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Shackleton’s rival for Tom Crean’s services

Shackleton's rival for Tom Crean's services Tom Crean BookIn 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton had a rival for Tom Crean’s services as the leader of another proposed expedition to Antarctica had plans to commence at the same time as Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. Staking his claim for Crean, Joseph Foster Stackhouse, who’d announced his plans in October 1913, said:

“One of the finest feats in Scott’s Expedition was Crean’s walk of thirty-five miles to get help for Commander Evans. He walked along all those miles at a stretch, though ten miles of such a walk would have sent hundreds of men clean out of their minds. But Crean is an Irishman with an incorrigible sense of humour and it was this that carried him through. There should be an Irishman in every expedition.”

Stackhouse’ plans would have no crossover with Shackleton’s expedition and this appeared to have been thrashed out in a meeting between the two men.

It’s likely also, that at that meeting, a certain Tom Crean was on the agenda as both men wanted to recruit the services of the Kerryman who’d earned huge admiration among the polar community after his life-saving march to save the life of Edward Evans. Both leaders were particularly keen to have Crean accompany them and in today’s terms, we could say that Tom Crean was ‘headhunted’.

Stackhouse’s expedition, it was proposed, would depart on August 1st 1914 and a number of former members of Scott’s Terra Nova expedition would be recruited for the mission. On February 3rd 1914, Tom Crean, it was reported: “would probably be the Boatswain”  By February 18th 1914, Crean’s inclusion as Boatswain for the expedition was confirmed. The ship Stackhouse had secured for the expedition was RRS Discovery, a vessel Crean was familiar with having tread her decks on his maiden expedition to Antarctica in 1901. It was later reported, in April 1914, that the expedition was postponed until later in the year.

Because of the postponement and perhaps with an assurance that he would be among Shackleton’s Antarctic crossing party, Crean chose to accompany Shackleton on Endurance by which time Foster Stackhouse’s plans had changed to allow for a seven-year expedition commencing in 1915.

Tragically, before the Stackhouse expedition could get underway he became a victim of the sinking of the Lusitania on 7th May 1915 and his own story of epic bravery whilst the ship went down is detailed in the book.

A Quaker graveyard in Cobh, County Cork, is the final resting place of this brave man.

To read Tom Crean’s full story, the book can be purchased at the following link.

Biography of Tom Crean – Crean – The Extraordinary Life of an Irish Hero