I have always resisted the use of the word ‘courage’ to describe people who are suffering. Suffering is horrible, but, alone does not equate to courage, though I have every sympathy for those going through it. The newspapers, tabloids in particular, have a habit of using ‘courage’ or ‘brave’ when someone is dying of cancer, for example. We need empathy, certainly, and a lot of love, but courage and bravery are something else.
On Friday 8th June, Edward Mills, aged eight, climbed one of the most difficult coastal features in the UK – the Old Man of Hoy sea stack on Orkney’s archipelago; becoming the youngest ever person to do so. His mother, Bekki Christian, has terminal cancer. Edward climbed with his coaches Ben West and Cailean Harker.
My photo, below, shows the frightening prospect of that climb. It was taken from the cabin of the Northlink Ferry to Orkney, during our trip there in April, this year.
The island of Hoy (see Northlink’s map, below) is a difficult place to navigate. There are few roads and to get to The Old Man from the main islands requires a ferry, car journey and a four-hour walk, each way. Young Edward had already made this walk, with his guides, before he started the climb on Friday lunchtime. The Old Man is 140 metres high and has been the subject of several historic televised features, starting in the 1960s when the BBC covered the first recored climb being made by some of the best climbers in Britain, including Chris Bonington. You can see some of the original reporting here.
Its was therefore a very difficult and courageous thing for a young man to do. Add to that the emotional situation of a dying mother and something remarkable was happening. It took Edward and his support team nearly five hours to complete the climb. They had to get back down as well, of course…
Edward knows his mother is dying. He and his father wanted to do something positive at this difficult stage in their family lives.
Edward is brave. He showed remarkable courage in undertaking this task at such an age, though he is an accomplished young climber. If, like, us, you wish to look at his full story, his JustGiving page is here.
I don’t normally circulate anything like this; but having recently sailed past the Old Man of Hoy, and shuddered at the prospect of climbing it, I thought it might be appropriate to ask anyone who would like to help Edward’s appeal to reblog this.
Thank you so much.