Friday, 19 January 2018

Stuck on a Life Raft

 'Hole in the Mind with Ysfa Symbolism: John Redhead

Time of mine spent with those of the past that is over? Given to those in the present that live in the past? Or to those who will be there to see the end?
Electric Letterbox', Footless Crow

Friday 14th October 2016 eked no email comments after a comparison request of that climb in 'Bride to the Mountain'. Perhaps it is not the Great Gully, Craig Yr Ysfa and Firbank is off the radar now, or that you choose to read is not what you have seen?

Lean the memories of a Giveen ripe worthy chat with John Redhead at a Pete's Eats book exchange, Martin Crook and Tony Loxton there also amid vague side glances of others less able than them. A life sentence partly served an opportunity for a sketch although limited in viewing numbers, until now. Emails to and fro muster interest in my Footless ‘scribbles’? or lest niggled his understanding of my behest before the postman’s knock and a foreign stamped cardboard tube. Awkwardly, kitchen-knifed partly opened the fingerprinted, smudged back enough of a signature and not fully opened; his original gist of my obsession non-reflectively finished by Dilwyn of Fframia, Llanberis.

Until parole is granted and afterwards my view is to The Gully, The Cave Pitch and Giveen hanging with others in John’s last, best Catalunya interpretation of 'wounded bison, the shaman, who cocked up and always a happy ferryman and of course Giveen and loads of common stuff. Yet is there more and I have some time, unlike others on that day lost on November 20th, 1927; 04:14:28 pm.

8h 26m 20- the sunset and daylight hours, little to crave for, nothing wasted on and vital for the lives of Norman Stott and Arthur Taylor. Time of death uncertain at Llyn Ffynnon Llugwy, Capel Curig, post Great Gully climb, Craig Yr Ysfa, although a father's guess from the hands of a broken watch tried to sway evidence after the inquest. 

Visitors to Helyg near the time of the incident, including Raymond Greene, were mostly experienced Climbers, aware of the dangerous weather conditions in the dank, dark aspects of the Gully shadows and the perils available of certain climbing conditions. J M A Thompson in his first ascent described the hardest part of the climb, the Great cave in 1900 '.... unquestionably the finest in any gully of the district. Rocks fallen from above and jammed between the vertical side-walls of the gully, form both the roof and two bridges...removal of debris necessitated single climbing...with strange gymnastics indulged in here, before the top of the rock was reached, for the right wall was streaming at the time with cold water from the snow melting above, and daylight had ceased to penetrate the recesses of the cave. 

The next move was across the bridge to a slippery ledge on the south wall; sidling across this string-course by the light of faith, we reached the outer bridge, where a hole afforded a convenient exit. A faint glimmer on the western horizon sufficed for the ascent of the little pitch above, and we reached the summit ridge soon after eight o'clock. Of the four hours spent in the gully, probably the major part was occupied in pioneering, for while the bed rock was found to be very sound and satisfactory, the obstacles were decorated with so exceptional quantity of loose turf and moss, that we might claim to have found them of grass and left them of granite.' On the first ascent, four hours spent in the Gully.

So, another 'whatever' and to that otiose, beerly wise Saturday night decision to safe haven some Giveen laden scrolls. Prior to departure, a chance moment to read my 1930 Oxford Mail article and another Giveen secret.... A 'prominent member' of the Oxford University Climbing Club as was Raymond Greene....a pairing belayed fleetingly at Oxford University in the early 1920's. Quite different characters, Greene the dependable medical student and would be stalwart of the Climbers' Club. Giveen, the rake, a reprobate who climbed the Martyrs' Memorial, 'sent down' from Wadham College and Oxford for an unknown misdemeanor and worse, he sold Greene a car then ‘retrieved’ it, without his consent. Also, an accusation by Greene of Giveen attempting to shoot him after blackballing him from membership of the club. One cannot be true without the others and for Giveen the truth is recorded in handwritten accounts of meetings available in the coffers of the Climbers' Club Minute Book secluded to Gwynedd Archives. 

Also, they include membership details of the four men concerned, initial support for Giveen and pressures laid upon decisions made after the night of the accident, and verdicts made by the Climbers’ Club hierarchy. There is discreet involvement from Cambridge University, an Oxford University Climbers Club member at a relevant meeting and although unconfirmed, communication from Mr. James Stott, father of Norman Stott, undoubtedly a factor in the proceedings, one of the ‘several others’.

A Committee Meeting held at 110, Cannon Street with the President (in the Chair) and Messrs. Benson, Bradley, Coventry, Green, Marler, Marples and Poole (Mr. Balfour was also present by permission of the Committee). The meeting was closed with the 'New members' area and Norman Stott elected as member 600 under rule 14a proposed by Messrs. Longland and Sinker. The first of the membership issues confirmed of one the four involved in the accident.
To page 212, the Meeting, same venue, Friday 20th May, 1927. The President there with Messrs. Balfour, Benson, Coventry, Lowen, Marler, Marples, Pitcher and Poole. The agenda followed the actions taken of minutes of the meeting held on the 12th April 1927 followed by: 'The following 14 gentlemen were elected members of the Club, including F. W. Giveen (632 pencil marked in margin) proposed by M. S. Gotch and C. W. Marshall', contrary to Raymond Greene's account of his blackballing account in his book, ‘Moments of Being’.
Arthur M. Taylor was elected on the 13th September 1927 and recorded in the minutes of the meeting held at The Rendezvous Restaurant, Dean Street, W1, proposed by C. W. Marshall; seconded by Norman Stott.

The first meeting after the accident of the 20th November 1927, recorded in Pages 222-223, dated Tuesday 29th November 1927 again at the same venue. The President and Messrs. Balfour, Bradley, Carr, Coventry, Donkin, Lowen, Marler (?), Pitcher, Poole and Valentine-Richard present. The 'Accident in North Wales' was on the agenda and 'reference was made to the events of the 20th/21st instant when a party consisting of F. W. Giveen, W.H.T. Tayleur, N. Stott and A. Taylor had set off from Helyg Cottage to climb the Great Gully on Craig yr Ysfa and on the return journey the two-last named had lost their lives. All but one (Tayleur) were members of the Club, and Tayleur's application for membership was in the Hon. Secretary's hands.' The Hon. Secretary read papers sent from C W Marshall, Custodian of Helyg, which included an undated letter from Giveen to Marshall written a few days after the accident. Also, there were copies of the statements made on oath to the Coroner by Giveen and Tayleur and a letter dated 28th from Marshall addressed to the Hon.Secretary.

The resolution made at the lengthy meeting was to convey an expression in severe sympathy to the relatives of the dead members with them in their bereavement. The Hon. Secretary was instructed to thank Giveen for the information supplied and to express to him The Committee's opinion that what he did was right, in the circumstance.

Pages 228-230, a Committee meeting held at the Rendezvous Restaurant on Thursday 12th January 1928 with The President (in the chair) and Messrs. Carr, Coventry, Graham, Lowen, Marler, Marbles, Pitcher, Poole, and from the Oxford University Mountaineering Club, Mr. Wager, with apologies submitted for inability to attend from Mr. Donkin (Vice-President) and Messrs. Balfour and Valentine-Richards. On this occasion the matter of W. H. Tayleur's enquiries for his application for membership of the Climbers' Club was reported by the Hon. Secretary and deferred.

Regarding the accident, the President read a letter received by him from Mr. G. W. Young and Mr. J. S. Dodd. The Hon. Secretary reported that he had received letters from several other people; importantly including the President and ex-President of the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club disassociating that Club from the decision reached by the Climbers’ Club Committee at the last meeting. This first mention of any question of the decisions made following the inquest and from the University where Stott and Taylor had studied.

The Hon. Secretary reported he had written to the parents of the two men who had died and to Mr. F. W. Giveen in the terms instructed by the Committee and he had read replies received. A letter from Mr Giveen asked the Committee to hold an enquiry into the matter and the question was 'very fully discussed' with a resolution that the request be acceded to. Also, it was decided 'that the following gentlemen, viz. The President, Mr.. Winthrop Young and Mr. Roderick Williams (whom failing, Mr. Claude Elliott ) be and they are hereby constituted a Subcommittee to enquire into all the circumstances of and relating to the expedition under the leadership of Mr. Giveen on the 20th November 1927 and to report to the Committee therein'.

On Page 238, 16th March 1928 at the Meeting at the Rendezvous Restaurant, Dean Street. There present the The President (in the Chair) with Messrs. Balfour, Bowman, Coventry, Donkin, Gotch, Lowen, Marples, Pearson, Pitcher Poole and Mr. Wager again present. A question was raised regarding the climbing incident inquiry, which led the Hon. Sec. to read a letter dated 14th March 1928 from Mr. C. M Mathews, stating that the Report of the Sub Committee had been drafted, approved by all its members; sent for signatures, and be in his hands early in the following week. It was resolved that a further meeting of the Committee be held on the 23rd inst. to consider this Sub-Committees Report.

On Page 242, the meeting on the 28th March 1928 attended by the President and Messrs. Balfour, Bowman, Coventry, Donkin, Gotch, Lowen, Mailer, Marples, Pearson, Pitcher, Poole. The Hon. Secretary read to the Meeting the Sub-Committee's Report on the matter of the accident, which he had received from Mr. Mathews, signed by him and by the other three members of the Sub-Committee. After a long discussion upon the Report it was resolved:

(1) That the Hon. Sec. write to Mr. Giveen a letter embodying the following words: "The Committee having read the Report of its Sub-Committee, inform Mr. Giveen that they are prepared to accept his resignation from the Club."
(2) That the thanks of the Committee be tendered to the members of the Sub-Committee for their most efficient performance of what must have been a very distasteful task. (signed) S. Donkin Vice President 16.5.28
The final meeting to discuss the ‘Accident in North Wales’ was held on the May 16th 1928 and the Hon. Sec laid before the Committee Mr. F.W. Giveen's tender of resignation from the Club and it was resolved it be accepted with instructions to inform Mr. Taylor of this resolution.

The entrance to Great Gully:Mark Hughes
The reports and letters mentioned above are no longer available, at least not in the Archive collection of the Climbers’ Club or Gwynedd County Council offices, Caernarfon. Unswerving, initial support for the action taken by Francis Giveen soon diluted by a stream of local gossip, pressure from Cambridge University Climbers’ Club and Mr. Stott, Norman Stott’s father who not only sent a letter to the Club, but also the local Press and Francis Giveen, pleading answers. It is understood no legal action against Giveen was sought, not that any guilt was proved, although his story continues.

Mark Hughes: 2018