Marhofn 255.14 - May 2012

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A visit to meet Clem

Myrddyn Phillips

Many, if not all, contributors to Marhofn and the RHB forum will have heard of Clem. He's done so much in his life, in particular he has centred on mountains, concentrating upon the production of prominence data. A lot of this is now in the RHB filea area and some of it is in the public domain via TACit Tables publications, like the 'Hewitts and Marilyns of Ireland'.

Whilst many people over recent years have communicated with Clem by letter, few have visited. None of us are getting any younger and Clem is now in his late 80s. I wanted to visit before the chance to document Clem and his achievements was forever taken from us. To me this was important, as many people's achievements amongst the British hills are now, due to the passage of time, partly forgotten. Thanks to Clem's data production his contribution towards British and Irish prominence will always be with us, but I wanted to document Clem, the person. To visit him, meet him and ultimately have the opportunity to share this with others, through the medium of film. Toward the end of April 2011, my girlfriend and I travelled down to Guildford, on the same day others were getting married in Westminster Abbey. However, we had a much more important appointment to keep; our meeting with Clem. Answering the door he invited us in and directed us toward his study. Maps predominated, all neatly stacked on highly skilled self made bookcases.

After being in communication with Clem for so many years it was lovely to meet him. The bright glint in his eyes portrayed a peaceful kindness, a quiet aura settled around him as we began to talk. With Clem being softly spoken, communication was gentle.

As his birthday was in March, we had brought a belated present. Slowly Clem opened it and once the cover was sighted his smile broadened, he then pointed toward the corner of his large table. Amongst his papers, letters, pens and pencils was a partly hidden book; I looked at the cover and smiled back at him. Clem now has two copies of Mark's 'More Relative Hills of Britain' book.

Soon the conversation centred upon the small digital camcorder. He held the screen of the camera as I pressed the button to show the first of three previously filmed videos. This was of a recent interview I'd conducted. Mark Trengove's voice rang out, Clem's whole face lit up. Clem has been in communication with Mark for many years, with much of his work being published via the printed booklets available on the Europeaklist website. This was probably one of only a few occasions that he had heard Mark speak, let alone see him.

Another clip we showed was one we had only recently filmed. This was part of a planned introductory video which would comprise lots of clips giving clues to the person who would appear later. One of these introductory clips was filmed on top of St Martha's Hill. This is Clem's local P30 hill, one which he would walk up every morning before his breakfast. Due to Clem's health he could no longer add to his total of 3,720 ascents. We thought he'd appreciate being conducted around the hill by camcorder, the result being smiles all round.

We spent four hours with Clem on the Friday and revisited him for another two hours on the Monday. The time was spent in quiet, gentle conversation and filming. Clem also showed us his memoirs, the book he's written detailing his early years and his memories of so many cycling and hill days, a lifetime of achievement.

We all enjoy the hills and it seems that thanks to Alan and the setting up of the RHB users group, there's more than one or two of us who get a kick out of hill categorisation. Much, if not all, of this depends upon those people who diligently study maps and catalogue hills via height and drop. There are few people who can compare to Clem where British and Irish hill data production is concerned. Possibly William Docharty, Dane Love, John Kirk, Alan Dawson and Mark Jackson are a few names that spring to mind. But for me Clem is right up there. He has studiously produced so much data, data that many enjoy.

Myrddyn Phillips and Clem Clements

Myrddyn Phillips and Clem Clements

We left Clem on his doorstep. Shaking his hand I wished him well, saying 'make sure you look after yourself Clem'. He stood in the sunshine, and with a slight resigned shrug of a shoulder, he smiled and waved. Looking back at him I caught that glint in his eye, a studious, but kind and youngish glint, one that did not portray his years.

The introductory and main film with Clem can be accessed via the Internet. Another two will follow in time. We had a lovely few hours with Clem, albeit over all too soon. To end with I would like to express our thanks to Clem for making us so welcome, and from me it's a big personal thank you, as Clem's hill data has brought me so much enjoyment. It was a pleasure to meet Clem and hopefully it will not be the last time.

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