The 6th 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 27th October

Official Opening & Shackleton Memorial Lecture by Senator David Norris


7 pm in Athy Heritage Centre – Museum

David Norris
A member of the Irish Senate, a distinguished Joycean scholar and Academic, David Norris is one of the most significant figures in Irish political and cultural life today. He has shown outstanding courage as a human rights campaigner.




9.00pm The Castle Inn, Athy
“The Boss – A life told in story and song” – Cliff Wedgbury
A one hour performance piece recently devised by guitarist, singer/songwriter and performance poet Cliff Wedgbury, featuring the Antarctic voyages undertaken by Ernest Shackleton, in the company of Scott, Wild, Worsley and Crean. The performance includes his own compositions, ‘The Ballad of Ernest Shackleton’ and ‘The Ballad of Tom Crean’.
Admission €5
Saturday 28th October – Lecture Series

Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
10.30 am “Return to South Georgia”
Seamus McCann
Admission €5
12.00 noon “The Ross Sea Party – the harrowing story of the Ross Sea Party – the forgotten story of Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition”
Joe O’Farrell
Admission €5
2.30 pm “Shackleton’s Way – the making of a bestseller”
Margot Morrell
Admission €5
4.00 pm “Northabout – Polar Circumnavigation”
Jarlath Cunnane
Admission €5

Saturday 28th October – Music & Storytelling


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
3.00pm “The Boss – A life told in story and song” (Children’s Version) – Cliff Wedgbury
Admission €2 (Limited seating)

Saturday 28th October – Dinner


Carlton Abbey Hotel, Athy
Inaugural Autumn School Dinner
Admission €30.00

Sunday 29th October – Lecture Series


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum


10.30 am “Antarctic Sites outside the Antarctic – memorials, statues, houses, graves and the occasional pub”
Robert Stephenson
Admission €5
12.00 noon “Attainment of the North Pole, a historical account”
Dr. Bob Headland
Admission €5
4.30pm Open Forum
Admission Free

Sunday 29th October – Film


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
2.30pm “With Byrd at the South Pole”
Released in 1936 this is an Oscar winning documentary of the U.S. Navy Rear- Admiral Byrd’s journey to the Antarctic together with his famous first flight over the South Pole.
Admission €6

Sunday 29th October – Drama


Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
9.00pm “A Father for my Son”
Based on the life of Captain Scott’s wife Kathleen by Jenny Coverak and Robert Edwards performed by Jenny Coverak.
Admission €6

Monday 30th October – Field Trip


Assemble at the Athy Heritage Centre – Museum
10.00 am Bus tour to Shackleton country.
A visit to Ballitore and the home of Mary Shackleton-Leadbeater, writer and ancestor of Ernest Shackleton, the Quaker Meeting House and the Shaker Store where Colm Walsh will launch the Future Folk Archive for County Kildare. Refreshments available in the Shaker Store tea-rooms. Led by John MacKenna.
Tickets €5
Information on Contributers


He joined the British Antarctic Survey in 1975 and went to South Georgia to study elephant seals. He was also involved in a project looking at the recovery of the Antarctic fur seal population from former over-exploitation between 1975 and 1978. He returned to Cambridge to write up the results of the work and completed his PhD. He made four trips to the Antarctic, the last one being in the 1986/’87 season.
A lifelong student of polar history, and a frequent researcher at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, Joe O’Farrell has lectured on the heroic age of polar exploration and has contributed to several books and journals on the subject. He has visited Antarctica, following in the footsteps of Shackleton to Elephant Island and South Georgia, and also in pursuit of his other great interests, has twice visited the remote island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean. A previous speaker at the Shackleton Autumn School, Joe has been invited back to reprise the public lecture he gave on “The Ross Sea Party” at The National Museum of Ireland in 2005.
With a long and distinguished career in America working in financial services and consulting, she is the acclaimed co-author with Stephanie Capparel, of the book “Shackleton’s Way”. The book was a huge international success and has been published in over 14 languages. The book examines the success of Shackleton’s leadership skills and draws on it to give some insights into the nature of man management and leadership success.
Retired construction manager, boat builder and adventurer he was the recipient of the prestigious Blue Water Medal from the Cruising Club of America in 2006. The award was in recognition of his achievements as skipper and builder of the Irish Yacht, Northabout which completed the first east to west polar circumnavigation in October 2002. He has sailed throughout the North Atlantic and Mediterranean and built and sailed the ‘Tom Crean’, the replica of Shackleton’s James Caird used in the South Aris expedition.
Co-ordinator of the acclaimed Antarctic Circle website, his interest in the Antarctic goes back to his student days at Dartmouth College. Credited with the fi nest Antarctic collection in private hands he has contributed to numerous exhibitions and publications on Antarctica. Currently he is working on a history of Ross Island and McMurdo Station. His recent research included his gazette of Low Latitude Antarctic sites, sites outside the Antarctic with particular links to the continent.
Recently retired as the archivist and curator of the Scott Polar Research Institute of the University of Cambridge, he is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Institute. His specialities are the history and geography of both polar regions. He has spent two winters in South Georgia and voyaged to the region several times during the last 20 years. His involvement with the Antarctic Heritage Trust has concerned the preservation of the historical huts and other sites associated with exploration and discovery in the Antarctic. He is currently preparing for publication a revised edition of his pioneering book “Chronological List of Antarctic Expeditions and Related Historical Events”.
John became interested in Shackleton’s 1914-16 Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition having read Alfred Lansing’s book “Endurance”. Over the past seven years he has researched the lives of all 28 men of the Endurance Expedition. He has met and corresponded with most of the remaining sons and daughters of the Expedition members. His ongoing work “The Endurance Obituaries” gives a detailed insight into the lives of each man, before, during and after the expedition ended. John has been consulted by a number of authors and magazines and part of his work can be found in a number of websites including that of HMS Endurance, the Royal Navy ice patrol ship. He hopes to eventually publish his work in full.
London born and now a long term resident of Cork, poet, playwright, performance artist and broadcaster he was fi rst inspired by the Antarctic Expeditions when as a ten year old schoolboy he visited the research ship R.S.S Discovery docked in London in 1956. He has written and released CD’s of Antarctic ballads inspired by Scott, Shackleton, Crean among others.
Trained as an actress at the world famous Bristol Old Vic, she is a frequent presence on both stage and radio. Frustrated at the lack of prominence of Women in history she was inspired by the story of Kathleen Scott, sculptor, artist, mother, and widow of Captain Robert Scott. Writing with Robert Edwards she has produced a one woman play based on Kathleen’s life. The play has been performed to much acclaim all over the world, including the Antarctic.
Playwright whose book on Shackleton published in 2003 gave a new insight into the family background of one of Kildare’s most famous sons.
Antarctic adventures, Mick, John and Kevin are a group of British re-enactors who specialise in re-creating the world of Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen. They perform regularly for museums and English Heritage. They will recreate a three man sledging party of the 1901-1913 period with clothing, sledges and equipment of the type employed by Scott and Shackleton.

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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