An introduction from Helen Moorwood.


My husband Alan Moorwood set up this website for us via a colleague several years ago, but neither of us ever activated it. One reason was that Alan had more than adequate access to publication of any relevant information via the ESO website. Sadly he died of pancreatic cancer on 18th June, 2011. Still in the throes of mourning, I decided the time had come to activate the website for my own purposes - a mixture of updates on research on various fronts, mainly involving 16th & 17th century Lancashire in the persons of William Shakespeare, Captain Myles Standish, Sir Edward Stanley, their forebears and various relatives, most particularly the Standishes of Duxbury.

First, thank you to Stephan Hohe for activating this website, beginning with a brief tribute to Alan.



Helen Moorwood’s tribute to husband Alan Moorwood (*5.5.1945  †18.6.2011)


(Latest update 4.7.2011. Coincidentally and ironically, I wrote these notes around the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day. The USA appeared so often in Alan’s and my lives. A few details appear in the following report.

Sometime I will write up many more details about Alan’s and my life together, and maybe translate it into other languages, which I happen to speak because of our international life together.)


I (Helen) and family were deeply moved by the large number of ESO (European Southern Observatory) members of staff who attended Alan’s funeral on Friday 24 June 2011, and all the tributes paid to him;i) also many family friends from the Munich area; also many of my friends from various groups (Book Club, European School, Freizeitbörse, etc.); also several of daughter Katja’s Munich friends and colleagues. Thank you for all the flowers and also all the cards, letters and emails of condolence that have been pouring in, along with many phone calls. WE THANK ALL OF YOU.

We are all still reeling under the shock of Alan’s sudden death, amid many floods of tears. ESO lost a highly-valued ex-colleague and I lost my husband of 44 years (this coming December). Several people at the mingling and reception after the funeral suggested that I should write up my speech, which came from the bottom of my grieving heart and was delivered in the spirit that I think Alan would have appreciated, including a few anecdotes and his last joke. So here it is, with some prefatory brief details about his last few weeks and days.

Only three and a half weeks before he died he had been standing in front of an audience of international astronomers in a Villa/Palazzo near Perugia, Italy, giving a brilliant talk. (I know this, because I was there and heard everyone's comments afterwards.)ii) We had built a little holiday in Tuscany and Umbria around the conference on "Far and near Galaxies". Alan had not been feeling well for quite some time, with all sorts of complaints, and we cut our holiday short so that he could get to doctors back here in the Munich area. We went from one version of Dante’s Divine Comedy into his Inferno. (Forgive me for introducing this, but we really were in Dante-land. We visited Dante’s tomb in Ravenna - where he died in 1321 - and the conference in late May 2011 was organised by astronomer Sperello Alighieri, a direct descendant of Dante Alighieri.)

Every doctor consulted back in Munich did everything possible, but with no real prognostic diagnosis until it was too late. On the Monday morning one week later Alan collapsed completely, was rushed to hospital and was soon diagnosed as having pancreatic cancer (Bauchspeicheldrüsekrebs auf Deutsch) with an aggressively malignant tumour, which had already spread in one way or another to the liver and the kidneys. He also had thrombosis, a duodenal ulcer, severe lumbar problems and a lung infection that produced jaundice, which added to his long-standing problems in one eye. He had also had a heart attack ten years ago, which may or may not have contributed to the general breakdown of all his internal systems. I mention most of his complaints here in case it might be of help to someone else in future to an earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer: dizziness, fainting, a mixture of diarrhoea and constipation, constant tiredness and a total loss of appetite.

We knew most of the worst during the first week in hospital - Klinikum Neuperlach - when there was still a tiny bit of hope, possibly through chemotherapy (with a 50/50% chance of helping or hindering recovery). But by the following Friday, to be precise at 6 o'clock in the afternoon, the relevant doctors took me outside the room to say that there was absolutely no hope of recovery. It was just a matter of hours, days or weeks of trying to spare him from any pain. It was probably a blessing that he died the next day, at twenty past two in the afternoon, sparing him and all the family from endless more agonising hours of him waiting for death and us watching him die.

 The only good part of the news is that the family was with him the whole time and four of us were holding his hands and hugging him when he died peacefully and in no pain (on a morphine drip). Daughter Katja was there with me in hospital pretty well the whole time. Daughter Christy and husband Will cut short their holiday in Greece to fly to his bedside for the last few days. Two of us actually slept with him in the same room in hospital for his last few nights. Both daughters stayed on for the whole of the next week. Alan’s 96-year-old father flew in from Manchester on Wednesday and son-in-law Will flew back here from London on Thursday, followed by my Australian nephew Andrew, also from London, as a valued representative of my Australian family (two sisters emigrated there in the 1960s).

We were all moved and touched by the presence and comforting condolences of all present at the funeral on Friday 24 June and the reception afterwards. Many could not be present because of other commitments, but we received many messages and floral tributes from present and absent old friends. THANK YOU ALL. More messages and tributes to Alan have been pouring in ever since from all over the world. THANK YOU ALL yet again. It might take (me, Helen) some time to contact you all individually by phone or Email or snailmail: the spirit is willing, even if the flesh is weak. (A quote from King James’s Bible in English of 1611, which is currently receiving a large amount of publicity on its 400th anniversary.)

The funeral was at the Neufriedhof Perlach in Munich. The logic for its being here was that it is the main cemetery/crematorium in South Munich with a hall large enough to accommodate 100+ people for the funeral ceremony; it is also just round the corner from the hospital where Alan died; it is also just round the corner from the ESM (European School Munich), where his wife and daughters had spent so much time, Helen teaching there for 20 years and our daughters receiving all their primary and secondary education there.

In case anyone is interested, I include the story of Alan’s final burial. He was cremated, by his and my automatic wish. I wanted to have his ashes scattered on a rose garden, but that is not allowed in Germany! I, Katja and Christy decided to bury his funeral urn in a grave in Sauerlach cemetery, hopefully at the end of July, when all the family will be together again. Any old family friends who visit us in Sauerlach during the next few years will be taken on a visit to the cemetery to pay their last respects and another final tribute to Alan.


In my oral ‘funeral oration’ for Alan, I included the following,

but have added a few more historical details in writing:


Alan and Helen first met on a Gay Hostess bus in 1964 when we were both students travelling from our homes in Lancashire to London University. He was studying physics at UCL (University College London) and I was studying German, French and Spanish at Bedford College (incidentally the oldest women’s university college in the UK and perhaps the oldest in the world? Tragically, it doesn’t exist any more, other than in spirit). The main features of the newly instituted Gay Hostess double-decker buses were that there was a toilet and a kettle on board and also a ‘gay hostess’ who went round periodically with a tray full of cartons of tea (English tea, of course). On one of her rounds upstairs she tripped and spilt the whole trayful over a young man sitting a few rows in front of me. I leapt forward to help to mop him and everything else up. He was Alan, of course. We found a couple of dry seats together and chatted all the rest of the way to London. It was almost ‘love at first sight’ and in any case the beginning of my journey through life with Alan. In December 1967 we took the step of officially getting married, and stayed married until he died. iii)


All who knew Alan appreciated his ‘British sense of humour’. The last jest he made was just four days before he died. He was undergoing yet another Ultraschall/ultra-sonic scan in an attempt to identify any specific problems which would help in the medical decision for the treatment. Of course, to any medically uninitiated person, the screen was just a blur. In the middle of this Alan said, “Bitte, Herr Doktor, können Sie mir wenigstens sagen, ob es ein Junge oder ein Mädchen ist?/ Please, doctor, can you at least tell me: is it a boy or a girl?” Alan related this to me at his bedside in one of his last coherent sentences before he more or less lost consciousness, forgot his German, lost his speech capacity and went into an on-and-off unconscious state and sleep (with dreams), from which he never awoke.

(“To sleep, perchance to dream” [Shakespeare, Hamlet, from the soliloquy “To be or not to be, that is the question.”] I have no idea whether Alan was thinking about this, but I know that he was dreaming. He will live on in my dreams forever.)


I very deliberately chose Handel/Händel’s Largo and Bruckner’s Ave Maria for an intertwined series of reasons. It was as a combination of Alan and I being English, us having lived for 31 years in Munich, Händel being German, but having written most of his music in England, and Alan being rather passionate about Bruckner’s music. The latter was Austrian, a country where we have spent so many wonderful days and weeks, and we have heard so much of his music over the past thirty years played by the Munich Philharmonic. Alan had first learnt his passion for music from his father, who had always been a lover of classical music.


We had always expected that I would be the first one to go, because of Alan’s immediate forebears. His father John was now 96, still driving a car and looking after himself in his own house since Alan’s mother died in 2009, aged almost 94. John’s father had died only three months off being a hundred years of age. But, alas, this was not to be Alan’s destiny and I am the survivor. I WILL SURVIVE (I hope, and to quote the title of a 1970s hit song) long enough to wrap up as many of his unfinished projects as possible, remembering him all the way.


The flowers on Alan’s coffin were RED & WHITE ROSES. I and our daughters had no doubt that these were the most appropriate floral family tribute. Alan was born in Yorkshire, the county of the WHITE ROSE. The MOORWOOD family took/ acquired this surname in the 15th century from a hamlet with a WOOD on a MOOR (Hochmoor auf Deutsch) above Sheffield, four centuries before this became the ‘Steel Capital of England’ in the 18th/19th centuries. (I know all this because I have researched the whole family history rather intensively. This research produced several surprises on the way, many of them positive and rather interesting - but that is another long story.) Because of Alan’s father’s career in the social services, and constant promotion, the family moved around the North of England when Alan was very young, and ended up in Burnley. Alan thus spent his teenage years (14 onwards) in Lancashire, the county of the RED ROSE. This is where every last one of my (Helen’s) ancestors had been born and lived from the time of the earliest written records. (There was a little hiccup when my sisters and I were born in Bombay, India, but this was all because of the Lancashire textile industry - another long story.) Whenever Alan and I had our little problems, disputes and controversies, we usually built in a joke about the Wars of the Roses. We always managed to solve these problems and bring them to an end in a red and white rose, the symbol of England.


The end of the historical English Wars of the Roses (at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485) was dramatised by Shakespeare in Richard III. I could not resist building Shakespeare into my ‘funeral oration’. He had led to several little disputes between Alan and me over the years along the lines of, “Not him again!”. It so happened that I discovered (in archives) Shakespeare’s ancestry and proof of a part of his early biography just round a corner of the moors in Lancashire from where I grew up and Alan spent his teenage years.iii) I was thus faced with my own ‘Wars’ with the whole Shakespeare academic community. (Another historical figure who kept intruding into our marriage was soldier Pilgrim Father Captain Myles Standish of Duxbury, Lancashire and Duxbury, Massachusetts, who spent time in Leiden, Holland, where Alan and I lived for five years when he was working in 1973-8 for ESTEC/ ESA. Myles sailed on The Mayflower in 1620 and went on to be an iconic figure as one of the founders of the USA, remembered every year at Thanksgiving.)iv) Alan was, of course, the most iconic figure in my life and I will have many private thanksgiving thoughts for the wonderful life we spent together.



The funeral ceremony ended with our two daughters reading out a Shakespeare Sonnet and paying their own tributes to a wonderful father. The Sonnet I chose was Number 60.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,

Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,

And time that gave doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth

And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

The last line encompasses all. Alan’s worth has been praised by all who knew him. It was the cruel hand of fate that caused his untimely death. We all grieved as we looked at his coffin and I said, “Farewell, bye-bye, dear Alan”.


i) Tim de Zeeuw, Director-General of ESO, paid tribute to Alan’s professional achievements in a ‘funeral oration’. A summary of Alan’s career by Tim is on the ESO website, access by just typing in Alan Moorwood via Google, which produces three tributes. Sandro D’Odorico followed with one of these tributes, as one of Alan’s ex-colleagues and best friends. 

ii) The conference was held in honour of Bob Fosbury, on his retirement. Bob and Alan collaborated on many projects over more than thirty years. Together with Sandro D’Oderico they had formed a Stammtisch (?Time-bank in English?) of three old astronomer friends in retirement and enjoyed several walks and meals together. (Their last walk and meal together was just a few weeks ago around the Englischer Garten/ English Garden in Munich - another long story, involving the whole history of the rather new Kartoffelmuseum/ Potato Museum in Munich). My thanks go to Bob and Sandro for all their support and organisation during Alan’s last weeks and days. The power-point display of Alan’s presentation at the conference has already appeared on the website of the BOBFEST. It will serve as an optical summary of the book Alan was planning to write on the History of ESO. Alas, this was not to be. Predictably for Alan’s presentations, however, it did end with a photo of the “Fosbury flop”. 

iii) I could tell another long story about our wedding at the Registry Office in Blackburn, Lancashire. As briefly as possible, Alan’s ‘best man’ and best friend Geoff from Hull, Yorkshire missed his train connection somewhere around Birmingham and never managed to arrive. My (Helen’s) ‘bridesmaid’, my dear old school-friend Barbara from Darwen, Lancashire had flue, and so couldn’t come. At our daughter Christy’s wedding to Will last September, 2010 I contrived to build in our wedding photo into my speech, with me in a mini-dress, something that many of their friends found difficult to believe. But that was back in the 1960s.

iii) A brief summary about my discovery of Shakespeare’s Lancashire ancestry appeared online in 2002 on the Duxbury Family History website. Various updates with the latest research will appear in book form asap. The two first titles are Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong, Shropshire and Shakespeare’s Lancashire Links. Both are dedicated to Alan. He knew all about this long before his fatal illness. I still face my ‘battle’ with the whole ‘Shakespeare world’, but sooner or later, my research and conclusions will have to be accepted: Shakespeare was basically a Shakeshafte from Lancashire. He wrote all the plays and poems attributed to him, and was just, and quite simply, a genius. Please watch the film Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich, due for release in September 2011, which claims that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote all of Shakespeare’s works. It might be the predicted Hollywood block-buster, and I wish it every success, but the main message of the film, that Oxford was Shakespeare, is rubbish. All my details will follow asap, dedicated to Alan. 

iv) Helen published several articles on Myles Standish in 1999-2000 in Lancashire History Quarterly, which have been on the Duxbury Family website since 2002 and the website since 2007. Other more recent articles have been published, or are still on my computer, awaiting publication. They will all appear asap in a book with a title something like Captain Myles Standish in Old England. This will also be dedicated to Alan in memoriam. Basically, Myles was from a solid Lancashire ancestry and had very little or nothing to do with the Standish family of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, a theory propagated for the last century. The Isle of Man that Myles mentioned in his last will and testament was the inland Isle of Man straddling the border of Croston/ Bretherton, Lancashire. Alan was from Yorkshire, as mentioned above, but lived in Lancashire, where he will be remembered for a long time by all our friends there and perhaps celebrated by various American associates at Thanksgiving along with Myles Standish.

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