PORT Soderick-based inventor Dr John Taylor, who recently invited Professor Stephen Hawking on a tour to the island, has revealed that Neil Armstrong once came here on a private visit.
The first man on the moon, who passed away last week, was in the island in 2010 to see a rare clock collection, and was flown over from the UK by Dr Taylor himself.
Dr Taylor, retired chairman of Strix Ltd, is well-known to those with an interest in horology as the inventor of the ‘Chronophage’ clock, one of the prime visitor attractions at his former Corpus Christi College in Cambridge.
From an American collection, Dr Taylor bought the first clock made by eighteenth century clockmaker John Harrison, a much admired pioneer in navigation, and brought it home to the island.
Is was this clock that peaked the interest of navigation enthusiast Armstrong.
‘I was called by Jim Hayes, the chief executive of the Hayes Group in the USA. He said he was interested in coming to see my collection,’ said Dr Taylor.
‘Jim asked me if it was alright if his friend came along too, and that the friend would only do it if there was no publicity or photographs at all. I told him that was fine and asked him who it was. “Neil Armstrong” he said.’
So it was arranged, and on November 29, 2010, Dr Taylor flew himself in his small propellor aeroplane, M-USCA, to Cambridge to see the American visitors.
The group admired Taylor’s Chronophage, before being invited to dinner at Corpus with the master, fellows, and undergraduates.
‘I don’t think anyone recognised Neil,’ recalled Dr Taylor. ‘Afterwards I asked him if he wanted to co-pilot, and I flew us to Ronaldsway.’
Dr Taylor told the story of the famous astronaut’s brief spell on Manx soil.
‘He stayed at the Sefton, they were good for keeping the visit confidential. I brought him back down south to the Abbey Restaurant in Ballasalla for dinner, and then back to the Sefton.
‘The next day we looked through the collection. He was especially interested by the old Fromanteels. Then after lunch I flew them back to Cambridge. That’s about it really, from there they travelled home.’
If Mr Armstrong was aware of the island’s growing space-related industry, it wasn’t something that came up in conversation during his stay.
‘The trip was very much about clocks. He was like me in that his interest had come through navigation.’
The visit was brief, but memorable.
‘It was a wonderful honour, to show him the clocks and have one the world’s greatest pilot as a co-pilot,’ said Dr Taylor. ‘He was very interested in my plane.
‘He had never been to the Isle of Man before, he was fascinated by the tour, though I remember the weather was atrocious.’
Dr Taylor added: ‘He was a great man.’