'Delighted' at chance to see grandfather's medal collection

Journalist Stephen Freed holds medals belonging to his grandfather, Captain Gerald Doorly. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Journalist Stephen Freed holds medals belonging to his grandfather, Captain Gerald Doorly. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Retired journalist Stephen Freed was ''delighted'' yesterday to see for the first time a Polar Medal awarded to his Antarctic-voyaging grandfather, the late Captain Gerald Doorly.

This was a special day for Mr Freed (72), who visited the Otago Museum and saw that medal and three others, which had belonged to his master mariner grandfather but were given to the museum many years ago.

Captain Gerald Doorly. Photo: Supplied
Captain Gerald Doorly. Photo: Supplied
''It's good to know they're here, and absolutely safe,'' Mr Freed said.

He said it had been ''always my dream'' to go to the Antarctic, and he did that recently.

He had also long thought of looking at his grandfather's medals, and yesterday's viewing was worth the wait.

''Absolutely. I'm thrilled.''

Capt Doorly received the Polar Medal for being part of two rescue voyages aboard the Norwegian-built Morning, via Port Chalmers, to support Captain R.F. Scott's expedition to the Antarctic (1902-04).

Morning had helped free Scott's vessel Discovery from its ice-bound anchorage.

And an unexpected bonus was to discover that the museum also held the annual Queen's Gold Medal, which, as a teenager, Capt Doorly had won for being voted the marine trainee most likely to be the best officer by his fellow trainees.

Mr Freed is a New Zealander who grew up in Wellington and lived in Sydney for many years, working as a journalist.

For the past year, he has been living in Nelson, and, over the years has felt a growing respect for Capt Doorly, who was a lively raconteur and the author of four books.

After Capt Doorly's first voyage to the Antarctic in 1902, via Port Chalmers, he returned and spent the winter in Dunedin, before heading back to the ice.

While in Dunedin, he met Forrestina (''Ina'') Whitson, daughter of the secretary of the Union Steamship Co of New Zealand, and they later married at Knox Church, in 1908.

Perhaps Capt Doorly's worst maritime experience came during World War 1, in 1918, when he was captain of Aparima. The ship was torpedoed off the Welsh coast, with the loss of 54 members, including 24 New Zealanders, among the 110-strong crew.

This was a ''ghastly night'', he recalled in his autobiography In the Wake.

Captain Doorly was born in 1880, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, of English parents, and later underwent officer training in England

Capt Doorly (1880-1956) lived much of his later life in Australia, before spending his last few years at a rest-home in Island Bay, Wellington, with a good view of the sea.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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