Sir Ranulph Fiennes talks to Fergus Byrne
Sir Ranulph Fiennes is one of the world’s top inspirational and motivational speakers and he will be speaking at St Anthony’s Leweston near Sherborne at the end of September.
Part of a series of talks organised by Minnie Churchill, Wendy Hannam and others, the evening promises to be an entertaining journey through tales of adventure, as well as a source of inspiration to anyone lucky enough to attend.
Sir Ranulph has been described by the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘World’s Greatest Living Explorer’. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales called him, ‘mad but marvellous’, and the chief executive of the multinational conglomerate Unilever said after hearing him speak, “I have attended a number of keynote speeches to the UK Marketing Forum. We have had top-level business leaders, the best educationists, knights of the realm and American gurus. None of them approached your address to us in range, content or inspiration. On rare occasions, something happens that one feels will live in memory for years to come and your address to us emphatically fits into this category.”
Born in England in 1944 and brought up in Africa, he joined the Scots Greys before moving to the elite SAS regiment. He is said to have been dismissed from the regiment for blowing up a section of the film set of Doctor Dolittle in Castle Coombe in Wiltshire. After a period with the Sultan of Oman’s forces, where he won the Sultan’s Bravery Medal, he began leading the expeditions that would make him a household name.
Today Sir Ranulph Fiennes is an inspiring speaker, tirelessly working to raise money for various charities. He has raised millions of pounds for Multiple Sclerosis and Heart Disease and has inspired many with debilitating illnesses to persevere through difficult times. Although to many he is an effective icon of bravery, a need to inspire is not something that drives him. Referring to some of his most recent adventures he told me: “I took part in the Everest trip and the 7x7x7 marathons for a number of different reasons, including an ongoing desire to raise cash for chosen charities. If, as a result of these projects, anyone who reads about them is helped in their own challenges, that is an additional bonus.”
Photographer Martin Hartley, who’s photographs from various exotic locations around the world have uniquely captured the majesty of nature, cites Sir Ranulph as a key influence on his career. “He is the ‘Clint Eastwood’ of the polar world without doubt” said Martin. “You’d always want him on your side. When I saw him ‘in action’, ice climbing in the Alps, I could see something about him that defines him and possibly guides him through his hardships; and it is a simple combination of sheer determination, focus and willpower.” Martin, who himself has seen some extreme conditions on his photographic journeys went on to pay tribute to Sir Ranulph’s ability to persevere under duress. “His breathtaking ability to carry on when his physical being is under the kind of extreme duress that would make most people crumble instantly and his uncompromising determination to get ‘the job done’ is what I find most inspiring.”
In between adventures Sir Ranulph has also managed to write numerous highly successful books, including his autobiography Living Dangerously, The Feather Men, Secret Hunters and the bestselling biography Captain Scott. One journalist remarked that he ‘slotted books into his schedule the way most of us make time for lattes or movies: in the downtime when nothing else is pressing.’
His most recent effort to climb Everest may not have been one hundred per cent successful – despite reaching over 27,000 feet he was forced to turn back only hours from the summit – but that doesn’t detract from the main point of the expedition, to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Sir Ranulph, President of the Ranulph Fiennes Healthy Hearts Appeal, said: “I know first-hand the life-changing difference that research makes – my own heart bypass operation saved my life and has allowed me to carry on doing the things I love.”
Although he hardly needs any more adventure in his life Sir Ranulph is keeping his future plans close to his chest. When we asked him whether there were any challenges he would like to tackle in the future he replied: “I am working on one or two personal aims for possible future challenges but none are definitely on the cards as yet.”
Though he claims to have had a ‘soft’ childhood and was bullied at school, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has more than proved himself an extraordinary human being. His family motto is ‘Look for a Brave Spirit’. This motto may well ring in the ears of many who admire him but it will have a special meaning for those who aspire to create a greater contribution to their own legacy. Those that will strive to push themselves that extra mile, whether for personal goals or to help others.