I joined the Irish Astronomical Society when I was roughly nine or ten years old (c 1963-64) and one of my earliest recollections was of meeting David Beesley, who at the time was IAS Belfast Centre Honorary Secretary, and I remember well how keen he was to help and give advice to a budding young astronomer.
David lived all his life in East Belfast and through the early sixties, seventies and eighties and even into the 1990s David was a leading light in IAS/IAA activity – organising, lecturing and observing. He was a principal driving force in the IAA after its formation in 1974 acting as Honorary Secretary and President for many years. His forte was double stars and he enjoyed nothing better than to explain the intricate details of how to use an eyepiece micrometer to measure the position angle and separation of these stars. He was a regular contributor to the prestigious Irish Astronomical Journal (IAJ), edited by Ernst Öpik from Armagh Observatory, and he submitted accurate double star observations to the BAA for many years. David was also Editor of Stardust for several decades and it was through his hand-delivery of the magazine that I grew to know him well. I lived close to David in East Belfast and he would frequently pick me up and take me with him to various observing events and trips – such as the visit to Patrick Moore’s house in the Mall in Armagh, or the observing sessions at the Giant’s ring etc. We travelled together to Birr on many occasions to attend the Star Parties there. David also worked for a spell at the Planetarium as a lecturer although eventually he found the travelling too much and joined heating and plumbing suppliers, Beggs and Partners in Belfast where he worked until retirement. In 1989 David was the first person to be awarded the IAA’s Fitzgerald Medal for ‘outstanding service to the Association’, and in 2000 David was the first person to be awarded the IAA’s most prestigious award for ‘exceptional service to astronomy’ – the Öpik medal.
David suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the last few years and it eventually forced him to drop out of Association life, but he passed away on 18th April 2020 as a result of contracting Covid-19. Although he spent his last year or so in a nursing home in Belfast, David did not lose his interest in things astronomical nor his sharpness of mind. We spoke just a few weeks before his death when he discussed measuring sunspot diameters using his trusty micometer and telescope from his nursing home room.
David was a quiet and respectful person, a true gentleman who commanded significant respect through his knowledge, unassuming manner and dedication to his lifelong hobby. David is survived by his wife Hazel, who was also a member of the Association and they were both deeply committed Christians. David has a son Mark and daughter Fiona. He was a ‘giant’ of the Irish amateur astronomy community and will be sadly missed by all.
Andy McCrea, 19th April 2020.