DRAFT Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 24th June 2004.

Present: Professor Robert Weale (President) and 22 members, plus three visitors.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 26th June 2003

These were signed by the President as a correct record. There were no matters arising.

2. President’s Remarks

The President thanked everyone who had helped to make a successful year, Julie Atkinson who is the glue of the Society and Jim Brightwell, for producing another excellent year of lectures, and for being the Society’s lubrication. He congratulated Jim for moving into the 20th Century (at least) by acquiring a new computer, and connecting to the internet, despite the dangers of obsession. He thanked to John Oakes for organising a trip to the Wetland Centre, which was a great success, with a very knowledgeable guide, and he recommended it to all members.

Finally he thanked the membership as a whole, remarking that he had felt a change with more of us engaged with helping out, e.g. moving chairs, and which he much appreciated.

3. Secretary’s Report

The Secretary said that we had had another good session of talks, and briefly ran through the topics covered. In Science Week, Dr Roland Jackson unfortunately couldn’t be with us, but instead some members presented their views on Science in a Democratic Society, and there was a good discussion afterwards, concluding that we ought to proselytise Science.

Jim Brightwell commented that he was close to completing the lecture programme for next year, with one more space to fill. He had found that his old method of finding speakers was not working well any more, and when he first went ‘on-line’ it wasn’t much better! But now he has got to grips with the technology and promised topics varying from stem cells to nanotechnology for the next session.

The Secretary reported that in March, we had again arranged a special programme for National Science Week at UCS, and South Hampstead High School. Michael Wynne did most of the work, making contacts and arrangements, with other members helping during the week itself, and she thanked them all. We were able to use money from last year’s grant from the British Association to support advertising and expenses. We also had support and good coverage from the Ham & High. Membership is just over 100, at 110. Despite last year’s agreement to allow students in free, hardly any took advantage, and we still have no junior members.

She hoped members found the web site useful.

The Secretary added her thanks to the President’s and also thanked Peter Wallis for providing the newsletter, to which he would welcome contributions from members, and Betty Weale and her helpers for supplying the coffee. Finally, she thanked Betty Weale, Elisabeth Fischer, Julia Daniels and Peter Wallis for providing with a good spread of food and wine at the AGM.

John Phillipi announced that he had just joined the Society, making the total membership 111. He was particularly interested in Astronomy, and the President welcomed him.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

4. Treasurer’s Report

The Treasurer, Peter Wallis, distributed copies of the accounts and gave his report.

Some increases in costs have occurred this year, in particular the charges for this lecture room and charges for the safe-keeping of the Society’s archives at the bank. He had been able to reduce the cost of the telephone at the observatory, however. Overall our expenditure has only risen by £12.

Our income has, however, been buoyant, with a £500 legacy from Henry Wildey – something the Treasurer recommended to members – and a starting up grant from the British Association. A small increase has been achieved in our membership and hence subscriptions. All in all, the excess of income over expenditure is over a thousand pounds.

He had included a summary of the position on Science Week expenditure, towards which we received a BA grant in the previous year. There was also a summary of the Astronomy Accounts, but this would be covered by the Astronomers as their figures are not in the main account.

The treasurer saw no need for any change to the subscription rates.

Jim Brightwell asked why refreshment costs were down this year. The treasurer explained that this was an artefact, as last year he had bought wine for the AGM before 1st June, but not this year.

There were no further questions, and the report was accepted.

5. Size of Council

The Secretary said that the Society Council comprised a President, Vice President, 4 Honorary Officers, 2 Joint Astronomical Section Secretaries, a Meteorological Section Secretary and 8 Ordinary Council Members, making 17 in all, which was a large number to gather for a Council meeting. She appreciated the help that members gave to the Society, but Council felt that it was a larger proportion of the membership than was usually needed to run a Society, and so proposed the following:

To amend Clause 5b of the Constitution to reduce the number of ordinary members on the council from 8 to 5. The reduction would be effected by natural wastage as members retire from Council under the four-year rule.

Martin Williams supported the proposal, saying that it was better to have a leaner Council, and also that there was room for volunteers or appointees to help on subcommittees for special cases, e.g. Science Week. The President concurred, saying that had been done for the Centenary.

Julia Daniels said she felt that the proposal was a mistake. In practice Council meetings never had anything like 17 members present, more like 8 to 10. She felt that 8 heads were better than 10 when it came to ideas for the lecture programme. Doug Daniels pointed out that few people volunteer for Council, and there were currently a number of places unfilled. The President pointed out that the Astronomy Secretariat had doubled in numbers, and there were at least 10 at each Council meeting. John Oakes said the matter should be judged by how many is the optimum number, and he supported the proposal.

The proposal was put to the vote. It was carried 11:2 with 2 abstentions.

6. Election of Council

The Secretary announced that Council had re-elected Robert Weale as President at the Council meeting on 21st April. 2004.

As there were no further nominations, the following officers proposed by Council were declared as elected:
Julie Atkinson Hon. Secretary Peter Wallis Hon. Treasurer
Jim Brightwell Hon. Programme Secretary Elisabeth Fisher Hon. Membership Secretary

The following members were proposed for Council and as no further nominations were received, were declared as elected:
Eric Morgan Proposed by Council Betty Weale Proposed by Council
Brian Bond Proposed by Council Simon Lang Proposed by Council
Angus McKenzie Proposed by Council Michael Sabel Proposed by Council
John Oakes Proposed by Council

7. Election of Auditors

The President thanked Geoff Shelley and Martin Williams for their work on auditing the Accounts.

Doug Daniels proposed Geoff Shelley to continue, Elisabeth Fischer seconded. Julie Atkinson proposed Martin Williams, and Michael Sabel seconded. They were duly elected as auditors.

8. Astronomy Section Report

The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Doug Daniels, presented his report.

Once again the date chosen for the annual observatory working party was unfortunate as it coincided with the beginning of the hottest summer weather on record. He thanked those members of the astronomy section who braved the heat to help prepare the observatory.

Unfortunately, this year the maximum of the annual Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 13th, coincided with a full moon. It was decided not to organise a watch.

This year National Astronomy Week took place from 23rd - 30th August, to coincide with the close opposition of Mars. The Observatory opened to the public every clear night during the week, just three. About 100 or so visitors turned up each night. It was particularly gratifying to see so many children excited by such a ‘late night’ adventure. The Astronomical Secretary thanked all those demonstrators and assistants who volunteered to help during the week and those members who turned up ‘impromptu’ to assist by engaging the visitors in interesting discussions.

When the regular session of public open nights resumed on the 12th of September, public interest in Mars had not waned and a good crowd turned up. On the following Saturday night the crowd was even greater, swelled by about 45 people from the ‘Hampstead walks’. During October, Mars began to recede but public interest did not and attendance on public nights remained high making the most of the unusually clear conditions.

On the 19th of October Julia and Doug joined with other members, guests and relatives to celebrate Henry Wildey’s 90th birthday. It therefore came as a tremendous shock to receive the news of his sudden death on October 21st. Henry had been a member of this Society for 69 years and was Astronomical Secretary from 1946-1988. A full obituary appeared in various places. Henry made a generous bequest of £1000 to the Society, to be shared equally between the general fund and the Astronomy section which has used part of this bequest to obtain Henry’s short focus 6-inch refractor, to be known as ‘the Wildey Telescope’.

Towards the end of October, we were alerted to a huge naked eye sunspot group which had developed despite it being 3 years past solar maximum. The Sun was undergoing an unusual and dramatic burst of activity. Doug managed to secure a nice sequence of digital images. Terry Pearce and Paul Clements reported strong Auroral activity on the night of 29th visible from Weston Coleville Cambs.

A few members of the public joined Gary Marriot, Leo McLaughlin, Simon Lang and Doug Daniels to observe the total lunar eclipse on the night of 8th-9th of November. November was also the month of the annual Leonid meteor shower. However, the weather put paid to any observations. By December, the frequency of clear nights coinciding with weekends had declined significantly and the pattern was continued into the New Year.

There were a few clear ‘open nights’ in January 2004 but in general the weather was poor. Venus was attaining greater altitude heading for its greatest eastern elongation on March 29th, followed by a rapidly fading Mars, then Saturn and later, Jupiter. On the evening of 7th of February over 50 visitors enjoyed fine views of Saturn and Jupiter and even the Orion Nebula, despite the presence of a nearly full Moon. Just one week later on the evening of 15th of February, Doug suffered a mild heart attack and was carted off to hospital!

His temporary incapacitation unfortunately coincided with Science Week, which commenced on March 12th. However, the weather remained poor and only the session on Friday 19th of March was well attended. John Tennant and Terry Pearce were able to show some 25 visitors Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. By late March, Mercury joined the planetary ensemble, attaining its greatest eastern elongation (19 deg.) on March 29th.

The session of public open nights finished on 18th April. May featured yet another total lunar eclipse, on the 4th, occurring at moonrise with the moon very low on the horizon and the sky not dark, and we did not open the observatory. During May there were actually three comets in the sky simultaneously, Comet Bradfield, Comet LINEAR and Comet NEAT. The Observatory was opened on the nights of the 15th and 16th of May, as part of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival, and this year we were fortunate to have clear skies on both nights. Terry Pearce observed Comet NEAT it on 16th and 17th May using 10 x 70 binoculars. He reported a dim diffuse low contrast fan shaped coma, the merest hint of a tail and a tiny ‘spark like’ nucleus. Doug observed it on 18th May with 7x50 binoculars.

As if to provide a ‘grand finale’ to an eventful session, Venus transited the sun on 8th of June. Simon Lang produced a useful information sheet and some advance publicity appeared in the Hampstead and Highgate Gazette. On the preceding day, Simon, Ron Smith and Gordon Harding put in an enormous effort and a considerable number of man hours to prepare the Observatory. Simon worked all through the night to erect a series of sun screens to provide shade for the visitors. We set up the Wildey 6-inch telescope and Doug’s 6-inch Helios refractor equipped with safe objective solar filters made by Terry Pearce. Simon also bought along his 4-inch refractor and Jacquey Oppenheimer her 8-inch Meade Schmidt Cassegrain. All these instruments were put to very good use as we were at times almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors. The Astronomy Secretary thanked all demonstrators who manned their instruments throughout the long hot morning. We estimated that in all about 200 children observed it together with about 300 adults.

The large crowds were very generous with donations, encouraged by Michael Wynne and later Ron Smith, the total exceeding £500. The whole event was a total success and certainly raised the profile of the Society. Doug thanked all those who came to assist on a long, hot, exhausting but exciting day, especially Simon Lang who took on the ‘lions share’ of the hard physical work.

Finally, the Joint Astronomy Secretary thanked all demonstrators and assistants for continuing to give so generously of their time and Julia Daniels for sorting out the roster and looking after the finances. He thanked all those who helped in any way behind the scenes to keep the observatory up and running for the benefit of members and visitors alike.

Martin Williams said he also had brought photos of the Transit of Venus which people could look at. Robert Weale said that he had been in Norway at the time, and watched via CNN, noting that in one bulletin the transit passed clockwise and in another anti-clockwise! He was glad that Doug Daniels’ affair of the heart has passed satisfactorily.

There were no further questions, and the report was accepted.

The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Julia Daniels, presented the Astronomy Section Accounts.

She noted that interest was slightly down, and that fees for the Ham & High Festival were more than last year. The normal fund box revenue was similar to last year, but extraordinary events, the Mars opposition and the Transit of Venus, had brought in an extra £138 and £505 respectively. Henry Wildey had left £1,000 in his legacy, of which £500 had been transferred to the general accounts, and £400 paid to his children for the telescope to bear his name. Further monies had been paid to obtain a locker and tripod to house and use with it.

Postage etc. was similar this year with purchase of a new accounts book for £15 increasing the expenses over last year. But she was pleased to report an excess of income over expenditure this year of £869.

There were no questions and the report was accepted.

9. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, presented his report.

The automatic weather-recording station continues to function satisfactorily, and no calibration drift has been identified during the last 12 months or so - no re-calibration or other servicing was required. Occasional manual readings (averaging once every two weeks) were taken to confirm the readings from the AWS. There were no interruptions to the operation of the station at all during the year.

In November 2003 Philip contacted the Met Office to determine whether they had any interest in accessing data from the station on a daily basis, in addition to receiving the regular monthly reports. They said yes, and two of their technical staff visited the site earlier this year to discover whether any changes needed to be made to the instrumentation, modem, or comms software. Little progress has been make since then, but the project is still “on”. We get two things out of the proposed relationship: our phone bills paid, and all routine maintenance and servicing carried out free.

The HSS website now has a link to the Hampstead section in Philip’s own weather information site. So far he has added daily and monthly pages covering the last eighteen months, and yearly summaries going back to 1961. This represents substantial progress on this time last year, and no doubt future additions will appear in fits and starts.

The Meteorological Secretary gave a quick look at the weather of the last twelve months:

SUMMER 2003 … the centrepiece was the early-August heatwave when the temperature climbed above 28ºC daily for almost a fortnight, reaching 35ºC on August 6, and 36.8ºC on August 10 … a new record for Hampstead. The summer as a whole was the warmest since 1976, but notwithstanding the August drought, it was neither very dry nor very sunny.

AUTUMN 2003 brought many contrasts. September was very dry and sunny, and it was unusually warm by day, though rather cold at night. The drought continued until the last few days of October, although October itself was the coldest for ten years. November was an unsettled, mild, and often windy month, and the second half was exceptionally wet with almost 60mm of rain falling during 48 hours over the penultimate weekend. (That’s a month’s worth in two days.)

WINTER 2003-2004 was slightly colder than most recent winters, and there were brief cold episodes in all three months, bringing appreciable snow in late-January, and again at the very end of February. There was also an exceptionally mild week at the beginning of February when the temperature reached 16ºC. SPRING 2004 was mixed … a cool but dry March followed by a warm and wet April … then May after a dismal first week turned out to be dry, warm and sunny.

Philip Eden also commented that there had been three intense record breaking depressions affecting the country this year, the previous day’s being the worst since the 19th Century.

Eric Morgan asked how the temperature on 10th August last year compared with that on 9th August 1911, the previous record. Philip Eden replied that that had been 100?F at Greenwich under non-standard conditions – a Glasher stand rather than a Stevenson screen had been used, and this measure could have included additional reflective radiation. Tunbridge’s record was next, and that could be similarly discounted.

Martin Williams asked how up to date the daily figures were on the web. Philip Eden said adding data to the web was not fully automated, and he updated the daily figures at the end of the month. Martin asked if we could sell the daily data, but Philip Eden said there was not necessarily a market.

Jim Brightwell said on the 22 June 2004 he recorded 22mm of rain in Edgware. This was the wettest day since 22 November 2003 which also had 22mm of rain. The wettest day he had recorded in Edgware since Jan 1990 was 22 Sept 1992 with 75mm of rain. The longest period of wet days was Feb 9th - March 2nd 1995 with 22 consecutive days of rain. Philip Eden replied that there were so many figures in meteorological data that co-incidences like that were bound to occur.

Julia Daniels asked if we were in danger of another hot summer. Philip Eden thought not this year.

Eric Morgan asked if the prevalence of extreme weather was due to global warming. Philip Eden was cautious on this, as some models predicted it but not all.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

10. BA Affiliation

The Secretary reported that we had been affiliated to the British Association for one year. Fears of being overwhelmed by BA members attending our meetings have been unfounded. In fact not many have come along, which is a pity, as we had hoped to attract some new blood.

She recommended the BA’s own events as of interest, however, and said that they had recently revised their membership schemes, to include email notification of events and email newsletters. There were leaflets available about it.

She reported that the Society had officially attended a couple of BA events, in particular the Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Salford last year. This was a useful place to discuss the experiences of other scientific societies and see what they were doing that is successful.

In all, the Society had originally voted for a two year trial with the BA and Council felt that should stand.

Peter Stone said that he had been disappointed that Roland Jackson had been unable to come along for the Science Week lecture, and asked if we could invite him again.

This year the programme is almost complete, but we could try him again for Science week.

Ron Smith said that he had been a member of the BA for some time and enjoyed it. He had only had one communication about the Society, and wondered if we could send our programme information twice a year. The Secretary said that it was quite costly to send letters to all the BA members in the catchment area, but she tried to add our events into their on-line events database. That was only useful for members on-line. Ron Smith suggested that we should try to be included in the national newsletter and ensure that our web site was linked to from their site. Action 2004/1

11. AOB.

Martin Williams pointed out two events that might be of interest to members:

Robert Weale said that he had received notice of Nominations for the Council of the BA for the forthcoming year, of which two were to be nominated by Branches. He suggested that if we were to nominate a member, that might bring the Society’s interests more to the fore in the BA.

He asked for volunteers, and Martin Williams and Jim Brightwell were proposed. There was an election in which Jim Brightwell was elected 12:5 as the Hampstead nominee. The Secretary will nominate him. Action 2004/2

The AGM was followed by a Quiz organised by Michael Sabel.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

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