Annual Report for 1999

The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh was founded (as the Edinburgh Astronomical Association) in 1924 and is governed by a Constitution adopted in 1937 and since modified (most recently on 13th January 1995). A copy of this Constitution has been supplied to each member and may be referred to in the Society's Library at the City Observatory and on the Society's web site. Copies may be obtained from the Secretary.

Clause 1 of that Constitution is:

The name of the Society shall be "The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh" and its objects shall be to advance the education of the public about the science of Astronomy and to promote astronomical research chiefly in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood. In furtherance thereof:
(a) to circulate information on astronomical matters by the publication of articles, books etc.;
(b) to encourage astronomical study and observation; and
(c) to increase popular interest in astronomy.

The Management of the Society is vested in a Council, elected from the Ordinary Membership of the Society. The following were elected at the AGM in March 1999 and served from 1st April:

President Mr Alan Ellis BSc FRAS
10 Greenbank Gardens, Edinburgh EH10 5SL
Telephone: 0131 447 9968
Secretary Graham Rule BA FRAS FRSSA FRMetS FSA(Scot)
105/19 Causewayside, Edinburgh EH9 1QG
Telephone: 0131 667 0647
Treasurer Mr Jim Nisbet BSc
46 Kenmure Avenue, Edinburgh EH8 7HD
Telephone: 0131 661 4535
Vice-Presidents Mr Johnnie S Bradley FRAS
Mrs Lorna McCalman
Councillors Mr Raymond Fenoulhet
Mr Charlie Gleed MPhil
Dr George Grant PhD
Dr Duncan Hale-Sutton BSc PhD
Mr Peter MacDonald
Mr Adrian Weatherhead BSc

The following Council members elected at the AGM in 1998 held office during the early part of the year (from 1st January to March 31st): Mr Alan Ellis, Mr Johnnie S Bradley, Mrs Lorna McCalman, Mr Graham Rule, Mr Jim Nisbet, Mr Charlie Gleed, Dr Duncan Hale-Sutton, Mr Peter MacDonald, Mr Adrian Weatherhead (co-opted in November 1998),

The Society's principal address is:

The City Observatory
Calton Hill
Edinburgh EH7 5AA

Telephone 0131 556 4365


The following were admitted as members of the Society during 1999:

On 31st December 1999 membership of the Society was 155 of which 8 were Honorary.

Honorary Members

The Society's Honorary Presidents are Prof. Andy Lawrence and Prof. John Brown. Honorary Members are: Dr M. Brück, Prof. H. Brück, H. Ford, Dr D. Gavine, Prof. D. Heggie, Mrs E. C. Jenkinson


Two editions of the Society's Journal were published in 1999 (issues 39 & 40) under the editorship of Dr Dave Gavine.

The Society has continued to issue the Federation of Astronomical Societies' Astrocalendar to every member. These booklets can be used in place of membership cards in the unlikely event that members have to vouch for their status.

The Society also continues its arrangement with Sky & Telescope allowing a discount to members subscribing in a bulk order despatched by the Treasurer. (The magazine is posted direct to the member's address.) Any member who is not in this scheme but would like to join should contact the Treasurer so that they can be included in next autumn's order.

In addition, the Society continues its presence on the World Wide Web and results in a number of enquiries about the Society and membership from Britain and world-wide. The "URL" for the Society is and the Society thanks the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh for hosting our pages on their server. In addition to notices of meetings and other events the Society's Annual Reports and Journals can now be found there.


The Society has held the following meetings during 1999

January 8th
Graham Rule BA FRAS - ASE
The Calton Hill Observatories
February 5th
Dr Adrian Russell - UK ATC, ROE
The UK Astronomy Technology Centre
March 5th
Annual General Meeting
Followed by Alan Ellis BSc FRAS - President, ASE
Black Holes - the final frontier?
April 9th
Bill Ward BSc
Radio Telescopes
May 7th
Alan Pickup BEng FRAS
Astronomer, Camera, Action
June 4th
Dr Dave Gavine FRAS FRMetS
Astronomy in Scotland in the 19th Century
July 2nd
Barbecue at Earlyburn
August 6th
Members' Night
Short presentations were given:
Charlie Gleed - Astrophotography demonstrated with Meade LX200 telescope
Dave Gavine - Observation reports and slides
Ron Livesey - Noctilucent Clouds
Graham Rule - How to observe the Eclipse in safety
September 3rd
Storm Dunlop FRAS FRMetS
Peculiar and Interesting Stars
October 1st
Neil Bone BSc - British Astronomical Association
The Leonids - A coming storm?
November 5th
Ron Livesey CEng FICE FRAS - ASE & BAA
It all lies in the soil
December 3rd
Gerry Taylor BSc - ASE
Star Names

Attendance at meetings (where recorded) has been:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
40 40 - 35 42 38 - - - - - -

Council Meetings

The Council met on January 24th, January 29th, February 7th, February 28th, March 26th, April 30th, May 28th, June 25th, July 30th, August 27th, September 24th, October 29th and November 26th.


The 6" Cooke telescope is regularly used by members on Fridays with observations of the moon and planets being most common.

The 8¾" Newtonian is used for convenience and when demand for simultaneous observing is higher. The Society's Council has approved the purchase of a small 4½" Newtonian telescope that will prove more portable for taking to talks at other locations or observing at Earlyburn.

The Council has authorised the purchase of three eyepieces for use with the 6-inch Cooke refractor and these have already provided greatly enhanced views of Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon.


The Observatory continues to be open to members and the public every Friday evening. On clear nights members and visitors are given an opportunity to look through the Society's telescopes.

The main astronomical event of 1999 was the Solar Eclipse of August 11th. The Observatory was open for this and some 300 people came to see the partial eclipse with a variety of instruments. The Society had some good publicity for this with Graham Rule being interviewed by a number of newspapers and Ron Livesey on STV and BBC News 24. Some members of the Society went further afield to see the total eclipse although, for most, the weather was against them.

While the night of 17th/18th November started overcast the skies did clear well enough for the peak of the Leonid meteor shower to be seen. Again, the Society had some good publicity in the press.

The Society has entered into a leasing agreement with the Natural Environment Research Council for the Earlyburn Outstation near Peebles. Charlie Gleed, Jim Douglas and Kenny Laidlaw have done considerable work in making this more comfortable for use and your Council hopes to see considerable use of this site.


The Library is still being treated for dry rot and as yet it is still not possible to reinstate books and periodicals from their current temporary location in the City Dome.

A printed version of the Society's Library Catalogue is now kept with the books and will be updated from time to time. Work continues in getting the books arranged on the shelves in an easily accessible order.

Visitors to the Observatory

On May 10th Broughton History Society visited the Observatory. On 26th June we had some 50 members of astronomical societies from the North East of England visiting the Observatory. Both these groups heard a talk about the history of the observatory and had tours of the buildings.

Although we were unable to participate in the Science Festival we did help by providing the venue for the Press Launch of its programme on 25th February. Prof. Heinz Wolf appeared in some newspapers with one of the Society's telescopes.

On August 28th the "One O'clock Gun Association" held an event on the Calton Hill. Some 100 people visited the Observatory to see a small exhibition on the history of time-keeping in Edinburgh. A number of people were shown some spectacular sunspots using the Cooke telescope to project the image of the Sun. The Society continues to help this group with its researches. A permanent exhibition is due to open at the Castle in 2000.

In June, Graham was interviewed as part of the BBC Radio Scotland series "Classified Scotland" and on October 4th BBC TV filmed Brian Kelly (formerly of Dundee's Mills Observatory) on the roof of the Playfair building for their "Outside Now" series.

At midnight on December 31st the time-ball at the Nelson Monument was dropped by Graham Rule to signal the end of the 1990s. This was probably the first time that the signal was officially operated by an astronomer from the Observatory in the last 100 years.

Other events attended

Representatives of the Society attended two meetings of the Scottish Astronomers Group (May 29th in Glasgow and November 27th in Stirling) and had a major presence at the Scottish Astronomy Weekend (September 10th-12th in Dundee).

On January 22nd Graham Rule visited our Honorary Member, Harry Ford, at the Old Greenwich Observatory.

Graham Rule gave his talk about "The Calton Hill Observatories" at McDonald Road Library (March 3rd), to Morningside Heritage Association (November 4th) and at Huntly House Museum (December 15th).

Alan Ellis, Jim Nisbet and Graham Rule spoke to a small but interested audience at Vogrie Country Park on November 10th.

Restructuring of the Society

Last year the Council reported that it had been considering a proposal to restructure the Society as a Limited Company and this matter was discussed at the AGM. The reasoning behind the proposal was in order to establish the Society as a 'person' in law which could then enter into contracts in its own right and to limit the liability of the members for debts incurred by the Society.

As no objections to this plan were raised at the AGM, the Council intended to proceed with getting legal advice on some matters regarding the establishment and management of such a Company.

Unfortunately little progress has been made with this as the Council was awaiting information from the ASE Trustees regarding the position they intended to take on this matter when the sad death occurred of Mr David Todd in April 1999. Mr Todd had been Secretary and Treasurer of the Trust since the early 1980s. His death resulted in the Trustees having higher priority matters to deal with but it is hoped that progress towards incorporation will be possible in 2000.

City of Edinburgh Council business

The Society continued to be represented on the City's Calton Hill Advisory Group by Graham Rule. This group has met four times in the year and has helped with preparation of a large "Conservation Study" of the Calton Hill for submission to the Lottery Heritage Fund and the City Council. This document should form the basis of future management and development of the Calton Hill. Unfortunately, funding has not yet been secured for the repairs to the Playfair Building and the Observatory House although significant progress has been made in this.

It hasn't escaped the notice of members and visitors to the Observatory that the Gardens are in a state of severe neglect. The City Council are aware of the problem but have so far found it difficult to provide the significant resource that is now required to restore the garden to a reasonable state. It is likely that plans for the observatory gardens will be developed in the light of the Conservation Study.

Non-astronomical events

The Observatory was the venue on the morning of BBC radio's "Good Morning Scotland" at which a number of politicians (including David Steel, now Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament) were interviewed.

The Society was approached by BBC Resources with a view to them filming at the Observatory in December. However, the Observatory Management Committee decided that it could not provide facilities for this since it was for an advertisement for a newspaper astrologer.

Firework displays and bonfires took place at the Calton Hill on June 30th (the opening of the Scottish Parliament), September 4th (Festival), December 27th and December 31st (Edinburgh's Hogmanay Celebrations).

Observatory Management

As reported at the AGM in March, your Council decided that the Society should have exclusive use of the Observatory and that the Edinburgh Experience should not re-open at the Observatory in 1999. Resulting from this decision the Council have found the management of the observatory to be much easier than in recent years and have been able to put more time into advancing the astronomical objects of the Society.

Mr Kay of Shetland visited the Observatory on 26th March and expressed the wish that the 12-inch and 18-inch Dall-Kirkham telescopes that he had built and donated to the Society might be returned for use in Shetland. As the Society has not used either of these telescopes for many years the Council agreed to this request and is discussing the logistics of their removal with members of Shetland Astronomical Society.

The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh Trustees

A former Vice-President of the Society, Mr John Henry Lorimer RSA left a substantial bequest to the Society when he died in 1936. This bequest has been assigned to "The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh Trustees" and is managed by them under conditions set forth in a Deed of Trust granted in favour of Rev Dr James Patrick DD BSc and others, dated 10th December 1937.

The following are the trustees in terms of that deed:

Mr Raymond Fenoulhet
Dr John Rostron
Dr David Gavine FRAS
Dr John Hunter

Mr David C Todd AIB served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Trustees until his death in April 1999.

All of the above trustees are members of the Society.

Financial Report

The Society has seen a decrease in funds over the last year, partly attributable to lower levels of income but mainly arising from increased expenditure. Some of the expenditure relates to activities prior to 1999 but it has meant that we have dealt with a number of historic payments which have been outstanding for some time. However, the high cost of our occupancy of the City Observatory continues to concern the Society's Council, although it appears that some light may be visible at the end of the tunnel in our efforts to reduce our expenses.

Subscription income has increased by almost 10% compared with last year, mainly due to an influx of new members as the annual Subscription Rate has remained unchanged at £10 (£5 concessions). The Society continues to issue FAS Astrocalendars to members when subscriptions are renewed.

Income from users of the Observatory rose compared with 1998, although some of this related to activities taking place in the later part of the previous year. The Society's Council will continue to seek donations from users of the site to meet the rates and water charges for the Observatory, although it is possible that our commitments in these areas will be lessened in the coming months. No expenditure on water charges was made during 1999 as the Society was unhappy about the 60% increase in costs over the previous year. Following protracted correspondence with East of Scotland Water it was agreed that the account could be suspended until agreement was reached over the installation of a water meter for the site. This should substantially reduce our costs. In the last few months of the year we received paperwork from the City of Edinburgh Council to allow us to seek 100% rates relief because of our charitable status. It is the hope of the Society's Council that this will be successful and will ease the financial burden associated with the site.

Due to the unfortunate death of David Todd, Secretary and Treasurer of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh Trustees, no payments from that source have been made during 1999. However, the Society can continue to claim funds from the Trust's income and we will seek funding from this source once the affairs of the Trust have been put in order.

Expenditure on the Earlyburn observing site has continued, albeit at a lower level than last year. Once again, the generosity of members in giving up their time to undertake work has meant that we have not had to meet labour charges as well.

We acknowledge with thanks the continuing support from the City of Edinburgh Council, although the Society no longer receives a grant towards the running costs of the Observatory.

Details of the Society's finances can be found in the Statement of Balances and the Receipts and Payments Account included in this Report.

Statement of Balances for the Year Ended 31 December 1999

Bank Balance (£)
At 31 December 1998
Current Account 3,932.25
Business Investment Account 18,655.59
Less Liabilities for 1998 672.50
Plus Receipts for 1999 3,040.36
Less Payments for 1999 5,650.97
At 31 December 1999
Current Account 1,283.81
Business Investment Account 18,080.40
Current Liabilities
Unpresented Cheques Cheque No 011497 12.50
Cheque No 011547 24.00
Cheque No 011563 12.98
Cheque No 011564 10.00
Total Liabilities 59.48

Notes : These cheques were written prior to the end of the financial year and had not been presented for payment by 31 December 1999.

The Society has the following accounts/investments :

Receipts and Payments Account for the Year Ended 31 December 1999

Receipts (£)
Membership Subscriptions 987.13
Grants (see note 1)
City of Edinburgh Council 0.00
Astronomical Society of Edinburgh Trustees 0.00 0.00
Investment Income
Interest on Current Account 45.12
Interest on Business Investment Account 424.81 469.93
Donations 163.30
Organisations using City Observatory 1,420.00
Payments Specific Notes   (£)
For the Society
Lectures and Meetings
Expenses 2 196.63
Hospitality 190.65 387.28
Eurosom 3 Meeting expenses 33.94
Printing and Duplicating 97.50
Telephone 320.61
Library 3 185.61
Insurance 4 94.74
Expenses Secretary 286.33
Treasurer 5 13.95
Redirection of mail 6 60.00
Independent Examiner's Fee 7 0.00
Equipment (not Office) 55.52
Projector purchases and repairs 207.40
Items for Earlyburn observing site 62.99
Astronomy classes 734.40
Society Subscriptions 8 119.40
Total for the Society 2,659.67
For the Observatory
Gas 32.07
Electricity 1,163.42
Rates 1,017.12
Water 0.00
Library 9 185.60
Insurance 10 189.47
Expenses Treasurer 11 13.95
Director 12 248.13
Eyepieces for Cooke Telescope 141.54
Total for the Observatory 2,991.30

Note to the Statement of Balances
and the Receipts and Payments Account
for the Year to 31 December 1999

General Notes

The form of presentation conforms to the requirements of the Charities Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 1992.

The following statements are required to be made:

  1. Nature and Purpose of each of the Major Funds
    Current Account : Bank of Scotland
    Treasurer's Account
    Society Investment Account : Bank of Scotland
    Business Investment Account
  2. Remuneration and Expenses of Trustees (in the Society's case this refers to members of the Council)
    Aggregate re-imbursement of expenses to Council Members £873.25

    These expenses cover costs incurred by Council Members on Society business which are later re-imbursed.

It should be noted that the split of expenditure under the headings of Society and Observatory is an historical decision which was made a number of years ago to attempt to show an estimate of the costs falling on the Society through its occupation of the City Observatory. The proportions of items which are split between the categories are identified in the specific notes below.

Specific Notes

((Numbers refer to items on the Receipts and Payments Account)

  1. Comments relating to the Trustees can be found in the preceeding Financial Report.
  2. This item includes the cost of tea and biscuits following meetings.
  3. This is one half of the Library expenditure (including the cost of journals and the purchase of FAS Astrocalendars) with the other being shown against Observatory expenditure.
  4. This is one third of the Insurance costs with the other two thirds shown against Observatory expenditure.
  5. This is one half of the Treasurer's Expenses with the other half shown against Observatory expenditure.
  6. The Society's Council agreed to redirect Society mail from the Observatory address because of the lessened use of the building during 1999.
  7. This would cover the fee for examining the Society's report and accounts, although due to an oversight no payment was made for 1999. The matter will be rectified in 2000.
  8. This item includes the cost of subscriptions to the British Astronomical Association, the Federation of Astronomical Societies, the Society for Popular Astronomy and the Scottish Astronomers Group.
  9. This is one half of the Library expenditure (including the cost of journals and the purchase of FAS Astrocalendars) with the other being shown against Society expenditure.
  10. This is two thirds of the Insurance costs with the other one third shown against Society expenditure.
  11. This is one half of the Treasurer's Expenses with the other half shown against Society expenditure.
  12. Although the Observatory Director resigned in 1998, expense claims were not finalised until 1999.

This report was approved at a meeting of the Council of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh held at the City Observatory on 28th January 2000

Alan Ellis
For and on behalf of the Council of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh

The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh


I have examined the accounts of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh, and according to the best of my knowlege and belief in accordance with the information and explanations given to me, confirm that they have been properly prepared from the records of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh and are in agreement therewith and comply with The Charities Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 1992.

Craig J. Henderson 13 Feb 2000

The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh
City Observatory
Calton Hill
Edinburgh EH7 5AA

Telephone: 0131 556 4365

Copyright © Astronomical Society of Edinburgh 2000