John wrote a Picture Stories feature for The Sunday Herald, which was published yesterday. John’s text was edited, and below the photograph is the original version:
The year must be 1956 and the photograph is of my father, David, standing in Antarctica where he spent two and a half years on an ordinance survey expedition. During the three months it took to travel there by boat he kept a diary, and on arrival continued writing and taking pictures. He also developed an interest in astronomy. Clear skies allowed him to watch the stars.
When Sandra and I met, before we started making comics and graphic novels, we produced a small number of copies of the diary. A typed version of the fragile, handwritten book would allow family and friends to read it more easily. Many of the photographs had never been seen by anyone other than my parents.
My father never referred to himself as an explorer, but after his journey, his passion for the outdoors remained and he established a small manufacturing business, The Clan Tent Company, in Greenock: a fifth floor factory. From childhood I recall an upside down room: eider down, floating a foot above the floor. Men from the local pub would help him unload supplies and carry out finished tents and sleeping bags. Determined, he convinced larger customers, including the Ministry of Defence, that he, with his wife’s help, could cope with larger orders. Eventually he was able to open a shop. In the 1970’s even long after my sister and brother were born secret soldiers would make their own way, faces mudded, to its door. He would continue to supply them and also mountaineers with bespoke survival equipment for many years.
When my dad died recently, the photograph and diary inevitably brought back memories, but his spirit lives on and both his life and his experience at the South Pole continue to provide an inspiration and even seep unexpectedly into our own books.