SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
Thanks to the interest of the Eastbourne Society, a blue plaque was placed on Ernest and Emily Shackleton's House, 14 Milnthorpe Road, Eastbourne, in 1994, coinciding almost exactly with the date of the formation of the James Caird Society.
'In 1993, following a suggestion to Eastbourne Borough Council by Eastbourne Civic Society (now Eastbourne Society), a joint project was set up to erect blue plaques on buildings associated with famous people. The principles for selection were broadly those already established by English Heritage for such plaques in London.
'The first was erected in November 1994 in Milnthorpe Road at the former home of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer. The project is on-going, but now solely in the hands of the Eastbourne Society. Thus far, the following plaques under the above scheme are in position. Mabel Lucie Atwell and Eric Ravilious (artists), Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Cyril Connolly, George Orwell and Eric Farnol (writers), Cyril Connolly (author and critic), Cecil Beaton (photographer), Gavin Maxwell (natualist), Henry Longhurst (journalist and MP). Also listed are several 'private' Plaques: 'The radio star Charlie Chester was born Cecil Victor Manser, the son a local cinema sign-painter who is listed in 1914 at 5 Tideswell Road. An iron silhouette of comedian Tommy Cooper, complete with characteristic fez and wand, can be seen at what was his weekend cottage in Motcombe Lane. The biologist Professor Thomas Huxley took up residence in Staveley Road in 1890. Frederick Soddy, the eminent radio chemist and Nobel prizewinner, was born at 6 Bolton Road and educated at Eastbourne College. (His larger plaque can be seen on School House in Blackwater Road).'
However interest in Sir Ernest Shackleton in Eastbourne, his home time in his last years, is as yet only sporadic, according to a report in the local paper, the Argus. Despite the 80th anniversary of his death, which fell in 2002, nothing had been planned in Eastbourne to stir local interest in the Shackleton phenomenon, apart from a modest display in Meads parish hall. Lionel Jones, chairman of Eastbourne Local History Society, said: "As far as I am concerned we have not been contacted or approached by anybody to do anything. Eastbourne is not very good on its history. If you can interest young people in local history they might take more pride in their town and stop damaging it so much."
Richard Callaghan, curator of Eastbourne museums, said: "He spent some time in Eastbourne but we don't have any display on him. We are tied by what we have got in the collection. Off the top of my head I don't think we have got anything relating to Shackleton."
But his story has fascinated John and Jane Pettigrew, some of the current occupants of 14 Milnthorpe Road, which has now been converted into flats. Jane said: "I have come across a letter in which Shackleton wrote it was the dearest little house he had ever lived in. Although Ernest Shackleton was a remarkable man, I believe behind every man there is a woman and Lady [Emily] Shackleton was that woman in this case. She really did hold the fort."
It is to be hoped that Eastbourne will soon discover the worth and value of one of its most famous and bravest sons.