Born close to the village of Kilkea, between Castledermot and Athy, in the south of County Kildare in 1874, Ernest Shackleton is renowned for his courage, his commitment to the welfare of his comrades and his immense contribution to exploration and geographical discovery. The Shackleton family first came to south Kildare in the early years of the eighteenth century. Ernest’s Quaker forefather, Abraham Shackleton, established a multi-denominational school in the village of Ballitore. This school was to educate such notable figures as Napper Tandy, Edmund Burke, Cardinal Paul Cullen and Shackleton’s great aunt, the Quaker writer, Mary Leadbeater. Apart from their involvement in education, the extended family was also deeply involved in the business and farming life of south Kildare.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, the great polar explorer Coming from an Anglo-Irish background with a strong Quaker heritage he is renowned for his courage, extraordinary leadership skills and his contribution to geographical discovery during the era of Antarctic exploration in the early years of the 20th Century.
Having gone to sea as a teenager, Shackleton joined Captain Scott’s Discovery expedition 1901 – 1904 and went on to lead three of his own expeditions to the Antarctic. The Endurance 1914 – 1916 expedition has become one of the greatest epics of human survival. While Shackleton did not achieve his ambition to cross the Antarctic he has become famous for his triumphs of honesty and humanitarianism. He died in 1922 in South Georgia, on his fourth expedition to the Antarctic in the ship named Quest – on his wife’s instructions – was buried there.
Athy Heritage Centre-Museum has the only permanent exhibition anywhere devoted to Shackleton. Highlights include an original sledge and harness from his Antarctic expeditions, a 15-foot model of Shackleton’s ship Endurance, an exhibition of unique Shackleton family photographs and an audio visual display featuring Frank Hurley’s original film footage of the Endurance expedition. The Shackleton Autumn School was established to commemorate the explorer in the county of his birth. It provides a forum for the discussion of polar exploration and the presentation of artistic work relevant to Shackleton and polar exploration.