Anniversary of the deaths of Tom Crean & James McIlroy

July 26, 2016

Anniversary of Tom Crean’s death, 27 July, 1938.

On 27 July, 1938, Tom Crean died at the Bon Secour Home in Cork. Requiem Mass was held at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Anascaul, and the funeral party then proceeded to Ballinacurty graveyard where Tom was laid to rest.
The Kerryman published an obituary for Tom on Saturday, 20 August, 1938. It was entitled ‘Kerryman of Polar Fame: Late Mr. Tom Crean, R.N., Aunascaul’. Below is a section from it:

As a tribute to the popularity in which he held, he was borne to the graveyard, a distance of nearly two miles, on the shoulders of Naval Comrades and neighbours, many of whom were his schoolboy contemporaries.

Tom was a veteran of three Antarctic expeditions, the recipient of a variety medals and the founder, with his wife Ellen, of The South Pole Inn. The Cork Examiner (now the Irish Examiner) wrote on Friday, 29 July, 1938, that ‘Crean took part in two South Pole expeditions with Scott and one with Shackleton. Despite the hardships he endured, he never lost his cheery disposition, and he was well-known and liked in the Dingle Peninsula.’

Anniversary of James McIlroy’s death, 27 July, 1968.

Coincidentally, as well as today being the anniversary of Tom Crean’s death in 1938, James Archibald McIlroy also died on 27 July, but in the much later year of 1968. McIlroy was born 3 November, 1879. It is uncertain where in the province of Ulster he was born, but his father originated from Ballyclare, Co. Antrim. McIlroy was the surgeon on board the Endurance. Lionel Greenstreet said he was a ‘sardonic, sarcastic blighter’. It was McIlroy and Alexander Macklin who amputated Perce Blackborow’s left toes on Elephant Island in June, 1916.
McIlroy served in World War I and was badly wounded at Ypres. During World War II he almost lost his life at sea—the vessel on which he was serving was torpedoed off the coast of West Africa on 9 October, 1942. In the years outside of wartime, McIlroy served as ship’s surgeon, particularly with P&O. He continued this line of work into his late seventies. He died in Surrey, England, aged eighty-eight.
In 1922, McIlroy returned south with Shackleton on board the Quest. Sir Ernest sadly died on board the ship anchored at South Georgia. Macklin and McIlroy were responsible for arranging affairs after Shackleton’s rather sudden death. After Shackleton was buried at Grytviken, South Georgia, his companions of the Endurance and the Quest, McIlroy included, returned to pay their last respects.

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