MUCH-LOVED Isle of Wight historian, Brian Greening, has died at the age of 79.

Brian was a regular contributor to the County Press over several decades, through Isle of Wight heritage stories and letters to the editor.

He spoke passionately about his hobbies and wrote riveting articles and books, often collaborating with his close friend and war hero, Bill Shepard.

County Press editor, Alan Marriott said: "Brian was Mr Newport in my eyes.

"He revelled in the nickname Grumpy Greening but he had a heart of gold and cared deeply about the Isle of Wight, past, present and future.

"Brian will be impossible to replace as an expert on the history of our county town, and I send our deepest condolences to his family."

Isle of Wight County Press:

A young Brian (in the woolly hat) helping out at the very last Newport Market in December,1983, on the site of what is today's Morrison's Supermarket. Picture by Alan Stroud.

Among those to pay homage to Brian is fellow Island historian, Alan Stroud.

He said: "Two years ago we did a book together, This Island Life, and Brian was a dream to work with.

"I shall miss his phone calls. I would pick up and without fail Brian would deliver his customary one-word greeting in a military voice ­— 'Greening'.

"He would then hold court for 15 minutes, setting the world to rights, which usually involved expletives and the council in some capacity, and then we would exchange rude jokes.

"When he felt he'd said enough, Brian had the disarming but amusing habit of abruptly hanging up without warning.

"Comic, wit, raconteur, yet beneath it all, a sensitive man.

"He will be sadly missed."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Brian and Bill Shepard at a book signing in the County Press shop.

Showbusiness journalist, John Hannam said: "For people of a certain age, Brian was a legend.

"As a footballer, he was a feared goal poacher. He seldom returned a pass and it was an excursion if he ever left the penalty area.

"He used more energy writing his brilliant books than he ever did on the pitch.

"Brian loved being called 'Grumpy' and lived up to the image.

"He had an instant sarcastic wit that we all loved and he was always ready to enjoy a clever reply to top it.

"One of the Island's much-loved characters has sadly left us. Another true one-off."

Friend Malcolm Harding said: "Brian and I were friends for 68 years. We became friends at Barton School through our love of sport.

"Our careers followed the same path from school summer jobs at Gould Hibberd and Randalls to J.S.Whites then BAE.

"After our wives passed away, this brought us even closer together, going out every Sunday for lunch.

"I know if anyone required help in any way Brian would be the first to volunteer.

"His contribution to local history is immeasurable.

"Rest in peace, Brian, you deserve it. Thanks for the memories."

Friend John Farthing said: "Brian’s passing is a significant loss to the preservation of the Island’s heritage, especially that of Newport.

"I worked with him on a lot of his delving, but it was the partnership of Brian and Bill Shepard which fired much of what has been recorded in Brian’s books over the last 20 years.

"Brian had a very straightforward view of life and his writings always emphasised any social injustices.

"His illustrated talks to many Island organisations, with his special brand of presentation, will be sorely missed.

"I keep looking at the telephone but it's not ringing. I am missing him."

Hundreds of tributes have poured in on The Isle of Wight Heritage Group Facebook page, speaking of his charm, character and irreplaceable knowledge.

It was suggested on there that in recording the Island's history in such detail, he himself had become a significant part of it.