Antarctic hero to be honoured

Everest conqueror Dr Clare O’Leary will this weekend unveil a memorial in honour of a heroic Irish polar adventurer who was a member of Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole a century ago.

Patrick Keohane from West Cork sailed in 1910 from London to Antarctica as part of the Terra Nova expedition. Among the team were fellow Co Cork men Robert Forde and Mortimer McCarthy along with Tom Crean from Kerry.

Keohane from Barry’s Point in Courtmacsherry had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16. He had been one of 16 men chosen to make the journey from base camp at Cape Evans to the South Pole but had been subsequently ordered by Scott, along with three others, to return to Cape Evans.

However, he was one of the 11-man team who set out from base camp to search for Scott and his companions when they failed to return in Oct 1912. Two weeks later, they found a tent with the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers inside.

Keohane was the last Irish member of that expedition not to have a monument erected in his memory in his country of birth.

A spokesman for the Patrick Keohane Memorial Project committee, Diarmuid Begley, said it was fitting Keohane should be remembered 100 years after the expedition.

“He had never been properly recognised and he should be remembered.

“He was one of the most important members of the expedition team. When he was asked why he took part in the expedition, he said he wanted to see what was on the other side of the hill,” Mr Begley said.

The memorial will overlook his place of birth at Barry’s Point.

Three of Keohane’s grandchildren — Patrick Madigan, Mary Underwood and Edel Greenwood who live in England, will attend the unveiling of the life-size bronze statue.

It was completed by sculptor Don Cronin from Knockroe, at Lislee Court near Courtmacsherry.

Polar historian and author Michael Smith will give an oration. A relative of explorer Ernest Shackleton, he said it was very fitting Keohane was now joining Robert Forde, the McCarthy brothers and Tom Crean who have memorials in Ireland.

“If there were medals for courage and endurance, Patrick Keohane certainly qualifies for a gold,” he said.

Keohane returned to Ireland in 1914. Until 1917, he helped to train recruits at Devonport Naval Base in England. He retired from the Royal Navy in 1920.

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