G Spots! An Explorer Returning to Belfast

Hello I’m Grainne McGarvey and welcome to my column which spots local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I will have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch on twitter @grainnemcgarvey or at www.pulseprni.com

G Spots! An Explorer Returning to Belfast

Believe it or not I have always been a history buff. At school I was the first one with my hand up and at university writing a long assignment about the famine for example was music to my ears. So when I was asked to take part in a little bit of local history last week, I jumped at the chance.


Ernest Shackleton for those who don’t know was an intrepid explorer, infamous for his attempts to conquer the South Pole. At sea he was a giant of a man, great organiser; leader, planner…. but the Shackleton at home was a different matter – hard to live with, not great with money, bad husband – all the makings for a great story.

So too thought ex journalist and now full time author, Michael Smith, and I was lucky enough to help him launch his latest book, Shackleton – By Endurance We Conquer in Belfast’s Titanic Dock and Pump House. This is Michael’s ninth novel and the location for the launch also has significance, as Shackleton worked on a ship in the White Star Line – the company famous for building the Titanic. Although no photographic evidence exists, it is more than likely that he visited Belfast 125 years ago, so it was great to bring him back to my home city.

I’m sure that many of you reading this don’t really know much about Shackelton, if you have heard of him at all – maybe other explorers such as Columbus or Captain Robert Scott are more on the radar. This is part of the reason Michael wrote the book – he wanted to redress the balance and give Shackleton his rightful place in history.

Shackleton failed to cross the South Pole and didn’t die vaingloriously on the way. However, this book highlights how he rose through the merchant navy ranks and charmed funding for the expedition from British polite society, teetering on the brink of a ruinous war. There are so many instances in the narrative of derring-do that it’s hard to comprehend how all this was achieved without any of the technological support we now take for granted. All on a diet of penguin, biscuits and fish!

But is this relevant to today? I read an interview with Dermot O’Leary and when he was asked who he looks up to in his professional life, he didn’t say Jonathan Ross or Terry Wogan – instead he said Ernest Shackleton! Dermot recognises the showman in Shackleton, but balances it with the fact that when it came to the crunch, he stood up, led his men and didn’t leave any of them behind.

So when you are watching X Factor this weekend and if your family tries to impress you with their singing, you can go one better and impress them with a little bit of 20th century history!

Shackleton – By Endurance We Conquer by Michael Smith is published in hardback by Collins Press, price £20.00 www.collinspress.ie.


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