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George Marston


One of the mysteries of the graveyard at Lyng centres upon the large grave in one corner commemorating the life of George Marston. George  wasn’t a local resident. He was, however, a famous national figure. As an artist he had accompanied Shackleton on his two journeys of exploration to the Antarctic. He helped to write and illustrate a book on their experiences, called ‘Antarctic Days’. So how did a man who had travelled so extensively end his days in Lyng?

The mystery seemed to be unfathomable. Many were questioned but little light was shed upon the mystery. Mary Lowe Willets alone seemed to have actually met him during his time at Lyng. She could remember talking with him during his stay at the Rose and Crown. His connection with Lyng, and the choice of Lyng as his final resting place, seemed to pose questions for which no answers could be found. The gravestone showed that he died at the age of 59. None of his family appear to have attended the funeral or visited the village following his death. And unless you have a painting of his tucked away in your attic, there seems to be little evidence that George Marston continued to pursue his creative skills during his time at Lyng. Beyond that nothing was known.

It was only when Lynn Miller put out an SOS on the Internet that some light was shed. A reply from Stephen Locke, Director of Museums for Hampshire County Council, provided us with the information which we were seeking.

George Marston was born in March 1882, one of five children. His parents lived at Southsea where his father was a coach builder . He attended his local elementary school but by the age of 20, and to the great dismay of his parents, George took himself off to London where he began to study art at the Putney School of Art and later at the Regent Street Polytechnic. His artistic skills were quickly recognised and the life of an artist beckoned him.

In 1907, however, George Marston joined Ernest Shackleton’s first Antarctic Expedition. According to Shackleton himself, George was on a walking tour of Cornwall when he received news via a telegram from Shackleton inviting him for interview. Impressed by his enthusiasm Shackleton engaged him immediately.

George Marston took part in three ancilliary journeys to prepare for Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole. Already Marston’s commitment, courage and concern for others were recognised. On the third of these initial journeys he rescued one of the party. Priestly had decided to sleep outside since the weather seemed calm and predictable. When a blizzard struck, Marston left the tent and rescued Priestly.

Shackleton was determined to publish a book while he was in the Antarctic. One hundred copies of the book were printed there. Marston was responsible for the title page and ten illustrations. He also contributed an article describing the severe storm that marked the early stage of the voyage from New Zealand.

Another important possession for Marston was a penny cookery book. Each night he would read out a recipe. The rest of the group discussed the recipe and suggested ways to improve it before turning into their bags for a good night’s sleep and an opportunity to dream that the meal had been served and eaten.

Upon his return to Britain, George Marston became a teacher in Hampshire. By 1925 he had become a member of the Rural Industries Bureau. This was an organisation which sought to regenerate and support rural industries. From 1934 he was the Director and played a major role in helping rural craftsmen. It may well have been this aspect of his work which brought him to Lyng and to the Rose and Crown. He died of a coronary thrombosis at the age of 59.

On a recent visit to Cambridge and the Scott Polar Research Institute, we were happily drawn to a picture on display which we though might have been drawn by George.  After further enquiries at the museum it was established that the picture was in fact by George Marston.  Several e mails later I am now able to link to their site for you to see some of George's wonderful watercolours, oils and drawings.