SGA Initiative Funding helps with Westminster Abbey Shackleton Plaque

Shackleton Memorial Stone Dedication, Westminster Abbey, 15th February 2024

by SGA Chair David Drewry

On a surprisingly warm February afternoon the Princess Royal, accompanied by her husband, Admiral Timothy Lawrence, attend the ceremony to unveil the memorial stone in the South Cloister of Westminster Abbey to commemorate the life and deeds of Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO OBE.

The idea to have a plaque installed and for Shackleton to be thus recognised amongst the panoply of Britain’s famous explorers – James Cook, Francis Drake, Francis Chichester and Astronomer Edmond Halley, was the brainchild of Tim Winter RN and supported principally by the James Caird Society. Alexandra Shackleton was intimately involved in this initiative throughout the several years it required to obtain the necessary agreement of the Abbey and permissions.

At an early stage the SGA was invited to give its support and responded readily and positively with a donation £1500 towards the production of the Memorial Stone. This was crafted by Mr Will Davies who incorporated Connemara marble and Kilkenny limestone to reflect Shackleton’s Irish heritage (he was born in Kilkea, Co Kildare, on February 15, 1874). The stone is also inscribed with the names of Shackleton’s expedition ships and his family motto, “fortitudine vincimus” – by endurance we conquer.

The Dedication Ceremony commenced at 5pm in the Abbey with attendance by the Lord Mayor of London and HRH The Princess Royal and her husband. A number of invited guests, representing the family and a wide range of Shackleton interests, were present some having travelled from Ireland and parts of mainland Europe. David Tatham and David Drewry attend on behalf of SGA and Bob Headland was also there is a different capacity. Following the immaculately conducted Evensong, with singing by the choir of extraordinary purity that filled the massive Abbey with otherworldly sound, invited guests made their way to the South Cloister. Here the group gathered around the plaque covered by the Abbey flag. There were several short readings and tributes to Shackleton led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle KCVO, including one read by the Hon. Alexandra ‘Zaz’ Shackleton. Thereafter the Princess Royal stepped forward to unveil the memorial plaque.

After a suitable time admiring this new addition to the Abbey, the guests made their way to the Jerusalem Chamber where at a Reception the HRH was introduced and spoke with them. Zaz Shackleton concluded this element of the Abbey ceremonies with a few words.

Later that evening there was a further and convivial gathering of the guests from the Abbey joined by other supporters, at the Royal Overseas League. It concluded what had been a most memorable and uplifting “polar” occasion.

Click a photo to see a larger version.

Memorial Plaque (courtesy Dean and Chapter of Westminster)
In the Choir prior to Evensong
The hon. Alexandra Shackleton reading prior to the unveiling.
Gathering in the Cloister, Princess Royal (left in light green dress).
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