Monday 20 November 2017

Apollo astronaut prayer for sale

A hand-painted prayer made by British primary school children and presented to an Apollo astronaut more than 40 years ago (RR Auction/PA)
A hand-painted prayer made by British primary school children and presented to an Apollo astronaut more than 40 years ago (RR Auction/PA)

A hand-painted prayer made by British primary school children and presented to an Apollo astronaut more than 40 years ago is to go on sale in an auction of aviation and space memorabilia.

The prayer, painted by pupils at the Holy Spirit Roman Catholic School in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire and illuminated by Carmelite nuns in Lancashire, was given to astronaut Charlie Duke before the Apollo 16 1972 moon landing.

Duke, now aged 78 years old, was the pilot of the lunar module and became the 10th and youngest person to walk on the moon during the mission.

The prayer calls for God's blessing upon the three astronauts on board and for God to "grant them wisdom and courage to fulfil their duties well and complete the mission successfully and safely".

It is in the same lot as one-inch statue of St Christopher carried to the surface of the moon by Duke and a hand painted Jerusalem tile taken by the astronaut into orbit on the Apollo 16 command module.

Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of the auction to be held next week in Boston, said the three items had great spiritual significance to the astronaut.

He added that a donation by the company would be made to the £100,000 centenary appeal to repair and redecorate the Holy Spirit Church in Heckmondwike.

"He (Duke) put them all together, so they obviously meant a lot to him, the significance they had was spiritual, from the prayer to the tile to the statue," he said.

"He wants to get them out into the hands of collectors or institutions who understand the significance of what happened more than 40 years ago."

The prayer was presented by Father Paddy Roche, parish priest at the time at the Holy Spirit Church in Heckmondwike.

The cleric, known as a keen golfer and talented fiddle player had become a chaplain to the Apollo astronauts through golfing contacts in the US and his work as chaplain to the US Ryder Cup team.

Peter Moreland, chairman of the governors of the Holy Spirit School, described the late Fr Roche as "quite a character" and "legendary" in the area.

The prayer is a number of items linking the parish and school with the Apollo astronauts, he said including an invitation to Fr Roche signed by astronaut Eugene Cernan to the 1969 Apollo 10 launch.

"He was well-known through the town, he was also at one time president of the cricket club and he was involved in all aspects of community life," he said.

"He was quite a character - he was a scratch golfer and he was also quite accomplished on the fiddle.

"We are very pleased indeed that a wider audience will know about this and we are very grateful for any help towards the success of our appeal."

Press Association

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