Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)
Opening The OASI Library
On Saturday 15 May 2004, members of OASI and invited guests gathered at Orwell Park Observatory for the official opening of our refurbished library. Officiating was Peter Hingley, librarian of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). At our invitation, he had delivered a fascinating and topical lecture, Transits of Venus - The Big Picture, to members of OASI on the preceding evening at the Friends' Meeting House in Fonnereau Road, Ipswich.
Saturday's ceremony began before noon with a mouth-watering buffet in the equatorial room, with the shutter of the dome opened to allow sunshine to flood onto the happy throng. Guests of OASI present at the event included members of the Airy family, the Headmaster of Orwell Park School and representatives from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, and the Library of the University of Cambridge. It was also pleasing to see former member of OASI, St John Robinson, and his wife - St John had returned home to the northwest at Christmas 2003 after three years of contract work in East Anglia but, as a mainstay of the labour in converting the Orwell Park Observatory lift shaft into a library, our celebrations would not have rung true without his presence!
At 12.30pm, OASI Librarian, Mike Whybray, invited Peter to cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the library formally and to dedicate it in the name of Colonel Tomline's professional astronomer, John Isaac Plummer. Mike succinctly summed up the moment:
The librarian of one of the world's smallest astronomical libraries invites the librarian of one of the world's largest astronomical libraries to open the new facility!
Peter responded that he was fascinated by the concept of a library being built in a redundant lift shaft and that he had been looking forward to see whether we held very tall books or exceptionally high bookcases!
In the pleasant surroundings of the Headmaster's study, Peter then delivered a second lecture, Astronomers and Oddities, to members of OASI and guests. The lecture was a humorous account of some of the characters involved in the early days of the RAS and an overview of the Society's work.
At the close of Peter's lecture, following teas and photographs on the school lawn, we took our guests to Playford to visit the Airy family graves and Hill Farm, where Sir G B Airy (7th Astronomer Royal) grew up. Brian Seward, Playford village historian, gave our guests a brief talk on how the Airy family and others came to reside in Playford. We placed floral tributes on the grave of G B Airy, his son Wilfrid (design engineer at the Orwell Park Observatory) and Wilfrid's daughter, Anna, an artist of international acclaim.
It was a lovely day in beautiful weather, celebrating much hard work by many OASI members over the previous three and a half years. Thanks first and foremost go to all those members of OASI who toiled for so long to build such a fine library (more pictures of the construction work). Thanks are also due to everyone who so freely gave of their time and effort in a variety of ways to arrange and facilitate such a splendid opening ceremony, to Orwell Park School for accommodating the event on the day and to the RAS for funding Peter's trip to Orwell Park.
NB: We now have a splendid library containing an excellent range of books, including Wilfrid Airy's personal scrapbook (generously donated by the Airy family) and other books gifted from the Royal Astronomical Society, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge and the Society for the History of Astronomy. Recently purchased additions to our diverse range of titles include Introduction to Astronomy by John Isaac Plummer (in whose name our library is dedicated) and Popular Astronomy, a compilation of the six lectures given by Sir George Airy at Ipswich in 1848.
Ken Goward, FRAS