A State Farewell for Sir Edmund

As I write this, Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral procession is making its way down a rainy Queen Streetpacked with well wishers in Auckland City. I don’t recall anything like this in my lifetime in New Zealand. People lined up for hours in the wind and rain last night for the opportunity to pay their respects in the cathedral where he lay in state. Today his cortege is being greeted by 10’s of thousands of people, quietly clapping and a few throwing flowers on the bonnet of his hearse. I doubt that I will see something like this again in my lifetime.

Many discussions have taken place about whether there are many people in the world who have given back many hundred fold for what they have enjoyed in their lives. Sir Ed never made a fuss about it and he certainly would not approve of what is happening today although he would understand and respect a nation’s wishes to  honour him. There are very few people alive today who would be held in similar esteem.

A sad footnote is that other than the Governor General, there are no members of the royal family here to pay their respects. This is one more nail removed from the respect for the British Commonwealth. He was Knighted and  conquered Everest on the day of the Queen’s coronation. He was a true Statesman, but not important enough for the Royals to come and acknowledge, that disrespect will be remembered with disappointment.

The TV coverage has been running all day and tomorrow’s newspapers will show a country, not so much mourning the loss of a great man, but celebrating his life. Rest in peace Sir Ed, a true Kiwi bloke, eager to enjoy the adventures of mother earth and even more eager to do good for others, for good’s sake.


Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary died on Friday at the age of 88. He was a hero and a man of the people and I wanted to join the millions of people speaking his praises and remembering his deeds. He is remembered by most people as the man who conquered Mt Everest and many other peaks around the world, but he did so much more.

Most people who climb mountains (and I am wildly generalizing here) spend most of their lives climbing, travelling writing books and  enjoying their sport. Very few give something back, unless you consider the litter they leave on the beautiful mountansides as a legacy.

Sir Edmund left a poor country much richer for his efforts. He appreciated the assistance that the Sherpa people gave him and formed the Himalayan Trust to help them help themselves. Through the generosity of other people and under Hillary’s guidance the trust built 2 hospitals and 27 schools. A better role model and representative you would struggle to find, especially for a sporting personality.

He was a humble man and one of simple needs. His philosophy was along the lines of, if you are going to do something, do it well and do it quietly with little fuss.

In New Zealand the public has been clambering for a public holiday in his honor, or perhaps a Hero’s Day where we could remember him and other people who have left a legacy worthy of recognition. I’ll probably get shot down in flames for saying this, but I would propose that Waitangi Day, the day we remember the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori people is turned back into New Zealand day where we remember all the people who made this country what it is, from the sailors and settlers to the great leaders of Maoridom through to the athletes, the scientists and everyoe that makes a difference in a positive way.

Back to Sir Ed, please don’t misconstrue this, but I found him to be a particularly boring writer, but struggled through his biography of his quest and success in the scaling of Mt Everest. It was a dogged slog of a read, but I guess it also indicative of the singlemindedness that made him successful. I think the only sports book that I have read that was on a par to that would be the Sir Richard Hadley biography which was a list of statistics, which again illustrated the dogged one track focus of a highly successful and much loved sportsman. I loved to watch you play, but I struggled with your book sir:)

So Sir Edmund, it is now time to rest. Your body lies In State and people are lining up around the country to sign books of remembrance and I think your family will still be surprised at the depth of feeling and fondness Kiwi’s have of you. You will have a State Funeral which you wouldn’t want in a thousand years, but it’s no longer up to you. Rest in peace and know that the world is so much better off for the time you spent with us and your legacy will never be forgotten, in New Zealand, in Nepal and anywhere that people climb mountains both personal and physical.