Monday, February 29, 2016

The mystery of the forgotten mountain film maker.



I was recently contacted by an auctioneer who had carried out a house clearance and come across correspondence between a film maker by the name of John Greaves and Paul Work and Ruth Janette Ruck. The latter couple featured in a couple of Footless Crow articles ‘Wild Mountain Time’ extracted from RJR’s Hill Farm Story and ‘Shooting Ingrid Bergman’ about the time Hollywood came to Nantmor.  At the end of Wild Mountain Time I offered a brief biography of Paul Work which ran as follows...

'Paul' Work is one of those virtually unknown romantic figures of Welsh climbing. Born on the flat Lancashire coastal belt in the pleasant little town of Formby, just outside Liverpool , he was a contemporary of the great Menlove Edwards-another Formbian-who attended the same school. He followed Menlove into climbing and was proposed and seconded for membership of the Climbers Club by Menlove himself and Colin Kirkus. Although he never matched the legendary pair in the technical department, he was a great explorer of the less frequented areas of Western Snowdonia where he established dozens of esoteric and infrequently climbed lower grade routes. In particular on the vegetated 400' cliffs of Diffwys on Moel Hebog, The equally verdant Aberglaslyn Pass, the cliffs of Moel Dyniewyd and Cwm Tregalen.


Probably his best known climbs-relatively speaking- are Christmas Climb on Dyniewyd and Canyon Rib above Aberglaslyn Pass. Paul Work and his wife Ruth lived in the shadow of Moel Dyniewyd where they ran a smallholding for many years until his death in the 1990's.’

Ruth J Ruck penned some early back to the land books. 'Place of Stones', 'Hill Farm Story' and 'Along came a Llama' based on their experiences in this beautiful part of western Snowdonia which appealed to urban escapist fantasies in the same way as other books of this genre. Notably Hovel in the Hills and I bought a Mountain.

The letters written between 1969 and 1980 offered a fascinating insight into the life of this unusual couple who had eschewed the normal career path undertaken by the middle classes of their generation, to effectively drop out and eke out a hard existence through subsistence farming on the elevated uplands above Nantmor.

However, my interest was really piqued by the other correspondent, John Greaves. With his partner-a Miles Briggs- he had apparently made some mountaineering films including ‘ Camp in the Clouds’, ‘Arrowhead’ and ‘Cairngorm skies’, A quick search of Google followed by further enquires within the climbing and film community has revealed absolutely zero information about John Greaves or his films?

All I have gleaned so far is that when the correspondence began, Greaves was living in Woolacombe Road in Woolton, Liverpool and later moved to Aberystwyth. He was involved in publicity and photography work surrounding RJR’s third book,-Along came a Llama-and provided photographs for a feature on the couple in the glossy She magazine which appeared in the late 70‘s. There is mention of an article in the US National Enquirer and Ruth mentions in her letters being filmed for a 25 minute HTV Wales feature.

I have gathered that after John Greaves died, his cameras and films were taken by an elderly female friend who has the items locked in a caravan at her Aberystwyth home. So...the whole thing is something of a mystery. From a mountaineering history perspective, it would be a tragedy if these films still exist but are destined to be lost forever.

If you can throw some light on the mystery of film maker John Greaves and his lost films,then do get in touch via the email address on this page.

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