|Sir Patrick Moore, UKIP patron.|
After stewing about the problem of our membership of the EU from around 1990 onwards, in 1996 I took the plunge and put my name forward as a possible Referendum Party candidate. After an initial interview in my home town of Walsall I was asked to go on a twenty four hour combined candidate training and selection course which was being held in the Royal Angus Hotel in Birmingham.
The course, which took place in September of that year, was quite intense as there was a lot to learn, it began at 1 pm on the Friday and went through to 7 pm when we were told dinner was one hour later and we would all have to give a three minute speech the following morning.
After dinner and a beer or two I spent a large part of the night preparing my first ever public speech. The following morning at breakfast whilst chatting with another member who was on the course we were both pleasantly surprised to see none other than Sir Patrick Moore, the great astronomer, come walking into the dining room for breakfast.
As I had to check out of my hotel room before 10 am and the next morning session was due to start at 9 am, after breakfast I went to the reception to hand in my key and whilst checking out the great man came and stood beside me as he had something to ask at reception. It was when I got into the lift, just as the doors were closing, I heard a shrill voice shout: ‘Wait for me’, which was when I found myself standing in a lift with a personality I had been watching on TV since I was a lad.
I could not resist and told him what a pleasure it was to meet him and how I had been watching him on the telly in the Sky At Night since my youth, to which he replied: “Oh yes, we have been going rather a long time”. The lift doors opened, I stepped out and said goodbye and as the lift doors closed to take Sir Patrick on his journey a few floor higher, I stood in the hotel corridor with a massive smile on my face, I just couldn’t help it as it was such a privilege to have met him.
My efforts that weekend in the hotel proved successful as a month later I was asked to be the Referendum Party candidate in Walsall North and with my team of activists, some of whom are still campaigning with me in UKIP all these years later, we achieved a vote of 3.3 per cent which was the RP average for the 1997 General Election.
Some time after that election a question was asked in the 'questions and answers' section in the Daily Mail, a question was asked by a reader: ‘Has Sir Patrick Moore ever seen a UFO?’ He responded to say he had not, other people gave all sorts of answers too and I just could not resist sending in a reply as well. In my response, which the Daily Mail published, I informed the readers how I had met Sir Patrick just before I was due to give a speech and let them know that he had actually travelled in a lift with an “Unknown Friendly Orator’ – a UFO.
When a year or two later as, by then a very committed and active UKIP member, I learned that Sir Patrick had become a member of UKIP too I was delighted – I just wished I had told him on that day why I was in the hotel as it was obvious he would have agreed with me.
As I could not help but notice on the day I shared a lift with him, he was a larger than life character both in stature and personality – Patrick Moore was without doubt everyone’s favourite eccentric. He was a remarkable man too. He was self taught in astronomy and the maps he had drawn of the moon in his early years were so good and accurate they were used by NASA for their first manned moon landings in 1969.
Nigel Farage the UKIP leader, said on news of the death of Sir Patrick on Sunday 9th December: "Since I first met Sir Patrick when he dominated a UKIP stage in 1999, he has been a friend and an inspiration. Not only to us in UKIP, but across the country and around the world.
"Today we have seen the passing of a true great, and a true Englishman". How true that is.
No doubt now released from this mortal existence his spirit is excitedly shooting around the stars and galaxies he spent all his life studying and finding out if his theories and facts on the universe were correct. What a nice thought, for a man like him that really would be heaven. He also met a UFO in a lift in Birmingham.