My virtual acquaintance, Mr Pudding, has been extolling the contributions that his fellow Yorkshiremen have made to the world, for good or ill. From George Bamber who devised the first double yellow lines to the metaphysical poetry of Andrew Marvell.
This bout of county pride has come as something of a surprise. It is rare for a Yorkshireman to be so boastful, given their usual shy and self-effacing nature, and this venture into extraversion is to be encouraged.
For that reason, and to demonstrate the camaraderie and mutual respect that exists between the Red and White Rose counties, here is a Lancastrian’s contribution to this celebration of Yorkist culture — I give you soldier, mystic, aviator and mountaineer, Maurice Wilson.
Maurice was born in Bradford in 1898, the son of a woollen mill owner. By that, I don’t mean that his father had been knitted or that the mill was constructed of blanket squares. The mill produced woollen goods and his father owned it, which you’ve probably worked out for yourself by now.
But I digress. Maurice Wilson was to achieve fleeting fame as one of the great eccentrics of his time before perishing in an ill-fated attempt to climb Everest at the age of thirty-six, dressed in women’s clothes.
He had fought with great bravery in World War One and was awarded the Military Cross for single-handedly holding a German advance at bay with a machine gun. He was seriously wounded by machine gun fire himself a few months later and was sent home to recover.
He was not to regain his health completely, however, and Maurice left the army in 1919, his body and psyche scarred by his experiences of war.
He established businesses in London, America and New Zealand and although he achieved a degree of wealth, he was unable to find the happiness he yearned for, while his health deteriorated further, both physically and mentally.
Whether the mystery man of Mayfair ever existed as anything other than a convenient alliteration is a moot point, but Maurice went on to develop his own blend of Christianity and eastern mysticism which he believed could solve the ills of the world, mainly through meditation and anorexia.
He needed a publicity coup in order to promote his beliefs and decided that he could achieve this by becoming the first man to conquer Everest, even though he had previously climbed nothing higher than the steps of his father’s mill.
And so he formulated his plan which was to fly a small plane to Tibet (he’d never actually flown one before), crash it into the slopes of the mountain and then set off up the hill, without oxygen and on his own.
The expedition was a failure inasmuch as Maurice did not survive it. However, his supporters (in Yorkshire) believe that he had indeed succeeded in reaching the summit of Everest some 18 years before Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing.
The greater mystery, though, is the range of ladies lingerie found among his belongings when his body was discovered the following year by the 1935 Everest Expedition.
It was they who put it about that Maurice was a transvestite and a fetishist, an allegation fiercely denied (in Yorkshire) as an outrageous slander that impugned the reputation of a true Yorkshire
We will never know, but mud sticks and posthumous public recognition of his achievement was denied him.
I shall leave you with the video that first introduced me to his story, as told by my fellow Lancastrian, Mike Harding.