Sir Patrick Moore, who has died aged 89, was regarded by many people as a lovable English eccentric.

With his monocle, rapid-fire speech, collection of cats and crumpled clothes, he was a gift to interviewers and parodists.

It was rare for a profile writer not to have made the journey to Selsey in West Sussex to see Moore and rarer still not to have come away with notebooks or recorders filled with his pungent views and bad xylophone playing.

There was enough material in Moore’s chaotic house called Farthings, with its telescope in the garden and ancient artifacts, to fill a column before writing a word about Moore himself.

Moore lived up to the English notion that successful scientists have to be a bit barmy, like Magnus Pyke who became as celebrated for his hand waving as for his knowledge.

He also managed to fit another stereotype, that of the gifted amateur who proves to be more than a match for the professionals.

Moore was both shrewd and fortunate to have chosen astronomy for his special subject, since it was one of the last sciences in which amateurs could make a contribution.

Dark side

His sheer longevity made Moore an institution in his later years and no one presented a TV programme for longer than the 55 years Moore fronted The Sky at Night.

But just as there is a dark side to the moon, so there was also a dark side to Moore.

Many people accepted that Moore was an odd man who had odd views, but the more you looked at them, the worse they were.

In the 1970s, he was chairman of the anti-immigration United Country Party and then flirted with other parties including the Liberals and UKIP.

Moore said the Liberal Democrats would easily join up with the British National Party or the Socialist Workers if by doing so they could win a few extra votes – a puerile and false allegation.

He said Liechtenstein, a constitutional monarchy headed by a prince, had the best political system in the world. He was also an admirer of Enoch Powell.

Racism and sexism

In his unpleasant autobiography, Moore condemned both the Race Relations and Sex Discrimination Acts.

He wrote that homosexuals are mainly responsible for the spreading of Aids and added: “The Garden of Eden is the home of Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.”

Moore claimed the BBC was being ruined by women and said they were not prominent during the Beeb’s golden days.

Yet this misogynist lived with his mother for much of his life and was in her thrall until she died.

Moore defended himself against critics who said he was ultra-right wing, by pointing out he was against capital punishment and blood sports.

He added: “I may be accused of being a dinosaur, but I would remind you that dinosaurs ruled the Earth for a very long time.”

I met Moore when he was in his 50s and had agreed to ride a tandem to the Devil’s Dyke from Withdean stadium in Brighton with radio presenter Ian Collington.

Doubtful expertise

Turning up with the tandem for this epic ride, I realised that there was no way in which he and Collington could have ridden it.

Even then Moore was grossly overweight and could barely walk, let alone ride a bike four miles uphill.

In those days Moore used to talk about his cricketing triumphs, yet he would have hardly been able to walk to the wicket and would have been incapable of bowling an over.

It made me wonder how much else about him was a carefully constructed myth to fit in with the image of him as a cuddly, talented oddity.

He certainly managed to popularise astronomy, but some professionals were doubtful about how much expertise he really possessed.

Moore was supposed to have composed many pieces of music yet I have never heard of any being played.

Strange utterances

He wrote dozens of books, but if his autobiography is anything to go by, they will have been full of opinionated bombast.

For the last long years of his life he was in an appalling physical state, scarcely able to move and his utterances became even stranger.

Yet an elaborate fiction was maintained that he was the same as ever, even though the TV programme had to be broadcast, with difficulty, from his home.

Although Moore must have made mountains of money, his finances became so perilous that he had to be helped out by his friends such as Brian May of Queen.

Admirers may say there was nothing wrong with propping up Patrick Moore in his old age and that he provided people with a lot of harmless fun.

Moore was not as nice as he looked.

He did do some good, but we should not shove all the bad things about him into a black hole.