04 March 2015

Shackleton - and the banjo

The Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul, Co. Dublin, has been a good friend to bluegrass music in the Dublin region for a long time now, particularly in presenting visiting bands. None, unfortunately, are on the Centre's latest e-newsletter, giving a schedule of events up to St Patrick's day; but tonight (Wed. 4 Mar.) there will be a talk on Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), given by Michael Smith, biographer of Shackleton and Tom Crean (1877–1938).

Which of course reminds us of the Shackleton banjo, named after the item of 'vital mental medicine' that was taken on Shackleton's Antarctic expedition of 1914-16 and played by Dr Leonard Hussey, the expedition's meteorologist. The new Shackleton banjo, from Britain's only banjo-making factory (as distinct from individual luthiers), comes in several models and custom options, with a range of related merchandise that includes strap, gig bag, hip flask, sweater, quilt, and beer.

The Shackleton is well suited to old-time playing: a video of Adam Hurt playing 'Rockingham Cindy' is on the company's website (and YouTube), together with another video about the company, the banjo, and Shackleton. The Great British Banjo Company is also producing a Shackleton bluegrass banjo which is due for release this spring and can be pre-ordered.

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