THEY HAVE pushed themselves to the limits of physical endurance in some of the world’s most inhospitable environments.
They might be two of Britain’s wildest and most fearless adventurers, but Brian Blessed and Sir Ranulph Fiennes also demonstrated a surprising modesty when they came together at the Yorkshire Business Awards.
Neither could agree when The Yorkshire Post posed the question, who is the greatest living Englishman?
Blessed said: “Sir Ranulph Fiennes not only has great Antarctic and other adventures but has done the north wall of the Eiger and climbing Everest with his heart condition, it came virtually unstitched his heart and step by step he got to the summit. I think that’s the greatest ascent of Everest so far.”
Sir Ranulph countered that Brian Blessed is the greatest living Englishman. He praised his great generosity in giving his time for good causes. And his ascent of Everest was on the difficult northern side. “The other side is a lot easier,” he said.
Blessed said: “He’s being very self-effacing and modest, Sir Ranulph. I don’t quite agree with him.” He added: “Sir Ranulph will agree with me in the fact that people say ‘isn’t it dangerous going to Mount Everest, isn’t it dangerous going to the South Pole’ but I think the greatest danger in life is not taking the adventure.
“There are Everests everywhere. People with a Zimmer frame taking a step forward. Adventure is the key to this new era. It is the great hope.”
Blessed, who is 79, was presented with the lifetime achievement award at the fundraising event for the Variety children’s charity. He responded with a loud, occasionally lewd and often hilarious collection of anecdotes about his career as an actor and adventurer.
The Yorkshireman told the audience: “We have all got something that no-one else has got. You have got to be allowed to bring it out and fulfil your dreams. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
In his speech, Sir Ranulph spoke about his wild youth and subsequent Army career.
Variety presented Edward Ziff, the chairman and chief executive of property investor and developer Town Centre Securities, with a special award in honour of his family’s long-standing support for the charity.
Mr Ziff said: “Having been successful in making our way in Leeds, we like to support Variety.
“I learnt from my father’s blessed memory that it is important to give back to the community in a way that reflects your success and we take much pride in doing that.”
The charity presented a posthumous award to the late Leslie Silver, the former Leeds United chairman who was described at the event as “a self-made man and one of Yorkshire’s most generous men”.
Bobbie Caplin, a contemporary of Mr Silver who was attending his 50th Variety event in Yorkshire, told The Yorkshire Post “it’s great that it’s existed, even more for the principle that money raised in Yorkshire is spent in Yorkshire on under-privileged and handicapped children”.
Today’s ceromony at The Queens hotel raised £144,000.
‘Heavyweight Bruce Woodcock would have made Tyson Fury look like a girl’
Brian Blessed said the greatest-ever Yorkshireman was heavyweight boxer Bruce Woodcock.
The actor told The Yorkshire Post: “He would have made Tyson Fury look like a girl. Far too fast and far too powerful.
“If I was 30 years old, I would knock him out. He’s gangly, he’s a big wow. He is 6ft 9in, he is only good for the canvas.
“Joe Lewis, Rocky Marciano, they were great heavyweights. He is being euphoric because he’s won it against a man who is 40 years of age.”
Blessed said when he was six years old, he got in a boxing ring and sparred with Woodcock.
Asked if he landed any punches, he said: “Only on his knee, but it brought him down and then I knocked him out. He said, ‘by gum Brian lad, tha can’t half punch’.”
See a full report on the winners of Variety’s Yorkshire Business Awards in our Business Tuesday supplement.