Nigel Watson writes
Granville was a prolific visitor to newspaper and library archives in the 1970s and 80s in search of pre-1947 UFO stories. His prime interest was in collecting data about the British airship scares of 1909 and 1913, and this gradually spread to include anything related to rumours, legends and Fortean phenomena. Most of this material he had to transcribe by hand and then he typed it out to provide a presentable copy of his notes. Once he had gathered together a large enough batch of data to fill a large envelope, he posted copies to myself and other researchers like David Clarke in Sheffield.
It was one large envelope of newspaper cuttings on the 'Angels of Mons' controversy from 1914 - now approaching its centenary - that inspired David to write his book on the greatest legend of the First World War published by Wiley in 2003.
And it was Granville's painstaking research that was the foundation for many of our (Oldroyd/Watson) co-authored articles in Magonia, Flying Saucer Review, Fortean Tomes and was the basis for several chapters in The Scareship Mystery (Domra, 2000). Granville was the co-author in 1985 of David's very first published booklet, Spooklights: A British Survey, that gathered together many archive accounts of what are known today as 'unidentified aerial phenomena' or UAPs. The material in the booklet was later used in Paul Devereux's book Earthlights Revelation (1989).
But by far the largest collection of our (Oldroyd, Clarke and Watson) data appeared in the The 1912-1913 British Phantom Airship Scare Catalogue published by the Fund for UFO Research in 1988.
In our correspondence the main topics concerned short discussions about the validity or credibility of pre-1947 'phantom airship' flaps and how they compared and contrasted with modern-day UFO reports, and the new lines of research Granville was planning to embark on. Although we corresponded for many years, he never revealed much about himself or his out-of-ufology activities or life. The most he revealed was that he worked as a gardener and owned a ten-ton road roller! I only met him once in the car park of a service station midway between his home in Heysham, Lancashire and mine in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, where we exchanged a load of bulky documents.
He seemed to be a very reserved person who chose his words carefully and this reflected his general approach to his research, he was never one to embrace wild theories or speculate beyond the given facts of a case. Granville enjoyed submerging himself in the newspapers and public record office files of the early part of the 20th Century, where the world was a totally different place to the later part of that century. Now in the early part of the 21st Century the process of his research looks equally ancient. Research now consists of googling, and you can exchange information and comments in seconds via email and social networks, whereas in the old days we clattered away on typewriters and used a mail service that took several days to send your letters and documents.
David Clarke writes
Granville really was a pioneer ufologist when it came to exploring the prehistory of our subject. And he was also, as a far as I am aware, one of the first researchers to explore the vast collection of material held at The Public Record Office (now The National Archives) in Kew, His discoveries of yellowing War Office files on the 'phantom airship' sightings of 1914-16 at Kew inspired my interest in archival research, in both my careers as a journalist and an academic. So I have a lot to thank him for, not least the extensive correspondence that first turned me onto the psycho-social hypotheses as the only viable explanation for the UFO phenomenon.
Like Nigel, I met Granville just once and most of our contact was primarily via old fashioned letters. In one of his last missives, dated 1999, he asked me wearily: 'What exactly is an internet newsgroup?. Despite his aversion to new-fangled methods of communication his ideas and insights into the UFO mystery were more prescient and incisive than much of what passes for online debate in the present day. Chosen at random from a letter dated 16 October 1987 Granville compared the phantom airship flaps with UFO panics, and concluded with these wise words:
'There was a rumour in late August 1914 of a Russian army being sent from Archangel to the Scottish ports, thence from England by rail to the south coast and there shipped to Belgium. Although it was merely a rumour, I have discovered enough eye-witness reports to 'prove' that the event actually took place and could even speculate that there was a government cover-up of the facts which exists to this present day. The only conclusion I can reach is that we cannot trust eye-witness testimony to events that are inspired by rumours - whether these are inspired by stories of people who have seen Russian Cossacks on trains in England or by those who claim to have seen dead bodies of aliens kept in government custody in Air Force hangars.'
In 1995, these reports were detailed in an article entitled 'Snow on their Boots' (by Oldroyd/Watson) in volume two of Fortean Studies. And, later used in a volume of neo-Nazi texts! For more on this see: Magonia Monthly Supplement, No. 26, April 2000, [scroll down.]
In the last few years we did not hear from Granville and we wondered what had happened to him. Perhaps he had given up ufology and moved home? Only days ago Nigel googled his name and found this:
We feel that it really is time, two years after the event, that we should remember Granville as someone who contributed hugely to our understanding of the British airship and aircraft scares. His hard work and modesty should not go unsung and unremembered.15th October 2011 GRANVILLE OLDROYD: Obituary - Peacefully on Saturday 15th October 2011, at Hillcroft Nursing Home, Carnforth. Aged 69 years, former gardener of Longlands Lane, Heysham. Funeral service at St. Peter's Church, Heysham and cremation to be arranged. Enquiries: Alan M. Fawcett, Funeral Directors, 120 Kellet Road, Carnforth, LA5 9LS. Tel. 01524 733048. http://announce.jpress.co.uk/11987984
- Nigel Watson and Dave Clarke
Granville contributed to a number of articles published in Magonia. They can be read online here: