Richard Parkin, 1975 to 2015. Former UKRA Member 1258, RIP.
It is with sadness that the UKRA Council notes the death of rocketeer and UKRA Member Richard Parkin. This sad news was brought to the Council's attention by Richard's sister Gill Chetcuti. It is thought that Richard passed away on the weekend of Saturday 18th - Sunday 19th April, however, the date of Richard's death has been put at Tuesday 21st April, as that is the date upon which he was found at home by paramedics. Richard was thirty-nine years old at the time of his passing. He had been unwell for some time. Cause of death has been established as a heart attack.
Richard was born in Clatterbridge on the Wirral, and he was brought up in Connah's Quay, Deeside, in Flintshire, North Wales, where was living there at the time of his death. Richard was employed in the water supply industry. He was a computer consultant with Aquatech Ltd., supporting safe systems for work in the water industry.
In an interview published in the June 2008 issue of the UKRA magazine, "10...9...8...", Richard said that he first got into model rocket properly, after youthful tinkering with fireworks, in 1990, building and flying a Quest Falcon model (a rocket that quite a few rocketeers have got started with), bought in a model shop in Chester. Richard was sure that the shop having rocket kits and motors must have been a mistake, so he bought the rocket kit and the wherewithal to fly it straight away before all that was withdrawn by the Police. Richard was not aware that model rocketry was by then a legal activity in the UK using commercially manufactured solid propellant motors. Richard later discovered organised rocketry, joined the UK Rocketry Association, and developed his model rocketry. One thing that was established in Richard's style of rocket flying from that first model was what became a bit of habit of losing his rockets on their first flights. Richard's favourite model was the Public Missiles Limited Cirrus Dart kit. Over the years he flew and lost several of these. As his friend and fellow rocketeer Richard Osborne has remarked, Richard really helped to the keep the PML Cirrus Dart production line going.
However, Richard was an accomplished rocketeer. He attained his UKRA Level 1 Certification in September 2002 on a scratch-built rocket with a Single Deploy recovery system, flown on an Aerotech I1300 motor. Richard went on from that to attain his UKRA Level 2 Certification in May 2005. Richard accomplished his Level 2 with a modified PML Cygnus rocket flown on a HyperTek J440 hybrid motor. The innovation and development, for example going from solid to hybrid propulsion, that Richard employed in these Certification projects shows how serious and capable a rocketeer he was. Richard also became a Level 2 Range Safety Officer (RSO). He was planning a project to try for his Level 3 Certification. Sadly that will not now fly.
From 1998 to 2011 Richard was a regular attendee and participant at the various annual larger rocketry events held around the UK, such as the UKRA National Launch event, and K-Lob, in the years that they ran at Pete Davy's site at Southview Farm, Heckington, Lincolnshire, the Big EARS event at the Elsworth site in Cambridgeshire, and every year at the International Rocket Week (IRW) in North Ayrshire, Scotland. Richard was also actively involved with several of the UK rocket clubs – the Wirral Rocketry Society, North West Rockets, and MARS (Middlesex Advanced Rocketry Society). Wherever Richard was flying rockets he always brought two things to the meetings. One was his readiness to help other rocketeers, and to assist with the running of the launches. Richard would often generously give of his own launching time to act as an RSO, always an essential role. The other thing which Richard is well remembered for, was his rather zany sense of humour and fun. You could never be glum when Richard was around, as he was bound to say or do something to bring some hilarity to the gathering. Personally I most often met Richard at the annual International Rocket Week in Scotland. Richard would always bring a bottle of good single malt Whisky to the IRW, and generously share it out with those of us at the event, myself included, who enjoy a dram or two. That was reciprocated by others, and that's become part of the social side of the IRW, inspired by Richard. We shall certainly raise a glass or a few in Richard's memory at this year's IRW (as I imagine will happen at other rocket events this year). For many years Richard always pitched in and helped Cath Bashford organise and cook up the Barbecue on the Sunday evening of the IRW.
Another respect in which Richard fully engaged himself in supporting model and high power rockery in the UK was that for some years in the mid-2000's he was the Editor of 10...9...8..., taking over the Editorship in Autumn 2003. Richard also served as Vice Chair of the UKRA Council in the later part of the 2000's. These are roles that take up a lot of time and effort, and Richard's dedication to the support and development of model and high power rocketry was shown by his willingness to take on these functions.
Richard was a real mixture of the serious and not so serious, and he was equally famous in rocketry for both. Because of his practice of collecting all sorts of bits and pieces, particularly shiny ones, to have fun with, he gained the nickname “Magpie”.
At the time of his passing Richard had not been around in rocketry for a while, due to ill health. He was much missed. All of us in rocketry who knew and flew with Richard, and counted him as a friend, always expected to see him back with us at the launch pads someday. So it has been a cause of great sadness to learn that we will not see and fly with Richard again. However, he will always be with us in happy memory, and I am sure often remembered and spoken of whenever some of us are gathered. At the request of his sister Gill and his family, a portion of Richard's ashes will be launched by rocket during this year's IRW in August, to be scattered over the Fairlie Moor Rocket Site, where Richard often flew rockets. That mission will be flown on a Cirrus Dart. Beyond that, Richard will fly on in memory as one of the legendary figures in UK rocketry.
John Bonsor, UKRA Secretary.