Son of Ballinliss

I’m thinking it must be word-and-idea association that drives me! Anna Belle spoke of Ballinliss and that brought to mind another past-pupil of that tiny school.

John McNally of Ballinliss, Killeavy spent twenty years gold-mining and prospecting in Alaska!

He even set out from Nome, Alaska with the famous explorer Roald Amundson, in search of the North West Passage.

Two short asides before I continue: the North-West Passage – a seaway across the top of the North Atlantic continent accessing the rich trading route to The East – was the Holy Grail of the nineteenth century and thousands lost their lives in search of it.  There is a statue on Banbridge’s main street erected to the memory of the local man who eventually discovered that famous passage. That too is a story for another day.

AND I highly recommend Roald Amundson’s own account of his successful (as opposed to Scott’s unsuccessful!) 1911 journey to the South Pole.   This was one of the true stories that most impressed me in my youth, and the tale was told so remarkably well that it lingers with me thirty years later. (Well, forty! But who’s counting?)

John McNally spent two years on this trip with Amundson, since the vessel was stuck fast in the spreading ice (exactly as Roald had experienced at the other geographical extremity). John told the story himself with humour and great attention to detail. He recounted how the natives cut windows in the ice in order to fish: how they taught him to handle dog-teams through snow drifts: how to build log-cabins without the use of a single nail: and of course, the work connected with gold-prospecting. 

He lost his brother who was his travelling companion when he sped across a disused mine-shaft in a blizzard, only to fall through to his death. 


 … H Blocks ? …

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