Rift in Sir Edmund Hillary’s family

Sunday, November 7, 2010

WELLINGTON - The rift in the family of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to set foot on Mt Everest, has come out in the open with his children trying to stop his widow from selling a valuable collection of Rolex watches, a media report said Sunday.

Sir Edmund’s daughter, Sarah Hillary, said her brother Peter had not been appointed to the Himalayan Trust, set up by her father to help the Sherpa people, because of personality conflicts, the New Zealand Herald reported.

“There’s been a bit of a take-over of the trust by a group that probably don’t want Peter there,” she said.

Sarah, who was appointed to the trust Friday, said Peter would have been a better choice.

The comments come as Sarah and Peter battle Sir Edmund’s widow, Lady June Hillary, over her plans to auction in Switzerland Nov 13 his collection of Rolex watches, including one given to him after he climbed Mt Everest in 1953 which is now valued at $25,000.

Sarah and Peter have threatened legal action if the auction house does not withdraw them from sale.

Mike Gill, a long time Himalayan Trust member and a close friend of Sir Edmund, said he was expelled Thursday in a letter couriered to him from Lady June.

He said the trust had split into two groups — one behind Lady June, the other looking for more activity in the trust. Gill had suggested Peter Hillary be appointed to the trust.

Lady June said Saturday that the proceeds from the sale of the watches were earmarked for charity work supporting education and health services in Nepal.

A friend of Lady June, Jim Wilson told the Herald on Sunday they wanted to “clear up any possible misconception that we are selling these watches for personal gain. The sale of the watches was to raise funds for the Himalayan Trust”.

At the end of last June the trust’s assets were worth about $3.9 million.

Peter said he had been very disappointed to learn the watches were up for sale. He said he and his sister had “barely had a word” with Lady June since his father died in January 2008.

“It’s not an uncommon story with second marriages,” he said. “That’s the reality.”

Filed under: Fashion, Lifestyle, World

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