Statue to commemorate life of polar explorer

A member of Captain Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition is to be immortalised by his native parish following the decision to commission a life-sized statue in his memory.

In 1910, Patrick Keohane, from the Courtmacsherry area of West Cork, was chosen for Captain Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole.

He joined a team which included the renowned Kerry explorer Tom Crean, as well as Kinsale brothers Mortimer and Tim McCarthy, along with Robert Forde from Kilmurry.

After reaching Antarctica in Jan 1911, they built their base camp at Cape Evans.

Capt Scott picked 16 men, one of them Keohane, to undertake the hazardous 1,800 mile journey to the South Pole and back, braving the extreme cold with temperatures plummeting to minus 70 degrees F.

Three months later, however, Keohane and several others were sent back as Scott and a small handpicked team continued.

However, although this group made it to the South Pole, they all perished on the return journey.

Keohane was one of the leaders of the rescue team who later found the bodies of Scott and some team members who had frozen to death in their tent.

“Patrick Keohane is the only Irish member of Scott’s expedition who does not have a memorial,” says Diarmuid Begley of the West Cork-based Patrick Keohane Memorial Project.

“The others all have memorials. Keohane was the only one of the five Irish members and the last hero of that polar expedition not to have a memorial to his memory in the country of his birth.”

Locals now hope to erect a full-sized bronze statue of Keohane in August, overlooking his birthplace at Lislee in the parish of Barryroe, near Courtmacsherry.

“Patrick Keohane led an extraordinary life. He was on Scott’s expedition, he was also in both the navy and on the coast guard and, during World War Two, he was an instructor at Valkyrie — the secret radar and telegraphy training school on the Isle of Man.”

The statue is being cast by sculptor Don Cronin, who is well-known for the Bull of Macroom, and the Horse and Blacksmith sculptures in Innishannon.

Keohane family members in Britain, the US and Ireland are being invited to the unveiling by the organisers, who have also published a special brochure about the adventurer, who died in Plymouth, England, in 1950, at the age of 71.

A series of fundraising events will take place between now and the unveiling on May 24.

They will include a lecture, slide show and photographic exhibition on Keohane and the polar expedition in Butlerstown.

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