HE TRAVELLED on horseback through uncharted parts of the Himalayas in the depths of winter to deliver a plea for help to the outside world from Tibet as it faced invasion by the Chinese army.
Now, more than 60 years on, George Patterson is to receive the most prestigious award in the Tibetan movement for his work on behalf of the nation.
The 90-year-old Scot, a personal friend of the Dalai Lama, is to be presented this week with the Light of Truth Award from the International Campaign for Tibet.
Patterson, who is originally from Falkirk and now lives in a care home in Lesmahagow, first travelled to the area as a missionary in 1947. He befriended a group of Tibetan resistance fighters on the China-Tibet border and became their medical officer
In the winter of 1949, under increasing pressure from the Chinese forces and with military and medical supplies running low, the leader of the resistance called on Patterson to travel to India to issue a plea for international help. He made the perilous three-month journey accompanied by three Tibetan helpers.
"We had to deal with blizzards that came virtually every day," he said. "I slept with the horses some of the time, I even slept with a yak, just to get the body heat because it was biting cold.
"The Tibetans didn't use tents, so it was easier to go with what they were used to. They used to find dung from previous travelling parties and set it alight using sparks from their guns."
After struggling through the mountains, the group then had to contend with the jungles of India, where local tribes were known historically as headhunters, before arriving finally at Calcutta where he met US, UK and Indian intelligence officials.
Patterson's request was turned down and he made to return to Tibet, but an earthquake, illness and the arrival of the monsoon season kept him in India while the Chinese invasion began in 1950.
Patterson became a journalist and his coverage of the conflict brought him into contact with the Dalai Lama.
"He is very charismatic, a very natural manner, a man of the people, and yet he can mix with the highest," he said. "He can do this because it is a natural part of his personality."
Having helped the Dalai Lama's brother to escape to America, Patterson came close to achieving the same feat with the spiritual leader in the early 1950s, carrying out negotiations with US authorities.
"He had been prepared to leave but the three abbots of the three major monasteries were with him and made him consult the oracle," said Patterson."When he did this, the oracle (an adviser in a state of possession] said he had to return to Lhasa."
It was not until 1959 that the Dalai Lama was finally forced to flee into India with the help of the CIA, where he formed a government in exile.
The Light of Truth Award is given to people and institutions who have made significant contributions to the public understanding of Tibet and the fight for human rights and democracy for the Tibetan people. The award itself is a simple butter lamp.
Among those who have been presented with the award are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, film director Martin Scorsese, actor Richard Gere and former Czech president Vclav Havel.
The award is normally presented by the Dalai Lama on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet, but because of Patterson's poor health, Tibetan officials will travel to Scotland to present it to him on Wednesday.
Patterson also continues to publicise the drug treatment programme developed by his late wife Dr Meg Patterson. Neuro Electric Therapy, which involves sending electric pulses through the brain, has helped addicts including rock stars Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Pete Townshend.