The main aim of the Remembering Edward Bransfield committee was to place a monument to Edward Bransfield in his birthplace of Ballinacurra, Cork in January 2020 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his achievement of leading the first expedition to see and chart the Antarctic mainland.

After many months of research, discussion and debate, the committee agreed the wording for the monument and a design submitted by renowned local sculptor Matthew Thompson.

In November 2018 we signed a contract for the monument with Matthew. In addition, Cork County Council generously offered us an excellent site for the monument on Lower Road, at the entrance to Ballinacurra village which we hope will be renamed Bransfield Green.

A limestone base was then designed by the committee, including the names of other Irish Antarctic explorers surrounding the monument and Matthew’s monument sits on a map of the Antarctic. The idea is to show Edward Bransfield at the very centre of Antarctic exploration and the forerunner of those that followed. A relief image of the brig ‘Williams’, the ship Edward Bransfield and his crew sailed on, is on the back of the monument.

In front of a crowd of 350-450 people we unveiled the monument on the Lower Road in his home town of Ballinacurra at 2pm on the 25th January 2020, just five days prior to the 200th anniversary of Edward Bransfield’s expeditions sighting of the Antarctic mainland for the first time.

Sponsors and Supporters: Thanks to the generosity of many organisations and individuals we successfully raised the funds needed for the project. Details can be found on our Home Page.


Sculptor Matthew Thompson with the Edward Bransfield Monument.

The monument surround just before the monument was placed in the centre. The idea is to show that Edward Bransfield was at the centre of Antarctic exploration. He was the first to explore any part of the Antarctic mainland, laying the foundation for others to follow including those Irishmen named around the edge of the base.

Gentoo Penguin at the base of the front of the monument. Matthew included this as it symbolises Antarctic wildlife, something most people will relate to and something kids will be able to touch and enjoy.

The brig ‘Williams’ can be found on the back of the monument. This was the ship Edward Bransfield and his crew sailed to the Antarctic.

Navigation Beacon
Mouth of Baltimore Harbour, Cork
Photo by Jim Wilson 2016

Matt’s reasoning for the monument design:
‘My idea for the memorial to Edward Bransfield was inspired by the fact that he was a ship’s master who was in charge of the safe navigation and sailing of his ship. The shape of the memorial is inspired by navigation markers or beacons built by sailors and fishermen to mark the entrance to safe harbours, such as the beacon in Baltimore, West Cork. These would be lined up with other features in the landscape to show you the way in through the entrance to the bay. This is not always clear when you are at sea and seeing a navigation beacon is always a relief. This idea is also appropriate for the position of the memorial near the old harbour of Ballinacurra where Bransfield would have sailed as a young man fishing with his father. It is fitting for a navigator to have a navigation marker, a marker of a safe harbour, as his memorial in the town of his birth where he learned the skills to enable him to work his way up through the ranks to become a ships master.

As I was working on this idea I was also reminded of stories of sailors who stopped on a deserted island where they were taking on water and who left mail under a prominent rock to be collected by the next passing ship.

As a ships master, one of the tools used most by Edward Bransfield would have been a sextant. He would have used this to find out his position to navigate the ship safely and to chart the new unexplored coastline of the Antarctic mainland he discovered. For this reason I have added it in the design at the top of the stone. It is also a very evocative image of the sea, adventure and the unknown.

For fun and an instantly recognizable symbol of the Antarctic I have included a penguin. This will excite interest and impart some information as to what the memorial is about instantly and from a distance. It should also make the piece more accessible to children.

The lettering on the stone will be hand drawn and hand cut, v-cut letters in the traditional way which makes for a more elegant and beautiful letter. The lettering is the most important part and the whole reason for the sculpture and so time and attention should, and will be given to it to make it as beautiful and well placed on the stone as possible. I have drawn the lettering on the memorial to follow the shape of the stone, each line slightly longer than the last one as I think this makes the lettering one with the shape of the memorial.

The memorial will be carved out of one single block of limestone weighing between 3 and 4 tonnes. I think this would make a very beautiful and fitting memorial to Edward Bransfield and I would very much enjoy making it.’

We will be unveiling the monument on the 25th January 2020, just five days prior to the 200th anniversary of Edward Bransfield’s expeditions sighting of the Antarctic mainland for the first time.