November 03, 2012 GMT
Return To The South Pole

The last time I was here in Annascaul, I didn't quite find the house where Tom Crean was born. I found what I thought was the location, but the track was impassable with churned-up mud. My single pair of shoes had to last me the rest of the visit and RyanAir back to Gatwick.
Substantial wellington boots were needed.
On this visit I still had no boots, but Mike was with me.

He's been here before, and navigated us to the same spot that I closed in on last year.
The path was OK and we found the house.


But is this the house where Tom Crean was born?

There are doubts.
He was born in 1877. Some say that this house doesn't look that old.

Just before reaching the house we found this, down a slope on the other side of the track:

Pretty well inaccessible.

It looks more likely to have been here in 1877. And it's near a stream, which some research suggests was the case.
So this could be a project for another time. Is this the house where Crean was born and brought up?

Mike and I thought we'd now do a mini re-enactment.
In 1893 Crean walked from here to a small Royal Navy base at Minard Castle in Dingle Bay. There he embarked his first ship and started his navy career.
Mike's been there before, but was driven by a local and couldn't be sure of the way. So we guessed.
Just find a lane going south, and downhill as well. It took a couple of goes and then we found it.

A small piece of Dingle Bay with a little slipway tucked over to the right.


Could this winch be 120 years old?

Probably not, but never mind.
There's a sizeable house just above this slipway and below Minard Castle, where the owner confirmed that this is the Minard Inlet recorded in the Royal Navy papers.



Well, we had found this landmark, so then it was off for another re-enactment. Maybe the most important one.
A drink in the South Pole Inn in Annascaul. The pub that Tom Crean built.


Where there was a fire roaring.


And Hallowe'en paraphenalia competing for space with all the Antarctic memorabilia.

This place is stuffed full with photos, memorabilia and ephemera. As well as Guinness and Tom Crean 18/35 Lager as well.
That's to signify the 35 miles Tom Crean walked in 18 hours across the ice, with no life support or water, to get help for Teddy Evans who had completely collapsed with scurvy. Crean had already marched 1,400 miles with the support party before his final push.

A little look around:

Edward Wilson watercolours over a corner of the bar.
(A neat video about Wilson is here)

And more above the front bar

Photos by Ponting and others in the side bar.

Tom Crean's 'ish' Clock. No minute-hand required.

This pub really is a place of pilgrimage for anyone caught by the 'Antarctic bug'.
The landlord, Gary, related an anecdote from a few weeks ago.
"Two visitors had been in so far that day, looked around, had a beer and the usual eager chat. Later, another visitor arrived. We got chatting about the pub and Tom Crean, when he said he'd just returned from the actual South Pole. And proudly reckoned that he'd be the only visitor that had done that.
"Unfortunately I had to tell him he was the third that day!"

Gary invited us to the Holy of Holies. The upstairs room.


Part of which, where the fireplace is, used to be Tom Crean's bedroom. Before it was all opened up into a big function room.

Outside, there was a photo-pilgrimage to be made, to the man himself.



Back inside, author Mike had a few copies of his book for Gary to put behind the bar.

The S.S. Terra Nova (1884-1943)

Later on we were lucky enough to have a pleasant chat with the present owner of the pub, Tom Kennedy. Crean's first biography was published in 2000 and since then a number of others have appeared, published mainly in Ireland where his biographies sell in greater numbers.
We discussed a couple of these with Tom, and a few ideas about unexplored areas of Crean's life sprung up. Who knows?

During our couple of days in Annascaul we fitted in a side trip to Dingle, which coincided with plenty of Irish rain and an Irish rainbow over the marina.


We departed Annascaul learning that a major event is in the planning stage for next year, so we'll definitely be back for that.
And there'll be another Shackleton Autumn School as well. So just for good measure we stayed a final night in Athy and visited once again that most Irish of Irish pubs, O'Brien's.

O'Brien's frontage has been untouched for 130 years. So there's a model of it next to a page of Shackleton cuttings, in the refreshment room behind the grocery.

Now we look forward to Dublin Airport for our return home, and '.... honour and recognition in case of success.'

Posted by Ken Thomas at November 03, 2012 08:47 PM GMT

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