Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)

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Eric Sims (11 November 1939 - 15 June 2023)

The Man With The Hat

Eric Sims, 1939-2023

Eric became a member of OASI in June 1982 at a time when much renovation was in progress at the Observatory. He was keen to assist, which enabled him to gel quickly with other members of the Society. He contributed much effort to flooring over the lift shaft and the club room. He was willing to climb ladders, ascending and descending whilst wearing clogs (a rubber allergy prevented him from wearing shoes). He supplied some wood for a shelf above the library floor which became known as the "Sims shelf".

Eric was elected onto the committee in 1983, holding the positions of Function Organiser followed by Librarian until becoming Newsletter Editor in April 1987, a position he held until having to retire in January 2014 due to a reaction in handling paper.

He had an unique style of production. He began with four or five sheets of A4 stapled together and folded in half to form a booklet. He numbered each page by hand somewhere near the bottom corner, then used a glue stick to paste in articles received from members. If an article were longer than a full page, it would often not continue on the next page. Instead, he would place a handwritten note on the next page saying "continued on page x", and the article itself would resume several pages later. Microsoft introduced much of the world to cut and paste, buth Eric already had his own version! If an article only slightly exceeded the space available on a page, he would use wallpaper scissors to separate it into individual lines, enabling the spacing between them to be reduced as the lines were glued onto the page and the article reassembled.

Once the booklet was finished, Eric would dis-assemble it and print it using the duplicator at Orwell Park School. This too was a major challenge for often as many as 120 copies were required. Frequently, the duplicator would not operate properly and required the Sims touch of genius to make it work. The pages of the Newsletter were then assembled into the correct order, stapled, placed into envelopes and posted. As printing in the School became too difficult, the Society purchased a printer from Staples where we were talked into buying the extended, no quibbles warranty. This proved very beneficial as, with only one month left of the warranty, the printer stopped working and Staples honoured the agreement. Unbeknown to them, by this time it had printed 80,000 sheets!

One of Eric’s colleagues at Ipswich docks, John Davies, would often supply cartoons for the front cover of the Newsletter. Examples may be found in Newsletters from the 1980s.

Eric was always willing to help at public observing events and he excelled in car parking duties on Observatory open days. This was certainly not for the faint hearted: parking the public in the dark could be very challenging and sometimes bordered on dangerous!

I will always remember that whatever the weather, Eric would wear just a shirt, jacket and, of course, a hat. If the weather happened to be extremely cold, the jacket would be buttoned up.

Eric was renowned for his home brewed ale and wine. Frequently, after attending a lecture meeting in Ipswich, he would offer invitations to sample this home-made vintage. This made for a pleasant end to the evening; however, incapacity was never far away due to the hidden strength of the product!

Eric will be very much missed as a valued member of the society and for being the gentleman that he was.

Martin Cook