A fascinating story of survival and injustice in the Antarctic

HiLo Productions presents Shackleton's Carpenter, 90 minutes of riveting storytelling, at the MacArts, Galashiels on October 16.
HiLo Productions presents Shackleton's Carpenter, 90 minutes of riveting storytelling, at the MacArts, Galashiels on October 16.

HiLo Productions presents Shackleton’s Carpenter, 90 minutes of riveting storytelling, at Bowhill House, Selkirk on October 16.

In August 1914, as war broke out, the Endurance set sail for the Antarctic led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. Over 15 months later, crushed by the ice of the Weddell Sea, the Endurance sank and 28 men were stranded on the Antarctic ice cap.

Their subsequent survival and rescue was down in no small part to Harry McNish, the ship’s carpenter who ingeniously adapted the three remaining life boats to withstand the extreme rigours of polar sea travel. This enabled Shackleton and five men (including McNish) to make a voyage of hundreds of miles to fetch help for the rest of the crew.

Shackleton’s name subsequently became a byword for leadership and heroism.

However McNish was also the only man to openly disagree with Shackleton’s escape plan, an action which cost him the prestigious Polar Medal.

The play begins in 1930 with McNish, ill and destitute, sleeping in an old lifeboat on the wharf in Wellington, New Zealand. He awakes and re-lives his Endurance experiences, conjuring up the ghosts of his past. In his fevered mind he recalls his shipmates, McLeod, Green, the hated Orde-Lees, his cat, Mrs Chippy, shot by Shackleton, and most tellingly, the Boss himself and their fateful quarrel.

What happened behind the headlines is not only astonishing, but explores issues to do with status and the class system still relevant today.

McNish is played by Malcolm Rennie who has been an actor for over 50 years. He has appeared in over 20 West End shows and is TV & film appearances include Midsomer Murders, Taggart, Ransom, Pride & Prejudice, The Lenny Henry Show, The Accountant, Monarch of the Glen, Coronation Street, Sherlock and as Fraser, the butler, in four series of Mr Selfridge.

Performed by New Vic Productions in association with Eastbourne Theatre, Shackleton’s Carpenter starts at 8pm at Bowhill House.

Tickets £12 from www.borderevents.com.