newsletter on the topics he was studying, as well as presenting respected papers to the wider astronomical world. Not all members of OASI were as keen historians as Ken, and after a number of articles appeared in the Newsletter, one member commented that perhaps it was time to make history, history. It was a joke: but many of us knew what he meant. The quality of Ken's writings, however, resulted in him being elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), an achievement of some merit.
Ken's election to the RAS enabled him to exercise another skill, that of making connections. In a way which is still a mystery to some of us, Ken cultivated a friendship with Dr Allan Chapman, a world-renowned authority on the history of science, and splendid public speaker. He persuaded Allan to become our Honorary President. In that role he has delivered a biennial lecture, open to members and friends, held in the grand hall of Orwell Park School or a comparable location. Ken also persuaded Peter Hingley to open our newly refurbished library in the tower of Orwell Park Observatory. Peter is curator of the RAS library, the largest astronomical library in the UK, and it seemed to Ken fitting that he should officially open what is probably the smallest! Peter accepted the invitation and performed the task with enthusiasm. Ken also became a friend of Patrick Moore and frequent visitor to his home. This began when a small whirlwind destroyed the observatory in Patrick's garden. Ken, with no previous connection to Patrick, wrote to him expressing his concern at the damage, and wished him well with the re-build. Patrick was suitably pleased and replied inviting Ken to drop in if he were passing. Ken did just that! And did so several times subsequently by invitation.
Ken's historical credentials prompted him to launch, together with some high profile figures, the SHA. This is a very prestigious body, and its inauguration probably ranks as the highlight of Ken's astronomical career, and maybe of his life. He became Treasurer of the SHA, and attended SHA meetings all over the country. He could also present an excellent lecture, and did so more than once to OASI, and to the Astronomy Workshops.
Ken took on the role of Treasurer of OASI, a post which he held until being elected Chairman in 2003. It was a matter of much regret and sadness that ill health took such a hold of his life in his final years. His ability to attend meetings of OASI became seriously reduced in 2006, and he reluctantly decided to step down from the post of Chairman in March 2008, the committee sharing the Chairman's duties collectively until the AGM in January 2009 when Neil Morley was elected.
We were all shocked at Ken's sudden death, especially as latterly his health appeared to have been improving. However, on visits to his home I was aware of how ill he had been, and what an uphill struggle life had been for him and for his wife Lorraine and the boys.
I feel privileged to have known Ken, and very much enjoyed my friendship with him as a member of the Society to which he dedicated so much of his time and energy.
I knew Ken from around 1998 when he was researching the life of Sir George Airy. Most of my contact with him was on astronomical days out when we went to the Leeds Astromeet or BAA Out of Town meetings in Birmingham. Ken was a stickler for arriving early at such events and I once remember stopping at a roadside cafe for a "comfort break" only to find the establishment not yet open! We also enjoyed several trips to Oxford and Cambridge once the SHA was founded. The Institute of Astronomy (IoA) at Cambridge is always an awkward place to visit as it is on the opposite side of the city from Ipswich. However, when Ken and I visited, our early morning starts along empty roads meant that we never experienced problems getting there. However, getting home again was another matter altogether - on every homeward journey we seemed to follow a different route and on one occasion we got lost and found ourselves back again outside the entrance to the IoA!
Only once do I remember going up the hill at Greenwich with Ken and even then we took the longer, less steep route round the back of the observatory. Even so, we had to stop several times for Ken to catch his breath. But like everyone else, I never heard Ken complain about a condition which obviously prevented him from doing many things that he wanted to do.
My chief memory of Ken was of someone always cheerful and ready to have fun; someone with whom laughing and giggling were never in short supply! He used to describe himself as an Apollo-nut, so no doubt his trip to Cape Canaveral was his happiest time.
It was with much sadness that I read in the May Newsletter of Ken Goward's death earlier this year, especially as he did so much to connect the current members of the Airy family - descendants of Sir George Airy - to the astronomical world and back to Playford.
I first met Ken at a symposium on Sir George Airy at the Greenwich Maritime Museum in January 2001. During this two-day event, in which Dr Allan Chapman gave several fascinating lectures, I met my cousins, James Airy and his sister, Elizabeth Amati, for the first time. I remember Ken's surprise at finding three members of the Airy family there and how astonished he was when I told him that Sir George was my great-great grandfather!
It was typical of Ken's enthusiasm and ingenuity that he asked Dr Allan Chapman to become the Society's honorary president following the symposium and in May 2002 he invited James, Elizabeth and me to attend the first OASI presidential lecture on Sir George Airy which took place at Orwell Park School. We were also present at the dedication ceremony of the Tomline Refractor at which Ken gave me the honour of unveiling a photograph of Wilfred Airy (my great-great uncle) in the Observatory. It was delightful to see the telescope continuing to give pleasure to so many people 127 years after its original installation.
Ken also made arrangements for us to see the interior of Airy's Cottage and Hill Farm at Playford (the home of Airy's uncle, Charles Biddell, where Sir George spent much of his boyhood). Everything in connection with our visit was meticulously organised by Ken right down to the last detail. He brought flowers to place on the Airy graves at St. Mary's Church, arranged for us to meet Brian Seward, the local historian, and even provided a typed hour-by-hour schedule for the occasion!
After a discussion at the Society's AGM, Ken invited James, Elizabeth and me to become honorary members of OASI which we all felt was a great privilege. The following year I attended Dr Chapman's second lecture at Orwell Park School accompanied by my sister, Kristian Perry (also an Airy descendant). We were delighted to have the opportunity to use the Tomline Refractor and were greatly excited to see Jupiter and Saturn very clearly that night.
The next day Ken took the trouble to drive us to Playford to visit the church and ancestral graves. Further visits to Orwell and Playford followed in subsequent years and each time Ken generously gave up his own time to make sure we really enjoyed the occasion. He was always wonderfully organised and everything he did was done with imagination, humour, kindness and modesty.
Looking back at my letters from him - he was an enthusiastic and interesting correspondent - I find one dated 3rd August 2001 in which he describes a visit to Playford on the occasion of Sir George Airy's birthday. He writes: Playford church was serene and beautiful on the morning of 27th July when my twin, almost three year-old sons and I placed some red carnations on Sir George's grave. The air was heady with scent from a host of wild cornflowers and we offered a prayer to his memory. A large display of white lilies was adjacent to the Airy monument inside the church.
What a delightful tribute to his hero from a very special man. Now may he also rest in peace.