Rod Liddle has a piece in The Sunday Times entitled “Heroics died with Sir Edmund”, in which he makes the point that the sad death of Sir Edmund Hillary has seen the last of heroes as they used to be understood. Today, he says, heroes tend to be people like Nelson Mandela.
In the eyes of the press, however, (and not just the tabloids), the title of hero is handed out like sweeties to everyone from footballers to reality TV contestants. A little restraint in this practice would be more than welcome.
But we do have heroes today, and quite a lot of them. Those who spring to mind immediately must be the men and women risking their lives every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one of the chief amongst those has to be Johnson Beharry VC, who rescued his injured comrades despite being wounded himself, and showed the sort of courage that used to fill children’s story books.
Then there are the true heroes in civilian life. People like John Smeaton, a worker at Glasgow Airport. When a car was driven into the airport buildings in a terror attack, John Smeaton wrestled a terror suspect to the ground.
Or like Paul Waugh, a coastguard who risked his life to save a teenage girl stranded on a cliff ledge. He was so concerned for the 13-year-old girl that he climbed down to her in gale-force winds and stopped her from falling 300 feet, while waiting for rescue by helicopter.
These two gentlemen are real heroes, but, this being Britain, both of them have been badly treated.
There was public pressure for John Smeaton to receive an award in the Honours List, but, no, his profile doesn’t fit in nulabour Britain. And Paul Waugh was criticised by the Maritime & Coastguard Service for breaching health and safety rules during the rescue by not waiting for a safety harness. So he has resigned after 13 years service.
There are still real heroes, but unfortunately they mostly don’t get the recognition they deserve.