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Ernest Shackleton is one of the most familiar names but it tends to be his astonishing exploits in the early 20th century that grab the attention.

However, coming up in the Nigel Ward February 18 sale is a slightly earlier Shackleton-related item. It is what the saleroom calls “an uncommonly neatly written” six-page letter by him dated May 7, 1893, from Shackleton’s first ship, Hoghton Tower, moored in Newcastle Harbour, New South Wales, Australia.

The letter is a reply to “a long and interesting letter” from a Mrs Snelling of Beau Bassin, Mauritius, who was understood to have been the wife of a Government servant with whom Shackleton and his two crew companions stayed for a few days when visiting the island.

The auction house, based near Hereford, says the letter “displays remarkable maturity for a 19 year old, referring to the childish innocence of the Snellings’ two teenage daughters”, but nonetheless “it is tinged with the sadness of leaving Mauritius”. It also gives some insight into his school days and his decision to leave to go to sea and also refers to his brother’s interest in stamp collecting.

Auctioneer Nigel Ward says the vendor is a lady living in the Welsh valleys. She used to help an elderly neighbour and he gave her this letter contained inside a book as a gift. He has hopes of selling it for around £1000.


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