The Last Hero: Bill Tilman
Author: Tim Madge
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Arguably the greatest explorer and adventurer the twentieth century produced, Bill Tilman was in his eightieth year when he disappeared in Antarctic waters in 1977. The yacht on which he had set sail was ill-suited for the voyage but he had committed himself to go. His iron-willed integrity forbad any last minute doubts. It was his will power, as well as his extraordinary tenacity, that most of those who knew him remember best. To a later generation those qualities were often perceived as stubborn wayward refusal to accept the inevitable.
Bill Tilman grew up, in the starkest sense, during the First World War when he was twice awarded the Military Cross. It was while farming in Africa – where he went to recover between the wars – that he met Eric Shipton with whom he developed one of the most famous climbing partnerships of all time. Together they explored and climbed in the remotest parts of the Himalaya and the Karakoram, as well as each playing leading roles in the British Everest expeditions of the 1930s.
The Second World War saw Bill Tilman operating behind enemy lines in both Albania and north Italy. After the war, and well into his fifties, he took up deep sea sailing on an old Bristol pilot cutter, Mischief. The two of them sailed off into a 20-year legend, in South American, Arctic and Antacrtic waters. To many who knew him well, as much as to the thousands of climbers and sailors, who relished each of his 15 memorable books, Tilman remained an enigma – a shy self-effacing man with a wicked dry sense of humour who hardly credited his own achievements and who never married.
Bill Tilman was one of the 20th century’s greatest travel writers, a master of a good story, with a black sense of humour. Using a mass of previously unpublished material from thousands of letters and papers, The Last Hero shows the human face of a man who deserves a belated wide-spread recognition from a world which, more than ever, needs its adventurers and heroes.
Liverpool Daily Post –
‘This is a searching affectionate yet honest biography…’
Lancashire Evening Telegraph –
Tim Madge traces the extraordinary life of this driven and very private man…’
High magazine –
‘I see Tilman as a child of the 19th century who never grew into an adult of the 20th…’