EDWARDS, JOHN MENLOVE (1910 - 1958), rock climber

Name: John Menlove Edwards
Date of birth: 1910
Date of death: 1958
Gender: Male
Occupation: rock climber
Area of activity: Sports and Leisure Pursuits
Author: Ioan Bowen Rees

Born 18 June 1910 at Crossens near Southport, Lancashire, the youngest of the vicar's four children. He believed the Edwards family came from Wales though he did not know when: the grandfather was also a vicar and a pioneering socialist. Menlove was educated at Feetes College before entering Liverpool University where he graduated in medicine in 1933. There in 1930 he and his brother, Hewlett, founded the Rock Climbing Club. He soon became one of the leading figures during the second golden age of climbing in Snowdonia. He was the pioneer of the ‘three crags’ of Llanberis Pass and was the author of the Climbing Club handbooks on Cwm Idwal (1936); Tryfan (1937) and Lliwedd (1939) in collaboration with Wilfrid Noyce; and Clogwyn du'r Arddu (1942) with J.E.Q. Barford. Exceptionally strong, he also excelled as a venturous swimmer and rower. He enjoyed the challenge of ‘poor conditions, poor rock and poor boots’ on wet climbs such as those on Clogwyn y Geifr. The Alps did not interest him. His rare writings on the experience of climbing and the succint descriptions in his handbooks are highly regarded; his few poems are not as good. Most of his best work appeared in the books which are mentioned below.

Although he was a commendable psychiatrist in Liverpool, between summer 1941 and autumn 1942 he retired to Hafod Owen, above Nant Gwynant, to concentrate on the theoretical side of his work. He returned to posts in London but his ideas were not taken seriously. As a conscientious objector, an agnostic and a rejected homosexual, his loneliness led to paranoia and he retired to live near his sister near Canterbury in 1944. He was admitted to mental hospitals, including Denbigh (1949-50). On 2 February 1958 he took his life by potassium cyanide. His ashes were scattered near Hafod Owen. He had been elected an hon. member of the Climbing Club and although one or two of his contemporaries were equally good (if not better) climbers, the atmosphere of the 1930s on the rock-face in Snowdonia is associated more with Menlove Edwards than anyone else.

Author

Published date: 2001

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