Dr. James Archibald
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.
Quest - Ernest Shackleton 1921 - 1922
The Endurance Expedition
McIlroy was a life-long ship's surgeon and
was suffering from malaria at the time contracted
in the far east, and shook constantly through
the interview with Shackleton who became
suspicious and insisted that McIlroy had
a medical examination. This was duly carried
out by a doctor friend of McIlroys and he
was declared fit. What he didn't know
at the time is that he was the only applicant
for the position of second doctor, and so
was given the job."
Macklin, the first doctor, McIlroy also had
the job of driving a team of sled dogs and caring
for the expeditions dogs. Most surgeons and
doctors on Antarctic expeditions had little
of a medical nature to deal with most of the
time, but once on Elephant Island, Macklin and
McIlroy, had much to attend to. Rickinson had
a heart condition, Blackborow had gangrene in
his toes several of which were amputated (by
McIlroy), Hudson was having a nervous
breakdown and suffered an infected boil. There
were many other cases of frostbite, dysentery,
boils, sores etc. that meant that both surgeons
were best left on Elephant Island rather than
accompanying Shackleton to South Georgia.
had a particular party piece which helped raise
the morale of the men in that he accompanied
Hussey on his banjo by providing musical imitations,
including trombone and bagpipes! He was regarded
as a "man of the world" by many of
the other crew and would entertain them with
numerous tales of past conquests.
Ulster, Ireland, his parents moved to England
and settled at Kings Norton, Birmingham.
His father was a shop keeper (also called
James McIlroy) and sent the younger James
to a nearby grammar school. After school
James took an office job, but soon decided
this was not what he wanted to continue
to do and so enrolled at Birmingham University
for a medical degree. On graduation, he
took up position as House Surgeon at the
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
seems that being settled didn't suit
McIlroy and so he decided to put his medical
qualification to use to get around and see
other parts of the world, he practised for
many years in the middle and far east, in
Egypt and Japan and in and around the East
Indies as a medical officer or ships surgeon.
In 1914, he was back in England and heard
about Shackleton's expedition from a
friend at his London club, Shackleton already
had Macklin as one surgeon and was looking
England and during the First World War,
McIlroy served in France and was invalided
out of the army after being badly wounded
at Ypres. After the war, he joined the P&O
shipping line as Chief Surgeon.
Just a small
correction to the biography of Dr. James
McIlroy who was my great-uncle.
Between the end of the First World War and
the "Quest" expedition, my great-uncle
farmed with his friend Frank Wild - Shackleton's
second-in-command - , and for a short time
another Antarctic explorer by the name of
Bickerton, in British Nyasaland in the neighbourhood
of Lake Nyasa. They cleared the then virgin
forest and planted cotton. They both loved
the life though suffering intermittently
from bouts of malaria. According to Frank
Wild, in a letter written in 1920 to his
cousin Margaret, they "would have been
there still if Shackleton had not called
for us to come on this expedition".
They had the full intention to return to
their farm in Africa after the expedition;
whether they did or not, I do not know.
Yours sincerely, Rhona Schmitz
of the Endurance crew, he was asked again
by Shackleton to join the Quest expedition,
which he did originally intending only to
stay as far as Madeira, though he remained
with the ship and carried on South.
Hussey, McIlroy contributed an appendix
on meteorology to Frank Wild's account
of the Quest expedition, "Shackleton's
from the south he rejoined P&O until
he had to retire due to his age at which
point he joined another cruise company the
Clan Line. As late as 1957 at the age of
78, McIlroy was still working as a ships
surgeon, he never married and died at the
age of 88 in Surrey on the 30th of July
War Two he almost lost his life when his
ship, S.S. Oronsay was torpedoed and sunk
off West Africa. Most of the crew were picked
up quickly, but McIlroy and others drifted
for five days in an open boat before being
picked up and landed at Dakar, Senegal.
Thanks for your
mail re Dr. James McIlroy. I think
the best thing to do is send you a
copy of the letter from Frank Wild to his
cousin Margaret. This is a copy
of the part of the original letter which
was in the possession of my late aunt, Mrs.
Sheila Birks. It was sent to her many
years ago by a lady named Maureen (surname
unknown), who at that time was working for
the Shackleton Society?, Antarctic Society?,
and had been in touch with my aunt for some
After retirement from his post
as Chief Surgeon of the P&O Line, Dr.
McIlroy went to live for some time in Aberystwyth
with my aunt and her mother, Ruby (my grandmother),
Dr. McIlroy's twin sister. As
stated in his biography, life ashore was
not for him, and some time later (after
giving a false date of birth) he went to
sea again with the Clan Line - a merchant
shipping company. It must have been
rather boring as they used to sit outside
Mombasa for weeks on end, waiting to unload.
By the way, my aunt had to bully him to
go to the Endurance re-union (1960's?).
He did not want to go at all, but thoroughly
enjoyed it once having got there.
I am almost certain that Uncle Jim only
joined the P&O Line after the Quest
Expedition, but whether immediately after
or not, I do not know. It surprises
me to learn that he only intended to go
as far as Madeira with the Quest: why ever
would he leave the farm in Africa just for
that? Your details about the torpedoing
of the Oronsay are correct, and subsequently
he was a prisoner-of-war in Timbuktu (which
always made us laugh, as it was a funny
name in those days).
Uncle Jim also
sailed round the world with Prince Louis
of Battenberg, as his personal doctor.
My great-aunt Effie (his sister Euphemia),
who lived with us for many years, possessed
a gold watch which had been presented to
him in remembrance by Prince Louis (who
was married to a daughter of Queen Victoria,
and later anglicized his name to Mountbatten).
As you say, he never married, but he
was a great ladies' man, and was well-known
in the family for having a "wife in
every port". The portrayal of
him in the Kenneth Branagh film was very
true to life - it is exactly how I remember
him to have been.
I hope you have
fun reading the enclosure, but it makes
one blush nowadays to read the colonialist's
view of things. Wild's estimates
of the costs are amazing. It all sounds
like a Boys' Book of Adventure Stories:
which well sums up the life of my great-uncle.
Yours sincerely, Rhona Schmitz
Read the letter
published here by the kind permission of
Rhona Schmitz - great niece of Dr. James
to James McIlroy in Shackleton's book "South!"
- The quarters in the 'tween
decks were completed by the 10th, and
the men took possession of the cubicles
that had been built. The largest cubicle
Hurley, and Hussey and it was named "The
The dogs had been
divided into six teams of nine dogs
each. Wild, Crean, Macklin,
Marston, and Hurley each had charge
of a team, and were fully responsible
for the exercising, training, and feeding
of their own dogs.
as might have been expected, and on
the 15th of the month a great race,
the "Antarctic Derby," took
place. It was a notable event. The betting
had been heavy, and every man aboard
the ship stood to win or lose on the
result of the contest. Some money had
been staked, but the wagers that thrilled
were those involving stores of chocolate
and cigarettes. The course had been
laid off from Khyber Pass, at the eastern
end of the old lead ahead of the ship,
to a point clear of the jib-boom, a
distance of about 700 yds. Five teams
went out in the dim noon twilight, with
a zero temperature and an aurora flickering
faintly to the southward. The starting
signal was to be given by the flashing
of a light on the meteorological station.
I was appointed starter, Worsley was
judge, and James was timekeeper. The
bos'n, with a straw hat added to
his usual Antarctic attire, stood on
a box near the winning-post, and was
assisted by a couple of shady characters
to shout the odds, which were displayed
on a board hung around his neck—6 to
4 on Wild, "evens" on Crean,
2 to 1 against Hurley, 6 to 1 against
and 8 to 1 against
Canvas handkerchiefs fluttered from
an improvised grand stand, and the pups,
which had never seen such strange happenings
before, sat round and howled with excitement.
The spectators could not see far in
the dim light, but they heard the shouts
of the drivers as the teams approached
and greeted the victory of the favourite
with a roar of cheering that must have
sounded strange indeed to any seals
or penguins that happened to be in our
neighbourhood. Wild's time was 2 min.
16 sec., or at the rate of 10½ miles
per hour for the course.
Two seals were
killed to-day. Wild and
who went out to secure them, had rather
an exciting time on some very loose,
rotten ice, three killer-whales in a
lead a few yards away poking up their
ugly heads as if in anticipation of
The Stancomb Wills
came up and McIlroy
reported that Blackborow's feet
were very badly frost-bitten. This was
unfortunate, but nothing could be done.
Most of the people were frost-bitten
to some extent, and it was interesting
to notice that the "oldtimers,"
Wild, Crean, Hurley, and I, were all
right. Apparently we were acclimatized
to ordinary Antarctic temperature, though
we learned later that we were not immune.
We were labouring
at the boats when I noticed Rickenson
turn white and stagger in the surf.
I pulled him out of reach of the water
and sent him up to the stove, which
had been placed in the shelter of some
went to him and found that his heart
had been temporarily unequal to the
strain placed upon it. He was in a bad
way and needed prompt medical attention.
There are some men who will do more
than their share of work and who will
attempt more than they are physically
able to accomplish. Rickenson was one
of these eager souls. He was suffering,
like many other members of the Expedition,
from bad salt-water boils. Our wrists,
arms, and legs were attacked. Apparently
this infliction was due to constant
soaking with sea-water, the chafing
of wet clothes, and exposure.
I called the men
together, explained my plan, and asked
for volunteers. Many came forward at
once. Some were not fit enough for the
work that would have to be done, and
others would not have been much use
in the boat since they were not seasoned
sailors, though the experiences of recent
months entitled them to some consideration
as seafaring men.
and Macklin were both anxious to go
but realized that their duty lay on
the island with the sick men.
On the following
day Wild, Hurley, Macklin, and
took their teams to the Stained Berg,
about seven miles west of the ship,
and on their way back got a female crab-eater,
which they killed, skinned, and left
to be picked up later. They ascended
to the top of the berg, which lay in
about lat. 69° 30´ S., long. 51°
W., and from an elevation of 110 ft.
could see no land.
gale was blowing on April 22, interfering
with our preparations for the voyage.
The cooker from No. 5 tent came adrift
in a gust, and, although it was chased
to the water's edge, it disappeared
for good. Blackborow's feet were
giving him much pain, and
and Macklin thought it would be necessary
for them to operate soon. They were
under the impression then that they
had no chloroform, but they found some
subsequently in the medicine-chest after
we had left.
of the hut is filled with the cases
which do duty for the cook's bed,
the meat and blubber boxes, and a mummified-looking
object, which is Lees in his sleeping-bag.
The near end of the floor space is taken
up with the stove, with Wild and
on one side, and Hurley and James on
the other. Marston occupies a hammock
most of the night—and day—which is slung
across the entrance. As he is large
and the entrance very small, he invariably
gets bumped by those passing in and
out. His vocabulary at such times is
A census was taken,
each man being asked to state just what
he would like to eat at that moment
if he were allowed to have anything
that he wanted. All, with but one exception,
desired a suet pudding of some sort—the "duff"
beloved of sailors. Macklin asked for
many returns of scrambled eggs on hot
buttered toast. Several voted for "a
prodigious Devonshire dumpling,"
while Wild wished for "any old
dumpling so long as it was a large one."
The craving for carbohydrates, such
as flour and sugar, and for fats was
very real. Marston had with him a small
penny cookery book. From this he would
read out one recipe each night, so as
to make them last. This would be discussed
very seriously, and alterations and
improvements suggested, and then they
would turn into their bags to dream
of wonderful meals that they could never
reach. The following conversation was
recorded in one diary:
‘Do you like doughnuts?'
easily made, too. I like them cold with
a little jam.'
‘Not bad; but how about a huge omelette?'
"WILD: ‘Fine!' (with
a deep sigh).
named after James McIlroy
Feature Type: summit
A peak rising to 745 m W of Husvik
Harbor and 0.8 mi S of Mount Barren,
South Georgia. Named by the UK-APC in
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experiences of the men involved. Any further information or pictures
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- Paul Ward, webmaster.
What are the chances that my ancestor was an unsung part of the
Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration?