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How Aidan gave new life to forgotten Irish explorer



Aidan Dooley on stage in his role as Tom Crean in Travels with Tom Crean; Antarctic Explorer. The show has been seen by more than 250,000 people all over the world.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets a Galway actor whose new book reveals the story behind his 16-year role as legendary Tom Crean

When Aidan Dooley came across the name Tom Crean in London’s Maritime Museum in 2000, it was the Galway actor’s first encounter with an almost unknown historical figure. And it was an encounter that would change his life.

Aidan, who lives in England, but is originally from the Claddagh in Galway City, has now written a book. Travels with Tom Crean; Antarctic Explorer, in which the former bank official charts his 16-year journey with the Kerry explorer .

Tom Crean (1877-1938) voyaged to the South Pole three times between 1901 and 1916, winning a medal for bravery and performing heroic, even insane deeds to save the lives of his companions. Yet, by 2000 he was just a footnote in history.

That year, the Maritime Museum in Greenwich was hosting an exhibition on Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, to mark the 100th anniversary of Scott’s Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic (1901-04).

Aidan, who worked as an actor in the Museum, was asked to create and perform a 20-minute educational piece to accompany it. This would showcase the difference in leadership skills between the two great explorers. Crean had twice travelled to the Antarctic with Scott (also on the Terra Nova expedition from 1910-13) and once with Shackleton (Endurance 1914-16). That was the great era of polar exploration, as Britain competed with other European empires for glory in the world’s most remote regions.

Aidan was fascinated by Crean, who was reared on a farm outside the tiny village of Annascaul, and realised that there was more to this Kerryman than being an adjunct to the Scott-Shackleton story.

But the actor had been given a brief. In any case, details about Crean were thin on the ground at that stage, despite the fact that he’d spent more time in the Antarctic than either Scott or Shackleton.

Initially, Aidan delivered a short, straightforward piece for the Museum, giving visitors an insight into how the explorers survived as they travelled in unchartered Antarctic territories at temperatures of minus 40 degrees.

By coincidence, at around the same time as he began presenting that show, the first biography of Crean’s life, written by journalist and polar expert Michael Smith, was published by Collins Press. Reading it confirmed Aidan’s belief that Crean was extraordinary.

For instance, during the Terra Nova expedition, he undertook a solitary 58-kilometre trek to base camp to rescue an ill comrade, which saw him receive the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.

On the Endurance trip, he was one of six men who sailed 1,500km through icy water to organise a rescue for companions who were trapped on an island by ice floe.

Armed with this knowledge, Aidan began to modify his show.

“I thought how fantastic this man had been and the injustice that he hadn’t been recognised. I started telling the Scott and Shackleton story but through Crean’s eyes, and after another six months, I started piecing the performance as we know it now,” he says.

In 2000, Aidan was performing four shows a day at the Museum, for visitors of all ages, so he knew what was required to hold the attention of a diverse crowd.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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