Where is it now?


All has been quiet for a while with the James Caird 100 exhibit operated by the Shackleton Museum. Last year was quiet at Punchestown racecourse with the cancellation of the Spring festival meeting due to the covid pandemic. Thankfully, all has changed for 2021 with racing behind closed doors taking place between the 27/04 – 01/05. Punchestown is always keen to recognise its history and the timeline that has led to its eminent position as ‘Peerless Punchestown’. Its direct and indirect connections with Antarctica form a small but unique part of that story.

James Caird100 on the lake at Punchestown Racecourse
James Caird100 on the lake at Punchestown Racecourse

The ghostly James Caird100 set on the lake in Punchestown marks Kildare’s links to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, as well as Ireland’s contribution to discovering more of our planet. Behind this is the story of Captain Lawrence Oates’ participation in the Punchestown meets of 1904 and 1905, and the lesser known story of John De Robeck’s candidacy to lead the 1901 Discovery Expedition, the position eventually serving as Robert Falcon Scott’s introduction to Antarctica.




20/10/2018: Shackleton Autumn School, Athy 
There is a nice symmetry to see ‘James Caird 100’ afloat on the River Griese at Kilkea Castle. In 1874, Ernest Shackleton was born close by, and as children the Shackletons played in the river. Could he ever have envisaged the eventful life ahead of him? 

James Caird 100 in on River Griese, Shackleton Autumn School 2018
James Caird 100 in on River Griese, Kilkea, 2018.

‘James Caird’ is flying the Irish and Norwegian flags to acknowledge the visitors to the Autumn School from the Fram Museum in Oslo. Another visitor and speaker is Arved Fuchs who recreated the voyage of the ‘James Caird’ in 2000.  Kathleen Shackleton who was also born in Kilkea and returned to visit later in life will feature  when Sharon Greene who hails from Kilkea will tell the story of her fascinating life. A full programme for the 2018 Shackleton Weekend is available here.   



24/08/2018: Graiguenamanagh Festival of Books :
For the third year, the hard working committee of the Graiguenamanagh Festival of Books invited ‘James Caird 100’ to take its place on the River Barrow for what is a jewel of an event in a beautiful setting.

James Caird 100 in Graiguenamanagh 2018.

Graiguenamanagh is a remarkable riverside town, complete with old mill and warehouse buildings, great outdoor centres which take advantage of the river and hills, and the fantastic Duiske Abbey. 
It’s always a pleasure to go Graiguenamanagh and good to spread awareness of the feat of the voyage of the ‘James Caird’. 


19/08/2018 : ‘Taste of Kildare’
A first for the James Caird 100 – it has finally made it onto the River Liffey, and what better surrounds than those of the K Club in Straffan, Co Kildare. The occasion is as part of the Taste of Kildare event which showcases the great food offerings to be found in Co Kildare. 

James Caird 100 shows another leading aspect of Kildare, and that is the connection with Ernest Shackleton, born in Kilkea, Athy in 1874. Shackleton’s exploits are legendary, including the 800 mile voyage of the 7 metre lifeboat ‘James Caird’ across the roughest seas on the planet to organise a rescue for his beleagured expedition. 


13/08/2018  Rose of Tralee visits Athy 
Kildare Fáilte welcomed the contestants in the 2018 Rose of Tralee to spend two days in the county on their winding route to Tralee, Co. Kerry. Day 1 saw them travel from the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth through deepest Kildare to a reception at the Green Barn in Burtown. From there they moved on to Athy where a warm and funfilled reception awaited. Lots of local people turned out; the town was spick and span thanks to the hard working Tidy Towns group. Many voluntary organisations – including the Scouts, Order of Malta, Civil Defence, County Council, Athy Heritage Centre Museum, ONE,  the Gardaí and the tourboat ‘Freedom on the Water’ combined to deliver a well organised experience of the town. 
Actor Charlie Hughes was local hero ‘Ernest Shackleton’, and under the towering statue of Shackleton, he introduced the Roses to the explorer’s spirit of determination and optimism. 

James Caird 100 as the finish line for the race between the Roses.

Next to the Dragon Boat Club where two streamlined boats, ‘Endurance’  and  ‘Nimrod, awaited. James Caird100 marked the finish line for a closely fought race between the two boats crewed by the Roses. For the record, Endurance won!
Led by a piper, the Rose contestants crossed the Crom Abú bridge, walking through the town to the beautiful new library where they toured the building. The final activity involved planting a rosebed, a gift to the local community, and a place for the Roses to return in future years. The obvious enjoyment of Roses, onlookers and organisations involved reflected what was  a memorable and enjoyable occasion for all.


April 2018 

JC at Punchestown
JC at Punchestown

Thanks to Punchestown management and Richie Galway in particular,  to have the opportunity to bring JamesCaird100  to spread awareness of the multiple connections between Kildare and the heroic age of Polar exploration.
Ernest Shackleton was born a few miles away in Kilkea. When he had no direct connection with Punchestown, he did bring the first ponies to Antarctica to carry out the heavy haulage of supplies. He famously explained to his wife Emily that he turned around just 100 miles from the Pole as he would rather be ‘a live donkey than a dead lion’!
Meanwhile, the De Robeck family, a name synonymous with Punchestown, also has an Antarctic connection; John De Robeck, later Admiral of the Atlantic Fleet, was one of three proposed to lead the 1901-1903 ‘Discovery’ expedition. Robert Falcon Scott was selected – the navy would not release De Robeck as his skills were required in home waters.
Punchestown hosted none other than Captain Lawrence Oates as owner, trainer and jockey at the 1904 and 1905 meetings. Captain Oates is remembered as a member of Scott of the Antarctic’s polar party which reached the South Pole in January 1912. On the return journey, Oates, who was suffering from a recurring leg injury, felt he was hampering his comrade’s progress. In a supreme act of self sacrifice, he walked from the tent into an Antarctic blizzard….and his certain death. His departing words were “I am just going outside and may be some time”. In 1904, having ridden his horse ‘Titus’ to third in the Grand Military Cup, he declared “I do not think I have enjoyed two days better for a long time than I did at Punchestown”.

October 2017 
The international TBEX Conference has come to Kilkea Castle. This is an opportunity to introduce influential travel writers to some of the interesting sights and stories that are the charm of the Irish midlands. And what better than to talk about one of the greatest feats of seafaring led by someone from landlocked Co. Kildare, along with two other Irishmen, a Scottish carpenter, a North England trawlerman and a Kiwi Navigator.  To add to the intrigue, Ernest Shackleton was born close to Kilkea Castle in 1874, and the River Griese which flows through the grounds was a favourite place for the Shackleton children. 

JamesCaird100 at Kilkea
JamesCaird100 at Kilkea, on the River Griese.


The management at Kilkea were keen on the idea, Paddy the security man helped with the launch, and by all accounts it created a talking point – the ghostly boat by the bridge which just caught your eye as the castle loomed up in front. The TBEX attendees were clearly impressed and posted photographs on all social media platforms. JamesCaird100 had over 6000 views on facebook!

August 2017
It was great to see James Caird 100 back on the River Barrow again for 2018 and the Graiguenamanagh ‘Town of Books‘ festival. The river flowing through the town forms a perfect stage for tA photograph of James Caird 100 in Graiguenamanaghhe floating  sculpture that is James Caird 100, and raises awareness of the epic voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia among river users and visitors to the town. The organisers link the exhibit with the book festival by featuring displays of travel and exploration books in various locations around the town. 

If you haven’t made it to the Graiguenamanagh ‘Town of Books’ festival, put it in your diary for 2018 – it’s  held on the last weekend in August!

James Caird 100 on Lough Mullagh, with styrofoam icebergs and penguin


May 2017 marks 101 years since the James Caird reached South Georgia, creating the essential link between the beleaguered crew of the Endurance and civilisation.
James Caird 100 headed North to Mullagh Lough in Co. Cavan. It was hosted there by Jonathan Shackleton who lives nearby at Lakeview Organic Farm . Jonathan had made contact with XtraTherm who kindly provided insulation blocks which were carefully shaped into icebergs! One was quickly snapped up by a passing penguin who perched happily on top of it.

The usual cooperation and goodwill was shown by the people who came by, and those who assisted in launching the floating installation, particularly Jonathan, Will, Brian, Hanna and Ian who documented proceedings with his camera, a la  Frank Hurley!

Mullagh Cubs and Beavers, with James Caird 100 in the background.
Mullagh Cubs and Beavers, with James Caird 100 in the background.

Shackleton wrote of the mysterious forces at work and the ‘dearth of human words …..in trying to describe things intangible’ during the voyage of  the ‘Caird’  – with similar mystery, ‘James Caird 100’  will disappear from Mullagh Lough to reappear elsewhere, and raise awareness of this epic feat of seafaring a century ago.

The chill winds and freezing fogs of November forced the decision to move James Caird to winter quarters. Observers detected a gradual drift downstream as the winter flood on the Barrow teased the anchor into midstream and the powerful current found there. It seems ironic for a boat whose fame was forged in the gales and ice of the Antarctic, but a boat is a free thing, most stable when braced against the forces of nature, fretting and curtailed when constrained by a weighty  anchor. received_10154804859049791

Raising the James Caird’s  anchor  was a difficult job, made all the more difficult by the strong current and the dense mass of weed wrapped around the chain. Eventually, the Caird was manoeuvred to the jetty, and with one foot on terra firma the rig was shipped in readiness for the tow upstream to the slipway.
JamesCaird100 is now under cover, undergoing maintenance and some modifications in readiness for the 2017 season.

Time to move to JamesCaird100’s spiritual home, the lordly river Barrow in Athy, this time for the 16th Ernest Shackleton Autumn School. Gerry, a Liffey Descent canoeing buddy from years ago turned up to help with the retrieval in Carton, and the relaunch in Athy. 
The Shackleton Autumn School continued its success story with a high quality programme, and record attendance. Simon Stephens, Keeper of Model Ships and Boats at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, spoke of his curatorship and restoration of the original James Caird, a talk with special interest for all involved in JamesCaird100. Hearing the original story again, the work of Harry McNish to deck up the ‘Caird‘ and the skill and bravery of the six crew (Shackleton, McCarthy, Crean, Worsley, Vincent and McNish) made it all the more meaningful to have been involved in creating JamesCaird100 to commemorate and spread awareness of this epic feat.


Kildare Gallery at Carton House (Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland) annually hosts ‘Vanishing Art’, an exhibition of outdoor sculpture with the dignified grounds of this period mansion as the perfect backdrop. JCCarton1JamesCaird100 was invited to participate and was located on the boat lake, beside the perfectly proportioned and classic boathouse. The boat was moved there on 1st October and launched with the assistance of Brendan and Jackie. Ken and Ruth from The Kildare Gallery added a nice touch with the James Caird story on a display slate attached to the wall of the boathouse. JCplusSlate
The installation attracted much interest from passing walkers and golfers, all part of the mission of spreading awareness through a dynamic artwork.
There is another interesting connection, as Carton was one of the houses of the Fitzgerald family, the dukes of Leinster. Kilkea Castle was the family seat in South Kildare, and it was in nearby Kilkea Lodge in 1874 that Ernest Shackleton was born.

As silently as she arrived, JamesCaird100 drifted down stream to Graiguenamanagh and its fantastic setting at the top of the deep valley  to St Mullins, overlooked protectively by Brandon Hill. One of the town’s flagship events, the ‘Town of Books Festival’ takes place 26th – 28th August, and the JamesCaird100 will be in attendance, albeit midstream above the bridge. It is a very fitting location, given Shackleton’s great interest in books and in particular, poetry. ‘Endurance’ carried a comprehensive ship’s library, and the stowaway Perce Blackborrow recollected Shackleton urging him to use the library.  When the ship went down and the 28 crew were left drifting on the ice, they had a small number of books with them which were passed around, read and reread, and fervently discussed and analysed.
Thanks to the Graiguenamanagh Festival Committee for hosting the ‘Caird’ during this brilliant event, to say nothing of Mag Whelan’s beautiful photo of the boat, backgrounded by a rising bridge and Brandon Hill.

Christy and his team moved into action early today and moved the JamesCaird100 to Bagnalstown. Sitting in a beautiful situation on the canal channel that runs parallel to the weir and down to the lock, the boat and crew had the old mill building as an evocative backdrop. Quickly, the imagination can move back 100 years when Bagnalstown, its canal and mills were a hive of activity – and at the other end of the world, Shackleton, Crean, McCarthy, Worsley, McNish and Vincent were battling overwhelming odds in the 22 foot James Caird to reach South Georgia and make contact with the outside world.
Local people in the town, visitors passing through and people on boats moored at the quay learned the incredible survival story that was the voyage of the James Caird, and the Endurance expedition – and the largely unknown Irish connections.20160805_174247

This morning, JamesCaird100 mysteriously disappeared from the lake in Naas. It had caused a lot of interest while there among regulars and visitors alike. On the evening of the 23rd, it arrived in the lovely setting of Goresbridge, on the River Barrow. Christy Kane, the IWAI person for that area had organised the location, just downriver from the bridge.
The problem was, there was no boat available to help launch – quickly solved with the help of three fishermen who offered to tow it out to anchor.

Launching in GoresbridgeWriter John MacKenna, who has just completed a rewrite of Shackleton’s book South arrived to help out. There was great interest locally in the new arrival – the people in Maher’s public house, and the Alamo B&B offered to assist JamesCaird in Goresbridgein any way possible, which was much appreciated. Colette from the local Community Development group did her research and covered the story of the James Caird voyage on KCLR the following Monday. A big thanks to all for hosting such a wonderful location.JamesCaird Goresbridge

The list of waterways locations which want to feature JamesCaird100 is growing. Today it was launched, with the help of Eoin, Fionnuala, Michéal, Óisín and Brian on the lake beside Naas Hospital. This is a great location, organised with the help of Cllr. Seamie Moore, and is proving to be an item of interest to the many people who enjoy a walk around the lakes.
Some deft canoeing was required to take the JamesCaird100 to the middle of the lake where it was anchored. Nice to feature this great feat of seafaring, its Kildare born & bred  leader Ernest Shackleton in the county town.
Take a look at our Project Supporters   to see who made this installation possible.

Launching JamesCaird100
Launching JamesCaird100
JamesCaird100 afloat
JamesCaird100 afloat
At anchor on the lake
At anchor on the lake

The maiden voyage! First installation of James Caird 100 had to be on the beautiful River Barrow in Athy, Co. Kildare,  across from the mother ship, Athy Heritage Centre Museum.  Ernest Shackleton lived in the vicinity of Athy until age 6 – so a very appropriate location.With the able assistance of experts on the river Cliff Reid, Barry Keatley and John Shaughnessy, she was manoeuvered into position and anchored.20160516_20081520160516_201436