Tuesday, 21 August 2012


   It seems an eternity since the night in Congleton town hall when a slightly-built, academic-like figure held a capacity audience spellbound with his vision of outer space. I'm afraid his world of planets and pulsars were way beyond my horizons. But then Professor Bernard Lovell, later to become Sir Bernard, was on a mission to show Jodrell Bank radio telescope would not be a blot on the landscape. Many years later when Jodrell Bank was not only well-established but had listed status as an iconic structure of the 20th century, I had good reason to thank Sir Bernard for his powers in persuading the planners to allow its construction. Most people are unaware that JB has the final say on significant developments because of the increased risk of electrical interference to its operations.
Sir Bernard  Lovell
 So when I wrote three paragraphs for the Manchester Evening News about a housing development given the go ahead in Goostrey, with a friend and colleague, Maurice Weaver, we snapped up adjoining plots in Mill Lane. We have  long since moved on, Maurice now settled in  happy retirement in sedate Surrey, and I am across the village in a cottage in Blackden Lane that once served as a meeting house for local methodists and Goostrey tennis club ! Yet, like me, I am sure at times Maurice pauses to thank his lucky stars for Jodrell Bank and the few paragraphs that encouraged our move to the village - in the nick of time  before the property boom went into orbit !
 Sir Bernard, as everyone is aware, died earlier this month at the great age of  98, still in the house at Swettenham where occasionally as a cub reporter I would call with my news editor, the late John Condliffe, who in later life took over the ownership of the Congleton Chronicle, in search of the hottest news from Jodrell Bank. He was always most courteous and I don't believe he ever sent an inquiring journalist away without a nugget for his paper.
First moon landing
 Over the years I have filed stories speculating about messages from little green men from space, the Russian race into space with its Sputniks monitored by the radio telescope and the landing of the first man on the moon by the Americans. It was on moon landing night the Crown Inn had its 15 minutes (or I should say a day) of fame when the world and his uncle descended on the village after the news the pub would open all night to celebrate the occasion. Landlord John Lawton and his wife, Margaret, always friends of the press, put on a media"moon punch" served from a silver bowl in the kitchen as the drama unfolded on TV ! 
  The funeral service for the telescope's founding father is to be held appropriately in the tiny church of St Peter this Thursday in his village where the radio astronomer  played the organ for some 40 years.  I hear the great and the good will be present, the church filled with family and close friends, the service relayed  to the overflow congregation on closed circuit TV in a series of marquees on the car park of the Swettenham Arms.  Sir Bernard's final request was for a simple burial in the churchyard with his wife, who died in 1993. And I guess his most fitting memorial will  be that giant neighbour of ours towering above the Cheshire landscape.