Timothy McCarthy Polar Medal sold for £65,000 at auction

Shackleton museum in Kildare fails to match bid for award to Irish Antarctic adventurer

A Kildare museum dedicated to Sir Ernest Shackleton failed to match the final bid of £65,000 paid at auction in London yesterday for a Polar Medal for Cork-born Antarctic adventurer Timothy McCarthy.

The bronze medal, awarded to Able Seaman McCarthy for his role in Shackleton’s epic sea rescue in the Antarctic Ocean in 1916, was sold for more than three times its estimated value.

It was expected to fetch £15,000-£20,000 at the Dix Noonan Webb sale, but was sold after 23 bids to a private buyer for the much higher price.

The Athy Heritage-Centre Museum, which has the only permanent exhibition dedicated to Shackleton, had hoped to acquire it.


Last year, medals awarded to Sir Ernest Shackleton fetched £585,000 at auction.

McCarthy, Crean and Shackleton were the three Irish crew members among six on the lifeboat James Caird which made an 800-mile sea crossing to rescue fellow crew members from Shackleton's 1914-16 transantarctic expedition.

Cork resident Eugene Furlong, who is a Shackleton enthusiast, said the medal was of great significance to the State.

“It could and should be displayed in the several museums we have here which commemorate that Antarctic expedition,” he said.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times