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Call for Government to Purchase Medal Awarded to Ernest Shackleton Ahead of Events to Mark 150th Anniversary of Explorer’s Birth

10th February 2024
A studio portrait of Irish polar explorer Ernest Shackleton
A studio portrait of Irish polar explorer Ernest Shackleton

Celebrations are planned for Dublin and London for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Irish Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton on Thursday (15 February).

Born in Co Kildare, Shackleton led three expeditions to the icy regions of the South Pole, most famously on board his ship the Endurance. He was one of the most renowned explorers of the age of exploration.

He was awarded the Polar Medal by King Edward VII for his expeditions and to mark his anniversary, the Irish Government is now being urged to purchase the medal for display.

“If this medal is sold to a private collector it will disappear,” said Kevin Kenny of the Shackleton Museum in Athy.

“But its real value is as an inspiring and historic artifact and the best place for this is on public display, with the Shackleton Museum being its natural home. It’s just a matter of the Irish State making the small investment needed.”

The coming week will see several events to mark the anniversary. On Wednesday (14 February), a dinner will be held in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, hosted jointly by the Atlantic Youth Trust and Explorers Club Ireland and the UK.

Speakers include Antarctic explorer and climber Pat Falvey, diver Rory Golden and round-the-world sailor Enda O’Coineen. Tickets priced €85 are available form Eventbrite.

Golden, who has dived on the Titanic and is a member of the Explorers Club, said: “Ernest Shackleton was the epitome of vision, courage and leadership. This is represented by or chapter of the Explorers Club logo of the James Caird boat from the Endurance being hauled ashore on South Georgia after its epic 17-day journey from Elephant Island. His 150th anniversary will hopefully inspire the next generation of scientists and adventurers in a new age of discovery.”

On Thursday, Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Martin Fraser will host a reception in the Irish Embassy in London. Later, a memorial stone to Sir Ernest Shackleton will be dedicated at Westminster Abbey, close to memorials for other renowned explorers Captain James Cook and Sir Francis Chichester.

Ambassador Fraser is hosting the event on behalf of the Atlantic Youth Trust, in their work to have Shackleton be recognised as a great Irish explorer and as an example and motivator for future generations, which is the charity’s mission.

The Shackleton medal was one of many international honours bestowed on the explorer. It has three clasps to mark his three expeditions to the South Pole.

His ship, the Endurance, which sank when crushed by the ice in 1915, was found in the Weddell Sea two years ago — 100 years to the day after the explorer’s funeral on 5 March 1922.

Chairman of the Atlantic Youth Trust, Enda O’Coineen said that Shackleton was very much an Irish explorer and every effort needed to be made to reclaim his legacy fully.

“This medal and other artefacts need to be returned,” he said. Team

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