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Jean Worsley's insights on her husband and Shackleton...

In the 1950s, Shackleton biographer, James Fisher (JF) interviewed Endurance captain Frank Worsley's widow Jean Worsley (JW) ...

JW: I saw him (EHS) several times before the ship left. We had some pretty riotous times before she went, you know! I knew Lady Shackleton much better. I got to know her more after he died. We used to go down to Hampton Court. (Where Lady Shackleton and her children lived in a grace and favor apartment after Shackleton's death.)

JF: Do you remember the occasion when you first met Ernest Shackleton?

JW: It was in the office where they were getting ready for the Quest.

JF: And you went there as Worsley's girlfriend?

JW: Yes, Wuz's Jean, I was called by everyone. It was a wonderful time. Such a difference from nowadays - such simple people, there was no guile in them at all.

JF: I think Shackleton sometimes had a bit more guile than one gave him credit for. He was very good at getting the best out of people by the indirect approach.

Was your impression of him when he was in town that he was rather a rackety individual?

JW: No. The times that I saw him he was very busy about the job.

JF: How did you find Lady Shackleton?

JW: Oh, I liked her very much. She was always kind to me. She was never stiff.

(JW continues, referring to her husband) He did always emphasize that the Boss always thought of his men before he thought of himself. He was most insistent upon that. And he used to say how wonderful it was that he never lost a man under his leadership, and he would say it wasn't only luck but it was good leadership.

(JW reads letter to Worsley from Shackleton written from the Dunedin Club)

My dear old Worsley,

I am bloody well fed up old man after losing you. I cannot write about it but you know. Will you post the enclosed letter and stamp it yourself, also send wire enclosed not franked. See Tripp about anything you want.

God bless you,

E. H. Shackleton

P.S. Send Cully some silk stockings from us as payment of debt...

JF: They obviously enjoyed each other all the time.

JW: Yes, I think they did.

JF: Did your husband ever speak to you about the climb over South Georgia?

JW: I used to hear about it in his lectures, of course, but nothing more than, and in his books.

JF: Was he a particularly spiritual person?

JW: He had a most simple faith. As for the South Georgia crossing, I remember in one of the last lectures I heard him give, down at the Isle of Wight, he talked about four crossing, and I said to him afterwards, 'Do you know you said there were four' and he said, 'Whatever will they think of me. I can't get it out of my mind.'

JF: He really said four without bringing in the point?

JW: He didn't know he'd said it until afterwards.

JF: He must have been a fine lecturer, if his film commentary is any guide.

JW: He really was a good lecturer. He never lectured with notes, and he gave a different lecture each time, from different points of view, you know.


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