Posted in MAY - JUNE

DATE: JUNE 17-19, 2016

Tom Crean, Lord of the Antarctic Dance!

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The life of an unsung hero is about to be presented in a fresh light in an adventurous fusion of dance and stories of Antarctic exploration. The Tom Crean Festival which takes place annually in the West Kerry village of Annascaul will present a choreographed version of the local hero's life at this the fourth such commemoration which will take place from the 17th-19th of June in the village.

The dance/drama performance which is to be staged in the local Conor-Crean Centre on Saturday 18th June at 7.30pm is the creation of Martin Percival whose family lives in the village and who was formerly lead dancer with Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Indeed his mother Eileen is organiser of the festival and his brother Gary manages the local South Pole Inn which was formerly owned by Tom Crean. The piece also features an appearance by David Geaney the Dingle-based world champion step dancer. Michael Healy-Rae TD will launch the show.

Crean's story is gradually becoming better-known especially through the work of the festival organisers and the accompanying Tom Crean Endurance Walk which also takes place over the weekend. He was a mariner born and reared in Annascaul. He joined the British Navy at the age of 15 and signed on at Minard Castle a couple of miles from his home village. A quiet unassuming man he is now recognised as one of the great heroes of Antarctic exploration who endured great hardship in order to save his companions.

Tom was serving in New Zealand when a call went out for a volunteer to join Captain Robert Scott's 1901 'Discovery' expedition that was fundamentally a research exercise. Subsequently he joined Scott's 1911 'Terra Nova' exploration which was a race against Norwegian explorer Roald Amundson to reach the South Pole first. The British attempt ended in failure and the death of Scott and several others. Tom Crean however undertook a 700 mile return walk from near the pole over a 1100 foot mountain and then traversed a 35 mile wide ice shelf to save the life of another expedition member Edward Evans. The Albert Medal for Rescue was his reward.

Crean returned to the Antarctic for a third time with Ernest Shackleton's 'Endurance' expedition as a second officer on the expedition's ship. That too failed to reach the pole and resulted in the ship's sinking with its company left stranded on pack ice for several months. After reaching Elephant Island, the Kerryman was a member of a group which made an open boat journey of 800 nautical miles to get help for their shipmates.

He returned to regular navy duties after being awarded three Polar medals. Retiring from the Navy in 1920 he bought he South Pole Inn with his wife Ellen and lived a quiet life until he died in 1938. Recognition in his native land has been a time coming but Martin Percival's work is sure to cement his reputation as one of the great heroes of twentieth-century polar exploration
Tickets and information are available at

  • Address: South Pole Inn, Annascaul
  • Distance from Dingle Town: 10-15km
  • Nearest Town or Village: Annascaul / Abhainn an Scáil
  • Tags: festivals, history, walking festivals



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