[Image: Eric Plumpton, 'The Chair' on Red Pike, The Lake District | 04/01/1985]
A month ago I journeyed back to England to say my final farewells to one of the most inspiring individuals it has been my privilege in life to know – my Father.
As devastating as his death was – still is – for me, I've found myself reflecting more and more over the last month on what a truly full and adventurous life he led for his 83 years on earth.
A life that included first ascents in the Canadian Rockies, running against Roger Bannister and Chris Chattaway, a research expedition to the Arctic, climbing in the Himalayas, driving a Land Rover from Hobart to London, introducing revolutionary pain relief treatments in the UK, somehow visiting between 105 and 130 countries, emigrating to Australia with his growing family (twice) and, last but not least, providing his 3 children with an incredibly diverse childhood that allowed all of us to develop an open–minded, thoughtful and, ultimately, optimistic view of the world.
He was quite a Father.
His unerring modesty in all he achieved has also been a recurring theme for me as I remember him – summed up most clearly by the fact that we only found out from an old friend on the eve of his funeral that he had held the record for the fastest ascent of Uluru for a number of decades! He never really talked about his exploits unless pushed to be honest; well, he was from the North of England after all.
And as I reflect on the relationship I had with my Dad (who in later years, I'm proud to say, became a great friend), I also understand more than ever how his love of the outdoors, his habit of seeking out adventure and his determination to always see the best in people and situations have so influenced who I am and what I love doing.
I can pretty much trace my love of the outdoors to a wet and cold slog up Snowdon with him when I was aged 7; my desire to try and make the world a fairer and better place to conversations I had with him on a glacier in Norway aged 17; and my renewed optimism and determination to go my own way in life to a particularly memorable expedition in the Kimberley with Dad and my wife when I was 34.
And whilst it was my Mum who was the more 'deep green' environmentalist (and equally inspiring), it's my Dad who started me on the journey to trying to find a way to marry ecological goals with the need for economic and social development – and also, perhaps most importantly, to keep looking for the way I can best play my part in creating a world I want to live in (and want my kids to grow up in).
He was an incredible man. A friend and mentor as well as a devoted Father who I will miss for the rest of my life. But he's also someone who I know will continue to inspire me in the years ahead as I try to live a life that my own kids can be proud of and maybe, just maybe, inspired a little by as well.
In Memory of Frederic Salkeld Plumpton.
20/03/1933 – 13/12/2016.
‘CROSSING THE BAR'.
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
'Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.'