Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Doug Wintch: Music

Chippy McNish

A carpenter's hero...Chippy McNish died penniless in New Zealand in 1917. Its a little late to give him the Polar Medal now...though there was a movement afoot to award him one posthumously. I'm not sure what became of those efforts, but I figured the least I could do was write him a song. 

When Ernest Shackleton set sail

For the bottom of the world

Scottish carpenter Chippy McNish

Stepped up and said, I’ll give it a whirl

Before they could reach Antarctica

The seas froze solid around their boat

Chippy stood in ice water, up to his waist

Working for days to keep them afloat

     He questioned authority...He spoke his mind

     Call him a mutineer if you wish

     Even Shackleton admitted...they all would’ve died

     If not for Chippy McNish

As the ice crushed Endurance to splinters

Chippy offered up a solid idea

He’d salvage her timbers and build a new boat

But Shackleton couldn’t see it

McNish revolted, when they loaded the life boats

And pushed them over the ice

He said, its damaging the hulls, we’ve got miles to go

Ernest pulled a gun without thinking twice


When the ice finally broke, their only hope

Was a battered row boat, and stormy seas

Chippy plugged that tub, and put up a mast

Sir Ernest sailed into history

Every man was rescued, and steamered home

Given a medal with a champagne toast

Except for ship’s carpenter, Chippy McNish

Some say the man who deserved it most