A project, enabled by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to explore local links to the Endurance expedition and the ways in which the experiences of the men – and their knowledge of Antarctica – came to be shared, understood, and then inspire people across the United Kingdom.
Local reminiscences from across the UK will be posted during the tour of the exhibition.
Enduring Eye Exhibition, Birmingham
Reminiscences and connections from Birmingham and the West Midlands
Copy of Shackleton's 'South' presented to Birmingham-based Teacher and Inventor Frederick Albert Rolan (1867-1955)
Information kindly supplied by F.A. Rolan's granddaughter, Ann Turner
This second edition of the 'South: The Story of the 1914-1917 Expedition' dated December 1919 (in very good condition) belonged to Ann Turner's grandfather Mr F.A.Rolan, who was an evening class lecturer between 1904 – 1921 at the Birmingham Municipal Technical College. The book was given to him in December 1919 as a mark of esteem from his fellow lecturers. (Inscribed inside on the top image). 'South: The Story of the 1914-1917 Expedition' was Shackleton's popular first-hand account of the crews famed survival story who escaped the perils of the Antarctic ice against all odds.
The West Midland individuals integral to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1916
Historic local links with Birmingham range from the financial support provided by a wealthy local industrialist, to the selection by Shackleton of a locally born seaman, for his strength, and a medical doctor, educated in the city, for his surgical experience at sea, to join the 28-man expedition party. Profiles of each of these figures are contained below.
Frank 'Dudley' Docker: A British Industrialist and major benefactor to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1916
In the planning for the expedition, local Birmingham businessman Frank Dudley Docker donated £10,000 (c. £430,000 in today’s money) to Shackleton for the expedition – one of the boats (pictured below) was named after him. Born in Smethwick, Birmingham, Docker was one of England’s foremost industrialists.
Lantern slide, "The ‘Dudley Docker’ arriving at Elephant Island, 15 April 1915", owned by Reginald James, photograph by Frank Hurley (S0026395)
The Docker family pursued their interest in the pursuit of geographical knowledge following his involvement with the expedition, Docker’s son Bernard became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in November 1921 and regularly attended meetings of the Society when he was in London.
The passage below is taken from the Industrialist's Obituary from the ‘Birmingham Mail’ Monday 10th July 1944
Mr F. Dudley Docker – Death of Noted Industrialist
“The career of Mr Frank Dudley Docker whose death took place at Amersham, Bucks, on Saturday, was one of the romances of the commercial and financial world…his first venture was the foundation in conjunction with his brothers, William and Ludford, of the firm Docker Brothers, paint and varnish manufacturers, in Alcock Street, Birmingham. It was in connection with railway carriage and wagon building, however, that he achieved his greatest success…The Federation of British Industry also owed its foundation to him…Mr Dudley Docker was a great lover of sport. He played for Warwickshire County Cricket Club, of which he was a life-long supporter and patron.”
Seaman John William Vincent (1879-1941)
Seaman John Vincent was born in Birmingham and ran away to sea at the age of 14, working in the harsh conditions on fishing trawlers, sailing out of Hull, before serving as a private in the Royal Marines on board H.M.S. Cambridge out of Devonport. He was an exceptionally strong figure and as a result was selected by Shackleton for the arduous boat journey on the ‘James Caird’ from Elephant Island to South Georgia.
“I finally selected McNeish, McCarthy, and Vincent in addition to Worsley and Crean. The crew seemed a strong one, and as I looked at the men I felt confidence increasing.”
From Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account of the expedition ‘South’
Following his return he served in the Merchant Navy during World War One and survived being torpedoed on a ship in the Mediterranean. After the war he became a trawler skipper fishing off Bear Island (Bjørnøya, the southernmost island of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago), and Spitzbergen. In World War Two he skippered an armed trawler, Alfredian, operating in the North Sea and off the East Coast of Britain.
The Vincent Islands, (Latitude: 5409S, Longitude: 03716W) – a small group of islands off King Haakon Bay on the south side of South Georgia – were named after him by the UK-APC in the 1950s.
Dr James Archibald McIlroy (1879-1968)
Portrait photograph of James A. McIlroy by Frank Hurley (1914-16) (S0014336)
McIlroy’s family moved from Ireland to Kings Norton, Birmingham where his father was a shopkeeper. He was educated at Camp Hill Grammar School, Birmingham and went on to study medicine at Birmingham University. He became House Surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the city. The wanderlust took him travelling as a ship’s Surgeon with the P&O Company where he served in the Middle and Far East, in Japan, Egypt and the East Indies before being selected for his extensive experience at sea by Shackleton. Serving in World War One, he was invalided out following the Battle of Ypres and returned after the war to P&O becoming the company’s Chief Surgeon. At Shackleton’s request McIlroy joined what would be ‘the Boss’s’ final expedition to Antarctica, ‘The Quest’ (1921-22). On his return, Dr McIlroy continued his surgical career at P&O well into his seventies.
McIlroy Peak, rising to 745 m W of Husvik Harbor and 0.8 mi S of Mount Barren, South Georgia was named in his honour in 1990 by the UK-APC.
‘Quest' Expedition members and their signatures, May 1922
Attached to the photograph is a piece of paper with the signatures of the crew, including Dr. James McIlroy. (S0019115)
Foods and Flavours of Antarctic Voyages- Connections to West Midland production
Fantasies about unobtainable meals became a sport amongst the men, as supplies dwindled:
“A census was taken, each man being asked to state just what he would like to eat at that moment if he were allowed to have anything that he wanted. All, with but one exception, desired a suet pudding of some sort the "duff" beloved of sailors. Macklin asked for many returns of scrambled eggs on hot buttered toast. Several voted for "a prodigious Devonshire dumpling," while Wild wished for "any old dumpling so long as it was a large one." The craving for carbohydrates, such as flour and sugar, and for fats was very real. Marston had with him a small penny cookery book. From this he would read out one recipe each night, so as to make them last. This would be discussed very seriously, and alterations and improvements suggested, and then they would turn into their bags to dream of wonderful meals that they could never reach. The following conversation was recorded in one diary:
"WILD: Do you like doughnuts?'
"WILD: Very easily made, too. I like them cold with a little jam.'
"McILROY: Not bad; but how about a huge omelette?'
"WILD: Fine!' (with a deep sigh).”
From Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account of the expedition ‘South’.
However, food products local to Birmingham were included in the original supplies taken on board the ‘Endurance’, including Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and Cadbury’s cocoa.
Later Bovril, which the men on Elephant Island had depended on to flavour penguin meat, was also manufactured in the area; Burton-on-Trent to be exact from 1924 onwards. As the advertisements below point out, the product was favoured on these Antarctic expeditions due to its lightweight and nutritious properties.
Advert from the Geographical Journal (GJ) March 1905
Advert from the Geographical Journal (GJ) January 1914
Advert from the Geographical Journal (GJ) January 1902
Enduring Eye Exhibition, Manchester
Reminiscences and connections from Manchester and the North-west
Reginald James's talk at Manchester High School for Girls, 1920
13 June 2016
Information kindly supplied by Dr. Christine Joy, Manchester High School for Girls Archive
A page from the Manchester High School for Girls School Magazine from May 1920, reporting on a lecture given by Reginald James to the school's Scientific Society on "Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition", illustrated with lantern slides. The magazine reported "a record attendance of 200".
A selection of James’s slides used during his talks in Manchester, including slides with his own illustrations (as shown below), were displayed in the Special Collections Exhibition during the tour of the Enduring Eye exhibition at Manchester Central Library, 9 April to 11 June 2016. The slides were kindly donated to the Collections of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) by his family in 2015.
Enduring Eye visitor's watch connection to the Aurora
4 June 2016
Information kindly supplied by visitor to the Enduring Eye exhibition, Manchester
A visitor to the Enduring Eye exhibition in Manchester has come into possession of a watch believed to have travelled with the Ross Sea Party on board the Aurora, and is inscribed with the following text:
went to Antarctica in
and was carried away
on the S. Y. Aurora on her
long drift returning
again when she relieved the party in
The watch owner has been unable to identify any family connections to the members of the Ross Sea Party. Any information about other similarly inscribed watches and their provenance would be welcomed - please send details to email@example.com
Sir Ernest Shackleton's visit to Manchester, 1909
26 May 2016
Information supplied by Manchester Geographical Society
A photograph of Sir Ernest Shackleton (bottom row, seated second from left) and the Officers of the Manchester Geographical Society, November 1909.
Following his return from the British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-1909 Sir Ernest Shackleton toured the British Isles and Europe publicising his exploits and raising awareness about polar exploration. He gave various lectures across Manchester and the North-West, and on Friday 5 November 1909, gave a lecture titled "Nearest the South Pole" to the Manchester Geographical Society at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester.
Manchester Geographical Society banquet, 1909
26 May 2016
Information supplied by Manchester Geographical Society
On 6 November 1909, following Shackleton's lecture at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, the Manchester Geographical Society held a banquet in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their foundation and in honour of Sir Ernest Shackleton at the Midland Hotel in Manchester.
'I have much pleasure in proposing the toast of the evening. I am sure we all agree that it is with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction that we have again the opportunity of meeting Lieut. Shackleton - a national hero ... We are especially fortunate on the occasion of our banquet to Lieut. Shackleton in being able to combine with it the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of our Society. I may assure Lieut. Shackleton that it is with greatest pleasure, satisfaction and triumph that we are able to place his name and his visit to Manchester as a Lecturer, with recollections of all he has done, on the records of the Manchester Geographical Society.'
A toast proposed by the Chairman of the Council, Mr Harry Nuttall, that evening.
'All the [Nimrod] expedition will always be grateful for the recognition we received, and never more so than for the great kindness, sympathy and cordial feeling of comradeship which was displayed. We felt there was a desire to show that you appreciated the work which we did, and this was shown in this great city last night and in this fine gathering to-night ...'
Shackleton speaking at the banquet.
Manchester referenced in letter from Reginald James to his Uncle Lou
03 May 2016
Letter kindly supplied by John James, son of Reginald James (the Endurance expedition's physicist)
Extract from a letter written by Reginald James, the expedition's physicist, to his Uncle Lou (Atkinson) from South Georgia 11 Nov 1914:
Imperial Transantarctic Expedition
November 11 1914
Dear Uncle Lou,
This is a queer place to be writing from. We are making a stay here on our way south & shall probably be here another 10 days. You will find us on a map of South America. Our latitude is about 54 deg south….
This island gives an interesting example of the difference in climate of the northern & southern hemispheres. Our latitude here is 54 deg S. Manchester is somewhere about 54 deg N. November here of course corresponds to May in Manchester. Since we have been here the temperature has been above freezing all the time & there has been driving snow most of the time. This is due partly of course to the absence of a warm current such as the Gulf Stream & partly & probably mostly to the great Southern continent surrounding the S. Pole. This continent gets very cold & of course is constantly discharging icebergs into the sea. The pack ice is never less than about 2300 miles from the pole, while in the Northern Hemisphere it is about 540 miles. The average temperature over the Antarctic area is 10 to 15 deg lower than the arctic.
I don’t know when you are likely to get this letter. Boats only go from here very occasionally & I don’t expect it will be till the New Year is past. By that time we ought to be landed & the sooner that happens the better I shall like it.
Much love from Reg.
RWJ Dec 01 1914
Lou Atkinson was the son of Reginald James' grandmother’s second marriage. Reginald's parents both died very young, his father in 1906 and his mother in 1912. His only close relatives were his younger brother George, an elderly maiden aunt who had lived with the family and helped to bring up the boys and Uncle Lou who became an accountant. Uncle Lou moved to Cheadle Hume in Cheshire and lived there until his death in the 1950s.
Sir Ernest Shackleton's visit to Bolton, 1910
25 April 2016
Information and image supplied by Paul Dyson, Voluntary Archivist, Canon Slade School, Bolton
Following his return from the British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-1909 Sir Ernest Shackleton toured the British Isles and Europe as part of an extensive lecture tour. He gave various lectures across Manchester and the North-West. The oldest surviving magazine of the Bolton Church Institute School (now the Canon Slade School, Bolton), dated 1910, contains an article recording a visit by the boys of the school to an illustrated lecture, "Nearest the South Pole", by Sir Ernest Shackleton held at the Victoria Hall in Bolton. These extracts from the 'Institute Chronicle' show one way in which Shackleton publicised his exploits and sought to raise awareness amongst the people of Britain about polar exploration.
Reginald James at University of Manchester, 1928
06 April 2016
Image kindly supplied by Prof. Robin Marshall, University of Manchester
A photograph of the graduation class of 1928, scanned from a glass plate negative located from within the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester by Robin Marshall, Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester. Reginald James is seated second from the right, next to William Lawrence Bragg who was the Head of Department at the time. Others include laboratory steward William Alexander Kay and graduates from 1928.
Annie Watson, Classics Mistress, Manchester High School for Girls
22 March 2016
Material kindly supplied by Dr. Christine Joy, Manchester High School for Girls Archive
Annie Watson, of Rochdale, was appointed as a Classics Mistress at the Manchester High School for Girls in 1927. She taught Latin, Greek, Ancient History and Sculpture, and by 1936 had been promoted to Deputy Headmistress.
During the 1933 school year she was given leave of absence to study student education in various European countries. Following her visit she gave talks about her experiences on the continent to the school and the League of Nations Union. Patricia Goldsbrough reported on her talk in The Magazine of the Manchester High School describing how she ‘felt clearly the curiosity of the Danes, the austere courtesy of the Swedes … We saw Stockholm, bright, open, clean, and Amsterdam, old, shut in and not so clean, Germany in a turmoil, Geneva wreathed in mist, and Rome a bewildering conglomeration of antiquity and modernism, a Caesar and Mussolini’.
Annie Watson, 34, married Reginald James (the Endurance expedition's physicist), 45, at St Chad’s Church, Ladybarn, Manchester, on 23 December 1936. On 3 April 1937, Reginald and Annie sailed for Cape Town, South Africa, following Reginald’s successful appointment as Chair of Physics at the University of Cape Town.
Share your experiences
Share with us your own family links with the expedition; perhaps through a relative who saw one of the talks or film screenings, or perhaps you have a personal link to the men of the expedition or some other connection to the legacy of their endeavour?