Patrick MOORE OBE (1923-2012)

Patrick Moore This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 373
  • Subject No: 374
  • Broadcast live: Wed 13 Feb 1974
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Repeated: Wed 6 Feb 1974
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 14
  • Edition: 13

on the guest list...

  • James Burke
  • Gertrude - mother
  • David Nixon
  • Rev John Missen
  • Patrick Clarke
  • Lawrence Clarke
  • Guest Dempster
  • Mary Trotter
  • pupils from Holmewood House School - in audience
  • Sandy Helm - in audience
  • Ray Lowrie
  • Paul Johnstone
  • members of Selsey cricket team
  • Ron Maidment
  • Filmed tributes:
  • members of Shoreham Light Opera Company
  • Dave Scott

production team...

  • Researchers: Carol Lee, Vincent Stafford
  • Writer: John Sandilands
  • Director: Royston Mayoh
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Life As We Know It

highlighting the experts

Eamonn's surprising disguises

TV Times feature on some bizarre outfits

David Nixon

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Screenshots of Patrick Moore This Is Your Life

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

The preparations that led to my first ever meeting with Patrick Moore were, for me at least, a real journey into the unknown. The journey began late in 1973. Patrick was no newcomer to television.

A much respected young astronomer, he had been invited years before to appear in a BBC programme about people's beliefs in flying saucers. He was so impressive that he was chosen to front a new programme that was about to be launched on the air. The programme was, of course, The Sky at Night and in the following seventeen years he never missed one of more than 200 programmes.

As millions of British viewers watched American astronaut Neil Armstrong make his historic first steps on the Moon, it was the voice of commentator Patrick Moore that explained his every move.

And it was that moment in history that inspired our attempt to bring stargazer Patrick down to earth.

I had never met him, but knew well of his professional reputation and the warmth he generated from all who knew him. And that warmth was easy to understand when we met bachelor Patrick's "nearest and dearest", his 83-year-old mother who lives with him in the little village of Selsey in Sussex.

There, at the Patrick Moore personal moon base, with telescopes growing at the bottom of the garden, she told us how, when he was just a boy she first got him to share her own interest in the stars by giving him a book to read called "The Story of the Solar System".

And it was his mother who played a major role in his writing at least one of his fifty-nine books. Let me explain. Having already astounded the learned gentlemen of the British Astronomical Society with his youthful prediction that man would land on the moon by the 1980s he gave a lecture on how useful it would be to have a guide to its surface. So fluent was the lecture, it was not surprising someone assumed he had already committed the Moon guide to paper.

The following day a journalist telephoned his mother when Patrick was out and asked if it was correct that Patrick had written the guide. She said that if he had said so then he must have done so. The journalist said as much next day and to Patrick's surprise a publisher contacted him about the manuscript. When he consulted mum about the non-existent book she told him that the only thing to do in that case was to sit down and write it double quick. And that is just what he did. When the book appeared he called it simply "Guide to the Moon".

I found myself almost wishing I'd seen a copy that day I was asked to dress up in that astronaut's space suit. It was an essential part of the plan we had devised to surprise Patrick on our own Lunar landscape. Our props and scenes experts built a strikingly realistic set from polystyrene which they mounted in the Goldhawk Film Studios near Shepherd's Bush and not far from the studio where Patrick presented his regular programme.

His producer kindly agreed to help us lure him to the studio to do an interview about space travel. To add colour, we hired a realistic looking mock-up of a moon buggy from Pinewood Film studios for Patrick to sit in during the interview.

Patrick Moore This Is Your Life

But first we had to find a space suit to fit me. Did you ever hear the one about the Irish astronaut waiting for the eccentric astronomer? Well, I can tell you he nearly suffocated inside his suit which, though it looked authentic, was actually made of white canvas with plastic fittings and all puffed up by a foam rubber under suit. It was ghastly and it was hard to move a step. I was dripping wet and could hardly breathe. With the visor down I doubt if even Grainne, my wife, and my children would have recognised me. Yet here I was about to meet someone I had never met before and who probably wouldn't know me even if he saw me in a dinner jacket.

When he came into the studio I was already in position. He didn't bat an eyelid as he passed and simply said: "Good afternoon. I'm Patrick Moore".

It gave me the perfect cue to lift my visor and announce: "And I'm Eamonn Andrews".

Patrick Moore This Is Your Life

"OK. How nice to meet you", he said. For a moment I really did feel like a man from the Moon. That urbane "Nice to meet you" almost reduced me to an anonymous silence. But I had to plough on. "Patrick Moore this is your life..." He started to chuckle and I knew we were on terra firma again. He chuckled all the way to our studios and for a long time afterwards.

Patrick Moore This Is Your Life

There's Patrick with his mum. And he's still chuckling about that meeting with the first astronaut to set foot in Shepherd's Bush.

Patrick Moore biography

Martin Mobberley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, It Came From Outer Space Wearing an RAF Blazer...

On February 6th 1974, two days before the splashdown of the Skylab three crew, Patrick was finally collared by Eamonn Andrews, disguised in a space suit, and subjected to a This Is Your Life experience. Patrick was sitting in a scale model of the NASA Lunar Roving vehicle when Eamonn bagged him. Totally oblivious to what was about to happen, Patrick, led by James Burke, had said hello to the mysterious astronaut as he positioned himself in the Lunar Rover. Even when Eamonn got the red book out it did not register with Patrick that this was anything other than a joke. Then it suddenly dawned on him that this was for real! "You swine" he laughed at Eamonn (and he said more than that 'off camera'). Guests on the programme included: James Burke; Patrick's mother Gertrude; magician David Nixon; his childhood tutor (the 84-year-old Reverend John Missen); his lifelong friend Pat Clarke and Pat's son Lawrence; Patrick's former RAF Wellington crew colleague Flt Lt. Guest Dempster; a schoolteacher from his Holmewood days, Mary Trotter; the co-founder (with Patrick) of the Shoreham Light Opera company, Ray Lowrie; Patrick's first BBC producer Paul Johnstone; the entire Selsey Cricket Club; and a video recorded message from astronaut Dave Scott.

Patrick was very keen to correct people when they gave the wrong information on that programme. When James Burke told Eamonn that Patrick had predicted the Moon landings when he was 15 and had been the youngest British Interplanetary Society member, Patrick quickly corrected him that it was the British Astronomical Association, not the BIS, and he stressed that plenty of others had made that same prediction about the Moon landings. He also exploded when Eamonn stated that Patrick's opera, Perseus and Andromeda, was just about to be released by the Shoreham Light Opera company in Essex. "SUSSEX, SUSSEX, SUSSEX", Patrick bellowed! Of great interest to this author is that there was not the merest hint of Patrick's wartime fiancee in the programme, or his alleged piano accompaniment with Einstein. These were stories that Patrick only really promoted after his mother died: presumably, there was then no-one to scold him for "telling fibs", and Patrick loved telling stories and adding a degree of embellishment!

Strangely, there were no amateur astronomers on that programme, and only a few people from Patrick's distant past. It was as if Patrick's life had solely been associated with being on TV. The programme was transmitted a week later, on February 13th 1974, and was the 116th This Is Your Life, immediately following the one on the comedy actor John Alderton (from Please Sir!) and just preceding the one on the Orlando actor Sam Kydd. [ editor: It was the 373rd edition since the programme began in 1955 and the 117th edition produced by Thames Television]

TV Times article: Patrick Moore This Is Your Life

TV Times 16 March 1974

So alike

Much as I enjoyed a recent This Is Your Life I couldn't help thinking Patrick Moore, the subject, came over as the double of the late Godfrey Winn. His first guest, James Burke, was so like Lord Longford, and to cap it all, Moore's mother – an alert 87 – reminded me of the late Dame Margaret Rutherford.

Mrs Joan Plummer, Inveraray, Argyll

Series 14 subjects

Jim Dale | Vic Feather | Hayley Mills | Pete Murray | George Sewell | David Nixon | Robert Dougall | Deryck Guyler
Derek Dougan | William Coles | Jimmy Jewel | John Alderton | Patrick Moore | Sam Kydd | John Dankworth
Gordon Ostlere (Richard Gordon) | Lionel Blair | Sheila Scott | Roy Dotrice | Barry Briggs | Christopher Lee
Beryl Grey | Terry Biddlecombe | Don Revie | Robert Morley | David Hemery | Eamonn Andrews