Shackleton : The James Caird Society



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the fast-developing Dún Laoghaire harbour
'Endurance - Triumph against all odds': thus the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company announces its the fine new exhibition it will house from September 2012, an initiative within the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company's go-ahead master plan.

Great plans for the harbour area - long Dublin's outlet to the sea - are already under way
The Shackleton Endurance Exhibition, an unsurpassed, world-class exhibition in collaboration with the UK's Royal Geographical Society, will be the first of a number of initiatives to generate greater use of these impressive new buildings forming part of the harbour front development in Dún Laoghaire.

The exhibition's magnificent new home at Dún Laoghaire, near Dublin
Sir Ernest Shackleton was born in Ireland just south of Dublin, at Kilkea House, Co. Kildare, so in a sense it is a case of 'bringing Shackleton home' and a proud occasion for all Irish men and women.

Faded but not forgotten: a particularly fine photo portrait of the young Ernest Shackleton
The exhibition was originally created by the American Museum of Natural History in 2000, since then has toured throughout the US, Spain and the UK and has been seen by over two million people.

It tells in graphic details the story of the 1914–1917 Antarctic Expedition, led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, which was indeed a triumph against all odds: a survival story like no other.

Find out more about the Exhibition

It was years before the true significance of this dangerous adventure emerged, but the Irish-born Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917 is today rightly seen as perhaps the most remarkable in exploration history: a tale of extraordinary leadership: of the triumph of the human heart and spirit when faced with the most terrible odds.

The crew of the Endurance poses with Shackleton on board ship
The exhibition will be on display from early September. The venue is sited within the the historic Ferry Terminal Building in Dún Laoghaire Harbour, the port of Dublin. An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, has agreed to perform the official opening of the exhibition on Monday, September 10th at 6.00 p.m.

A chance to book now for the exhibition
The exhibition has been painstakingly assembled to provide us with a remarkable insight into the lives of those who lived through the horrors of the expedition, including three Irishmen, Ernest Shackleton from Kildare, Tom Crean from Kerry and Tim McCarthy from Cork.

The James Caird would be their only lifetime. Shackleton supervises his men dragging it across the ice
Launching the James Caird. The lives of the entire crew depended on this tiny lifeboat
A significant element of the exhibition features the miraculous achievement of the James Caird. It tells the story of how six of the team led by Shackleton (including the Irishmen Tom Crean and Tim McCarthy - hence half the boat's crew were Irish!) made a treacherous, almost impossible journey on a small craft, the James Caird. Their mission was to seek assistance for the twenty-two crew members who had been left behind on remote Elephant Island, on the Antarctic Peninsula. All the Irishmen were crucial members of this carefully selected crew, and despite the significant odds stacked against them, they were successful.

The big Irishman Tom Crean (right) enjoys a pipe with fellow crew member Alf CheethamCrean was like a mother to Sue's four puppies, who became his special charges
Vivid and exciting, this exhibition attempts to capture the compelling spirit of the 1914-17 Trans-Antarctic Expedition: the breathtaking, 'terrible beauty' of the White Continent, the abandonment and sinking of the ship, the crew's shift to perilous living on the pack ice, and daily life in the various camps. It evokes the treacherous weather and near-total darkness of the Antarctic winter, their isolation on remote Elephant Island and their final, triumphant rescue and return.

The dogs wanly look on as the Endurance breaks up Frank Wild looks on helplessly as the Endurance enters her final death throes
It’s all here. This is the story of the Endurance, of the bravery and miraculous survival of its crew and of their faith in their expedition leader, Sir Ernest Shackleton. It really is a survival story like no other.

A full size replica of the James Caird, the lifeboat that proved so critical to the rescue, will form a central part of this stirring exhibition, which will feature over 150 of the technically brilliant and evocative black-and-white photographs of Australian Frank Hurley, the official photographer for the expedition. And there is much, much more including extensive wall texts and diary excerpts, .

Frank Hurley photographs beneath the looming Endurance
After visiting the exhibition, you’ll understand that it truly was a ‘Triumph against all odds’.

Invitations to the opening gathering on Monday September 10th at 6 p.m. have already been issued. The contact for that is Jean Finegan, Tel +353 (0)1-271-3200, However the exhibition is open weekdays 10-7 and Sundays 11-6. Irish Maritime Exhibitions can be contacted on +353 (0)86 852 3498 or

The fast developing Dún Laoghaire harbour, in all its glory from the air
Check prices and book now
The striking display logo for the Endurance exhibition




The 2012 Shackleton Autumn School
As announced, the 12th Shackleton Autumn School will take place between Friday October 26th and Monday 29th October 2012.

Visit the Athy Heritage Centre's Shackleton website for details of events

An array of distinguished speakers has been lined up and encouragingly the following have already been confirmed:

Michael Smith (centre) with David and Isobel Williams (pic RS)
Michael Smith is the acclaimed biographer of Tom Crean ('An Unsung Hero'), James Wordie, Capt. Lawrence Oates 'I am Just Going Outside') and of a clutch of outstanding Irish Antarctic explorers ('Great Endeavour'), as well as 'Shackleton: The Boss', especially written for children.

Read the page about talks at the Shackleton Autumn School

Michael will talk on 'Scott's Irishmen' - exploring the notable exploits of Tom Crean, Robert Forde (1875-1959), Patrick Keohane (1879-1950) and Mortimer McCarthy (1882-1967) on Scott's tragic Terra Nova expedition and thereafter.

Mortimer McCarthy, able seaman, shown at the wheel of Captain Scott's ship Terra Nova
Patrick Keohane below deck working on ship's model
Robert Forde (second left) with others of Scott's Terra Nova expedition
Kari Herbert takes up the subject of 'Polar Wives', discussing the lives of Emily Shackleton and others, including the anxiety generated by their husbands' absence on various Antarctic or polar expeditions.

Emily Shackleton, wife to Sir Ernest and mother of his three children - Raymond, Cecilia and Edward, who became Lord Shackleton
These are issues on which Kari is very much an expert, having written the landmark book on the subject which has made an impact worldwide.

Polar Wives is also the title of a well-received book by Kari Herbert, exploring the hopes, anxieties and resilience of the wives of polar explorers Kari Herbert's acclaimed book, seen in its German edition
Dr William Barr looks at the eminent German explorer, Oberleutnant Wilhelm Filchner. 'Antarctic débâcle - differing versions of the allocation of blame' explores the much-debated story of Filchner's expedition to the Weddell Sea in 1911-1912 (which led to the mighty Filchner Ice Shelf being named after him).

Wilhelm Filchner as a young man before the turn of the centuryFilchner in early middle age
Filchner depicted in uniform at the time of his important expedition to the Weddell SeaFilchner photographed approaching older age
Dr Jan Piggott is no stranger to James Caird Society members, having served on the initial Committee and for several years brought it his expertise. He curated the much-praised millennial exhibition 'Shackleton, Endurance and the Antarctic' at Dulwich College, and has lectured twice to the Society, most recently giving a riveting talk on Scott and Shackleton . His lecture 'Scott & Shackleton: Early days, Rivalry and Leadership' will take up and develop a similar theme.

Dr. Jan Piggott at Dulwich, surrounded by members of the PG Wodehouse Society
Mawson's expedition will be the subject of David Roberts' talk, which is entitled 'Douglas Mawson and the Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Told' - a focus on the significant but also vexed Australasian Antarctic expedition. Meanwhile Dr Gabrielle Walker will address important scientific issues in 'Antarctica Today: the Scientific Legacy of the Heroic Age'.

Mawson in jocular moodMawson kitted up in balaclava, proof against the Antarctic's biting cold
Sir Douglas Mawson in his ship's cabin Mawson recovers after returning from the terrible, tragic Eastern party, of which he, the leader, was the sole survivor
Robert Burton is one of the leading polar experts today, having served for a period as head of the Polar Museum at Grytviken and doing much, quite apart from his own researches, to build up its collection and its international status. He will talk on 'Shackleton at South Georgia', a subject on which he naturally has unique qualifications.

Zoologist Robert Burton, a vastly experienced and inspiring lecturer on South Georgia and the frozen wastes of the South
The Ernest Shackleton Autumn School is held annually during October in Athy, County Kildare, Ireland. The School was established to commemorate the 'heroic' era of polar exploration, and in particular to honour the memory of Ernest Shackleton in the county of his birth. The School is the only annual polar event of its kind in the world, and is a forum for discussion and debate on polar exploration and the presentation of artistic works and exhibitions relevant to Shackleton and his time.

The School is hosted by the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, which is home to the only permanent exhibition anywhere devoted to Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The 2012 Autumn School will feature a number of other events and talks; the full programme details will be available shortly on the Athy website. You can contact the Autumn School on (00)+353 59 863 3075, or email

The 24-page booklet on South Georgia written by Bob Burton and Stephen Venables is a valuable aide for those interested in the far southerly island so closely connected with Shackleton




A relative of Sir Ernest Shackleton was featured on RTÉ Television (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) in a recent episode of The Genealogy Roadshow (the Irish equivalent of the celebrated programme 'Who Do You Think You Are?').

In the programme, first seen on 4 September 2011, Glenn Webb had his common ancestry traced back to an important Shackleton forebear, Richard Shackleton of Ballitore, Co Kildare.

Glenn Webb explores the Shackleton connection on RTE's groundbreaking and immensely popular programme The Genealogy Roadshow
Much of the programme was filmed at Quaker House in Dublin, where records are kept of the pedigrees of the old Irish Quaker families; these include the Shackleton and Webb families.

The Shackleton family trace their Irish ancestry back to Abraham Shackleton who came to Ireland in 1720.

The family connection confirmed: an abbreviated family tree showing the close Shackleton relationship of the Webb family; all are descended from Richard Shackleton, Abraham's father
The programme also filmed at the house at 35 Marlborough Road, Dublin where Ernest Shackleton lived as a boy.

35 Marborough Rd, where Dr. Henry Shackleton, his wife Henrietta and their growing family, of whom Ernest was the eldest, lived in the 1880s
At the conclusion of the programme Glenn Webb was shown a substantial lock of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hair, dating from when the latter was a boy. This lock of hair is part of the permanent Shackleton Exhibition in the Heritage Centre at Athy, Co Kildare, close to where Ernest Shackleton was born.

A lock of Sir Ernest Shackleton's hair, dating back to his childhood, seen alongside the harness from the Nimrod expedition




The programme for the event - unveiling and illuminating lectures
A handsome new plaque was unveiled in February by the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton in the foyer of the National Concert Hall in Dublin. The Hall, which holds 1,200, was packed to capacity. The plaque reads:

'Unveiled on February 6th 2012 to commemorate SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON, b 1874 Co Kildare d 1922 South Georgia Island, Irish Polar Explorer who gave an illustrated lecture on his celebrated Nimrod expedition to the South Pole in this hall on December 14th 1909.'

The Dublin occasion (after Kildare, Shackleton, his brother and sisters spent several of their growing years in the city, where their father Dr. Henry Shackleton trained as a General Practitioner) was a vital and uplifting evening of music and lectures, celebrating both Alexandra's grandfather Sir Ernest Shackleton and other Irish polar heroes, notably Tom Crean and Francis McClintock.

Simon Taylor, CEO of Dublin's National Concert Hall, with the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton alongside the new plaque honouring her grandfather Sir Ernest following the official unveiling
Alexandra Shackleton in her address greatly pleased the packed house of 1,200 people by saying how much she loved Ireland, having herself studied history at Dublin's famous Trinity College. The evening had begun with a series of lectures by the explorer's cousin Jonathan Shackleton (on Sir Ernest Shackleton), Dermot Somers (on Francis McClintock) and Brendan O’Brien (on his grandfather Tom Crean).

Jane and Daphne Shackleton and Alexandra Shackleton with Simon Taylor
Sir Francis Leopold McClintock (1819-1907), born in Dundalk, was one of the greatest Arctic explorers not just of Ireland but of the entire Victorian era. From 1831 he served in the Royal Navy (latterly promoted to Admiral), was prominent in the searches for the missing 1845-8 expedition of Sir John Franklin, was a pioneer of Arctic sledge travelling, and an indomitable figure even when his ship, the Fox, of which he took command in 1857 in furthering the search, was frozen in and she was forced to winter in the ice.

All in all, it made for a grand celebration in style of these great figures of Irish exploration.

Sir Francis McClintock depicted on one of his expeditions to the frozen NorthSir Francis McClintock in naval regalia
Read about Sir Francis McClintock on wikipedia




The Tom Crean Society
The Tom Crean Society is based in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, and is devoted to honouring the memory of Tom Crean, one of the outstandingly courageous figures from the Heroic age of Polar travel.

An historic sepia view of Tom Crean's birthplacea current view of Tom Crean's birthplace at Gurtachrane
Tom Crean was born in Gurtachrane (Gortacurraun), Annascaul, Co. Kerry on 20 July 1877. He joined the Royal Navy at 15 as a best boy and by 1901 was an Able Seaman in HMS Ringarooma, part of the Royal Navy’s New Zealand Squadron, based in the South Island. At Lyttleton he volunteered for secondment to serve as replacement crew in Scott’s expedition ship Discovery, the first of three expeditions he made to the Antarctic.

Tom Crean as a young naval cadet before 1901 Crean as a young Able-bodied Seaman aboard Endurance
On the 1901-4 Discovery expedition Crean won general approval and, amongst other things, clocked up 149 days of sledging. The esteem he was held in is evidenced in the award of the Royal Geographical Society’s Antarctic Silver Medal.

Two photos of Crean with horses. Here he is with his pony Bones just before setting off on a 400mile trek southwards Crean with horses and his colleague E Evans
As a member of Scott's next expedition (Terra Nova, 1910-13) Crean was a member of Scott's final support party, accompanying him to the Polar plateau, but was not chosen to join the Polar party. He was one of those who found the bodies of Scott's five man group after their tragic failure to reach the Pole. 'Tom kissed him, covered his body in a blanket of snow, and left him where to he would have wished to be left', his wife Ellen later recalled. Tom Crean himself came within 180 miles of South Pole.

A fine posed portrait of Tom Crean in formal attire A younger Tom Crean in uniform with his hard-earned medals. The Albert Medal on the left can be seen near the bottom of this page
His last expedition was aboard Shackleton's Endurance, as Second Officer. His moment of greatest glory came when he was one of the key members to sail the James Caird with Shackleton to South Georgia, and he accompanied Shackleton and Worsley in the desperate climb across uncharted territory to find help.

Tom Crean, always affable, with Alf Cheetham on the Endurance expedition. Crean was 2nd Officer and Cheetham 3rd OfficerI Tom Crean and Sally's puppies, famously photographed by Frank Hurley on Endurance
Crean's later life was spent at Annascaul, where he opened the South Pole Inn which remains famous to this day. He married Ellen (Nell) Herlihy on 5 September 1917, very soon after returning from Shackleton's Endurance expedition, and they had three daughters, Mary, Kate and Eileen. Kate died at the age of four, and Eileen died in 2004; his daughter Mary Crean O'Brien is his closest surviving relative.

Tom and Ellen Crean on their wedding day, 5 September 1917Tom Crean in later life with his family
Tom Crean died on 27 July 1938 and was buried at Ballinacourty cemetery, Annascaul.

The plaque to Tom Crean at Annascaul
The Tom Crean Society has a website where it is possible to read about Tom Crean and about forthcoming events. In the past they have arranged weekends with lectures and slide shows (all at Tom Crean's pub, the South Pole Inn, at Annascaul); also photographic displays, walks and 'banquet' dinners in 'true expedition style', as held on the Terra Nova. One midwinter dinner, held on December 12th 2005, was staged on board the Discovery in Dundee, Scotland; and further weekends of Midwinter Celebrations have proved very lively and successful.

The South Pole Inn in Annascaul, which Tom Crean opened after the Great War. After his death his two daughters, Mary and Eileen, assisted in running the pubInside the South Pole Inn
The Society has made two trips to Antarctica already, in 2004 and 2006;
the first year they walked in the footsteps of Tom Crean, landing at Cape Cove in King Haakon Bay, climbing to the Shackleton Gap, and visiting Grytviken the final resting place of Shackleton. However their ship, Polar Star, hit a rock in King Haakon Bay, was badly damaged and had to make a hasty return to Ushuaia for ship repairs. It was not till Jan-Feb 2006 that the trip was trumphantly completed, visiting the South Orkneys, Elephant Island (Cape Wild) and many splendid sites on or off the Antarctic Peninsula, including Paradise Bay, Port Lockroy, Deception Island and the Lemaire Channel. The Society's latest planned trip, to the majestic Ross Sea, in conjunction with Pat Falvey's 'Beyond Endurance', is now scheduled to go ahead in 2012. 'Ross-Revisited: Voyage to the Historic Huts of Scott and Shackleton' will thus take place exactly 100 years on from Scott's Terra Nova expedition. Further details will be announced soon. On the 2004 trip, the Society proudly presented to Grytviken Museum a superb inscribed boulder in memory of Tom Crean. This memorial stone is now displayed in the library at Grytviken.

The beautiful inscribed memorial stone, presented by the Tom Crean Society, now located in the Grytviken Museum library. Members of the Society took it there on their visit to South Georgia in 2004
The beautifully incised boulder with Mary Crean O'Brien, Tom Crean's daughter, with her son Robert, Tom Crean's grandson, before its journey to South Georgia
Celebrating Irish Polar Explorers: over recent years, corresponding with the centenaries of Scott's Terra Nova (1910-1913) and Shackleton's Endurance (1914-16), on both of which Tom Crean served, members of the Tom Crean Society have set out to raise awareness of the involvement of Irishmen and of Irish connections during the Heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

Crean, in jovial mood as usual a bluff relaxed Crean on the Discovery expedition
The Society has also been involved in celebrating Crean in the Arts.

The Tom Crean Symphony: in recent years the Society commissioned Rachel Holstead of Lispole, Co. Kerry to write a symphony in honour of Tom Crean, with funding from the Arts Council Ireland. The composer visited the Antarctic beforehand on the Society's second trip in 2005 with Marie Kennedy, proprietor of the Old Anchor guest house in Annascaul and a leading light of the Society, and other Tom Crean enthusiast, carefully taking detailed sound recordings and photographs.

the Tom Crean's Society's display at the South Pole Inn, which has an extensive photographic tribute to Tom Crean
A Tom Crean Play: a play has been written by Frances Kay for the awardwinning and nationally acclaimed Team Educational Theatre Company, featuring Tom Crean as one of the main characters. The play is called Last Call and is written to encourage students (especially Primary and Post-Primary ages) to connect with their own ideals – not simply morals which guide their everyday lives but the ultimate ideals that make us choose to do extraordinary things and survive against terrible odds.

Frances Kay's Tom Crean play Last Call at the Helix Theatre, Dublin
The Radio Play: Tom Crean and the Terra Nova expedition was also broadcast on Radio Kerry in 2009. And Tom Crean: Sailor on Ice, poet David Hirzel's book about Tom Crean and the Discovery expedition is also available as an online audiodrama/podcast, featuring David Maciver as Tom Crean, April Sadowski as Mary Crean, Clive Saunders as Captain Scott, Stevie K Farnaby as Frank Wild and Brian Bedard as Shackleton.

part 1 of David Hirzel's audiodrama Episode 2 of Sailor on Ice
Tom Crean: visual guide to the treasures on board Scott's ship Discovery.pdfVisual Guide of Tom Crean, Discovery and Kerry
The Tom Crean Society has also shown keen interest in Aidan Dooley's multi-award-winning one man show Tom Crean - Antarctic Explorer, which has won high praise wherever it is seen, both in the Ireland and the UK: the play, a brilliant two hour monologue, was originally written by Aidan for the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, in 2008, and is scrupulously based on known facts about Tom Crean.

Aidan Dooley as Tom Crean. The one-man show has won awards and plauditsThe impassioned face of a Polar pioneer. aidan Dooley's Tom Crean show deservedly won an award at the Edinburgh Festival
actor Aidan Dooley wings his audience away to the AntarcticThe play conjures up an intense and gripping atmosphere
Another development initially welcomed, was the interest shown in Tom Crean by RTE television. RTE's Chief News Reporter Charlie Bird went to Kerry to interview Crean's surviving daughter, Mary Crean O'Brien, for his 2011 Charlie Bird Explores series.

Tom Crean's daughter, Mary Crean O'Brien, in her nineties, enjoys a laugh with Charlie Bird of RTE RTE's Charlie Bird in Antarctica
This was followed by the real thing: Bird trekking to the frozen Antarctic wastes following, as it were, in the footsteps of Crean. It came as the culmination of a long-held desire by Bird to make a film celebrating Crean's achievements: an initial attempt fell through in the 1980s. Charlie Bird set out with an RTE camera crew in November 2010, 'travelling by skis, cross-country, for 100 miles or so to the magnetic pole to complete the journey that Crean wasn't allowed to. Thankfully we're able to celebrate his exploits today unlike in the 1920s and 30's when his Royal Navy past would not have been very popular in Kerry. It's great to see his story on today's curriculum and how the people of Kerry celebrate him today, through the efforts of Kerry County Council and Kerry County Museum for example. We have to remember that the journey can be undertaken relatively safely today only by standing on the shoulders of giants like Crean!' Sadly, Bird's documentary earned a scornful reception from the Irish Press.

A bonus for schools - the Tom Crean poster produced by RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann)
The website naturally alludes to a most significant event: the unveiling of the Tom Crean statue and the adjacent Tom Crean Memorial Garden in Annascaul. There is also a Tom Crean Business Park supporting new enterprise in nearby Tralee, Co. Kerry.

The superb statue of Tom Crean (with Sally's pups) in the Annascaul Tom Crean Memorial GardenThe Tom Crean Business Centre at Tralee
A Tom Crean memorial walk took in the South Pole Inn, now owned by Tom Kennedy, a Crean relation, and then Minard Castle, where on 10 July 1893 Crean enlisted in the Royal Navy as a boy second class, leaving Minard on a cargo boat bound for Cobh, Co. Cork, and thence to England. Next is Gurtuchrane, where Tom was born the 20 July 1877. Then over the hills overlooking Minard and Annascaul; a separate section, following the ridge to Coolnapogue, yields spectacular views over Annascaul Lake. Thence back to the South Pole Inn. Other more protracted walks in the area, for instance a shorter hill walk over Brackloon Hill near Annascaul, with amazing views of Dingle Bay, Inch Beach and Annascaul valley, continued over several days.

A view across the Annascaul Valley to the lake beyondAnnascaul lake, ateway to Annascaul glen
The adventure also encompassed the Kerry Museum. This is particularly because the Museum now has a Tom Crean Room, with mementoes of the legendary figure, including his medals and awards, not least for saving the life of Edward Evans on the Terra Nova expedition. For a long time it was not possible to find a local location that was interested, and Crean's family and enthusiasts fought long and hard to interest a suitable venue. Now, happily, the Museum's Tom Crean room provides the perfect setting.

The Kerry County Museum, IrelandThe Tom Crean Room at the Kerry Museum
In addition, a Tom Crean Room has been opened at D'Arcy's restaurant at nearby Kenmare, Kerry. The restaurant is run by Tom Crean's granddaughter Aileen d'Arcy. The Tom Crean Room is available for private dining, or for large or medium-sized groups. Capable of seating 30 comfortably, the Tom Crean Room is decorated with images and memorabilia from the life of Ireland’s famous Antarctic explorer; and the website has a superb display of photos relating to Tom Crean and Scott's expeditions.

The Tom Crean room at D'Arcy's celebrating the great Irish polar explorer
The Kerryman records that in 1967 Mrs. Ellen Crean, widow of Tom Crean and then 86 years old, still living in Annascaul, loaned a collection of his personal belongings for museum display in Dingle. They included his Albert Medal for saving the life of Lt. Evans (later Lord Mountevans) and medals commemorating Crean's achievements on the Discovery and Endurance Antarctic expeditions.

Tom Crean won his Albert Medal for a 30 mile solo trek through the Polar wilderness to fetch help for his colleague Edwin Evans
In 2000 Tom Crean's grandson, Dublin-based Brendan O'Brien, son of Crean's elder daughter Mary Crean O'Brien, of Ballyvelly, Tralee set out on a fascinating trip to re-trace the steps of his grandfather. Brendan joined a Dutch film crew on a voyage to retrace and reconstruct Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition, on which Tom Crean served as Second Officer. The expedition planned to travel to all the areas of importance in the story, including Elephant Island and South Georgia.

Tom Crean, celebrated at D'Arcy's in Kenmare
The most important recent development has been the emergence of three or four books by Michael Smith investigating the life of Irish Antarctic explorers and in particular Tom Crean. These stand as landmarks in the process of spreading the word about this outstanding and valorous figure at the head of Irish Antarctic history. Crean's name now enjoys an importance as never before, honoured in his native land and the world over.

one of the handsome covers for Tom Crean, an Illustrated Life by Michael SmithTom Crean - Ice Man, Michael Smith's retelling of the Crean story for children
Michael Smith's Tom Crean, an Illustrated LifeTom Crean, Unsung Hero by Michael Smith - the Hurley picture shows crew members hauling the James Caird over the ice
The story of Tom Crean's rabbit colony on Scott's Terra Nova is delightfully caught in this children's book
David Hirzel's Tom Crean - Sailor on ice, available in book and online audiodrama form
Read the RTE biography of Tom Crean

Visit RTE to read about the Tom Crean programme and watch significant extracts

See the fine library of Tom Crean photos displayed on D'Arcy's website

Read the extended wikipedia biography of Tom Crean

Read the absolutely first-class Crean biography on the Annascaul website




21st February 1911: advertisement for Shackleton's talk in the Rotunda. The event also included a two-part concert and was planned to run from 8.00 to 10.15
On 21st February 1911 Sir Ernest Shackleton came home to Dublin to give a lecture in the Rotunda building on his Nimrod Expedition. According to contemporary newspaper reports, the evening attracted a 'large attendance'.

On 21st February 2011 the Shackleton show 'Nearest The South Pole' was staged in the same Rotunda building to celebrate the anniversary, and also attracted a large attendance.

21 February 2011: Ireland honours the centneary of its great explorer
The audience in fact amounted to over 350 people in a room with seating for only 220 people. At the scheduled start time there was such a large crowd outside that the last 130 people had to be let in free, on a standing room only basis. Ernest Shackleton as a great Irish showman himself would no doubt have felt at home and laughed.

The show itself consists of music, lectures and poetry together with readings from contemporary newspaper accounts performed by actors in period dress.

Reading from contemporary newspaper accountsTraditional Musician
The show has also been performed in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Community Centre in Athy and the Arts Centre in Drogheda. Further performances are scheduled for other locations in Ireland later in the year.

Visit the James Caird Society website's Irish page

Bob Headland (Senior Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute) saw the show as part of the Shackleton Autumn School weekend in October 2010 in Athy. He especially enjoyed the acting and commented as follows:

'I very much enjoyed the presentation. In particular the distinctive ambience of the location was very effectively used by the actors.

'The principle of using contemporary newspaper accounts is always a good one, and perhaps the best way to indicate public opinion at the time. This often demonstrates fascinating comparisons between the thoughts at the time of an occurrence, and those from the present.

Read about Shackleton's background and other details on the Irish page

'It was also good to see an appropriate degree of ironical humour, especially with the benefit of afterthought (indeed almost a century of afterthought). The effort in 'rounding up' appropriate newspaper extracts was certainly worth the impression it provided which, with the music and other things of a multi-media event, made a fascinating conclusion to the themes of a very polar day.'




The life of Timothy McCarthy, the stalwart of the James Caird voyage, is revealed for the first time in Michael Smith's new book about Ireland's great Antarctic explorers - including Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The book is called 'Great Endeavour - Ireland's Antarctic Explorers', and is published by the Collins Press.

It deals with 200 years of Antarctic exploration, starting with Bransfield and Crozier in the early 19th century, moving on to Crean and Shackleton in the 20th, and finally the modern day travellers such as Mike Barry and Pat Falvey.

The book contains the most comprehensive account ever published about the lives of Edward Bransfield, Patrick Keohane, Robert Forde and the McCarthy brothers, Mortimer and Tim, plus many previously unseen photographs.

Details on the publishers website - , or see Michael Smith's own website at




The Tenth Ernest Shackleton Autumn School runs from Friday 22 to Monday 25 October 2010 at the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, County Kildare (not far from the house in Kilkea where Shackleton was born; the family moved to the area in the early part of the 18th Century) .

The Autumn School, the only Polar School held in Ireland, has been a major and one of the most highly successful features in the Shackleton
'Calendar' since it opened at the turn of the present century, and is regularly attended by many of the most eminent figures in the Shackleton and Polar world today.

It provides a forum for discussion and debate on Polar Exploration and the presentation of artistic works and events related to Shackleton and his time.

Friday evening, after the official opening, will feature the launch of an important new book by Chet Ross, Lieutenant Nobu Shirase and the Japanese Antarctic Expedition of 1910-12: A bibliography. Nobu Shirase was one of the most significant Antarctic pioneers of the early 20th Century. It is published by Adélie Books.

The annual Shackleton Memorial Lecture that same evening will be given by Fintan O'Toole, Deputy Editor of The Irish Times.

Morning lectures on the Saturday will be 'The last days of the Arctic', by Ragnar Axelsson, and 'The SS Terra Nova (1884-1943) and other Polar exploration ships of the Heroic Age', by Mike Tarver. At l.00 The Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, President of the James Caird Society and the explorer's granddaughter, will unveil a plaque to her grandfather at Athy commissioned under Ireland's National Committee for Science and Engineering Commemorative Plaques scheme.

The afternoon lectures are by Dr. T. H. Baughman ('The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition') and Chet Ross (on Nobu Shirase's Japanese Expedition). These are followed by the annual dinner, at the Carlton Abbey Hotel.

The Sunday morning lectures will be given by Meredith Hooper ('Uncovering the story of Scott's other expedition') and Prof. David Thomas ('Life inside drifting Antarctic pack-ice'). The Red Tent, a film about the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile, who led the failed 1928 Arctic airship expedition, starring Peter Finch, will be shown that afternoon.

In the late afternoon Bob Headland chairs an Open Forum on Polar matters. And the evening sees an entertainment of music, theatre, poetry and readings relating to Ernest Shackleton and exploration in the Community Arts Centre.

Monday morning sees a field trip to Ballitore, home of Shackleton's ancestress, the renowned educationalist Mary Leadbeater.

On Saturday, Sunday and Monday an exhibition of stunning photographs from the impressive new book The Last Days of the Arctic, published by Polar World and Crymogea, can be viewed. The exhibition runs on until 26 November 2010.




The inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Shackleton Collection will take place on Monday 18th October 2010 at 7.30pm at the Heritage Centre Museum.

The object of the Friends is to assist in the development of Athy Heritage Centre:

- As a centre for developing interest in the history of Athy and district.

- Through the Shackleton Autumn School developing interest in Polar exploration, and especially the Life and Achievements of Ernest Shackleton.

- As a centre for the collection, maintenance and display of material relating to the history of Athy and district.

Membership is open to any person or body wishing to support the objectives of the Friends.




To accompany the new exhibition in Liverpool of Hurley's extraordinary photographs, Endurance - Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, running from the widely acclaimed one man theatre show 'Tom Crean's Story' offers the chance to find out out more about the incredible tale behind them.

Ideal for younger and older Shackleton enthusiasts alike, and a particularly entertaining and gripping introduction for children of school age, 'Tom, Crean's Story' will be staged in the first floor performance space of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The dates and times of performance run through October and November 2010 into December, and will be as follows:

Sunday 3 October 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 9 October 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 16 October 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 23 October 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Wednesday 27 October 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 30 October 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 6 November 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Monday 8 November 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 13 November 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 20 November 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 27 November 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 4 December 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm
Saturday 11 December 2010 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm

Not to be missed!



On 14th December 1909 Sir Ernest Shackleton came back to Dublin to give a lecture on his Nimrod Expedition. It was held in what was then the University Buildings on Earlsfort Terrace and is now the National Concert Hall.

On 14th December 2009 the centenary was celebrated at the same location with a special event and a gathering of several members of the extended Shackleton family in Ireland.

The event was well covered in the newspapers and on the main evening news on RTE television. The RTE news coverage included extracts from an interview with Jonathan Shackleton in which he said as follows:

“He got the welcome he deserved. He did say ‘I am coming back to my native country’. He had lived in Ireland until the age of eleven although at that stage he was based in England. But it is fair to say that he was probably deeply heartened by the welcome he got here in Dublin.”

Just like the original event of 14th December 1909 the event of 14th December 2009 was also packed out and was a most successful evening.

Above can be seen several members of the extended Shackleton family in Ireland celebrating the centenary outside the same location. Jonathan Shackleton can be seen displaying a copy of ‘The Heart of the Antarctic’ signed on 14th December 1909 and the group includes John Shackleton and Noel Shackleton. Both John and Noel have been to South Georgia and Noel has completed the crossing of the island.




On Thursday 25th March the Dublin Port Company launched two new tugs costing six million euro each.

One of the tugs was named ‘Shackleton’ after Sir Ernest Shackleton from Athy, Co Kildare and the other was named ‘Beaufort’ after Sir Francis Beaufort from Navan, Co Meath – two of the most famous Irishmen in the history of seafaring.

The Minister of Transport Mr Noel Dempsey officiated at the launch and his daughter Aisling Dempsey smashed the customary bottle of champagne.

Jonathan Shackleton was a Guest of Honour at the launch and at the subsequent celebratory lunch. Several other members of the extended Shackleton family in Ireland were also invited including Noel Shackleton. Noel still lives and farms in Dunlavin, Co Wicklow less than twenty miles from the family home of Ernest Shackleton near Athy, Co Kildare.




Ernest Shackleton was born on 15 February 1974 at Kilkea House, near the town of Athy in Co. Kildare, Ireland. He was the son of Henry Shackleton and Henrietta Gavan.

On his father's side, the Shackletons had lived in County Kildare since the 1720s. On his mother's side, the Gavans and the Fitzmaurices had lived in Ireland since the twelfth century.

These excellent photographs (supplied courtesy of Neale Webb, who also furnished the introductory text) show the farmhouse where Shackleton was born as it is today. The front porch is a recent addition; but otherwise the exterior of the farmhouse is largely unchanged.

Ernest was born in the back bedroom on the left - the window is the one below the red guttering.

The glorious views of the surrounding countryside - including historic Kilkea Castle across the fields and distant hills - would be much the same as the views Shackleton drank in during his early childhood.

In 1880, when Ernest was six years old, the family moved to 35 Marlborough Road in Dublin, while his father studied Medicine at Trinity College, Dublin. A two-storey red-brick house with basement on the southern side of the city, it was part of a new development erected a decade earlier on outlying green belt near the (then) village of Donnybrook.

A plaque commemorating the Irish explorer has recent been put up outside no. 35, but the back garden would be much the same as when Ernest played there at the ages of six to ten with friends and younger members of the family. (On one occasion, Jonathan Shackleton tells us in his splendid book Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica, he famously dug a gaping hole in the garden and announced that he was digging his way to Australia.)

Ernest Shackleton never lost his deep love for Ireland and the people he grew up amongst - indeed on several occasions in later life he had no hesitation at all in describing himself as an Irishman. Naturally one of those was the occasion when, following his almost successful Nimrod expedition in 1907-9, he returned to his native land to give a lecture entitled "Nearest the South Pole" at 8 p.m. on Tuesday December 14th 1909 in the large hall of the National University, Earlsfort Terrace, under the chairmanship of the Lord Lieutenant, surveying the achievements of the 1907-9 trek in a talk full of interest and peppered with lively remarks, which drew much laughter and merriment.

Prior to that lecture he was entertained to lunch by members of the Corinthian Club in the Aberdeen Hall, Gresham Hotel. If Shackleton had now actually discovered the South Pole he, an Irishman whose achievements were compared to those of McLure (the discoverer of the North West Passage) and McClintock, had shown others the way there, and he would always be regarded as, at all events, the virtual discoverer of the South Pole. It was particularly appreciated that the proceeds raised by Shackleton's lecture were donated to Lady Dudley's Nursing Scheme.

A further lecture was given at the Round Room, the Rotunda on Tuesday 21 February 1911, an occasion on which he expressed the hope that Captain Scott's forthcoming expedition of that same year would achieve the objective he himself had not quite managed in 1909.

Shackleton's fame was later to be saddled with another murkier episode in Irish history, when it emerged in 1914 that Frank Shackleton, his younger brother by two years, was accused of association with the theft in July 1907 of the Irish crown jewels - a matter that was not fully resolved when the Endurance set sail, and the truth of which has to some extent not been fully resolved or ascertained yet.

However in 1914 began another adventure which wrote Shackleton's and Ireland's name in the annals of heroism, for when Shackleton embarked on his Endurance expedition he took with him two other Irishmen who were to prove vital to the group's survival. They were Tom Crean and Tim McCarthy, both of whom travelled aboard the James Caird. Three of the men in the small boat were Irish by birth, one was a New Zealander, one English, and one a Scot.

The predominance of Irish blood aboard the James Caird for that historic rescue journey was yet another thing which has given Irishmen everywhere tremendous pride in Shackleton and his achievements, as being indeed, from the outset, 'one of us'.

Indeed stories abound of Shackleton's Irishness, and his willingness to vaunt the fact. One senior English civil servant did not see that as entirely an advantage: "I happened to go out to India with Lieutenant Shackleton, a feckless Irishman...."

But others knew better. Louis Bernacchi, who travelled with Ernest on Scott's Discovery expedition, wrote that "Just as in his former ships, Shackleton was the life and soul of the Discovery. His mind was alert, his good humour inexhaustible.... In his deep Irish voice he could wheedle and coax; successfully, if he wanted something, which he generally did. ...Shackleton was the poet,...and in his wheedling Irish manner he kept me from my bunk reciting endless verses." In her life of Captain Scott (1977), Elspeth Huxley refers to "Shackleton's Irish volubility and his habit of quoting thick slabs of poetry." Wilson, she says "admired the Irishman's witty sparkling conversation and remarkable memory, from which an anecdote could be extracted at any moment to suit any occasion."

Shackleton's wife Emily (Lady Shackleton) took a more cautious view: "Although Ernest called himself Irish, one of (his sisters) once said to me, "We were never Irish until mother (Henrietta Shackleton) married into the family." The Dublin Evening Telegraph of 24 March 1909, in celebratory mood, had no such doubts: "South Pole almost reached by an Irishman," ran the headline. Many would echo that. Indeed from his earliest days in London, he was always known as 'Mike' or 'Micky' - like Paddy, a classic nickname for an Irish lad, and one by which he continued to be known to his friends in later life.

Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was equally forthright when praising Shackleton's achievement at the Royal Societies club in 1909, following the latter's return from his attempt on the South Pole: "Shackleton is an Irishman. As a fellow-Irishman I take pride at the thought. Think of what Ireland has done for the Empire. Finally think of that flag flapping down yonder on the snow filed, planted there by an Irishman."

Shackleton himself concurred: "I am an Irishman, he affirmed on many occasions. He allowed it to enter the official record - on the third attempt to rescue his men from Endurance, now marooned on Elephant Island, he and Tom Crean are both listed in the log of the Emma as Irish. And indeed, it has been said, he had "all the inherent characteristics of the Irishman - cheerful, optimistic, good-natured." To one astute observer, he "shamelessly played on his Irishness. Sometimes he almost seemed like a professional Irishman." His sponsor Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, another shrewd witness, alludes to his "reckless generosity" in these terms: "I cannot understand why his (presumably) thrifty Quaker forebears did not bestow that gift upon him to counteract the reckless generosity of his Irish ancestry."

Such national pride in one of her greatest sons led directly to the launching of the Irish South Aris expedition, of which Frank Nugent was joint leader, and which endeavoured in January 1997 to follow in the great man's footsteps. Although eventually foiled by a Force 10 storm which thrice capsized their boat, this hardy Irish team certainly succeeded in increasing consciousness of Shackleton around the world; while Frank Nugent went on in February l997 to complete a re-enaction of Shackleton's South Georgia traverse from King Haakon Bay to Stromness.

It was also the inspiration for Pat Falvey's 'Beyond Endurance' expeditions, which have given to so many an experience of the challenges of outdoor life and of the Antarctic, including McMurdo Sound and the dramatic island and mainland scenery of the Ross Sea.

Only recently, Pat's team made a celebratory return to Shackleton's 'Furthest South' (88° 23' South), reached by Shackleton, Wild, Marshall and Adams in January 1909. Pat and his men found an appropriate way of toasting their great Irish predecessor.

That raising of awareness of Shackleton worldwide is now also continued by the highly successful annual Shackleton Autumn School, which takes place at Athy, County Kildare, every October half-term, just a mile or two from the house where Sir Ernest Shackleton was born.



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