By Vaughan Stone
The star dust we all knew as (Sir) Patrick Moore sadly gave up its persona on the 9th December 2012. But Patrick is still with us – his books and legacy of years of BBC broadcasting will continue to inspire.
We will remember Patrick not only for his monthly Sky at Night broadcasts (the longest lived of any BBC TV series) and his astronomy books, but also for his outings as a xylophonist, pianist, composer, children’s Gamesmaster TV program host and, as his friend Brian May (of Queen) reminded us when interviewed, also as an animal rights campaigner and simply a generous person.
This was a man who NASA had consulted to help determine the best lunar landing sites for the Apollo space missions such was the accuracy of his hand-drawn moon maps. In his youth during the Second World War he spent time training as an RAF navigator but was soon invalided out (fortunately for us all) due to a medical condition. He sadly lost his beloved fiancée during this time in a bombing raid, the tragedy of which haunted him for the rest of his life. He never married.
“We just don’t know!” was Patrick’s signature statement at the end of many a Sky At Night episode when little more than speculation could be brought to bear on certain unexplained astronomical phenomena. It seems however that as far as his own fate was concerned he was a little less uncertain.
Patrick, who was every bit the quintessential British gentleman with more than a touch of eccentricity, was by all accounts not a particularly religious man but neither was he an atheist. Recently when asked if this life was all there was, he replied in non-committal jokey fashion: “I’ll report back to you when I get there.”
Patrick had been wheelchair-bound for some years due to an aggravated spinal trauma sustained during his war time RAF training. When pressed on how he perceived his final years and failing health he showed his usual stoicism and expressed the expectation that this life was not all there is: “We go onto the next stage. I shall be interested to see what it is.” For some this attitude might be puzzling coming from a man of science, but insofar as he did not ally himself with a particular religion, nor make this pantheism (if that’s what it was) an issue worthy of publicity, we can surely allow him this.
Though he had no living relatives, Patrick spent his last hours in the company of carers, his cat Ptolemy, and “family” notably his three devoted “sons” who, it was only recently revealed, had been taken under his wing many years previously to provide the father figure they had lost with the untimely passing of their own. How very touching. With the news that doctors had allowed Patrick to return home being unable to do more for him since contracting an infection in his already weakened condition, his sons arrived at his bedside realising that this was the end. Holding his hands and administering brandy to his lips, they witnessed their dear father slide into his last slumber – star dust giving up its precious and unique persona.
We salute you Patrick. Thank you dear man for your legacy and the important role you played in so many people’s lives making it impossible to ignore the wonder of the stars and the excitement of scientific discovery.