Introduction to Mallory
As an explorer my interest isn’t just about heading out on expedition into the extremes – over the years I have been inspired by the great pioneers who left their homes and families to literally step out into the unknown. One such explorer is British mountaineer, George Herbert Leigh Mallory.
Recently I was invited to George’s home village in the UK – for me moments like this are humbling as I get to see the life behind the legend…
George was born 18 June 1886 in the small village of Mobberley in Cheshire UK. He was the son of Herbert Leigh Mallory, a clergyman who changed his surname from Mallory to Leigh-Mallory in 1914. His mother was Annie Beridge, the daughter of a clergyman in Walton, Derbyshire. George also had two sisters and a younger brother who were raised in a 10-bedroom house on Hobcroft Lane in Mobberley.
Mallory became part of mountaineering history when he took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest, in the early 1920s. During the 1924 British Mount Everest expedition, Mallory and his climbing partner,Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, disappeared on the North-East ridge during their attempt to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain.
The pair were last seen when they were about 800 vertical feet (245 m) from the summit. Mallory’s ultimate fate was unknown for 75 years, until his body was discovered on 1 May 1999 by an expedition that had set out to search for the climbers’ remains. Whether Mallory and Irvine had reached the summit before they died remains a subject of speculation and continuing research.
More information can be found on the following links. Finding Mallory’s body;
Spirit of George
Earlier this year I headed to Kathmandu to begin my training for an ascent attempt in 2019 of Mount Everest – before I left the UK I connected with David and Ben from Mallory’s village.
Both of them have a tremendous respect for the historical aspect of Mallory’s achievements during his short life and they also recognised the importance of keeping the spirit of the climb alive for future generations.
Mallory was asked in 1924 the reason for attempting to conquer the seemingly unscalable Mount Everest and his answer was “because it’s there” – which can be viewed as an obvious throw away statement or as a preferred philosophical view based on the enormity of the task?
What ever the interpretation David and Ben have recognised the importance of the expedition and indeed his roots. So with this they have hand crafted a gin in his name called, The Spirt of George. It’s a dry gin with a hint of Himalayan tea and in their words;
“In tribute and in celebration of our indomitable hero and inspiration”
The spirit of George Website; https://bighilldistillery.com
A NEW distillery is opening soon behind the Church Pub and in front of the Church itself – a perfect setting. This is a great place to visit areas of the village and buy a bottle of GM GIN.
When I returned to the uk from Nepal I met up with both men in the Church Pub which is opposite to the church in Mobberley. We were joined by local historian Alistair Macleod who talked me through the family history and how George managed to involve himself in the ill-fated expedition.
We then headed over to the church to speak to the Reverend Ian Blay who seemed familiar – it was not until we heard back to the pub later that I saw that in Ian’s honour they had dedicated a beer after him. Achievements come in many different forms.
In the Church Ian showed me where Mallory’s family were laid to rest – we climbed through the tight stone stairs to the church steeple to take on a very different view of Mobberley. As we squeezed through the tower we stopped to look at the workings of the clock and the bells – around the walls were messages left by previous visitors – dated in the 17 and 18 hundreds. At the top I looked down onto the graves of Mallory’s family set in the green of quite area of England. The reminder of the modern world was just a short distance away as planes took off one by one from Manchester airport.
Rev Ian Blay was a true gent and is one of those people who makes you feel completely at ease – his knowledge of the church was endless. Even David and Ben were taken back with the access we were given – on a stainless window there was a section dedicated to Mallory and the Everest expedition.
Feeling like a kid in sweet shop we then drove around the village to get a sense of this typical English area where a legend was born. We headed to his family home – a grand house which in recent times had been extended but still carries hints of the Mallory history. A blue plaque – celebrating Mallory as a mountaineer was hided underneath green climbing planets – the irony!
Luckily somebody was in the house who had heard of The Spirit of George / Gin and was keen to chat and show us around. We got the sense of where he was born and how he lived the first part of his adventurous life.
A couple of years ago I visited Shackleton’s home town in Ireland and also stood at the tomb of Tom Crean on a cold windy day with no body around. I understand the value that these great pioneers have given to generations of adventurous – George Mallory lived a short life of family, war and exploration – to be invited by local people to his home village to understand the man behind the legend was a very humbling experience. I am grateful to David, Ben, Alistair and Rev Ian for their time.
On Everest next year we will drink a shot of Gin – in the “Spirt of George”.