The 5th Annual Ernest Shackleton Autumn School


The Athy Heritage Centre-Museum has established the Ernest Shackleton Autumn School to celebrate the life and work of the great Antarctic explorer in the area of his birth.

Friday 28th October


Official Opening & Shackleton Memorial Lecture by Brian Keenan

7 pm in Athy Heritage Centre – Museum

Brian Keenan – Author
Brian Keenan is a writer and a poet, whose work includes the book, An Evil Cradling, an account of his four years of captivity in Beirut. His most recent book, Four Quarters of Light, recounts his Alaskan journey ‘through four geographical quarters from snowmelt in May to snowfall in September’. His other works include Between Extremes, written with John McCarthy, and a novel, Turlough.
Photo Copyright Tom Owen Edmunds



9.00pm Athy Community Library
‘Breathless’ by John MacKenna.
Performed by Mend & Makedo Theatre Company. Admission €6
Four Irish women go missing and subsequently, meet on a deserted roadside. They talk, argue, laugh and cry and share one shattering secret that has changed their lives forever. This new play from award winning novelist, documentary maker and playwright John MacKenna is a richly observed, darkly comic and ultimately poignant story.
Saturday 29th October – Lecture Series

Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
10.30 am ‘Legacy of the Frozen Beards – A Personal Commentary on the Books Written by or about Polar Explorers’
Joe O’Farrell
Admission €6
12.00 noon ‘Francis Leopold McClintock – Polar Explorer’
David Murphy
Admission €6
2.30 pm ‘Shackleton’s Island, South Georgia in the 21st Century’
David Tatham
Admission €6
4.00 pm ‘Heroic Age of Polar Exploration – the endeavor, the drama, and the people’
Michael Smith
Admission €6

Saturday 29th October – Music


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
9.00pm ‘Songs of the Sea – an evening of shanties and folk songs with Jimmy Crowley’.
Admission €10

Sunday 30th October – Lecture Series


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
10.30 am ‘An Illustrated Talk on an Irishwoman’s Journey to the Top of the World’s Highest Mountain’
Grania Willis
Admission €6
12.00 noon ‘Shackleton and the Norwegians’
Robert Burton
Admission €6
4.30 pm ‘The Shackleton Forum – a question and answer session with Alexandra Shackleton’
Admission €6

Sunday 30th October – Film


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
2.30 pm ‘Scott of the Antarctic’
Released in 1948, Scott of the Antarctic is a meticulous recreation of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed 1910-12 expedition to the South Pole, with John Mills as the stiff-upper-lipped hero, and a memorably bleak and desolate score by Ralph Vaughan Williams’.
Shown by kind permission of ‘CANAL+IMAGE UK LTD’
Admission €6

Sunday 30th October – Drama


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
9.00 pm ‘Breathless’ – A play by John MacKenna.
Performed by Mend & Makedo Theatre Company
Admission €6

Monday 31st October – Field Trip


10.00 am Assemble at the Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
A guided bus tour of ‘Shackleton country’ led by John MacKenna including Castledermot, Ballitore and Kilkea.
Tickets €5
Information on Contributers


Joe O’Farrell
A lifelong student of polar history, Joe has conducted research at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge. He has lectured on the heroic age of polar exploration and has contributed to several books and journals on the subject. He has visited Antarctica, followed in the footsteps of Shackleton to Elephant Island and South Georgia, and also in pursuit of one of his other great interests, has twice visited the remote island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Dr David Murphy
Dr David Murphy is a graduate of both UCD and TCD and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Since 1997 he has worked for the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, specialising in military and naval fgures and polar explorers. He is the author of Ireland and the Crimean War (2002) and The Arctic Fox: Francis Leopld McClintock (2004). He is currently compiling a gazetteer of Irish regiments for the Military Hertiage Trust of Ireland.
David Tatham
David Tatham spent part of his childhood in Co. Meath and his working life in the British diplomatic service, including a spell in Dublin. In the late 1980’s he was responsible for the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the Foreign Office and he spent three years in Stanley from 1992-5. He has a continuing interest in the South Atlantic and helped to found the Shackleton Scholarship Fund in 1995 and is currently chairman of the Fund. On his retirement, he founded the South Georgia Association. He is editing a dictionary of Falklands Biography (which will include South Georgia) for publication in 2007.
Michael Smith
Formerly business and political journalist with the Guardian and Observer, Michael is the best selling author of a number of books on polar exploration including biographies of Tom Crean, Captain Titus Oates and most recently ‘Polar Crusader’ a life of Sir James Wordie who served on polar expeditions with both Scott and Shackleton. Michael has also published a childrens version of Tom Crean’s life titled ‘The Iceman. His forthcoming book on the Irish Arctic explorer Francis Leopold Crozier will be published in 2006.
Grania Willis
Grania Willis became the first Irishwoman to summit Everest from the north side when she reached the top of the world’s highest mountain on June 5th 2005. A former international three-day event rider, Grania has been equestrian correspondent of The Irish Times since 1980. Two serious riding accidents resulted in life-threatening injuries and a broken back, bringing her competition career to a premature end. She started climbing in February 2004 with the aim of tackling Everest in the spring of 2005 in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation and The Friends of St. Luke’s Hospital. The following September she became the first Irishwoman to summit the Himalayan peak Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world. Grania achieved her ambition of conquering Mount Everest in June of this year.
Robert Burton
Robert Burton is a natural history writer who has been involved with South Georgia for many years. He visited the island for the first time in 1964 and returned in 1971 to study albatrosses and fur seals. From 1995 to 1998, he was director of the museum at Grytviken and started to collect information on the island’s history. This included researching the time that Shacketon spent on South Georgia. Bob now visits annually as a lecturer on cruise ships.
Alexandra Shackleton
Alexandra Shackleton is the only granddaughter of Ernest Shackleton. She speaks, writes and broadcasts on the subject of Shackleton and has been instrumental in furthering Shackleton historical research. She advised on the Channel 4 First Sight film drama ‘Shackleton’, starring Kenneth Branagh. She is the patron of several polar expeditions and life president of the James Caird Society.
John MacKenna
John MacKenna is a novelist, short-story writer and dramatist and co-author of Shackleton – An Irishman in Antarctica. He also wrote the one-woman show,” The Woman at The Window”, based on the life of Mary Shackleton, which premiered at last year’s Shackleton weekend.
Jimmy Crowley
Jimmy Crowley is an Irish traditional folk singer who holds a degree in Irish and folklore from University College Cork. He is a fine self-accompanist on bouzouki and mandola, who has formed musical associations with many of Ireland’s folk greats such as Micheál Ó Domhnaill of the Bothy Band, Joe Burke, Jackie Daly, Donal Lunny and Mick Maloney. He remains a unique interpreter of songs, both traditional and contemporary, with a special gift for communicating with his audience.
Kevin Kenny
Kevin Kenny discovered, in his childhood, that Sir Ernest Shackleton was a fellow countyman by birth. This was a ‘eureka moment’ which allowed him to combine his interests in exploration and local history. He has contributed widely to various forums of Antarctic interest and delivered a lecture to the inaugural Autumn School in 2001 on the Shackleton sledging harness. He has also delivered lectures on local and Irish involvement in Antarctic exploration to various history groups.
Dr. Michael Farry
Primary School teacher. Author of three books on Sligo. At present working as ICT Advisor in Navan Education Centre.
The Antarctic Adventurers
Antarctic Adventurers Mick, John and Kevin are a group of experienced historical re-enactors with life-long interest in the heroic period of the race for the South Pole and the exploration of Antarctica.

The Heritage Centre – Museum and its Shackleton festival team would like to thank our funding bodies and sponsors whose support makes this event possible. These include our main sponsor Fáilte Ireland, Athy Town Council, Kildare County Council, Athy Chamber of Commerce, Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, Athy, RAR Athy and The Irish Times. This project acknowledges the support of KELT and the LEADER Plus Programme which is funded by the Irish Government and part-funded by the European Union under the National Development Plan, 2000-2006.

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