Talent, hard work and guts are ingredients that make a man stand out from the crowd.
But to be revered, even generations after your death takes something extra; greatness. Here are some of the men who had it; men whose shoes will never be filled.
Sir Ernest Shackleton 1874-1922
Shackleton is best known for his failed attempt to cross the Antarctic continent.
When his ice bound ship, the ‘Endeavour’ broke up and sank on 21st November 1915, he moved his crew onto the ice. There they camped for the next two months. When the ice floe began to break up he ordered his men to the ship’s boats. Five days later they landed on the remote and inhospitable Elephant Island. Far from the shipping routes, Shackleton, knew that the only chance of salvation lay in getting out.
Shackleton sailed 800 miles in an open boat to South Georgia to get help, eventually returning with a tug boat borrowed from the Chilean government. He saved all his men and entered the history books as one of the greatest polar explorers.
Joshua Slocum 1844-1909
Dame Ellen MacArthur wept in the Southern Ocean – Joshua Slocum certainly did not. The man credited with being first to circumnavigate the globe left Boston, Massachusetts on 24th April 1895, aboard his boat, the ‘Spray’.
Three years later, he sailed into Newport, Rhode Island having sailed some 46,000 miles. His book, ‘Sailing alone around the world’ was an instant hit – Arthur Ransome wrote of it; ‘boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once’. Quite.
Bill Tilman 1898-1977
During the First World War Bill Tilman was twice awarded the Military cross for bravery. Afterwards, he became a mountaineer and explorer of great renown and was a member of two Everest expeditions, gaining the nickname, ‘Himal Bill’.
After again seeing action in the second World War, Tilman took to the seas, sailing into both Arctic and Antarctic waters in search of unclimbed peaks.
Understatement is a characteristic of which Bill Tilman was a superb exponent. Speaking of his joy at reaching a Himalayan summit he says of his reaction and that of his climbing mate; ‘I believe we so far forgot ourselves as to shake hands on it.’
Bill Tilman perished in the seas off the Falklands aged 79.
Sir Winston Churchill 1874-1965
Britain’s greatest wartime leader, Churchill epitomised the fighting spirit of the British people. Standing defiantly against Hitler, he refused to countenance defeat, galvanising the nation to resist the fascist horde.
Men like Churchill are not born but made. The qualities that shone during the war were honed over a lifetime. Churchill’s parliamentary career is littered with setbacks; mistakes from which he learnt and which ultimately, contributed to the indefatigability that won the war.
Elvis Presley 1935-1977
Persistence is a quality that Elvis had in spades. Told numerous times during his childhood and adolescence, that he was a useless singer, Presley just kept trying. To begin with, he suffered from stage fright so severe that he could barely perform. As a young adult, he struggled to find a label to record him, and then struggled to get air time because his style was new. That he continued speaks volumes about his grit and determination.
Elvis produced some incredible music during his career and although his end was sad – let’s face it, there will only be one ‘King of rock and roll’.
Most of us will never be able to fill mens shoes like these – but we can still enjoy the achievements, adventures and legacy these men left.