Billy Grantham, Dorset's oldest "new age" evangelist has died in his Stourton Caundle home aged 99. Surrounded by his three cats, 84 crystals and a man - believed to be an intruder - he was just three weeks short of his telegram from the Queen. Neighbour Beryl Diss-Interest expressed the feelings of all when she told local reporters, "We didn't even know he was still alive, so this has come as a big shock. I mean you used to see him all the time - on the telly and such and he used to hold these big events in tents and the like where people went in normal and came out queer. He was for ever taking your hand and inviting you to let him touch you with his spirit. We used to tell the kids to keep away. My sister said it was just harmless mumbo jumbo (and she was quite into being touched anyway) but most of us thought he was creepy. Always quoting verses from some book and swanning around in a bright pink shell-suit with an extra large gusset . Wasn't normal if you ask me."
Particularly big in the 1950s and 60's Billy Grantham was the leading new age evangelist of his day, often attracting crowds of up to a dozen at his outdoor mission rallies where he would invoke the spirits of nature and the heavens and ask people to come forward from the crowd to be anointed by his massive trade-mark™ "wand". "He could knock you over with it like you were a feather", recalls one-time convert Gullible Travels, "people came from miles around just to see the size of it. He had like a cult following: women were mesmerised by it and the men, well we just wanted one like his. It was amazing, massive, gigantic, ginormous. I tried to grow in the spirit myself but I never got as big as that. So in the end I gave it all up and got into Dr Who instead."
Billy in the late 1960s in the Studios of Radio Thrupiece where he briefly hosted the "Odd Evangelists Hour" on Sunday mornings. The programme was timed to ensure it went out when most people were at Church.
Some mystery surrounds the early life of Billy Grantham as well of the precise details of the "visitation" which empowered him to go on his lifelong mission (it happened somewhere on the Isle of Portland and may have involved a spirit called "Bill" - or perhaps the spirit called Billy "Bill" - Billy himself was always vague on the matter. In any event Portland Bill, where a stylised representation of his "wand" now stands, is now a well known place of pilgrimage). "I think he was always searching for something", says lifelong supporter Erly Convert, "usually his glasses". "Well I hope he's found them now", she added.
Asked if Billy Grantham's visionary clair voyance had been key to his mystique and success, Owermoigne University's Dean of Theology - The Revered Nevis Gospel - was clear: "In a world of uncertainty, clear vision and the ability to assure people of their future happiness is always a key to success and generates a certain mystique, as does an over-large "wand". Billy was unique in his ability to see exactly how things were going to turn out, though the well-stocked contents of his cupboards suggests he didn't see this one coming".
Mr Grantham will be hurled off the cliffs at a secret location on the Jurassic Coast on Friday in the hope of avoiding an inquest.
[Billy Grantham, evangelist, cult leader, champion crewel embroiderer and alleged sex-pest is believed to have been born in Trickett's Cross in March 1918. Educated somewhere locally, he went to a different school (aged 11). He visited the Isle of Portland in 1939 and hid there, emerging as an evangelist with a generously proportioned "wand" after 1945. Variously referred to as "Big Bill" and (by detractors) "Big Willy Billy" he never married. Died Stourton Caundle 21 February 2018. He is survived by several unidentified victims.]
Billy Grantham who has died aged 99: his passing has been marked by a mixture of sadness, incredulity and relief.