Waveney Girvan. Flying Saucers and Common Sense. Frederick Muller Limited, London, 1955 -- John Harney looks back.
When I first read this book I got the impression that it was generally a fair summing up of the state of the UFO controversy as it was in the early 1950s. I seem to remember thinking, though, that some of Girvan's comments betrayed a lack of scientific and technical knowledge which led him to be too credulous about what became known as contactee stories.
However, like Girvan I was impressed by George Adamski's photographs when I bought a copy of the book in which they were first published. (1) They seemed to be pictures of some manufactured article, which looked like a lampshade. Other suggestions were made by sceptics, including Dr Menzel, who said that he had identified it as part of a vacuum cleaner. As he was unable or unwilling to tell us which part of which make and model of vacuum cleaner, this claim was not taken very seriously. I now know I was right to be impressed as, so far as I am aware, no one has yet been able to identify the object shown in the photographs. I should also make it clear that I never believed in Adamski's identification of the object as a Venusian scout ship!
Girvan was impressed by Adamski's contact story, and he also devoted a chapter to the story of a man named as Cedric Allingham, whose hobby was astronomy. Having read Allingham's book (2), in which he claimed to have photographed a flying saucer and conversed in sign language with its Martian pilot, Girvan was concerned about whether or not his flying saucer photographs (which were similar but not identical to Adamski's) were genuine. He seemed to be less concerned, though, about the authenticity of Allingham and apparently believed everything that he read or was told about him. He did not bother to check whether or not there was an amateur astronomer named Allingham, but merely remarked that he hoped to meet him on his return from America where he had allegedly gone to meet George Adamski.
Many years later, the results of an investigation into the authorship of Flying Saucer from Mars were published in Magonia. (3) It was established that the book was almost certainly written by Patrick Moore (who denied it to the last, despite being known to have perpetrated a number of other hoaxes). "Cedric Allingham" was really Peter Davies, who posed for the photograph with Moore's reflecting telescope which appeared in the book. Davies also edited the book to conceal Moore's distinctive style of writing.
Complaints by Girvan that many flying saucer reports were subject to ridicule were matched by his own ridicule of what were, to him, tediously conventional explanations. This ridicule even extended to incidents which clearly had nothing to do with flying saucers, including nearly three pages devoted to ridiculing the explanations of blocks of ice which fell from the sky as being formed naturally in thunderclouds, or caused by water leaking from aircraft, forming lumps of ice on the fuselages which broke away when the aircraft descended into warmer air. No, he did not suggest any other explanations.
Not only did Girvan apparently believe that the saucers were interplanetary, and was even willing to believe that their pilots came from Mars and Venus, and looked much like us, but that governments were concealing the truth from us. So, in the field of what has become known as ufology, nothing much has changed since the 1950s.
- Desmond Leslie and George Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed, Werner Laurie, London, 1953
- Cedric Allingham, Flying Saucer from Mars, Frederick Muller Limited, London, 1954
- Christopher Allan and Steuart Campbell, 'Flying Saucer from Moore's?' Magonia 23, July 1986