I,m taking my one-man play about the Everest pioneer George Mallory bake to Mobberley, the village he grew up in, on Sunday the 30th of April. In 1924 Mallory grew up in the quiet village of a few hundred people. In his boyhood the village would have been the centre of life for the small farming community. On special days many folk would have traveled to nearby Knutsford to attend visiting fairs or perhaps even see music hall shows. On very rare days the more adventurous might have travelled as far as the county town of Chester with its maze of old streets lined with half timbered houses and Roman relics of an ancient city wall.
Few would have thought that the Rector’s son, a mischievous athletic boy, would ever venture to one of the furthest corners of the earth to take on the mightiest mountain of them all, Everest. Mallory has lain, for almost a century, on that bare mountainside in what must be one of loneliest resting places on earth. Discovered by an American expedition, Mallory was found face down where he had come to rest after a fall. The rope, that should have led to his climbing partner, Sandy Irvine, ended only in some broken strands. Irvine’s body has never been found and is probably buried deep in the ice of Everest’s glaciers waiting to emerge for future generations of climbers.
On the 30th of April Mallory will come home and walk again through the streets where he spent his childhood. It will be an emotional journey for me. As a writer and an actor I have inhabited Mallory’s thoughts and feelings for almost three years. I have stood in his shoes as he prepared himself for his last attempt on the summit and tried to overcome his fear. I have looked into the eyes of his wife, Ruth, as he tells her he is returning to the mountain. After seeing these things in my imagination it will be incredible to actually see where he came from and to walk the streets where he once walked.
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Mallory’s final hours on the mountain will always be a mystery. There are tantalising clues as to whether he and Irvine were the first men to set foot on the highest summit in the world. The photograph of Ruth that Mallory carried with him, and promised to place on the summit, was not on the body. Mallory was notoriously forgetful but it is surely less than credible that he could have lost the image of the woman he loved. Perhaps it still lies today somewhere on that icy crest.
There were no snow goggles found on him which suggests he may have been coming down the mountain at night, after reaching the top. No camera was found so either it was lost in fall or Irvine had it with him. Obviously a summit picture would solve the riddle forever. I hope we don’t find that camera, for some things are better left unknown.
Mallory never returned to village of hi youth a hero but his memory lives on and part of him will always be in that little Cheshire village where a boy dared to dream of unimaginable adventure.