Friday 20th November 1981 saw the first meeting of the newly formed Bridgend Amateur Astronomical Society (BAAS) at the Recreation Centre in Bridgend. Formed by three astronomy enthusiasts, Laurie Brophy, Frank Morris and Joan Hawkins, it was soon joined by like minded individuals such as Martin and Pam Chick, Martin Griffiths, Keith Clark, Alva Williams, Steve Lubbock and others and the society slowly began to grow as others were attracted to the meetings which featured lectures from Ted Featherstone, Dick Jenkins, and local academics from Swansea and Cardiff universities.

From the start it was a friendly and open society featuring after lecture drinks in the bar, cups of tea and coffee in various venues, and great interaction between all members. Going from strength to strength, a constitution was formed and Steve Lubbock, an internationally renowned variable star observer became our first president.

Members were drawn from all over the Bridgend locality and the Glamorgan Gazette newspaper helped us with advertising and the occasional story included. Members raised funding via skittle and darts matches, the odd jumble sale and raffling odds and ends.

Observation sessions were a frequent feature of those early years with a good core of members owning telescopes and turning up for nightly sessions. Some of the great highlights of these sessions involved observing Halley’s comet, the 1994 crash of comet Shoemaker Levy 9 into Jupiter, countless novae and other comets, Comet Neowise in 2020, the transit of Venus in 2004, the occultation of Venus in 2007 and so many more great events. One fondly remembered session was the Lunar eclipse of 1991 when the entire observing clan were introduced to wonderful American brownies by the wife of one of the members.

Over the years we have had some great trips such as going to Jodrell bank, the Greenwich Observatory, Spaceguard and attending conferences at Bristol University, Worcester College and Cardiff University. We have attended conferences at Cardiff Museum and have made a contribution to all of them.

Over the 40 plus years of the Bridgend Astronomical Society we have seen friends come and go, changed venues on occasion and have gone from strength to strength in membership. We hold observing sessions as often as possible and have a welcoming clique in members of the committee and our friendly members. It was wonderful to welcome our founder members to our 40th Anniversary dinner in 2021 and also sad to learn of Laurie Brophy’s death in 2022, a man who did so much for so many people.

In that time the technology that is used by us has changed massively from us amateurs using SLR film cameras to the new DSLR cameras, CCDs and planetary cameras. Making use of the internet, sharing images, forming a Facebook profile and having our web page up there in lights. Not even the Covid-19 pandemic stopped us meeting by Zoom and continuing our education via courses and online forums. 40 years ago few of us imagined how so much would change!

The membership of this small society now stands at 100+ and with over 2400 people following us on Facebook there is much scope for future growth. The committees through the years have always worked hard to give their best and encourage others in the fantastic hobby of astronomy and long will it continue.

These additional notes were written by one of our founding members, Joan Hawkins, for our 40th Anniversary in 2021.

Our first meeting took place at The Committee Room at Bridgend Sports Centre (now the Recreational Centre) on Friday 20th November 1981, with around 18-20 potential new members turning up at a cost of 30p per person towards room hire fees and of course the included cups of tea and biscuits.

The society went from strength to strength, with a good program of talks given by astronomers from Cardiff and Swansea Astronomical Societies also from our very own Observation Officer Martin Griffiths and to round off the evening, we would all meet at the bar of the recreation centre for a pint and a friendly chat.

I am very proud to say of the society has moved on over the years but the success has remained.

In the beginning we had to advertise the society by putting up homemade posters around in local shop windows, sometimes we had to pay to do this, and if we were lucky enough to have clinched a small free advert in our local newspaper The Gazette that helped enormously. We went on to organise fund raising events, jumble sales, sponsored skittle and darts matches, weekly raffles etc, to help raise money for our outgoing expenses, which was all good friendly fun. With the huge advances of the internet and technology, along with Hubble space telescope able to take the most amazing pictures of the ever expanding universe, our knowledge has taken astronomy to the next level, with our hugely successful society welcoming everyone from all levels of astronomy, from absolute beginners to professionals, from all walks of life, the young and the old, I am pleased to say that the warm, friendly and helpful welcome is still going as strong today as it was always meant to be.

May it continue for the next 40 years and beyond.

I would to thank the present committee for all their hard work going on behind the scenes for presenting us the amazingly successful Bridgend Astronomical Society that we are today, I am sure the other two founders, Laurie Brophy and Frank Morris would be very proud of BAS’s achivements.

Joan Hawkins – Founding Member