Home International Everest climber Edmund Hillary lies in state

Everest climber Edmund Hillary lies in state


Wellington : Thousands of New Zealanders defied heavy rain Monday to pay their respects to the country’s greatest modern-day hero, first Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary, who died Jan 11, as he lay in state at Auckland’s Anglican Cathedral.

The cathedral’s doors will stay open all night to allow thousands of mourners to file past the closed casket, draped with the New Zealand flag and watched over by a military guard, before his state funeral service on Tuesday.

Some queued up two hours to honour the man regarded as the best-loved New Zealander of his generation, whose exploits on Everest and in the Antarctic ensured him a lasting place in history.

Representatives of local Maori tribes and the Nepali and Indian communities paid their tributes along with Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Thailand and Myanmar. Indian women wore blue saris, a symbol of the sky at the top of the world that Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached in May 1953.

New Zealanders all over the country will watch Tuesday’s service on giant screens being set up in main cities, and the funeral will be transmitted live to Nepal and to New Zealand’s Scott Base in the Antarctic, which Hillary helped establish 51 years ago.

Hillary’s widow, Lady June, joined members of the Nepalese and Indian communities Sunday night in tossing flowers into Auckland harbour at Mission Bay, in a traditional farewell gesture at an informal remembrance service.

The only sour note in the funeral preparations has been an alleged snub by British royals, who will not have a family representative at the funeral.

Hillary was one of only 24 Knights of the Garter appointed by Queen Elizabeth, and his achievement as the first man to step on the summit of Mount Everest during a British expedition was announced on the morning of her coronation in 1953.

New Zealand’s Governor-General Anand Satyanand will represent the queen at the funeral, and Buckingham Palace said she would hold a memorial service to honour Hillary in April at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.