A weekend in the Dingle, arrival and the Tom Crean Festival
It is a long way from Navan to the Dingle peninsula and we set out the next day after a very comfortable night at Vaughan and Truda's. Vaughan drove and we stopped for lunch in a bar, setting the trend of the holiday which contained a lot of eating and drinking!
I didn't take any photographs until we got on to the peninsula which sticks out into the sea at the furthest south west of Ireland. We stopped by Inch Beach which has great views across to the Ring of Kerry. The weather was fine with scudding cumulus in the sky and, in true Irish fashion, this was to be the best day of the weekend. Inch beach is enormous and the tide was out leaving miles of reflective sand. I was tempted by a couple of panoramas.
We finally arrived at the nub of the weekend, the Tom Crean festival. Tom Crean was a Polar explorer who had been part of Scott's fatal last journey to the South Pole on the Terra Nova expedition, and had also sailed with Shackleton on the Endeavour during that heroic expedition when the men were stranded on Elephant Island. Crean was one of the men who sailed with Shackleton back to South Georgia on the tiny open boat, the James Caird, through gales and blizzards for 17 days. When they arrived on South Georgia they ran ashore on the mountainous uninhabited south side of the island, having lost the rudder. Crean, along with Shackleton and Worsley climbed over the unknown mountains to reach the whaling station Stromness. The mountains had never been climbed before and were glaciated. The only tools they had were a carpenters adze, a length of rope and screws from the James Caird which they fixed into their boots to make crampons. A boat was sent back to rescue the other men on the south side of the island, but it took Shackleton 3 months and 4 attempts to get a boat back to Elephant island to pick up the remaining 22 men, who must have run out of hope by then. A replica of the James Caird can be seen outside the Polar Institute in Cambridge.
Crean had been born in Annascaul on the Dingle peninsula on 20th July 1877 and worked on his father's farm until the age of 15 when he ran away and joined the Navy. He was made a petty officer and eventually joined the torpedo ship, the Ringarooma, as part of the Royal Navy's New Zealand fleet based on South Island. He was demoted to able seaman after a misdemeanour. Scott's Discovery expedition started from the same port, and when an able seaman from Scott's ship deserted Crean applied for the job and was accepted. After the Discovery expedition Crean was invited to join Scott for the Terra Nova expedition. Crean was a part of the group of men that forged inland across the Beardmore Glacier, towards the Pole, but he was not part of the group that made the final thrust only to discover that Amundsen had made it there before them. On Crean's return across the glacier he went ahead of the other 2 men Edward Evans and Lashly, after Evans had become snow-blind and was weak with scurvy. Crean travelled across the ice for 18 hours with only 3 biscuits and a little chocolate to sustain him. He arrived at the base, Hut Point, in a state of near collapse and a party went back to rescue Evans and Lashly. A year later Crean was part of the group who found the bodies of Scott, Wilson, Edgar Evans and Bowers in their tent.
After the Shackleton Endurance expedition Crean went back into the Navy and married a local girl from Annascaul. Although Shackleton invited him to join a later expedition Crean declined and instead, after a fall where he lost some of his vision which gave him early retirement from the Navy, he opened a public house at Annascaul, the South Pole Inn. He had received 6 Polar medals, 3 on the Terra Nova expedition and 3 for the Endurance expedition, but on his retirement these were placed in a box and never mentioned again. He lived out the rest of his life as a publican until he died at the age of 61 from an infection after an appendectomy. He is buried in the local cemetery of Ballynacourty.
So you can now see where this is heading. Once a year the present encumbent of the South Pole Inn, who is no relation to Tom Crean, holds a festival to remember him. This year it consisted of a talk on the Friday by Michael Smith, who has written a couple of books about him, and then an endurance walk and some dancing on the Saturday and a shorter walk on the Sunday. Pretty low key.
We rocked up at the South Pole Inn late Friday afternoon and had a couple of drinks in the bar to the sound of the radio transmitting Radio Kerry, whose monster van was in the car park. We then went to Dingle and checked in to our B&B, before returning for the Michael Smith talk in the local gymnasium, which was fairly run down. The talk was scheduled for 7.00pm and arriving early at the pub we were told it was sure not to start till 8.00. So a couple of drinks later we walked down to the gym for 7.50 to find it had already commenced! We got our copy of the book signed by the author (we had bought it second hand and it was not in good condition). Michael Smith was pleased that it had been well thumbed, if not by us.
Here are few pictures of the pub, including one of the landlady, Eileen Percival, and a pint of Tom Crean lager (made locally) being drawn!