Crean’s grand-daughter Aileen Crean O’Brien said it was fantastic to see their larger-than-life ancestor honoured on Norwegian’s EI-FYB Boeing 737 Max before it took off from Cork Airport yesterday for Boston Providence.
“It was quite an emotional moment for us all,” she said. “It has made us even more proud of Tom.”
The airline, which launched its transatlantic services from Cork, Shannon and Dublin in July, has always honoured iconic figures on its aircraft tails.
Many are Scandinavian, including legendary polar explorer Roald Amundsen. But to reflect its rapid growth in other markets, it launched a series of new tailfin heroes last summer featuring figures from the UK, Spain, and Ireland.
Following a year of talks with Crean’s descendants, it announced that Crean would be their first Irish tailfin hero.
Ms Crean O’Brien, her son and Tom Crean’s great-grandson, Cian D’Arcy, along with other family members, some of whom flew in from England, were invited by Norwegian for a close-up view of the iconic portrait of Tom Crean with his trademark pipe on the aircraft before it took off at 4.20pm.
Ms Crean O’Brien said: “There is a lot of abuse of Tom’s image but this is really positive. It was a fantastic moment to walk down onto the apron and to see him there, larger than life. Hopefully it will help spread the word here and in the US of his heroic polar exploits.”
Born in Kerry in 1877, Crean joined the Royal Navy at 15, and went go on to become one of the greatest polar explorers.
He was on Scott’s first expedition, Discovery, from 1901-04, on Scott’s tragic Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole from 1910-13, and finally on Shackleton’s disastrous Endurance expedition from 1914-16.
His legendary status was cemented during the Terra Nova expedition when he marched 18 hours across treacherous terrain to get help for a stricken colleague. It is still regarded as one of the greatest single-handed acts of bravery in the history of Antarctic exploration.