Astronomical Society of Edinburgh
Journal 38

Memories and Ideas of a New Member

This is how I found out about the A.S.E. and joined. I would love to find out how other members heard about the A.S.E. and joined themselves.

Here is a little background information for those who do not know me very well or haven't met me yet.

I'm somewhat of a Tall Hairy Environmentalist with an overly loud voice at times (Apologies in advance I don't realize I'm doing it half the time!) Please do not be frightened by my Hippie attire and size (as one Member, (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) has already said to a few other Members, and I Quote "he's just a big cuddly teddy bear". Personally I take that as one of the nicest ways of describing me in my whole life. ( P.S. to the Member concerned thank you for such a lovely comment!))

I'm proud to say that I'm Edinburgh born and bred, to a Scottish father and a German mother. I spent part of my life in Germany and other foreign climes, but my heart remains in Scotland and Edinburgh. I got to know Calton Hill from an early age, as I only lived a block away in Montgomery street. I was one of the notorious children who used to charge around playing soldiers, climbing all over Edinburgh's Disgrace or sliding down the hill on pieces of cardboard or wooden bread crates. (To us back then it was like sledging in the summertime.) And much to my surprise some kids still sledge the grass today, which did make me grin and laugh a bit. The Hill along with Arthur's seat and the Botanics are among my favourite places to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a little of what nature has to offer. I found out more about the hill and in particular the Observatory and its grounds, by a chance meeting which was the start of a life long friendship. I was a long time member, supporter and campaigner for the local Edinburgh Greenpeace group. After returning from an extended stay abroad, travelling and visit family, I returned to find the group had changed a lot, many of the familiar faces had gone, to be replaced by new ones. This happens in all groups and societies I know but I was none the less surprised by the changes. (I'm glad to say many have returned to the group and others who moved still stay in touch!) The person I met was Karl Paterson (the cousin of Mr. Jamie Shepherd). Later on I found out Karl worked on the Hill, and came up on various occasions to see him. Unbeknown to me Karl had a lovely Londoner as a work mate and friend called Janine (also a Member), who later became a friend of mine, and with Karl throwing hints like bricks, we started going out together. It is with the utmost pride possible that I say was honoured when Janine married me two years ago. Since meeting Janine three years ago and having been a couple now for most of that time, I had a lot more reason to visit the Hill, because my best friend and girlfriend both worked there. I was introduced through my lovely wife to her friends Jamie Shepherd, Dave Gavine, Duncan Waldron and many others, all of whom I am very pleased to know (if your name is not here I'm sorry there would be too many names and not enough page.)

Here is a special thank you to Dave Gavine; sorry if this makes you blush, Dave! Let me explain I'm dyslexic, I was only diagnosed as such by a friend and fellow sufferer at the age of 21, so it is only in the last 8+ years that I've began reading and understanding things, and that learning can be fun, where as before it always seemed nonsense or to have been written in a foreign language. Not anymore! I've now done a Geology and an Astronomy course run by Dave, and thanks to the help and encouragement of him and my wife I'm now trying an Open University course in science. And would someday like to try out his Meteorology class sometime.

Jamie, Dave and Janine also took me to a couple of the talks and to many a Friday night observing session, where I helped out, ran errands, made tea, tidied up and just got to meet and mingle with the members, which got me interested in joining. So I did! If ten years ago someone had told me I'd learn, understand and very much enjoy basic astronomy, I'd probably have laughed and asked them not to be so daft, as science was such utter gobble-de-gook at the time.

Over the last few years I have spent an awful lot of time at the Observatory. Not all of this time was spent with the Stereodome staff, So much happens around the place, that just seems to be taken for granted or is thought to be the work of the council. Many are the times I've seen Jamie, the volunteer Gardener Dave Simpson and the odd Member (from time to time) tidying, weeding, planting and repairing things around the grounds and I have joined in. So much so that, I've even gotten into the habit of just going around the place doing odd jobs while I'm up there visiting Janine. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have spent money and donated plants and time to care for this unique site. And to say that it truly amazes me at how beautifully it is kept.

I still spend rather a lot of time in and around the Observatory, and many are the times that at little or no notice we (Jamie, Janine, Dave Gavine or I) have had to show amateur astronomers, locals, tourists and school groups (from all over the world ) around the Observatory. I am honoured to say that our director Jamie Shepherd taught me how to use and control the 6" Thomas Cooke refractor telescope in the McEwan dome. I know that we all get a lot of pleasure out of showing people around and telling them about our wonderful Observatory, A quick glance at the visitors book reminds me of some of the lovely people we've met ( I must admit I am surprised at how many people we have shown around (although not all of them sign the book)). I have also been surprised by the generous size of some of the donations made by visitors we've shown around. I would dearly love to see a time when the Observatory was open to public 7 days a week, 365 days a year (like the Mills Observatory in Dundee) It would be amazing if our Observatory was a bit more people friendly especially to the disabled. I am very happy to see the council doing some of the vital repairs necessary to stop our Observatory from collapsing! (and about time too!) It would be good if they could improve the paths and improve disabled access to the site (which would not be too difficult). This place has so much possible potential open to us, both as a historical site and as a place of science and learning. It surprises and amazes me that we do not use it more often. If the Observatory was open more it would make the our job a lot easier. Job I hear you say? Yes we keep the place warm dry and safe, empty and repair the dehumidifiers when necessary, generally keep the place tidy and do Vital & Important SECURITY Work on the hill on nights like Fire Works Night at the end of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Guy Fawkes night, The Beltane and many other events held on or viewable from the hill. I Admire & Commend anyone who has helped to keep Drunken folk (both male & female) from entering, damaging, urinating in and generally littering the grounds of our Observatory.

For those of you who have not noticed yet a new flower bed has been built by the side of the "Jungle Path" and the Edinburgh Meridian Marker Stone has been tidied up and is now clearly visible.

I also look forward to visiting The Earliburn site and to experience the viewing from there soon, and to seeing how our access to the site is used and improved as and when possible.

I look forward to hearing from anyone that wishes to tell me how they found out about the society & joined.

I also look forward to many Long, Happy and Eventful Years as a member of the Society, and that the Observatory and Society, Thrive and Survive well into the next Century (and with a little Hope well into the Third Millennium)

Duncan Johnstone