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How Aidan gave new life to forgotten Irish explorer

Judy Murphy

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Aidan Dooley on stage in his role as Tom Crean in Travels with Tom Crean; Antarctic Explorer. The show has been seen by more than 250,000 people all over the world.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets a Galway actor whose new book reveals the story behind his 16-year role as legendary Tom Crean

When Aidan Dooley came across the name Tom Crean in London’s Maritime Museum in 2000, it was the Galway actor’s first encounter with an almost unknown historical figure. And it was an encounter that would change his life.

Aidan, who lives in England, but is originally from the Claddagh in Galway City, has now written a book. Travels with Tom Crean; Antarctic Explorer, in which the former bank official charts his 16-year journey with the Kerry explorer .

Tom Crean (1877-1938) voyaged to the South Pole three times between 1901 and 1916, winning a medal for bravery and performing heroic, even insane deeds to save the lives of his companions. Yet, by 2000 he was just a footnote in history.

That year, the Maritime Museum in Greenwich was hosting an exhibition on Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, to mark the 100th anniversary of Scott’s Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic (1901-04).

Aidan, who worked as an actor in the Museum, was asked to create and perform a 20-minute educational piece to accompany it. This would showcase the difference in leadership skills between the two great explorers. Crean had twice travelled to the Antarctic with Scott (also on the Terra Nova expedition from 1910-13) and once with Shackleton (Endurance 1914-16). That was the great era of polar exploration, as Britain competed with other European empires for glory in the world’s most remote regions.

Aidan was fascinated by Crean, who was reared on a farm outside the tiny village of Annascaul, and realised that there was more to this Kerryman than being an adjunct to the Scott-Shackleton story.

But the actor had been given a brief. In any case, details about Crean were thin on the ground at that stage, despite the fact that he’d spent more time in the Antarctic than either Scott or Shackleton.

Initially, Aidan delivered a short, straightforward piece for the Museum, giving visitors an insight into how the explorers survived as they travelled in unchartered Antarctic territories at temperatures of minus 40 degrees.

By coincidence, at around the same time as he began presenting that show, the first biography of Crean’s life, written by journalist and polar expert Michael Smith, was published by Collins Press. Reading it confirmed Aidan’s belief that Crean was extraordinary.

For instance, during the Terra Nova expedition, he undertook a solitary 58-kilometre trek to base camp to rescue an ill comrade, which saw him receive the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.

On the Endurance trip, he was one of six men who sailed 1,500km through icy water to organise a rescue for companions who were trapped on an island by ice floe.

Armed with this knowledge, Aidan began to modify his show.

“I thought how fantastic this man had been and the injustice that he hadn’t been recognised. I started telling the Scott and Shackleton story but through Crean’s eyes, and after another six months, I started piecing the performance as we know it now,” he says.

In 2000, Aidan was performing four shows a day at the Museum, for visitors of all ages, so he knew what was required to hold the attention of a diverse crowd.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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