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Everest painting is the peak of perfection!

 16 December 2014  |  


The stunning aerial artwork will now have pride of place in the Prestwick Room at County Buildings, Ayr.

The stunning aerial artwork will now have pride of place in the Prestwick Room at County Buildings, Ayr.

South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie has accepted a stunning oil painting from Professor Dugald Cameron OBE DSc DA, President Royal Aeronautical Society (Prestwick Branch).

The framed gift pictures the first flight over Everest in 1933, by David McIntyre, owner of the fledgling Prestwick Airport and Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale (known as 'Clydesdale') who funded him.

Presenting the painting Professor Cameron said: "I'm delighted my painting will hang in the Prestwick Room at County Buildings.

"Given both men's strong association with the town and their commitment to the airport, I'm sure they'd have been thrilled to see their daring adventure on display for all to see."

As Professor Cameron explained, the exploit almost ended in disaster. Both men had been serving officers in the RAF and as keen aviators and explorers, used their service connections to arrange an expedition to become the first to see the summit of Mount Everest.

They were accompanied by photographers Stewart Blacker and SR Bennett and set off from Lalbalu airstrip in the Indian state of Bihar early on April 3, 1933 – less than a decade after the climbers George Mallory and Sandy Irvine had mysteriously disappeared in their bid to climb to the peak.

During the flight, a lack of oxygen nearly killed Blacker and, as both planes approached the summit, a sudden downdraft caused them to plummet1,000 feet in a second and a crash seemed imminent, until a momentary updraft lifted them straight over the peak – with just 100 feet to spare.

Unfortunately, the moment of conquest was not captured on film as the cameras had jammed!

Returning to base, Air Commodore Peregrine Fellowes, the leader of the expedition, deemed a second attempt to photograph the peak too risky, given the drama of the first attempt and the uncertain weather over Everest.

Just 16 days later, disobeying orders, the pair set off again and this time the moment was recorded on film – with images featuring a plume of snow streaming from Everest's crest– a scene faithfully reproduced in Dugald Cameron's painting.

The photographs showed no sign of Mallory or Irvine, but 20 years later, on 29 May 1953, many of the details revealed in the aviator's images helped guide Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the top of the mountain.

Accepting the painting, Provost Moonie said: "It's fascinating to think a significant and groundbreaking moment in world aviation history is now depicted so brilliantly in the Prestwick Room.

"The painting represents an incredible story and a truly astonishing achievement. Even today, with modern equipment and cutting edge technology, any flight over Everest is still a risky and dangerous endeavour.

"For Clydesdale and McIntyre to do it in open biplanes, in temperatures of minus thirty five degrees and with no parachutes due to the lack of room in the cockpits is nothing short of extraordinary!"

"Dugald's work is the peak of perfection – and I'm overjoyed his outstanding painting will be displayed, in pride of place, here in the Prestwick Room where I'm sure both men's pioneering spirits will make their presence felt!"

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