Background to the Alexander Grant papers

Patronele McKay, my mother, was born in 1929, the daughter of George McKay, trade union organiser, and Petronėlė Juzė Šugždaitė, a Lithuanian who, as a small child, fled to Scotland with her family around 1902. The Šugžda family lived in the Bellshill and Bothwellhaugh mining villages in the early 1900s, but most of my mother’s Lithuanian uncles and cousins eventually drifted off to the USA between the 1920s and 1950s.

My mother married Iain Craig in 1949, and my parents, and new-born me, emigrated to Australia in 1950. Sometime in the mid 1980s, completely out of the blue, my mother received a letter from an Alexander Grant, once a teenage acquaintance of hers when she lived in Polmadie, Glasgow. Alex was the brother-in-law to one of my mother’s cousins. I became aware at that time, through my mother’s correspondence with him, that this old ‘boyfriend’ (as she described him), had become blind due a to a “terrible medical accident”, and was involved in the study of the Lithuanian language. This language is known to be one of the oldest and most conservative in Europe with links to Sanskrit and Ancient Greek. My mother’s travel diaries included Alex’s address over several years, and I know my parents visited him and his wife, Alice, on 23 March 1992 at his home in Fife, Scotland; my mother died a bit over two months later while still on holidays in Scotland. (See my mother’s diary entry below.) I am almost certain that Alex and Alice attended my mother’s funeral at Falkirk, but I was not introduced at the time.

My father eventually passed on my mother’s personal papers (diaries, letters, school reports, etc.) only a couple of years before he died in 2016; I put them in an archive box and stored them away for future study. When I finally found time to look through these papers, I discovered 16 photocopies of two academic papers set out in A5 spreads (sample below): The Phaestos Disc and the Lithuanian Language (1975) and Translation of the Lemnos Stele (1982). My amateur interest in history certainly made me take notice, and it quickly became apparent that Alex Grant was no amateur linguist. It is also apparent from the numbering of these two papers (3 and 5a) that others may have existed — indeed, the text mentions papers 1 to 3, and paper 4.

The photocopies were of original pages put together on an old typewriter. Linguistic studies, and most non-English alphabets, require the use of a multitude of diacritical marks not found on an English-language typewriter, so these had mostly been handwritten on the originals or, in some cases, typed in by skewing the paper on the typewriter roller. Despite the limited technology available to Alex, the documents are reasonably well written, and only contain a small number of grammatical errors. However, as I was a professional editor and book publisher, my immediate impression was that these papers contained serious academic hypotheses that deserved to be formally typeset, and the data entered into proper tables — the following pages are the result of that process. I have kept faith with Alex’s original text and endnotes, but have taken advantage of modern computer technologies not available in the early 1980s. In a few places, where I have been unable to decipher text or identify an image, I have put my best guess in red.

I cannot tell you whether this work has academic merit or not, but the hypotheses look well reasoned to me and, if accurate, would be of value to our understanding of two important ancient artefacts, and a revelation about the history of Indo-European languages. A 1991 letter (reproduced below) from Max Kanowski of the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland attests to this. It seems my father (once a keen amateur historian) had sent the photocopies to UQ at that time, but I doubt anything further came of it.

I know that Alex Grant had been a school teacher and lived in Fife, Scotland. Research shows that he was born in Scotland in 1926 of Lithuanian parents as Aleksandras Pridatkas; he died 22 July 1995. He married Alice Spencer Kenneford in 1950 (in Fylde, Lancashire), and I now know they had four children, of whom two survive — these are the heirs to his copyright. I have been in contact with Alexander Grant Jnr., who assures me that if other papers were written, they no longer exist. Alexander and his sister have kindly allowed me to follow up on this important academic study that links previously untranslated ancient texts with the modern Lithuanian language — the reader will understand, no doubt, how important these papers would be if Alex Grant’s hypotheses can be proved.

Alan Craig, November 2018

Both sides of the Phaestos Disc. Pictures taken by me at the Heraklion Museum, Crete, September 2018.

The Lemnos Stele was found in 1885 at Kaminia on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. It now stands in the National Museum in Athens, Greece

 

A page from Alex Grant’s original document that was composed on an old typewriter in about 1972. The layout was in A5 spreads.

 

Letter from the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Q4067

7 June 1991

Dear Iain [Craig],

I have read the enclosed and have found it fascinating. I must say the Disc decipherment is more plausible than any other I have seen, and there does seem to be a relationship with the Linear B syllabary.

Unfortunately I know no Lithuanian, which is a drawback in trying to evaluate the results. But I do find the arguments convincing at this stage.

Thank you for showing us the material.

Yours sincerely,

Max Kanowski
Department of Classics and Ancient History

Extracts from my mother’s 1992 travel diary:

Monday, 16 March:

Rang Alex Grant. Monday to Largo.

Monday, 23 March [this entry written by my father]:

Left about 9 […] Drove to Largo – not long (1½ hours) but bit complicated last leg. Surprised so near (overlook) sea. Alex & Alice Grant seemed pleased to see us – had a long natter – Pat’s history – Lithuanian history. (Alex leaves for 3 weeks training with guide dog.) Want us to come again in May/June (we see). Terrible medical muck up caused Alex’s blind[ness] …


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