John's Brief Blog

John Harper. B.Ed. (Honoris Causa), graduate and alumnus of the University of Chester,  T.C., School of Education, Victoria University of Manchester. (Padgate College of Education, Warrington, Cheshire). F.R.A.S.




 'MOON MAGIC' --- a poem by Pamela Tennant

 (I learned this, as a junior school child, at the Church of England Primary School in Normanton, West Yorkshire, England.)


 'One day when father and I had been

 to sell our sheep at Berwick Green;

 We reached the farmhouse late at night,

 A great moon rising round and bright.

 Her strange beams shed on all around,

 Bewitched the trees and streams and ground:

 Changing the willows beyond the stacks,

 To little old men with crouching backs.

 Today the sun was shining plain,

 They all were pollard willows again,

 But at night, do you believe they're trees?

 They're little old men with twisted knees!'


My interest in Astronomy began as a child, when I saw the feature called 'The Man in the Moon', for the first time (so I was  told by my Dad!). Several years later my father bought me a book called 'The Starry Heavens' by Ellison Hawks F.R.A.S., followed one Christmas later by another book, 'Introducing Astronomy' by J.B Sidgewick F.R.A.S. With this book and a torch, I went out at night and looked at the starry skies to identify the constellations, and learned, with delight, the stories of these 'star patterns'. Then on Tuesday nights, around 7.30pm , after rushing through my Normanton Grammar School homework, I listened with great excitement to the serial dramatisation of Charles Chilton's novel ' 'Journey into Space --Operation Luna!', Around the same year, on BBC's Children's Hour, there was the dramatisation of 'The Lost Planet' series of books, written by Angus McVicar, a scottish journalist, which told of an expedition to 'Hesikos', the peaceful planet, where the flowers known as 'Charity', bloomed in profusion. These two launched me, well and truly, towards the stars! my journey into Astronomy had begun.

I qualified as a teacher, with a Teaching Certificate from the University of Manchester, School of Education after a three year course, at Padgate College of Education, which, ultimately became part of the University of Chester.  

After qualifying as a teacher, at Padgate, I obtained my first teaching post at the Cathedral City High School in Wakefield (West Yorkshire). During the time I was there, I started the school's astronomical society.

 Ten years later in, 1975, I came to Scarborough, as Head of Religious Studies at Scalby School, and founded the Scarborough Astronomical Society, because I discovered that there wasn't one; although later, I found that, in the past, the Scarborough Philosophical Society had had an astronomy 'branch' for a while, but it had disappeared.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member the British Astronomical Association, and the Society for Popular Astronomy. These are the three main national astronomical societies in the UK.

As a member of the Society for Popular Astronomy, I became the Director of the Occultation Observing Section, and introduced the observing and timing of asteroidal occultations, where invisible asteroids pass momentarily in front of faint stars.

When I was forced to gave up that post, because of optical problems, I was honoured by the S.P.A. who made me a honorary life member.

Now, as one of Pamela Tennant's 'little old men with twisted knees', I do my best to observe from my 'back yard' in Scarborough.

Together with the members of Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society, as it is now called, I try to give opportunities for people to look at the night sky when special events take place, beyond our atmosphere; and, of course, to produce these 'Skynotes', in the hope that they are of some use to those who like me, a long time ago,.... go out on clear nights to discover, as I did, the wonders of our night skies!

In these ways I am able to say 'thank you' to my life long hobby of astronomy, which has not only captivated me for so long, but gave me a kick start into my career of teaching!

A couple of great achievements, have been, firstly, the setting up of the education facility for two observatories in Dalby Forest, which was opened a number of years back by the late Sir Patrick Moore. My second achievement was the designing of the Star Disc, which now sits on the site of Scarborough's South Bay Pool, the result of a request by the Urban Space group here in Scarborough. Please see the attached supplementary 'Achievements Page', and the 'Star Disc' page also, for more information, and images..

My sincere apologies to all who have tried to send me a message via this CONTACT page. I was under the imprerssion that they were forwarded to my regular e-mail address, but they were not. If you wish to make sure your message does get to me, please use this email address:

Thank you.



Again, please accept my apologies. which is probably the result of my spending too much time on the other pages, updating them, and I.T. illiteracy!