Roger (Lord) Chorley, Alpine Club President 1983-1985, AC President’s Portrait, by John Cleare
Some Memories of Roger Chorley
I got to know Roger Chorley well when I became the Club Hon. Secretary in 1972. By then he was already distinguished in mountaineering circles as a member of the Alpine Climbing Group, an experienced Himalayan and Alpine climber, a member of the management committee of the MEF, and a former President of the CUMC and Hon Secretary of the CC. He was also an established Partner – soon to become Senior Partner - of the prestigious London Accountants, Cooper Brothers (as they then were). To me, a callow youth still in his twenties, Roger was the embodiment of urbanity and sophistication though, on reflection and making a quick calculation, he was only a decade or so older than me. His friendship and support, however, were extended unconditionally and unstintingly as was his wise advice and assistance.
Two memories of Roger spring to mind from those days. The first, illustrative of the negotiating skills his obituarists have noted, was the anxiety and the wholly benevolent and careful scheming which preceded his bearding of the Club’s housekeeper, the formidable and cantankerous but fiercely loyal Mrs Lewis, with a view to getting her to accept retirement. To the surprise of all involved – perhaps not least herself – she accepted it like a lamb after an interview with Roger. The second memory is of his disarming wit. For some reason some sections of the Club always wanted their sixpenny-worth at the Annual meeting. At the AGM one year Roger’s Hon Treasurer’s report to the assembled members consisted simply of the words ‘In the last twelve months we have made a profit. Are there any questions?’ That silenced even the ‘Tribal Chieftains’, the likes of the late great Douglas Milner.
Of course, Roger’s career became increasingly distinguished in later life when he succeeded his father as an hereditary and later an elected member of the House of Lords. He was Chairman of the National Trust and President of the RGS and he graced many committees, boards and commissions. By no means least was the leadership he gave as President of our own Club. Over the years his contributions to the Alpine Club have been manifold. He played a major role in the reintegration of the ACG into the main body of the Club; he led the move to merge the Club with the LAC when the issue of admitting women was raised; and, perhaps his greatest legacy, it was he who spearheaded the move to form the library into a charitable trust, a move which has enabled us to preserve and nurture our greatest treasures.
Roger’s love of mountains, and especially of the Lakeland hills could be seen in the pictures throughout the Hawkshead house which he and Ann cherished. Understated as he was, he ended his President’s valedictory address with a quotation which reflects exactly that love, and which has a particular poignancy given his disability following polio when he was in his twenties. He said ‘Perhaps the last word should be indeed on our own hills, from Geoffrey Young, in reflective mood at the end of a unique Alpine career, ‘For me, too, our own hills, within the measure of my walking, are as lovely and as full of surprises as they ever were.’
8th March 2016
As President, in 1985, Roger went out of his way to help us take up Harish Kapadia's suggestion of a joint Bombay Mountaineers-Alpine Club expedition to the disputed Siachen region in the East Karakoram. We needed money and Roger had the clout to help us get it. First he generously provided us with a long list of likely names in the City who might – and did – contribute towards our organising and travel costs. Second he gave us a tipoff that Grindlays Bank might be favourably disposed. The very day they received my letter – with a covering note from Roger – Harish was summoned to the Grindlays head office in Bombay to be told that our entire expenses in India were covered. What was impressive was the way Roger, even though he was no longer able himself to do serious mountaineering, put himself out to help younger climbers set off on a great adventure. Our expedition to the Rimo massif was a huge and enjoyable success, with many miles of glacier explored and many ascents made, including the first ascent of Rimo III by Jim Fotheringham and Dave Wilkinson. It was also the start of a long and still fruitful association between Harish Kapadia and the Alpine Club. And it was all made possible by Roger.
5th April 2016