Sir Edmund Hillary – or ‘Ed’ as he was universally known – passed away on 11 January 2008, at home in Auckland, aged 88. A huge wave of emotion swept over the people of New Zealand. Led by their Prime Minister, Helen Clark, they mourned their great Kiwi, lying in state in Holy Trinity Cathedral, with his Everest ice axe and Maori ceremonial staff atop the casket.
Here in the UK, people also paid tribute. Sir Ed was a Knight of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry granted by Her Majesty the Queen. On a knight’s death, his personal banner is ceremonially laid down on the High Altar of St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. This was done at an extraordinarily moving ceremony on 2 April 2008, attended by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family.
The following day The Himalayan Trust UK organised a special tribute at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Sir Ed’s son, Peter Hillary, spoke on ‘Growing up with Ed’. Tenzing Norgay’s son, Jamling Norgay, spoke on behalf of the Sherpa community. And there was a showing of Michael Dillon’s prize-winning film Beyond Everest, about Sir Edmund’s philanthropic work with the Sherpas. The auditorium was packed to the rafters and overflowing.
So moved were the loyal supporters and Trustees of The Himalayan Trust UK, that a decision was made to launch a series of Sir Edmund Hillary Memorial Lectures that would take place annually on the day of his ascent of Everest, 29 May, or as close to this day as possible, at the Royal Geographical Society. Today, this continues to be an opportunity to gather with our friends and supporters, and raise funds for the children and grandchildren of the people who made the whole great Everest adventure possible, the tough, courageous mountain people of Nepal.
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Ranulph has led numerous expeditions and was the first person ever to summit Everest and cross both polar ice caps in the same expedition. He is an inspiring speaker who delivers engaging and thought-provoking speeches on all aspects of his many expeditions. He left his audience energised and spellbound. This is what they said about the evening…
Ranulph delivered unlikely adventure after unthinkable adventure!
Great 10th Sir Ed Hilary Lecture at the RGS last night, great work being done.
Here was a quite extraordinary man who captivated the audience with his very down-to-earth descriptions of what most would consider impossible or ‘mad’
An incredible insight into the explorations of an amazingly determined man. Thank you Ranulph Fiennes for sharing your adventures.
Incredible lecture by the incomparable Sir Ranulph Fiennes, world’s greatest living explorer. An unforgettable evening, thank you HTUK
What is incredible is that Ranulph Fiennes actually appears to the simple human eye as a man not obviously suited to the world of adventure. He is an inspiration. He has achieved so much because he really believes that he cannot fail. He recognises that compared to the desperate challenges some face in life, physical hardship is easy.
The work to support Nepal goes on and it is quite humbling that so many people help in so many ways. Each step carries a better future forward and, as we work with a people who have learnt to accept crisis with calmness and who recognise friendship as a gift for a lifetime, we continue, in some small way, the important work that Sir Edmund Hillary started when he fell in love with this captivating land and with a people who became so important in his life.