Travel & Tourist Guide to The Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne) - Ireland


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Tom Crean, Thomas Ashe, Marie Antoinette & Dingle Peninsula




Tom Crean

Tom Crean has until now, been largely neglected as one of the great explorers of the beginning of the twentieth century. Although his name appears in many of the accounts of the epic adventures of Scott and Shackleton, his contributions tended to be included with those of the other seamen, and overshadowed by the leaders of the expeirelandions and their officers. Modern histoyians of Antarctic expeirelandions and people currently involved in the Antarctic scientific projects have come to realise that Crean's contribution to the survival of the exploration teams, and his strength, physical and mental, were in a large part contributory to their survival and in some cases directly responsible for saving the lives of some of his companions.

dingle ireland history

Born in Gurtacurran, Annascaul on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland in 1877 to a large family on a small farm, he sailed from nearby Minard in 1893 to enlist in the British Navy as a Boy 2nd Class. After eight years service he happened to be in New Zealand onboard H.M.S. Ringarooma, when Commander Robert Scott's ship Discovery called in to Lyttleton to replenish his crew. Crean got himself assigned to H.M.S. President for loan to Discovery and sailed for the Antarctic for the first time in December 1901. He was assigned to the sledge teams, as man-hauling sledges was the sole means of transport over land. He took readily to the strenuous back breaking work, hauling the sledges over the rugged, often treacherous terrain of the Antarctic wastes. His first sledging experience came as soon as Discovery tied up alongside the Antarctic ice shelf. When, with five other men he took equipment and a days provisions and sledged south '...to spend a night in the country...' while Scott and the scientists began experiments with a hydrogen gas balloon. They returned the following afternoon none the worst for their first night, and later Crean accompanied Lieutenant Michael Barne on three exploration outings and a depot laying journey. Crean is logged as having sledged a total of 149 days, more than most other members of the expeirelandion.

In one of Scott's rare references to Crean, he mentions that in February 1904 when Discovery was being loaded for departure '... Crean fell through the ice twice yesterday, and as he cannot swim had a fairly narrow shave on the last occasion - luckily he kept still in the break until a line could be got to him...' The Discovery expeirelandion proved Tom Crean to be well able to function in the harsh conditions as a strong sledger, a hard worker and a cheerful companion. This resulted in the award of the Royal Geographical Society's Antarctic silver medal. Scott also recommended his promotion to Petty Officer First Class, writing that he was '...specially recommended for continuous good conduct and meritorious service throughout the period of the Antarctic expeirelandion 1901-1904...' and further invited Crean to serve as his coxswain. Scott's push for the Pole: When Scott planned his next expeirelandion, his attempt to be the first man to the South Pole, he wrote to Crean saying he had applied to the Admiralty for Crean's service for this expeirelandion, and wanted him at the ship to help fitting her out. Crean was one of the few veterans of the Discovery to be chosen. Crean's next visit to the polar region was as a seaman on the Terra Nova in May 1910. His participation in this expeirelandion achieved greater prominence on January 24th 1911, Crean set off with the first depot-laying party, but within a week the medical officer E.L. Atkinson became disabled and Crean was assigned to remain behind to care for him. Scott mentions that he felt very sorry for Crean but as the rest of the party went on Crean performed the duties assigned to him, namely care for Atkinson, rescue some of the forage from the barrier edge, and for some unknown reason, dig a hole downwards into the barrier for scientific observations.

With Thanks to the Tom Crean Society, South Pole Inn, Annascaul.

dingle ireland history

dingle ireland history




Thomas Ashe - Irish Volunteers

"Nothing adirelandional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian". Part of Micheal Collins' eulogy at the funeral of Thomas Ashe

Thomas Ashe was born in 1885 in the village of Lispole, near Dingle. He was educated in Lispole and at the De La Salle Teacher Training College in Waterford City. After qualifying as a teacher, Ashe took up the position of Principal at Corduff N.S. in Lusk, Co. Dublin. Ashe had great interest and involvement in the Nationalist Movement and was a member of the Irish Volunteers and the Gaelic League. The years leading to the Uprising in 1916 saw Ashe take a more important role in these groups, and by Easter Sunday, 1916, Ashe was the commanding officer of the Dublin 5th Battalion of the Volunteers. During the Rising, Ashe and his Battalion of just 48 men, led many successful attacks and ambushes on military barracks around the Dublin Area. The most famous victory of this band of men was in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, when Ashe and his men captured four police barracks with large quantities of arms and ammunition. Even as the leaders of the Rebellion were being rounded up in Dublin and around the country, Ashe's group kept their guerrilla war going.

dingle ireland history

Ashe was arrested soon after, court-martialled and sentenced him to death. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. However he was released as part of the General Amnesty in June 1917. On his release, Ashe immediately became involved again in the by now rapidly growing nationalist movement. Thomas Ashe was elected President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a group aligned with Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers. He travelled the country campaigning for Sinn Fein, making speeches, which the authorities deemed were "calculated to cause disaffection". Ashe was re-arrested for seirelandion and incitement of the population on July 15th, 1917 and sent to Mountjoy Jail. It was here that Thomas Ashe made the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs. He demanded that he be given Prisoner of war status including the right to wear his own clothes and associate with his fellow inmates as soldiers. When the authorities refused his demand, Ashe and six of his fellow prisoners went on hunger strike. Refusing to take food, Ashe was put in a straitjacket and force fed by the authorities. Tragically, the cruel practice went wrong and Ashe died on September 27th in the Mater Hospital, due to complications brought on by the force-feeding.



Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette planned to escape to what Irish town during the French revolution?

There is a traditional, which prevails to the present day among Dingle people that the town was once intended as the refuge of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. It was in the course of the French Revolution, when plans were made by certain officers of the Irish Brigades on the continent, to rescue the Queen from the Temple Prison in Paris, and to convey her by carriage and ship to safety in Dingle. The house prepared for her is still pointed out. It stands at Canon's Corner, the junction of Upper Main Street and Green Street.

One of the principles in this plan was a man named James Louis Rice, a member of a family which has it's roots deeply embedded in the history of Dingle. James Louis was the son of Black Tom, Mr. Thomas Rice. Black Tom was born in Baile Mhic an Dhaill, Dingle, and he built up a healthy trade in wine from Dingle to France and Spain. In the Ireland of his time there were no facilities for the education of young Catholics, so Black Tom, like many other Catholic parents of that generation, sent his son to the continent for his education. Young James Louis Rice studied at the Irish College of Louvain in Belgium, with a view to entering the priesthood. Some time later James gave up the idea of joining the priesthood and left the college. He entered the service of the Emperor of Austria, Joseph II, and joined the Irish Brigade there. James Louis Rice was a man of outstanding ability and personality. He advanced rapidly in the Austrian Army and became an intimate friend of the Emperor. Because of his friendship and influence with Joseph II, the title of Count of the Holy Roman Empire was conferred on both James Louis Rice and on his father Black Tom.

Marie Antoinette , the Queen of France was a sister to Emperor Joseph II. When the French Revolution exploded, Marie Antoinette , The French King, and their two surviving children were imprisoned in the Temple in Paris. Rice and his helpers formed their plan for her rescue. They managed to bribe some of the gaolers to cooperate with them, and they had relays of horses ready to take the Queen to the coast where Count James Louis Rice had one of his wine ships ready to transport her to Dingle. At the last moment Marie Antoinette hesitated and refused to accept the proffered chance of escape, and so the plan fell through. That is the traditional in Dingle. But, could it be true?


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