Perce Blackborow (Shackleton’s 28th crew member)

21 09 2012


By following the cat to the cradling shadows

the Captain had found me in the hull

rolling the ship’s pet to sleep, folding its ears.

He kept his stowaways, fed us routine, purpose:

We were dripping echoes of his youth.

The Endurance smacked the water

for months and I filled a shivery diary

about the cold and the hounds and the quiet men.

I studied how the position of the sun

spoils photographs, scorns navigation. How it lights

thoughts of grey chapels in slate valleys.

Others hated leaving the ship that night,

couldn’t watch their home snap and sink below packed ice

but I was soothed by our lonely landscape.

We fought nature’s silences with stories, filled empty

spaces with football pitches and terraces of tents.

Some waited to be found, I explored

New whites that bordered the emptiness,

discovered how to stew a dog, feed it

to another. Savoured hanging heavy clothes

in the hopeful chill. Learnt how to hide

my limp from the surgeon’s suspicions

by stepping forward first. Always.

Before the panic of flagwavers and photographers

at the quay I shuffled numbly

from the rescue ship. Desperate not to reveal

how much I’d given to the snow. But, in the stark room

the Boss led me to, he made me sit and unwrap

my boots. I surrendered the raw black joints.

He knew the feet would be parted from me,

but that I would not drift from the sea.

I lean on the balustrade each morning,

watch orange seep from the sky

and hear wild noises carried on water.




21 responses

26 09 2012
Tom Gething

Wonderful poem! I have always been fascinated, as was my mother, with the Shackleton expedition. ‘South’ was an amazing book of restrained achievement. As I was hiking in the rugged alpine mountains west of Seattle (the Olympics) this month with four friends, I thought about how he climbed over that icey range to rescue his men. A group is only as strong as its weakest members. Understated, determined greatness measured in lives saved.

30 09 2012

Thanks Tom. The Hurley photographs of the expedition are compelling and, when they were on display in Liverpool last year, I felt they could’ve been taken two or three centuries ago. Are the Olympics the name of the mountain range or the time you made your journey?

30 09 2012
Tom Gething

Olympic National Park, a glorious range of snow-capped peaks, temperate rain forests and long ocean beaches just a couple hours west of Seattle.

30 09 2012

In North Wales today I’m certain we’ve experienced those weather phenomenon. The world in one morning.

30 09 2012
Joseph Mcgill

You should read the life story of Tom Creen 🙂

30 09 2012
30 09 2012

Thanks- I liked how he ended his life ‘After the “Endurance” expedition he returned to the Navy, and when his naval career ended in 1920 he moved back to County Kerry. In his home town of Annascaul, Crean and his wife Ellen opened a public house called the “South Pole Inn”. He lived there quietly and unobtrusively until his death in 1938.’

30 09 2012
Joseph Mcgill


1 10 2012

This is a beautiful poem. So informative, but also just poetic. Very empathetic. k .

1 10 2012

Thanks, sometimes it seems too factual or too figurative. A compelling character.

6 10 2012

It is pure joy to read your work.
Everything about it is top shelf…Could spend the day writing
comments about what makes it so…but a quick mention of such
phrases as ‘rolling the ship’s pet to sleep, folding its ears’
‘filled a shivery diary’ “studied how the position of the sun
spoils photographs, scorns navigation”

If I keep going I will have listed every line in the poem. You write with a sure hand. You know your craft and you have a dynamic story to tell. Just outstanding!

7 10 2012

I write lazily and haphazardly. Your genuinely kind compliments could some motivation to begin again today. Thank you!

10 10 2012

Having seen the Shackleton exhibition a little while ago, your writing brought back my wonder at such feats of endurance and humanity.

I enjoyed your writing very much. It paints pictures and emotions.

19 10 2012

Thank you. The Centenary of the Endurance expedition will hopefully provide a glut of books and films and documentaries…and the same exhibition in the Albert Dock again!

19 10 2012
john todaro

Awesome poem.

20 10 2012

Thanks. With those Hurley photographs you’re spoiled for inspiration.

11 12 2012
ortopedia online

Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this,
like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog.
An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

11 12 2012

I agree with the pictures, I need to put more on. I still hold back from adding photographs and turning the blog into a ‘lifestyle one’ but, when I get my hands clasped firmly enough to catch the time falling through them, I will improve the blogs aesthetics. Thanks for the really kind comment. Glyn

26 04 2015
Elaine Ewart

A beautiful poem and a remarkable story.

26 04 2015

Thanks Elaine, I can’t take credit for his story though I’ll celebrate the praise

8 05 2019


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