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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Denis Montgomery

Over the preceding pages, we have detailed the three leading characters in the story behind the Flying Saucer Review—four if you include Desmond Leslie and the impetus his book gave to the notion of setting up a place for the serious study of UFOs. But in practical terms the creation of the paper was the responsibility of Waveney Girvan, Derek Dempster and Brinsley Le Poer Trench.

But there is, in fact, a genuine fourth. At around twenty years old, he was not only the youngest of the group, but perhaps he was the most influential in the way that, through him, the lives of those around him had been considerably altered.

Denis Montgomery was born in a farmworkers' clinic on a tea estate in Kearsney, Natal, in South Africa in 1934, the son of an Irishman who had emigrated to and fought for Australia during the Great War and a mother whose family were mid-19th century colonial pioneers.

After serving three years in the Navy, Montgomery attended the University of Natal before emigrating to England to study librarianship. It was whilst  employed as an assistant librarian at Southwark University—now the London South Bank University (LSBU), based near the South Bank of the River Thames from which it now takes its name—that he first became aware of the UFO phenomenon.

It was 1953 and the heyday of UFO sightings and Montgomery developed a growing fascination for what he later called "the concept of interplanetary travel and the new idealism of a universal brotherhood of intelligent life." Vast numbers of people from all walks of life claimed to have seen, or had some sort of contact with, beings from another world over the previous half-a-dozen years. Scraps of information and feedback or speculation resulting from these reports was everywhere, but it went unrecorded and was subsequently being lost. Montgomery felt that there ought to be some form of institute or library whereby all these scraps of useful information could be amassed into a single, well-ordered collection area where it could be catalogued and filed away properly.

Montgomery made contact with Waveney Girvan, meeting him at the offices of T. Werner Laurie where he put forward his ideas. Girvan – heavily into the throws of writing his own book Flying Saucers and Common Sense – had also been considering the possibility of putting together a serious and trustworthy magazine. A magazine, if it was successfully launched, could support the institute that he wanted, Montgomery believed, and, in turn, that would give the magazine an authoritative platform. In addition to a popular magazine, which provided revenue, maybe a learned journal could follow.

A meeting was arranged. And it is to this meeting that we shall return in a few days time for our next chapter.

(* Photograph of Denis Montgomery from this page; Denis Montgomery has written extensively about his years in Africa and copies of his books can be found here.)

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