Memories of the Yuri Gagarin Visit – July 1961

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Roy Darbyshire

In July 1961, I was 28 years old and working in the Industrial Control Drawing Office of Metropolitan Vickers, Trafford Park. I was already interested in astronomy and had ground and polished my own 6” mirror ready for a home made telescope I had planned. The stand was made with a piece of 6” steam pipe found in a scrap bin of the works!

So you can imagine how excited I was to hear of our Foundry Workers invitation to Yuri Gagarin to accept a gold medal to celebrate his great achievement in space. This is because he was a foundry worker in Russia.

On the day, we were all given time off to hear him speak on the large bus parking area. At the time about 25,000 worked at Metro Vicks and most came by bus, so it was a huge area. It was there we had heard Harold Wilson and Michael Foot speak at election time, as we were a very strong Labour area.

I managed to get close to the platform and after his speech (through interpreters), he asked if we had any questions. I asked him about the visibility of stars in space. In answer he indicated that he was too busy to spend time looking through the window at stars!

After the meeting, he made his way past the works, through a crowd of workers. I had my camera set and ready for him. As he approached I quickly stepped out in front of him and took the shot. Then it went dark, one of his large minders (the one on his right hand side in the photo) ‘moved’ me back into the crowd – but I’d got my shot!


    Yuri Gagarin in Manchester (C) Roy Darbyshire



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