MANNERING, George Edward
A new biography of Mannering, George Edward appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
George Edward Mannering was born at Birch Hill, North Canterbury, on 31 July 1862. His father, T. S. Mannering, arrived in New Zealand from England in 1852 and took up sheep farming. Mannering was brought up at Fernside Station from 1867. His education at Christ's College was interrupted during 1876–77 by a visit to England, in the course of which he attended King's College, Taunton, visited Switzerland and met his cousin, Harry Fox, a mountaineer afterwards killed in the Caucasus. As a boy, Mannering acquired his exceptional skill and knowledge of shooting, riding, and fishing, but his love of the open air did not encourage him to take up farming which he tried briefly after leaving school in 1877. In 1878 he entered the Union Bank of Australia at Rangiora, and remained in its service until his retirement in 1924, serving as manager of the Hastings, New Plymouth, Timaru, Napier, and Christchurch branches.
Mannering was the moving spirit in a group of young New Zealanders who were fired by the example of the Rev. W. S. Green, whose party had nearly reached the summit of Mount Cook in 1882, to make ascents in their own highest mountains, teaching themselves how to climb largely by trial and error. He began on the outer ranges of Canterbury in winter, climbing Mount Torlesse in 1885, with Marmaduke Dixon, often his companion in later years. In 1886 he made his first visit to the Mount Cook area with his cousin, C. D. Fox, who had scrambled a little on Swiss glaciers. Mannering thereafter made a number of attempts on Mount Cook by Green's Linda route: the nearest to success was in December 1890 when he and Dixon turned back, late in the day, only 140 feet from the summit.
If they failed to climb the higher peaks, Mannering and his companions accomplished a great deal of exploration of lesser mountains and added with their growing experience to the self-confidence of New Zealand mountaineers, among whom in that generation only A. P. Harper had the advantage of overseas experience. With him in 1890 Mannering made the first crossing of the Ball Pass and first explored the Murchison Glacier (reaching Starvation Saddle which they had hoped, vainly, would lead them to the Tasman Glacier). Other achievements of Mannering were ascents of Hochstetter Dom, Mount Blackburn, the first crossing of Rutherford Pass from the Cass to the Murchison, and of Sealy Pass from the Godley to the Whataroa, the first ascents of Mount Rolleston (low peak) and Phipps in the Arthur's Pass district, and the first attempt on the difficult Cameron face of Mount Arrowsmith. His mountaineering was curtailed after his transfer to the North Island in 1897.
In 1891 Mannering joined with Harper, Dixon, and Ross in founding the New Zealand Alpine Club, in which he held office as editor, secretary (1895), and president (1932–34). In 1891 Mannering published With Axe and Rope in the New Zealand Alps which gave a graphic account of the difficulties of climbing in New Zealand; this helped to stimulate local as well as overseas interest in alpine work. In 1891 he was elected a member of the Alpine Club (London); in 1935 both the Alpine Club and the New Zealand Alpine Club made him an honorary member.
Mannering was twice married: in 1894 to Lucy Harvey Lean (d. 1913 – one son, one daughter), and in 1921 to Dorothy Margaret Samuel (two sons, one daughter). In 1922 he visited Europe and at 60 climbed several Swiss peaks, including the Matter-horn. In 1932 he climbed Mount Torlesse on his seventieth birthday, and in 1941 Fog Peak on his seventy-ninth. In the meantime he had introduced his younger children to the mountains.
In 1943 Mannering published his genial memoirs, Eighty Years in New Zealand, which has value for its sidelights on social history (especially in Christchurch in the eighties and nineties) and for its evidence of the breadth of Mannering's sporting interests, which included tennis, golf, lacrosse, and canoeing, besides those already mentioned. In both his books he describes the adventurous journeys he and Dixon made down the Waimakariri and the Waitaki by canoe.
Mannering (who died in Christchurch on 29 October 1947) was a reserved, modest man who made a stronger impression in print than in his own person. He was the doyen of those mountaineers whose object was peaks rather than exploration. He was always enterprising and deserved greater success than he enjoyed. He had a gift of description which makes his first book especially highly interesting to a modern reader. To his contemporaries it was an inspiration, and he, more than any other individual, kindled the enthusiasm of succeeding generations of mountaineers.
by David Oswald William Hall, M.A., Director, Adult Education, University of Otago (retired).
- New Zealand Alpine Journal, No. 35 (1948)
- Canterbury Mountaineer, No. 17 (1947–48)
- Evening Star (Dunedin), 30 Oct 1947 (Obit).