This image you see here is the last known photograph taken of Tom Crean.
84 years ago to this day, the death of Tom Crean, Ireland’s unheralded hero, occurred in County Cork
In a sad twist of fate, when his own hour of need arrived, there was no one available with the life-saving skills he himself had displayed on many occasions.
Tom Crean was suffering from a burst appendix and if treated quickly, it would have been a routine procedure that patients could recover from relatively quickly without any long-term effects, however, the danger of contracting peritonitis, if a burst appendix isn’t attended to quickly, can prove fatal.
No doctor capable of undertaking the operation was available in the Tralee hospital he attended and so he was transferred, via ambulance, in a 70-mile journey to Cork’s Bon Secours hospital where finally his appendix was removed.
Because the operation had been delayed, an infection had developed, and after a week in the hospital, the unheralded hero of three major Antarctic expeditions passed away.
Sadly, he’d contracted peritonitis. His death certificate records that he died of Acute Suppurative Appendicitis and Toxaemia.
Tom Crean’s Funeral
The following day his funeral was the largest Annascaul had ever witnessed as his family, neighbours, friends and colleagues bade farewell to the Irish Giant.
He was laid to rest in Ballinacourty cemetery, not far from his Gortacurraun birthplace, in a family tomb he himself had built. The inscription on the side of his tomb read “Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea” and atop of the tomb lay a ceramic bowl of flowers sent by Edward Evans, the man whose life he’d saved some 26 years earlier.
Evans, who was unable to attend, had arranged by telegraph, upon hearing the sad news, for the floral tribute to be sent through Crean’s former Terra Nova colleague, Robert Forde.
It sits there still today, a timeless reminder of the debt of gratitude owed to a man who, on a number of documented occasions, had put the lives of others above his own.
Lieutenant Teddy Evans, who by the time of Crean’s death had been promoted to Admiral Mountevans, owed his life to the Kerryman and he never forgot the historic solo march Crean undertook to save his life, expressing a love for the Irish giant.
Tom Crean, who covered more miles on Antarctica than either of his expedition commanders, Scott and Shackleton, had toiled long hours to build his family tomb that lies close to his Annascaul birthplace and he was laid to rest still wearing, around his neck, the holy scapular that had brought him comfort throughout his life.
His strong faith, it seems, had seen him through a host of perilous and historic journeys most ordinary humans could not have survived.
Discover Tom Crean’s Story Revealed As Never Before
To learn more about this incredible man I’ve written a fully-referenced account that in March 2021 gave rise to substantial revisions to Crean’s story in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.
The book addresses a number of inaccuracies previously written about him and it reveals his incredible life with events and new stories that have never before been published.
All formats of the third edition of the biography ‘Crean – The Extraordinary Life of an Irish Hero’, including a hardcover version and an audiobook, are available via all major online retailers
For children, aged 6-10 years-old, it was important for me to chronicle Tom Crean’s story for the younger generation. The book ‘Tom The Mighty Explorer’, is based on the research I undertook for the grown-ups biography. Like the adult version, it’s generating excellent reviews from those who’ve read the print version or who have listened to the audiobook. Available via all major online booksellers, you can discover more about where to order the books here.
The Continuing Campaign To Honour Tom Crean
After 11 years campaigning, a growing band of supporters from all over the world, stii provide their support for the call for Ireland to honour Crean and to name the planned new Irish Navy flagship in his honour. This, despite the fact that we already achieved state recognition for Crean in January 2021 when Ireland finally honoured Tom Crean in the shape of a scientific vessel to be named RV Tom Crean thanks to a signatory of our petition.
This second opportunity could occur in the shape of a Navy flagship, still in the planning stages. It will be the Multi-Role flagship with full hospital facilities to be utilised for humanitarian purposes and so would fit the profile of Tom Crean like a glove. I have confirmation from the Irish Defence Minister’s office that Tom Crean’s name will be considered when construction of the vessel gets underway. So, do please continue to share a link to the petition – the louder our voice will be to the decision makers the more likely they will hear us.
Tom Crean Colourisation by Matt Loughrey – My Colorful Past