THOMAS EPPS’ VISIT TO ABERNETHY: FEBRUARY 2022
TUESDAY 22ND FEBRUARY:
I had the pleasure of hosting “Thomas Epps, an Operations Chief in the U.S. Navy” for a few days at Abernethy, in February. His vessel USNS Laramie was moored in Hunterston and Thomas had shore leave. We had a hobby in common, and we met through our Facebook Group, Astronomy Scotland, so a meet up was a no brainer.
I travelled with Ian Borland to Largs, to pick up Thomas and we had a diversion to South Queensferry on the way home for a spot of lunch and an ogle at the “3 Bridges” Thomas was more than impressed at the old Forth Bridge, cameras and phones clicking away by us all.
We headed back to ‘Nethy for some rest, an evening meal and Thomas’s drink of choice TEA. (No amber nectar was consumed for the duration).
WEDNESDAY 23RD FEBRUARY:
We (Thomas, Ian and I) headed to Dundee to check out The V & A museum; it was closed! The weather was appalling, horizontal rain and a wind that would have tamed even the hardiest of Scotsmen. So we ventured to the RRS Discovery display and we weren’t disappointed, a great audio visual treat, and the ship was amazing, (if you haven’t been, take the trip, it’s worth it!) Seeing the ship really drove home how difficult it must have been for those hardy explorers.
While in Dundee, we were hoping to see Mills Observatory, but the access road had recently been closed due to fallen trees, but we risked a drive just in case! “Phew, the road had been cleared”. We again got the cameras and phones out to capture some pictures of the old building with its Art Deco railings and papier-mâché dome. We were greeted by one of the attendants and given a brief history of the building, but Thomas was here to see the “star” of the show, the old Cooke telescope and the dome.
Unfortunately, the telescope is out of operation at present due to some cogs needing replaced and the “soft focus” of the lenses needing attention. The facility has a large dobsonian telescope on site for evening events and it is more than capable of giving amazing views of the heavens. Well worth the visit!
THURSDAY 24th FEBRUARY:
Thursday was a day at home, we did some astro repairs to telescopes for the planned evening ahead, and the forecast for stargazing was good. After some home cooking by yours truly, we took the telescope out into Alan and Doreen’s back yard, (they kindly agreed it was ok to use it), we toured the night sky, observing various star clusters, nebulae and actually stood for at least an hour chatting and looking above, a great night, and Thomas’s knowledge of the night sky was just amazing.
J D Millar
THOMAS EPPS VISIT (PART 2)
Due to my error in the last edition when we published David Millar’s account of the days spent with Thomas Epps the Friday, Saturday and Sunday episodes were missed off. I hope that this did not spoil your enjoyment of the article but it can be found on the website if you wish to read this part in context.
FRIDAY 25th FEBRUARY:
An early rise was scheduled, as we had a long drive to Moffat; we had booked a VIP tour at Moffat Observatory. We took the scenic route to Moffat, via Edinburgh and the borders. The hills snow-capped and bright sunshine made the drive a real pleasure with a few stops photographing hills, sheep (yes sheep) and a brief stopover at The Devils Beeftub which was stunning in the sun and snow. We arrived at the observatory and were greeted by Jeff Furner and Jim Paterson, volunteers at the observatory. The observatory is a community facility run by members of Moffat Astronomy Club.
It was officially opened by Astronomer Royal Catherine Heymans last year. A stunning location with a perfect southern aspect. The observatory is state of the art, with a huge Meade telescope and warm/control room. Some teething issues are being ironed out, minor ones. The facility will be used by members of the club and astro enthusiasts from the area. We had a cuppa and were presented with a Moffat Dark Sky mug, a lovely touch by the members. Many thanks to those who made our visit possible and enjoyable. Friday night was another stargazing episode; we did another tour of the night sky using large binoculars and due to Thomas’s depth of knowledge I saw many objects I’d never seen before. Every day’s a school day.
SATURDAY 26th FEBRUARY
Another earlyish start for a whirlwind tour to finish off Thomas’s visit to Scotland. We headed to East Lomond car park to view the vistas available. Me, I quickly hurried back to the car, a biting wind and the wrong clothes put paid to me seeing the views again. We headed downhill to Falkland and had a walk around some of the village, unfortunately the palace was closed. A short drive later took us to Maspie Den. Our guide assured us he knew where it was, but it had moved, really it did! We drove over to Scotlandwell and supped from the waters. Thomas was intrigued by the water filtering through the sand and bubbling up from within. Another camera opportunity. I chatted with a friendly gent who was filling a 5 gallon container from the well; he told me his wife would only drink this water. Ian Borland had organised with his mum a few gifts for Thomas, so we headed to Kinross and firstly took in the viewing platform at Loch Leven, where many bird watching enthusiasts had what looked like canons atop tripods, (huge camera lenses), then to Mrs B’s house for a rest break and a chat. Daylight was possibly going to beat us, but I risked a speed limit drive (honest) to “The Hermitage”, a cool walk filled with forest smells, unusual rock formations, and kayakers braving the white waters enthralled us on our leisurely amble to the old bridge and then Ossian’s Hall. Cameras clicking again. The falls were full and roaring, filling the air with mist. A magical place! It was getting dull, so we headed for a brief walk around Dunkeld and finished off with good old fish and chips to top off the day.
SUNDAY 27th FEBRUARY
Home time! Ian B. and I drove “Tom” to Largs, and his trusty vessel awaited. A sad ending to a fantastic week. Tom had talked on many occasions on history; he is a big fan. His depth of knowledge on naval history is quite amazing and kept us listening for many hours during his visit. He assured us we haven’t seen the last of him and promised to come “home” (he has family ties to Paisley) again with his wife Lucy.
Haste ye back sir, it was our pleasure!