small boys have their boyhood heroes. A few of mine
were: a lady by the name of
Wendy Wood, Joshua Slocum,
the first man to sail alone around
the world, Captain Cook for his voyages of discovery, John Cobb of land and water speed record
fame, Malcolm Campbell with his Bluebird, Amy Johnson
and Jim Mollison both long
distance aviation pioneers, Alexander Selkirk born in
the village of Largo, five miles from
Earlsferry, the real Robinson
Crusoe, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce,
Scottish freedom fighters. Then there was Ernest
Shackleton. He was my number
Next door to The Cross, the
house in Earlsferry in which I was born,
lived a lady by the name of Mrs.
McNeish and her daughter
Nancy. As I grew up and got old enough to get to know
McNeish told me about
her husband Harry McNeish.
Harry McNeish was Shackleton's
ships carpenter aboard the Endurance on
Shackleton's epic voyage to
the Antarctic. She told me from first hand information
from her husband Harry the story of
Shackleton's voyage and his leadership in the ill
fated expedition to the Antarctic that began in 1914 that should have cost
all of them their lives. The Endurance was crushed and
sunk by the ice. Shackleton
by his incredible fortitude, inspiration and leadership, after
almost two years of
unbelievable hardship, brought all twenty eight, which
included himself, who had set
out on the voyage, safely home. The original crew was
composed of Shackleton, 26
other crew men and 1 stowaway. 28 in all.
Harry McNeish was
also one of the hand picked crew of the
ship's small, 22 foot long, open boat, the James
Caird in which
Shackleton made the 800 mile
voyage to South Georgia Island, a tiny speck in the
south Atlantic Ocean. This voyage in itself is an
incredible story. Mrs. McNeish told me
that some years after the voyage her husband Harry went
to New Zealand and never came back. He left behind
all of his carpenter tools in a big wooden box. Mrs.
McNeish let me handle his
but I have no idea what became of them.
final resting place in Karori Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand
Harry McNeish, Died 24th September 1930.
A member of
the Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917.
He also accompanied Shackleton
on his epic open boat journey
Elephant Island to South Georgia.
Erected by N. Z. Antarctic Society.
A number of books have been
written about the Endurance and
Shackleton including one called Endurance,
Voyage, by the author Alfred Lansing. For those who
haven't read it, I thoroughly recommend it.
The book comes very close to
McNeish told the story to me
except for the very last page that tells of
Shackleton's last day and
how he died. The book relates that on a return voyage to
the Antarctic Shackleton
suffered a massive heart attack and died in his cabin.
McNeish told it to me, he
did die in his cabin but his death wasn't the result of a