Lessons from fatherhood
Fatherhood has played a big role throughout Ranulph Fiennes’ life. From his decision to follow in his dad’s footsteps to becoming a father himself later in life.
To mark Father’s Day on 21 June, Ranulph shares how his life of adventure prepared him for fatherhood, and what being a dad has taught him.
Your own father was a war hero, how did his life inspire you?
My father died four months before I was born, and I grew up listening to stories of his time in battle. He was extremely brave and led a regiment that helped to alter the course of the Second World War in favour of the Allies. He was my number one hero and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.
While my career in the army didn’t exactly mirror his, I’m proud to have been part of the same regiment as him and to have seen battle in the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman.
Picture: A young Ranulph Fiennes
How did your own life of adventure prepare you to be a father?
You learn patience in a huge way on an expedition, things don’t always go to plan, and you need to be able to adapt and cope with it. And of course, patience in family life is very important, always.
It must be hard to be away from your family for long periods of time…
On my travels to various parts of the world, I saw first-hand how families come together and go apart and it helped me understand how to be a part of a family and make it work. At that time, my family was my late wife Ginny. I grew up with Ginny; we planned and went on expeditions together for 15 years before she stopped to become a farmer on Exmoor.
I carried on with my expeditions, but Ginny always remained in radio contact. Ginny and I didn’t have any children and she sadly died in 2004. I then met my second wife and we had a daughter who is now 14.
I’ve continued doing expeditions throughout my daughter’s life and it is always difficult to be apart. My wife is a wonderful mother, so I’m not worried about my daughter when I’m away. However, I do appreciate the time I have with my family all the more when I’m home.
What has becoming a father taught you, and how has it influenced your approach to expeditions?
Becoming a father has taught me to be more democratic which has been a valuable lesson for expeditions.
What has been your proudest moment as a father?
My daughter recently stood up in front of her whole school to talk about what it’s like to be dyslexic and how it’s impacted her life. I thought that was a very brave thing to do and I was very proud of her.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about going on an adventure for the first time?
The most important thing is to have an ambition, whatever that ambition may be. Some people want to climb Mount Snowden on the easy route and others want to take the harder route. Other people want to go to more difficult mountains in the Alps or even the Himalayas. It’s all a question of taking your adventure slowly but surely and not to go over the top too early.
You’ve achieved a huge amount in your life, do you think your father would be proud of everything you’ve done?
I’m no good at being hypothetical so I haven’t the faintest idea, but I hope he would have approved of where I ended up, even if I didn’t become a Colonel in the Royal Scots Greys like him.
You’ve followed in the footsteps of other great adventurers like Shackleton and Scott, what did you learn from their expeditions?
I believe the Royal Navy were responsible for Shackleton and Scott and all the great polar expeditions that the British were at the forefront of for 400 years. And the one thing that the Royal Navy is famous for is enjoying at difficult times the best possible rum.
Ranulph’s Great British Rum is infused with the spirit of adventure. Why not raise a glass this Father’s Day and taste the adventure yourself?