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All 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 one hero. 

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 them Mrs. 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 tools  but I have no idea what became of them.

Harry McNeish's 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 from

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, Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by the author Alfred Lansing.  For those who haven't read it, I thoroughly recommend it.

The book comes very close to how Mrs. 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.

As Mrs. McNeish told it to me, he did die in his cabin but his death wasn't the result of a heart attack.