Remembering Leamington's link to the historic 1953 conquest of Everest

In Peter Bowen's regular column, he remembers a connection that a family friend had with an amazing moment in history

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

Peter Bowen, 83, is a retired journalist who writes a regular column for The Courier and Weekly News. In this week's comment about the Queen's 70 years on the throne, he remembers one resident's link to the conquest of Everest during the same year of the Queen's coronation. Here is part of his column - the full column will be in Friday's Courier and Weekly News (Feb 11 2022):

The Queen has been around for the whole of my life-time. Her Majesty has been a resolute, steadfast, and reassuring figure during her 70 years on the throne. She has never put a foot wrong. HM has been outstanding in serving her country as the longest-reigning monarch. May she go on to enjoy the jubilee celebrations and have many happy years ahead of her.

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The coronation of the young Queen in 1953 was a must-see event and eagerly anticipated by people everywhere. Anyone who had a television was very popular. John Sugden, a schools’ inspector, was the only one in the whole of Leam Terrace, who owned a set at the time.

Neighbours were invited into his lounge and sat theatre-style around the television, drinking cups of tea or bottles of pop.

Only later, was it learnt that Mr. Sugden, a noted mountaineer, had been in charge of the base camp of the successful expedition by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first-ever to scale Everest, which was announced on Coronation Day. The Sugdens were friends of the Bowen family but John, modest to a fault, never really talked about his part in the expedition.

Together with his son, David, and wife, Pat, who played cricket for England and was also a very good local tennis player, Mr. Sugden took me to the Lake District one Easter, as company for his son, and as an introduction to climbing. Mr. Sugden believed the experience would help us two boys to become young men.

I was terrified when climbing at one point. being unable to go up or down, on being instructed by John to put my boot in his wife’s hand, who was below me. There was no foothold ahead of me, high on a rock face. On looking down, being only 16, I was very frightened by the experience but John was confident in Pat’s ability to hold me up, and mine to put the boot in the right place!

That experience was bad enough but on being told to bathe every morning in an ice-old stream was just too much. I gave up climbing there and then!