Sunday, January 09, 2011

Percy G. Griggs

My mate Jim Mackenzie sends over an enquiry: "I have a copy of The Bard's Cloak by Percy G. Griggs on loan," he says. "It is a first class boy's adventure story of unusual intensity about three characters called Pat, Rodda and Allan. I was stunned when reading it to think that this author seems to have avoided any critical acclaim. I suppose it is because the title is misleading people into thinking it is a story about Wales and Welshness. Pitkin, the publisher, doesn't seem to be that well-known in this field of childrens' books but this story is much better than any other emerging in this field in the period between 1948-1955." But what do we know about Griggs? The book usefully provides a little information - and the above photo - from which I've been able to cobble the following.

He was born Percy George Griggs on 24 August 1907, his birth registered in Wandsworth "within occasional sound of Bow Bells". "Percy G. Griggs at an early age showed that he had inherited a full share of the Londoner's lively wit and agility of mind," reveals the biographical sketch.

Griggs worked as a mechanic in a London Omnibus garage, as a junior clerk in a City Company; he was a garage proprietor, manufacturer, policeman, salesman, journalist and advertisement writer. He was married to Winifred Mary Allen (b. 29 January 1911) in Hammersmith in 1934 and they lived at 109 Nork Way, Banstead, Surrey, for many years.

Percy Griggs served in the Air-Sea Rescue Service between 1942 and 1945, and spent some eventful yearrs on the English Channel as Engineer on a high speed rescue launch. For relaxation during the 'Blitz' he had begun writing stories for children and published his first book, a collection of fairy stories, in 1944. His experiences in the services convinced him to turn his hand to writing adventure novels, the first of which, Treachery at 40 Knots, appeared from an Australian publisher in 1947, followed by The Treasure on Weir Island in 1949. "He believes that the convincing adventure story must have a factual background, and occasionally alarms his friends by sudden excursions to caverns in Wales, night rides on Railway-engine foot-plates, and any other extraordinary activity he may feel necessary to repair deficiencies in adventurous experience."

The Bard's Cloak, published in 1950, seems to have been his last novel for boys and girls, although he did continue writing for a publisher called Medallion Press Ltd. for whom he adapted various folk tales as well as writing original stories that were made into pop-up books. This was around 1951/53, after which he seems to have stopped writing.

One imagines that Griggs' other business was able to capitalise on the end of paper rationing and the steadily growing economy as, following his demobilisation from the R.A.F., he helped establish an advertising agency in London. His output of fiction would not have sustained his family, which by then included four children: Deidre M. (b.1936), Barbara G. (b.1940), Andrew R. (b.1942) and Timothy D. (b.1948), whom Griggs credited for "their insatiable appetite for stories" which spurred him to inspiration and their "exacting standards of judgment" which provided "an invaluable check to the appeal of his work."

Griggs continued to live in Banstead until his death in 1967, aged 59. His wife continued to live at the same address, briefly relocating to 8 Nork Way, Banstead, prior to her death in 1979.


Books for children
Once in a Blue Moon: Fairy Tales, illus. Edward Lander. London, Hammond, Hammond & Co., 1944.
Treachery at 40 Knots. Sydney, Shakespeare Head, 1947.
The Treasure on Weir Island. London, John Langdon, 1949.
The Donkey and the Dragon, illus. Edward Lander. London, John Langdon,1949.
Dandy Lion, illus. Edward Lander. London, 1949.
The Squirrel and the Gnome. [publication information unknown]
Up the Wooden Hill. [publication information unknown]
The Bard’s Cloak, illus. George Bowe. London, Pitkin, 1950.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, retold by Percy G. Griggs. London, Medallion Press, c.1952.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears. London, Medallion Press [Medallion Junior Play-Tales], c.1952
The Hare and the Tortoise. London, Medallion Press [Medallion Junior Play-Tales], c.1952.
The Story of Cinderella. London, Medallion Press [Medallion Junior Play-Tales], c.1952.
The Cow Who Gave No Milk, illus. Edward Lander. London, Medallion Press, c.1953. [pop-up]
The Fish that Grew Too Fat, illus. Edward Lander. London, Medallion Press, c.1953. [pop-up]
The Goat with the Tar-brush Beard, illus. Edward Lander. London, Medallion Press, c.1953. [pop-up]
The Swan from the Stars, illus. Edward Lander. London, Medallion Press, c.1953. [pop-up]


  1. Very interesting, thank you. My father is Andrew Griggs and my middle name is "Rodda".

    Really happy to see that this information is recorded

    If you would like to know more I can put you in contact with Timothy (also an author) or Andrew who will be able to supply more information.

    Again good work
    Douglas Griggs

  2. Indeed interesting! Percy was my grandfather who I never met. I was born the year he died. I would love to read some of his stories but don't have any of his books.

    Tanya Worron

  3. I was given 'The Donkey and the Dragon' as a very young boy. It became a very important part of my early reading. My parents read it to me so often I knew it off by heart.



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