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Former Surrey Ad Editor’s Latest Local History Book

Published on: 9 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 18 Aug, 2020

By David Rose

Former Surrey Advertiser editor and local history book author Graham Collyer has published his latest title, but it’s not about his home county!

Graham and his wife Ann retired to the South Hams area of Devon in 2002 and soon began looking into the history of the village they moved to, South Milton.

Graham Collyer (seated) at the signing of his new book A History of South Milton, pictured with fellow local historian and on-line book seller Paul Davies.

His new book, A History of South Milton, is the second title he has written about the area, the first being Hope Cove, which he edited for that village’s archive group.

Graham is the chairman of The South Milton History Group, founded in 2006 and it meets about four or five times a year.

Keeping his hand in with local news, Graham was a part-time freelancer for South Hams Newspapers in Kingsbridge from 2002 to 2008, during which time he started a weekly two-page spread of village news, acted as sports editor and began a weekly Delving into the Past page, which he continued to produce until March this year.

Graham says an elderly neighbour, the now late Mary Carr, had been a great inspiration with her local history knowledge. Another local resident, born in 1937, has passed on details of men from the village on active service in the First World War, and people living in the village during the Second World War.

The cover of A History of South Milton by Graham Collyer.

The first print run of 200 copies of Graham’s new book has already sold out. He says there is already a waiting list of more than 20 copies, so a reprint is in order, probably in time for a ‘Meet the Author Q&A’ in October.

Graham added: “I worked with a team of three, headed by Paul Davies, a friend and online book seller in the village, with a photographer friend and a designer who handily works part-time for the printer in Kingsbridge, as well as being a senior volunteer at the museum. Five local firms each gave us £200 in sponsorship, and the parish council and district council also chipped in £200 each.

“We were due to launch on the 75th anniversary of VE Day but the pandemic put paid to that, and the lockdown gave us more time to add bits and pieces. We finished with 200 pages and 300 illustrations.

“We promoted it well in the village and on the village Facebook page, and by the night before the launch we had only eight copies left unordered. Many copies have gone abroad to descendants of former Miltonians. The launch was held in the open in the village with strict social distancing in force.

“Any profit from the book will be donated to the village hall.”

Graham joined the Surrey Advertiser, then a daily, as sports editor in 1979, became deputy editor to Ted Adams in April 1982, editor in 1986, coupled with editorial director from 1998. He stepped down as editor in August 2001 and was appointed associate editor until he left the company in August 2002.

His journalistic career began on the Farnham Herald in 1960, when he was 16, and he attended half-day release courses at Guildford Technical College, where Ted Adams was one of the visiting lecturers.

He is the author of a number of popular history books focusing on Surrey. His first being a slim volume about the village of Tilford, jointly with two other writer / researchers. Haslemere and Hindhead (Sutton Publishing) with Tim Winter.  The Surrey Village Book (Countryside Books) went to three editions, and three further colour-picture books on Surrey (Countryside Books) with photographers Andy Williams and Derek Forss.

The incredibly popular Images of Guildford (Breedon Books) was published in 1998, with me, David Rose, my first venture into local history books. We followed that up with Guildford The War Years 1939-45 (also Breedon Books) the following year.

Graham’s passion for cricket includes books written for Farnham Cricket Club’s bicentenary in 1982, Tilford Cricket Club’s centenary in 1985, the I’Anson Cricket League’s centenary in 2001. He was the league’s secretary from 1980-2002.

Graham says: “These three books all featured the life and times of William ‘Silver Billy’ Beldham, the greatest cricketer before W. G. Grace.

“He was born at Wrecclesham in 1766 and died at Tilford in 1862. In 1983 I tracked down his bat which had been made for him in Farnham in 1815, and which had disappeared from public view during the Second World War. It is now in the ownership of Beldham’s four times great grandson, who bears the same surname. Around 1990 I also wrote a book about The Bourne Cricket Club.”

It appears writing books may run in the Collyer family as at the height of the pandemic son David had his first book published, titled All in a day’s work, and it has also sold out.

David Collyer, with his book that has also sold out!

Graham says: “He’s a frontline NHS operating theatre staffer in the hospital in Abergavenny, and also a professional photographer, shooting only black and white on film.

“The hospital trust allowed him to take pictures of his colleagues at work and an online publisher of photographic books produced a limited edition of 100 copies.

“They sold on day one, so he did another 100, which also sold in a day, and then he printed a further 300 and they went pretty quickly. All the money has gone to two mental health charities. He also had a front page picture in the Guardian and a two-page spread in the same issue. He has given many media interviews, and usually says he got into photography by following me around and going into newspaper darkrooms.”

Graham keeps in touch with the news in Surrey and of course reads The Guildford Dragon NEWS!

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Responses to Former Surrey Ad Editor’s Latest Local History Book

  1. Anton Rippon Reply

    August 18, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Wonderful to read this. I had the great pleasure of working with Graham Collyer and David Rose through Breedon Publishing many years ago. Two fine writers, and two fine gentlemen.

    David Rose adds: Lovely to hear from you Anton. Indeed, Breedons published Images of Guildford (in 1998) and Guildford The War Years (1999) by Graham and myself. Breedons then published my own titles Memory Lane Guildford & District (2000), Guildford Our Town (2001), and Guildford & Villages Then And Now (2003). While in 2007 Breedon published Guildford Remember When by myself and Bernard Parke. Breedons also published two books by Stanley Newman: Guildford The Changing Face (2002) and Guildford Life Past And Present (2008).

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