Derek Bartley remembers Dai Wild

Dai Wild sledging
Although Dai was born, and spent his short life, in Wales his parents were firm Lancastrians. After their marriage in 1938  Peter and Muriel came to Wales he to work as an Industrial Photographer for Courtaulds at Greenfield while Muriel, a graduate of Manchester High School for Girls and Manchester University, taught History and Latin at Clarendon and Howells – two noted girls’ schools in north Wales. They were both keen and hardy walkers – knowing well the Pennines and Snowdonia - but also the Alps – and in later years climbing in many parts of the world. Their experiences also led them underground with Muriel being the first woman to descend certain pots in Western Ireland.

Peter was a member of the male only Rucksack Club but after David’s birth both he and Muriel became active members of the more family orientated Midland Association of Mountaineers (MAM). From a very early age Dai was introduced to the hills and became a very capable mountaineer with experience in the Alps as well as widely throughout Britain. In 1946 the family moved to the village of Dyserth, Flintshire and David was educated first at Hiraddug Primary School, Dyserth and later at St. Asaph Grammar School. During these early years he was a keen and popular member of 2nd Rhyl Scout Group developing his interest in camping and outdoor life. He was Troop Leader and gained his Queen’s Scout Award. His strong personality, his great enthusiasm in everything he did, his forthright views and infectious sense of humour made him an ideal companion whether on the hills, in camp or in climbing hut.

Dai Wild Queen's Scout

David studied at University College, Swansea where he gained a B.Sc Degree with Honours in Geography. In 1961 he took part in a scientific expedition to Oksfiord in Arctic Norway with the Natural History Department of the College. He then won a post-graduate scholarship to study photogrammetry but before he could take up the course he was selected to join others at the Antarctic base at Halley Bay.  In 1966 the University, in conjunction with David’s parents, set up an award to be known as the David Wild Prize, to be awarded annually to an Honours student in Geography who has submitted an outstanding dissertation.  David was awarded the Polar Medal and after his death this was given to Dr. Barbara Williams, later of the Department of Marine Science in Otago University, Dunedin.  Barbara died a year or two ago in New Zealand.

My wife and I became very close friends of David and his parents and over half a century we spent many days, both  on the hills and below ground  in England and Wales.  While I was in Germany on National Service, in the mid-1950s, David, although young, assisted my future wife running 2nd Rhyl Cub Scouts.Having gained his Queen’s Scout Badge he attended the St. George’s Day Parade at Windsor Castle in 1957.

I climbed often with David, mostly at weekends in Snowdonia, but we did enjoy three or four week-long trips to Scotland, climbing in Skye, Glencoe, and in the far northwest, on one occasion, to An Teallach, accompanied by Barbara Williams. Another close friend of Dai and frequent climbing partner, Vin Llinares, was also with us in 1963 and two years later, even as Dai was in the Antarctic, Vin and I were in the Pyrenees with Peter and Muriel. Vin shares my warm memories and has the same high regard for Dai and is pleased that these can be expressed here. Neither of us considered ourselves strong rock-climbers and on our trip to Skye Dai and I had set off each with the unspoken assumption that the other would do the leading.

Barbara Williams, Peter and Muriel Wild

David was a strong personality and I lost the argument, so ending up on the sharp end of each climb. One abiding memory is that of our ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye. In driving rain and strong wind, up by the slippery short side and down by the ‘long’ side would be ‘fun’ according to Dai, although he later said how pleased he was that I had ‘insisted’ on leading. This had not been my view at all but was an example of how his enthusiasm for everything could be infectious. The ‘in-and-out’ of the  Thearlaich-Dubh gap also gave room for much discussion. Overall, our days together were full of interest and amusement, often quite exciting, for Dai’s impish sense of humour, his wide knowledge of nature, and strong views on many matters meant life was never dull.

Derek Bartley

  • © British Antarctic Monument Trust 2018
  • Registered charity number 01123064
  • 27 Sullivan Road London SE11 4UH UK