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.
Ed’s chair at Brunswick Rescue
Everyone is a surfer these days, and riding waves is a different thing, for some.
“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, and he washed as insincerely as an Englishman in the tropics.”
Frame that one.
Merry Xmas to ya Pete.
Long may you run.
back to you Steve – next year we rip and tear
Ed passed away on 16/1/2011. After his antarctic adventures and later european escapades he became a father in 1975. At the time he was attending art school and working full-time. In 1982 he moved with my sister Rose and I to Wilsons Creek in the hills at the back of Mullumbimby. Ed worked teaching drawing as often as possible to get by. Rose and I were raised there, he often drove me and my friends to Bruns for early morning surfs where he would sit and stare out to the ocean and draw.
Once we had finished high school Ed moved with his partner to Bathurst Island(Tiwi Islands) where he worked as an adult educator (teaching basic computer skills) and driving instructor. Ed was highly respected there and was adopted by the local tiwi community which is a very rare occurance for white people.
After Tiwi Islands he returned to Mullum and lived with Rose and her husband. Since then his days were spent volunteering time to the Brunswick Heads marine rescue where he used his navigation and computer skills to teach other volunteers everything he knew as well as being the local social cricket stallwart. Never in my life have I met a good person who didn’t get along with Ed. Ed rubbed some people up the wrong way but they were usually city or country hicks with deluded god complexes or a misguided view on what really matters. It was this character that would never allow him to climb that coorporate ladder as this usually means pandering to fools with god complexes.
I was with him when he passed at John Flynn Hospital in Tugan on the Gold Coast at 1.15am 16/1. He died from a metastatic melanoma which was found in 2006. He died knowing that he was a good father, kind person and I’m sure with a clear conscience.
RIP Edwin James Reid 21/7/1936 – 16/1/2011
Thanks beau, I was fortunate to have Ed as an instructor first and a friend thereafter – he and I travelled the Hawksbury basin and the Tallangatta region for a year when we both worked at the school – A very good man as you say.
Let myself into the Brunswick rescue tower today and was told that the chair in the corner was the one the old boy used – and it was the biggest and the softest (see pic)
– and that the Brunswick bar is about as bad as they come.