Jerry Ahern

The Forever Young Club is a community of people in Ireland and around the world who believe life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest, no matter how old we are. To join the Club all you need is to be 55 and older, passionate for life and a believer that your next adventure is just around the corner. In the newsletter, Corkman 66-year-old Jerry Ahern talks about his adventure to Antarctica on the Beyond Endurance Expedition.

I got my first telescope when I was 14. My late mother Margaret always allowed me to live my dreams and boy were they big ones. I remember seeing a mail order catalogue for Charles Frank telescopes that sold telescopes in Scotland. I saved my first payment and ordered a beautiful Saturn Five scope from them. It took three long weeks waiting for the postman with my long parcel. I got great use out of it and many were the nights I was out seeking out the wonders of the cosmos.

One Wednesday after school I took my scope to a big field near my home and was the only person in the British Isles to capture the partial eclipse of the sun on the 22nd October 1968. The weather up to the eclipse was appalling but I got lucky. The Cork Examiner paid me five guineas and put it on one of their morning pages some days later. I continue astronomy to this day waiting anxiously for meteor showers, comets and planetary conjunctions.

I started a caving club in Cork in 1969 called the Cork Speleological Group. We explored caves and potholes in limestone caverns in Cork, Clare, Tipperary, Yorkshire in England and British Columbia in Canada. In 1972, we made a unique discovery in the Mammoth Cave near Doneraile in County Cork. We discovered the tibia bone of a juvenile Woolly Mammoth. These prehistoric elephants roamed the plains of Ireland 35,000 years ago. We took it to UCC and several weeks later we received a thank-you letter from the curator of the National Museum in Dublin thanking us for our efforts. It is housed there and on display to this day.

I was involved in our local Sea Scout troop in Monkstown for 27 years. My two children joined the troop when they reached the age for joining and we had great adventures on hills, canoeing lakes and rivers with a little cave exploring thrown in. This did not sit very well with my commissioner of the time but I knew that the parents trusted me enough not to take their children into danger.

I joined the Cork Fire Brigade in 1975 and spent a very satisfying 31 years there retiring in October 2005. That was the year I learned about an expedition that was travelling to Antarctica. I was accepted as a member of Pat Falvey’s expedition in 2006 having gone through many weekends of training in Kerry. I also was good and fit enough to be allowed cross the island of South Georgia in November 2006. Our trek was across the island from King Haaken Bay to the whaling station at Stromness, following the footsteps of our heroes Tom Crean, Ernest Shackleton and Frank Worsley along the same route they took ninety years previous.

My golden moment on that great endeavour of ours was standing on the pebble beach on Elephant Island at the place where the men of the Endurance arrived after the ship they were on sank in the Weddell Sea. That was a pure joy to me. I still have in my possession a small smooth stone from that landing place.

Retirement for me was the beginning of the next chapter in my life. I read more and I’ve joined an American Civil War re-enactment group here in Cork called the PARDS – the Period American Re-enactment Display Society. We travel to castles, forts and summer gatherings for historical re-enactments. I still climb regularly although I don’t go caving as often now.

Were I to be given the opportunity to begin again, which I would refuse, I would change nothing. Life has been a wonderful adventure for me. Without imagination and drive, nothing will ever be achieved. The best advice I can give is to dream big, get up in the morning, look out, dress accordingly and go!

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