By Tania Martin
EMERALD’S famous mountaineer, Alfred ‘Greg’ Gregory will be remembered as a man with a feisty spirit and a gentle heart.
He was renowned as the official photographer on the first ever successful attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1953.
Mr Gregory died peacefully in his sleep last Tuesday, 9 February, just before dawn, age 96.
The beloved explorer was born in England and always dreamt of being an artist but his mother had little money and his father had died during World War I.
His wife, Suzanne, said there was no money for art school so Mr Gregory went into the printing trade.
She said it was around the time of the first trade union, which was fighting for a five-day week and Mr Gregory had just discovered the joys of the hills.
“The five-day week meant he could ride 75 miles on his bike to the Lake District on Friday night after work, walk the hills for the weekend and return home on Sunday ready for work,” Mrs Gregory said.
It was Greg’s passion for the hills that soon led him to discover the art of climbing just prior to WWII.
He attempted to enlist when the war broke out but was knocked back because he was too young.
Mr Gregory later joined the Black Watch Regiment and served in both North Africa and Italy.
He was even put in charge of the port of Naples for some time and after the war decided to stay on.
Mr Gregory wanted to help Italy settle back into normality and also allowed him to continue climbing.
Returning to England, he started up his own travel agency and took people on climbing tours.
In 1953, Mr Gregory joined Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir John Hunt in the first ever successful attempt on Mount Everest.
As the expedition set off, Sir Hunt threw a camera at Mr Gregory and labelled him the official photographer.
It was this that led to his fame and a lifelong passion from behind the lense.
But Mrs Gregory said it was his passion for photojournalism that drove him.
“He never considered himself a mountain photographer,” she said.
Following the climb, he was contracted to Kodak and spent the next 20 years lecturing for the film company.
This enabled him to stay where he wanted and travel the world taking pictures.
The Gregory’s moved to Australia in 1996 after years, Mrs Gregory finally got to return to her homeland.
They have lived in Emerald for the past 14 years, enjoy the quiet life, exhibiting their work and travelling around the countryside.
But Mrs Gregory said in recent years, Mr Gregory’s role in the 1953 expedition had been uncovered.
“It’s gave him a new lease on life,” she said.
The discovery led to a retrospective exhibition and a book titled ‘Alfred Gregory: photographs from Everest to Africa’.
He was also a loved member of the Emerald Rotary Club.
An informal gathering for friends and family has been planned.
By Tania Martin