Journalist recalls Hillary's 'elemental force'

21:26, May 28 2013
Jan Morris
REGRET: Jan Morris, formerly a man, wishes she'd had the courage to break into chorus "For he's a jolly good fellow" at Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral.

The journalist who got the scoop on Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's Mt Everest triumph 60 years ago has revealed her last big regret over the New Zealander.

Jan Morris, 86, is the last surviving member of the 1953 Everest team.

A man at the time, he later had a sex change.

In an interview with Bloomberg, she called Hillary an "elemental force, a big fellow with a big spirit".

Asked what her biggest regret was, she pointed to Hillary's funeral in Auckland in 2008.

"Everyone was gloomy at Hillary's funeral," she said.


"Ed had asked that his body be buried at sea in Auckland Bay. So when they left with the coffin, we stayed in the chapel.

"It was grim and the organist was playing some morbid thing. I suddenly became inspired by Hillary and nearly broke out in a chorus of 'For he's a jolly good fellow'.

"I know if I had, everybody would have joined in. But I didn't, and that is one of my big regrets."

Morris devised a code to get news of Hillary and Tenzing's success to The Times.

She said Hillary became godfather to one of her five children.

"He was a big fellow with a big spirit. One day I was having a catnap, miserable, cold. Suddenly the tent opened and this big face said, 'Will you please come out and help me.' It was Ed Hillary," she said.

"I could have cursed him at the time, but I went out and he inspired me to great efforts cutting steps in the snow. I felt he was this elemental force, and a bit of this force was coming to me!"