Archive of Everest pictures sparks school row over Everest

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The Independent Online

A photographic record of George Mallory's and Andrew Irvine's attempt to conquer Everest, which was gathering dust under a school desk, has embroiled a top public school in a row with its old boys over the record's ownership.

Slides of the 1924 expedition, which claimed both men's lives, taken by Bentley Beetham, one of the expedition party, were left after his retirement in 1947 to Barnard Castle School, Co Durham, where he had taught.

The slides, which illustrate that the men were ill-equipped, were archived by the Old Barnardians Club in 1963, but were being stored in a box under the club secretary's desk at the school when Mr Mallory's body was found on Everest last May. The find rekindled demand for primary evidence of the trip and National Geographic magazine offered £25,000 for the collection. The old boys' club rejected the offer but was forced to re-evaluate the way the slides were stored.

The chairman of the club, Michael Goundry, asked its secretary, Gay Blanchard, to place them in a bank vault in the town of Barnard Castle, a move that infuriated the school, which has threatened to stop a termly levy on fees, the club's chief source of income. The Old Barnardians Club, which claims intellectual property rights, said in its latest newsletter that Mr Goundry's decision to remove the slides was made because the temporary storage was insecure and exposed the slides to damp.

Barnard School has since made Ms Blanchard redundant. But the headteacher, Michael Featherstone, refused to comment on whether her departure was related to the row. Mr Goundry says he has asked if the return of the slides would "restore some sanity" to relations. "The headmaster said it would not," he declared.