Sir Patrick Moore’s astronomical generosity to secret ‘sons’

Patrick Moore and Ian Makins
Patrick Moore and Ian Makins

11 January 2014 by Andrew Young

Sky At Night Presenter leaves bulk of £400k estate to four men he ‘adopted’ after fathers died

Astronomer, who last year died aged 89, never married or had children
He left a net estate worth £420,707, with Brian May as executor
He also left gifts totalling £15,700 for friends and £500 for a ‘farewell party’

Role model: Sir Patrick with Ian Makins at a cricket match. Mr Makins is one of four beneficiaries of the late Sky At Night presenter’s £400,000 legacy

Sky At Night presenter Sir Patrick Moore left almost everything he owned to four men he regarded as his ‘sons’ – even though he wasn’t related to them. The astronomer, who died aged 89 in 2012, never married or had children of his own. But after several of his friends died relatively young, he became a father figure to their sons. Four of the men – Ian Makins, 53, Chris Doherty, 35, and brothers Lawrence Clarke, 62, and Matthew Clarke, 58 – were the main beneficiaries of his will.

Probate records released last week revealed that Sir Patrick left a net estate worth £420,707 and made his close friend, Queen guitarist Brian May, an executor. His will requested that his body be offered for medical research and transplants, and asked his executors to ‘find loving homes’ for his cats Jeannie and Ptolemy and use his estate to pay for their upkeep. He also left gifts totalling £15,700 for 21 friends and £500 for a ‘farewell party’ at his cottage – known as ‘Farthings’ in Selsey, West Sussex.

The will, which was drawn up in 2010, stated that the party should ‘carry on the Farthings Rules’, which meant that guests could pour themselves drinks without asking.

He also stated that his belongings, which included artworks and scientific instruments, be distributed according to any instructions he left or as his executors wished. The rest of his estate was split between Mr Makins, Mr Doherty and the Clarke brothers after payment of inheritance tax.

Father-of-two Matthew Clarke, who owns a bookshop in Paignton, Devon, said: ‘My father became friends with Patrick when they joined the RAF together. He was part of our lives from when we were born. He would take us on trips to the BBC to see The Sky At Night being produced. ‘Patrick helped me get my first job in publishing. My father died when I was 22 and my mother passed away a few years later, but Patrick was always there for us. I used to speak to him every Sunday. He was a total one-off and extremely generous. His death left a big hole in our lives.’

Mr Clarke’s brother Lawrence, also a father-of-two, edited many of Sir Patrick’s books. He said: ‘He wrote a wedding march for my wife and I when we got married. He was someone you could talk to in confidence.’

Patrick Moore at Investiture
Patrick Moore at his investiture at Buckingham Palace with his adopted son Adam Corrie (left) and Chris Doherty. Photo credit Charles Green

Unmarried: Sir Patrick at his investiture at Buckingham Palace in 2001 with his adopted son Chris Doherty, right

Sir Patrick, who became the youngest member of the British Astronomical Association at the age of 11, served with the RAF during the Second World War.

His fiancée Lorna, a nurse, was killed in an air raid in 1943 when she was 20. He later said his ‘whole life ended that day’.

Sir Patrick began presenting The Sky At Night in 1957, making it the longest-running television series with the same presenter. His ability to describe complex phenomena in an exciting and simple way made him a household name, and he was knighted in 2001.