THE NEW YORKER (magazine) carried an article on June 27, 1983 on page 76 about the Halley’s Comet Society of England.  Gwyneth Cravens’ article, “Toasting Halley’s Comet” recounts her recent visit to London where she had the privilege of attending a celebration that is held annually in honor of Halley’s Comet.  According to the article, the Society was founded in 1976 by Brian Harpur, who recently retired from his job as senior director of a newspaper group that includes the DAILY MAIL.  At the party, Harpur was wearing a bright blue necktie on which was superimposed the numbers “1986,” in pale blue except for the “9,” which was enlarged into a brilliant orange comet with a blazing tail.  Among the celebrities at the party were Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his wife.  The article goes on to describe how Mr. Harpur lectured on the comet, visual aids and all, with special attention to the pronunciation of “Halley”.  Another speaker on the program, a Dr. Moore, recited a verse related to the pronunciation:

“Of all the comets in the sky

There’s none like Comet Halley!

We’ll see it with the naked eye

And period-I-cawley.”


The stock Halley’s Comet slides were shown (depicting the Bayeux Tapestry, drawings from 1835 and photos from 1910, etc.) and there was even a rendition of “Halley’s Ballad” sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  The chorus went: “Glory, glory, Mr. Halley, your comet’s hurt-ling on!”


We were quite amused by the article and decided that we’d like to get to know Mr. Harpur.  Within a few days of the appearance of the article, I received a letter from Carmelite House in London on stationery bearing the logo I had read about in the article (Brian’s tie).  Brian Harpur, depicted as “founder and honorary secretary” of Halley’s Comet Society had learned of Halley’s Comet Watch ’86 and was writing for information.  I am pleased to report that Mr. Harpur is now a member of HCW ’86 (he has our official membership card) and is in possession of the complete set of Newsletters.  We are looking forward to a working relationship with the Halley’s Comet Society of England over the next few years.

BRIAN HARPUR (left), Founder and President of the Halley's Comet Society of London, England, and JOSEPH LAUFER (right), Editor and Publisher of the Halley's Comet Watch '86 Newsletter meet in the lobby of the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 1984. The pair discussed international plans for the celebration of the forthcoming apparition of Halley's Comet. Each wears the distinctive Halley's Comet tie bearing the Hallmark of Comet Halley, the exclusive badge of members of the Society.

Editor's Note: Joe Laufer would later be designated as President of Halley's Comet Society, U.S.A., affiliated with the London-based organization, and would represent the U.S.A. at a number of major events in London from 1984 through 1986, including the Royal Halley Gala and the dedication of the Edmond Halley Monument at Westminster Abbey.


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