ed reid, remembered
Back in 1995 Tim Madge wrote a book about a bloke called Bill Tilman.
The Last Hero.
The 278 pages probably sold about a hundred copies to school libraries that didn’t mind turning out lads who would rather climb steep hills than creep up corporate ladders, or boys who would rather have the hard wind blow in their faces than the air-conditioning cool their backs.
Men who prefer an instinctive game set against themselves rather than submit to the discipline of a team of character builders.
Tilman was a lonesome servant of the latitudes, he drove men and boats, strings of climbers and hard-bitten wanderers to the airy edges of the void of their manly aspirations.
Bill Tilman was a knuckled down kind of man with a gouged out architrave of a forehead lined like a homecoming groundswell, and he sucked a pipe that would have satisfied a room full of potheads. He washed as insincerely as an Englishman does in the tropics.
Tilman explored high mountain, distant reach and wild ocean.
Years ago he came through Sydney on a discovery path to Heard Island and as a seventeen year old boy I sat on the floor of a survival bush school (Outward Bound) in the Hawkesbury River at the feet of the lucky ones who were to accompany him to the Antarctic; wrenched through and through with the desire to be with them and travel to that place, and despite that I was overlooked as too young, I still revel in the memory that I was CONSIDERED.
Nobody I know knows Ed Reid; his busted nose and hard handed grasp, his ancient understanding of antagonism and its futile warranting, his clean thinking and patient listening to the bullshit that assailed him from all of the kids at Outward Bound.
Kids from Waverley and Joeys, and kids from Walgett and Bourke and Papua.
Ed sailed with Tilman and Tilman climbed with Shipton. Hillary used their maps in his early exploratory climbs around Everest.
Just names now, so pass them by reader.
Ed and I sat one night in the Common Room of the Outward Bound’s Hawkesbury school back in about 1960, and as the fire died away he chuntered on about the Antarctic and how a hundred yard right looked breaking down the side of a sunken moraine in minus 15 degrees temperature.
He remembered the wind as an evil thing.
One side of the room was a bookshelved to the ceiling and stacked on them were the volumes that denied many seventeen-year olds their just sleep.
Hillary, Conrad, MacLean, Fleming, Smythe, Younghusband, Buhl, Villiers, Shackleton, Worsley
There was a picture in one of the books of a young George Mallory, lost on Everest in 1924, a climber of whom it was said could ‘ flow’ up vertical rock, here seen striding shamelessly naked whilst leading a string of animals to the base camp on an earlier trip to Everest, and in the background, a crenellated wall of mile high ice covered cliffs, all unclimbed.
Don’t know where to end this other than to suggest that not every superior physical endeavour must be accompanied by managed sponsorship and signed contracts, the shrill clamour of the columns of the glossy sport-magazine hacks, and I believe that Ed is still out there somewhere changing younger minds.
Everyone is a surfer these days, and riding waves is a different thing, for some.