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July 30, 2012



French's biography is worth reading. Younghusband was apparently a friend of Bertrand Russell's, and if I could tune into any two peoples' conversations it might well be theirs - for the comic value if nothing else.

john f

I think quite a lot of this union of religions also involved the early twentieth century Christian/socialist movement centred around Glastonbury.

The West Country Allen and Tudor Pole families - whose daughters "rediscovered" the Holy Grail in a drainage ditch near Glastonbury in 1906 - had close links with various Indian mystics who visited them in Weston Super Mare and Bristol. Archdeacon Basil Wilberforce of Westminster Abbey was part of their circle, as was the playwright Alice Buckton (of Chalice Well in Glastonbury).

The idea, also held by the Revd Lionel Smithett Lewis of Glastonbury, was that Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury plus Christ child and later the Grail - tying in again the Blakeian connection - and there united the Jewish masculine tradition of Christianity with the Celtic feminist religion, which, uniting the male and female, would provide the basis of the world religion which would unite all faiths as (socialist) brothers.

(The first Glastonbury Festival, in 1914, was held to promote such a movement. Unfortunately, its first day coincided with Britain going to war with Germany).

Holst, a friend of Buckton, was also involved in this movement.

john f

Another interesting literary addendum to this tale is that the rediscovered Grail was put on display first in Bristol and secondly by Wilberforce in London. It was covered mainly in the West Country by the Bristol based Western Daily Press and in London almost exclusively by the Daily Express.

The common link between these two papers at that time was a young reporter - who worked for both - one Raymond Chandler. (All reports in those days were unattributed, so we will never know).

But its quite well known that Chandler was a great Arthurian fan, basing his characters and their quests on Arthur's knights. The Holy Grail was supposedly found in Arthur's home, Glastonbury. Did his bike once pedal the mean lanes of Somerset?


Press cutting.

chris y

It shows true commitment to prioritise a rather generalised anti-Socialist initiative over the discovery of the Holy Grail.

belle le triste

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Younghusband also turns up a lot in the early story of the conquest of Everest -- he never set foot on it, as far as I know, but was very involved as a cheerleader and chronicler of the expeditions in the 20s.

The Himalaya-based "Shangri La" mythos, which dates from the mid-30s, seems to transport and project and graft at least an element of British arts-and-crafts Grailism into or onto more routine orientalist mysticism -- though weirdly enough (I only just discovered this) the other book James Hilton, author of Lost Horizon, is famous for is Goodbye Mr Chips.

(The famous British Everest attempts between the wars were robust and practical, on the whole -- but there was one man who infamously tried to levitate up it by fasting and austere spiritual intensity: Maurice Wilson, whose mangled bones regularly re-emerge from the Rongbuk Glacier.)

chris y

Maurice Wilson, whose mangled bones regularly re-emerge from the Rongbuk Glacier.

How does that work? Do people keep throwing them back in?

belle le triste

I don't know, that's just how everyone* always describes it!

*in an extremely circumscribed area of literature


Wasn't there a working class bloke who made a single handed attempt in the 20's or 30's to scale Mount Everest. He might have been a Brummie or from Lancashire.

Barry Collins wrote a single hander about it which starred Christopher Ettridge.

Having googled it he was a Yorkshireman and the play was entitled The Ice Chimney. More googling and, belle, it was your Maurice Wilson. From memory he was more Bill Tidy than Shangri La.


"Sir? What's that... er... that over there?"
"Give me the glasses, corporal, my vision's good but it's not that good. Oh, that over there. Just what it looks like, really - some mangled bones. Maurice Wilson, chap's name was. Funny thing, I wasn't expecting to see them for another few weeks - wonder if it means anything?"
"Sir? You weren't expecting..."
"Oh, they emerge, and then they disappear back into the guts of old Rongbuk. Then they emerge again, and so on. Some sort of sub-zero convection system, apparently - at least, that's the scientific explanation. Chap from the Survey got quite excited for a while. That was before his accident, of course."
"Yes, well. I think that'll be all, corporal."


Not his actual bones: bones belonging to him. Other people just use "march on a road of bones" as a metaphor; Maurice took it literally and laid a trail as he went. He would have just used breadcrumbs, but they kept being stolen by his sturdy, dependable Sherpas to feed their fondue habits.

Barry Freed

Is fondue a characteristic food of montane peoples or do you think there might have been an earlier and hitherto unknown Swiss expedition to the Himalayas?


>Is fondue a characteristic food of montane peoples or do you think there might have been an earlier and hitherto unknown Swiss expedition to the Himalayas?

According to the historian S Spielberg in his classic Gramscian study "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Nazi archaeologists of predominantly Austrian origin (and it is a moot and hotly debated historical question whether "fondu" (as the Austrians spell it or "fondue" as you and the Swiss do) is originally of Austrian or Swiss origin) did indeed enter Tibet in the 1930's disguised as very bad English character actors and abscond with The Cosmic Cauldron of Tientshen in order to partake back in Austria in fondue ceremonies imbued with Eastern mystical traditions and secret vibrations used to intercept top secret Allied wireless transmissions.


Ah, but the same expedition, using impeccable German ethnological methods, concluded that the Sherpas were in fact not Asiatic but (like the Japanese) of pure Aryan stock - a conclusion based not only on their sturdiness, hardihood, dependability, authentic knitwear and so on, but also on their love of fondue. So I think it's still an open question.

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