Supporting the restoration of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship cabin

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s cabin

The ship cabin in which renowned polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton passed away following a heart attack in 1922, has journeyed from being used as a garden shed in Norway for 90 years to being restored in Letterfrack, Co Galway. It will soon make its final journey across Ireland, to be displayed in the explorer’s hometown of Athy in the Shackleton Museum at Athy Heritage Centre Museum in Co Kildare.

Shackleton was born at Kilkea House, near Athy, in 1874 and this cabin, known as Shackleton’s “sea bedroom”, was donated to the museum by its Norwegian owner Ulf Bakke after Corkman Eugene Furlong heard about its existence when visiting Norway in 2008.

The cabin had been destined for Shackleton’s final resting place, the island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic but that arrangement fell through and, seizing on good fortune, the museum invited Mr Bakke to visit Athy with a view to donating it, which he ultimately agreed to do, and it arrived Ireland in 2014.

Following Shackleton’s death, the ship was bought back by its original Norwegian owner, Johan Drage, who removed the cabin, which was on deck and considered to be in the way, and repurposed it as a garden shed. Ulfe Bakke, Drage’s great grandson, said family members used to play in the garden shed which was known as “the Shackleton”.

The cabin is currently being restored by Sven Habermann of Conservation Letterfrack. The Athy Heritage Centre-Museum received an initial €5,000 of National Lottery funding for Good Causes, via the Heritage Council, in 2014 to produce a report on the work that would be required to conserve and restore the cabin and a further €10,000 in 2016 for the work itself.

“It will be displayed on the second floor of the museum towards the end of October 2018,” Seamus Taaffe, a committee member at the museum, said. “The cabin will be displayed alongside a number of exhibits including an original sled and harness from Shackleton’s polar expeditions. The cabin really is an exciting coup for the museum and I am delighted that the final resting place of the great man will be here at Athy. We are grateful to the National Lottery and the Heritage Council for the funding which has enabled this extraordinary story to unfold”, Seamus continued.

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