Still in the family's possession is one of Will's brass
refractor telescopes with original caliper leg wooden stand and various
optical attachments. I used to look at the moon with it quite regularly
when I was young ... The telescope illustrated on page 121 of
Will's 'Through my telescope' is very similar to the one
in the family's possession and could actually be a drawing of it.
However that surviving refractor is a portable altazimuth
instrument and not the heavy, equatorially mounted, Cooke refractor used
to discover the 1933 White Spot on Saturn. From Steve Potter's
description it may well be the same 3 1/2-inch altazimuth Cooke that Hay
used to observe his white spot, from Brighton, on 1933 August 18.
Hay had many contacts outside the UK, in America, Australia, South
Africa and Norway, any of whom might have snapped up the 6-inch
instrument in a private deal well before his death. He had a boat,
usually kept on the Norwegian fjords, and a young Norwegian mistress
called Randi Kopstadt. Maybe she inherited the refractor? However,
investigations by Dale Holt, specifically e-mails to Norwegian contacts,
have so far drawn a blank on the Cooke refractor being there.
As we have seen, a couple of Hay's friends from the
entertainment world cleared out Hay's home and some remnants of his
astronomical equipment were moved to his Chelsea flat just before his
death. However, a 6-inch refractor atop a massive equatorial head is too
big to be tucked away in a flat and so it may indeed have been left in
the dome at Hay's Hendon house or disposed of in a private sale, or
auction, well before Hay's demise. Will Hay was in poor health for
many years before his death and pushing a massive refractor around the
sky would not have been possible after his first stroke, and certainly
not after the second. Indeed, as the logbook shows, Hay does not seem to
have made serious observations with the refractor during the last seven
years of his life. Then there is the option that the refractor's
tube and the equatorial head may have been disposed of separately, and
the tantalising possibility that BAA instrument 107, mentioned earlier
was, indeed, the head for the Cooke.
It is quite possible that Dr Steavenson played a role in the
disposal of Hay's scientific assets. He acquired the portable Merz
refractor and was, apparently, the only prominent astronomer at
Hay's funeral. (44) Steavenson's own 6-inch refractor has been
completely eliminated from the investigation. It was not the same design
as Hay's Cooke which was probably about f/15. Steavenson's
instrument was a long 6-inch Wray (45) (thought to be f/19) on a
completely different equatorial head and was featured in
Hutchinson's Splendour of the Heavens (see Figure 16). It was
donated to Steavenson by J. E. Drower. Dr Paterson, the owner of
Hay's Calver and Merz, had many conversations with Dr Steavenson,
but does not recall him ever mentioning the fate of the comedian's
biggest refractor. Dale Holt has recently acquired a 6-inch f/15
refractor tube from the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge. The
instrument was supposedly owned by Steavenson in his later years but is
much shorter than his original f/19 instrument, despite also having a
Wray objective. Could that tube somehow be connected to Hay's Cooke
refractor? Probably not, but we simply do not know.
So, the current whereabouts of the 6-inch Cooke are still unknown,
after several years of investigation, but the search goes on and if any
BAA members know where it is we would be very happy to hear from them!
In conclusion it is worth mentioning that asteroid 3125 (discovered
in 1982 January by Bowell at Anderson Mesa) was named Hay in honour of
the comedian and astronomer, following a suggestion by Barry
Hetherington. The authors are unaware of any amateur images of this
Many people have given valuable information in the authors'
3-year quest for information about Will Hay and about Cooke refractors
that may have been his. We are especially indebted to Peter Hingley, the
RAS librarian, whose kind and patient help in this project has been
enormous. Special thanks are also due to Robert Paterson, Dale Holt,
Richard McKim, Bob Marriott and Graham Rinaldi. We would also like to
thank the following astronomers, archivists and Hay enthusiasts for
their help and feedback on this project: David Arditti, Richard Baum,
Denis Buczynski, Margaret Burbidge, Doug Daniels, David Dewhirst, Mike
Dworetsky, Dudley Fuller, Dave Gavine, Richard Gregory, Derek McNally,
Steve Potter, Graham Rule, Ann Taylor (Barnet Archives) and Catherine
Trippett (The Random House Archive & Library), John C. Zarnecki.
Thanks also to Highgate School staff and former pupils David Smith,
Andrew Glendinning and Ed Zanders.
Address (MPM): Denmara, 5 Oldhall Lane, Cross Green, Cockfield,
St Edmunds, Suffolk IP30 0LQ [firstname.lastname@example.org]
It is with great sadness that we report that Kenneth J. Goward died
on 2009 February 26. An obituary by Martin Mobberley will appear in the
(1) I. Duff, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 94(1), 35 (1983)
(2) J. Pettley, English Mechanic, XLV, 406 (1933) and J. Pettley,
ibid., XLV, 468 (1933)
(3) Daily Mirror front page for Tuesday 1933 August 8.
(4) Trevor Buckingham's web page:
(5) Feature in TIME magazine entitled 'Saturn's
Canker', Monday 1933 August 21. Available on the Web at:
(6) Will Hay's personal observing log in the RAS library.
(7) H. L. Kelly, in 'The British Astronomical Association: The
first 50 years', reprinted as Mem. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 42(1),
p.39 (1989 December)
(8) Daily Mirror, 1933 November 1
(9) Cliff Haise speaking on a BBC7 digital radio broadcast,
'How tickled am I', presented by Mark Radcliffe on 2007 June
(10) W. T. Hay, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 43(2), 80-84 (1932)
(11) W. T. Hay, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 44(8), 299-301 (1934)
(12) W. T. Hay, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 47, 77 (1936)
(13) R. M. Fry, The Observatory, 69, p.194
(14) W. T. Hay, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 43, 426 (1933)
(15) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Will Hay's
great-grandson Steve Potter between November 2006 and January 2007. In
addition, there is some mention of this ceremony on the Will Hay
appreciation society Yahoo site at
(16) The Paxton family--Hay's Observing Log equipment list,
Table 1, refers to the instrument being acquired from 'The Misses
Paxton'. See also R. A. H. Paterson, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc.,
85(5), 412 (1975)
(17) R. M. Baum, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 117(1), 11 (2007)
(18) R. M. Fry, J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 86(5), 388 (1976)
(19) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Hay's biographer
Graham Rinaldi in May 2007. For example: 'It's funny you
mentioned Broadhurst Clarkson Ltd as even when Will was shooting a film
for Gainsborough Studios in 1936 he still found time to visit their shop
in Farringdon during the shooting schedule.'
(20) R. A. H. Paterson, 'The Hay Steavenson Telescope',
letter in J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 116(2), 2006, p.65
(21) Will Hay's Hendon address information was supplied by the
Local Studies And Archives Centre London Borough of Barnet, 80 Daws
Lane, Mill Hill, London NW7 4SL.
(22) Roy Martin & Ray Seaton, Good Morning Boys, Barrie &
(23) R. M. Fry, op.cit. (ref.18)
(24) Tommy Trinder speaking on a BBC7 digital radio broadcast,
'How tickled am I', presented by Mark Radcliffe on 2007 June
(25) Hay, W. T., 'Observations of comet van Gent, 1941d',
J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 52, 28 (1941)
(26) Hay, W. T., 'Comet positions by cross-bar
micrometer', J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 52, 29 (1941)
(27) H. L. Kelly, op. cit. (ref.7), p.41-42
(28) M. J. Hendrie, 'Reginald Lawson Waterfield
(1900-1986)', J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 97(4), 212 (1987)
(29) J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 47(2), 58-59 (1936)
(30) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Dr R. A. H. Paterson in
(31) R. M. Fry, op.cit. (ref.18)
(32) H. L. Kelly, op. cit. (ref.7), p.38
(33) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Will Hay's
biographer, Graham Rinaldi, in 2007.
(34) Report of the Ordinary Meeting of 1949 April 27, J. Brit.
Astron Assoc., 59(7), (1949)
(35) M. J. Hendrie, op. cit. (ref.28)
(36) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Doug Daniels, 2007 March
(37) See Prof Gregory's article for Perception magazine at:
(38) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Michael Dworetsky/ Derek
McNally of Mill Hill on 2007 March 1.
(39) Mill Hill website Joynson page:
(40) Marriott R. A., British Astronomical Association: Report on
the administration of the instrument collection during the period 1991
July to 1994 August. Document circulated to the BAA Council in 1994. At
this time instrument 100 was listed as being on loan to R. A. Marriott
and instrument 102 was on loan to S. J. Anderson. Also mentioned by R.
A. Marriott in his BAA talk of 1993 January 27, written up by one of the
authors (MPM). See J. Brit. Astron Assoc., 103(3), p.148-149 (1993). In
addition, considerable telephone correspondence between RAM and MPM has
taken place on this subject.
(41) M. J. Hendrie, op. cit. (ref.28)
(42) Roy Martin & Ray Seaton, op. cit. (ref.22)
(43) E-mail correspondence between MPM and Will Hay's
great-grandson Steve Potter between 2006 November and 2007 January.
(44) Trevor Buckingham web page:
(45) T. E. R. Phillips & W. H. Steavenson (eds.), Splendour of
the Heavens, 2, p755, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1923 Received 2008
January 27; accepted 2008 May 28
Table 1. Observatory equipment list
This is Will Hay's own list of his observatory equipment prior to
1934 May, transcribed directly from his observing log by KJG. The
figures in mms against the eyepieces seem, perhaps, to relate to exit
pupil size, principally with the 6" Cooke, as multiplying the number
by the magnification results, in 5 cases, in a value between 152 and
156mm, i.e. close to the aperture of the 6" (152mm) Cooke refractor.
Other magnifications, not listed here, appear in his log book.
Hay did not include his smaller portable refractors in this list.
6" Cooke 17/6/32 Refractor Equatorial. C.D.
Eyepiece No 1 2.6 mm. x45 Field
" " No 2 1.3 " x120
" " No 3 .52 " x300
" " No 4 .39 " x390
" " No 5 .33 " x460
" " No 6 .29 " x600
Comet Eyepiece 3.9 " x53
Ach Ramsden X Bar x65 Field
Ach. Ramsden X Bar 1.95 x90
Large X Bar 3.9 " x53
Moon Power 5.1 " x30
Finder Field 2 degrees. 30'
Hilger Spectroscope (Prisms & Grating)
Thorpe ditto (direct vision) purchased from A. P. Okell Dec 15/32
Bi-Filar Micrometer by Hilger
Camera -- Zeiss triple -- 5" aperture f5.
Camera -- Busch Lens. (Dec 20/32)
Chronograph (by W. T. Hay) Mark II (remade into Mark IV)
Blink Microscope (Hay--Steavenson) made by Hay's.
Synchronome Clock (Master clock & observatory clock)
Observatory -- By Overends. (designed by W. T. Hay)
Chronograph (by Hay) Elec drive. Mark V
12 1/2" Calver Reflector equatorial (presented by the Misses Paxton)
6 1/2 " " "
12 foot Revolving Dome Observatory, designed and erected by W. T. Hay.