6 years ago I had an idea to decorate a mug using a story. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to describe the history of an organisation on the side of a mug? The thought that an English bone china mug also has a story and a place in history seemed to make a perfect combination for a new idea, and so a Mug full of History was born.

Since childhood, I have always been fascinated by history. I would have loved to read history at university but for an undiagnosed dyslexic child, this was never going to happen. So as academic studies became more challenging I developed a talent for design and art but my love of history and an interest in leadership never left me. Leadership in history is particularly interesting. For example, what made Sir Ernest Shackleton such a good leader? When I was growing up Scott had all the attention and no one seemed so interested in Shackleton, but I have always had an interest in the underdog. Who was this man, Sir Ernest Shackleton, who had failed to reach the pole?  Very slowly over many years, I developed a fascination and an interest with this extraordinary leader of men. So of course when I had the idea of designing the first “Mug full of History” I became totally focused on the fact that the very first one was to be around my great polar hero, the very great man himself “The Boss”, Sir Ernest Shackleton.

So excited was I to be drawing and designing the mug, that I totally overlooked the fact we were coming up to the centenary of the famous Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 2014! Shackleton with his second in command Frank Wild with a further 27 hand-picked men, plus one stowaway, 69 dogs and a ship’s cat called Mr Chippy, set sail on the ill-fated Endurance. How would I manage to squeeze all the relevant information onto a mug, and what about a few drawings too? For those of you who know me, you will also know that I always believe all things are possible and I don’t understand the word NO and I certainly do not like the words “but we can’t do that”. However, I managed an initial design and made a sample mug complete with a typical dyslexic spelling mistake, which I duly sent to to the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge and better known as SPRI to The Friends. A few weeks later, to my great excitement, I found myself sitting in front of the curator of the museum explaining why I loved Shackleton and why it would be a great idea to have a mug to celebrate the centenary (which I suddenly realised had been a very lucky historical gift for a designer). Three hours later I was still at the museum, now in the Friends’ tea room having coffee, still discussing Scott and Shackleton. A bit later I met the secretary of the Friends of the Scott Polar Institute, Celene Pickard, committee member Angie Butler and thus started my association with this great institution. Within 12 months I was invited to be part of The Friends committee and of course this I readily accepted. We produced the Shackleton mug with a few amendments suitable for the centenary celebrations together with a dinner service. We are still producing this mug for the museum as we originally designed it. Now we plan to make a second design for Captain Scott.

The Scott Polar Research Institute was founded in 1920 in memory of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Scott himself was aware of the great importance of the role of science in the polar regions so it is a fitting tribute to this great man that the institute’s archives has one of the largest collections in the world of published and unpublished material relating to the polar regions. This covers anything from science and the environment to the history of the polar regions. The polar library has the reputation of being the best in the world. At first it was rather daunting, sitting on a committee and being part of such a well respected academic institution, but I soon realised the importance of increasing our membership to a new generation, to all those who care about climate change, preserving our environment and celebrating the polar regions. I believe we can and must reach out to new members.

Last year I attended the first Annual Polar Tribute Lecture organised by the friends of SPRI, which was dedicated to the memory of the great and charismatic Henry Worsley. In the audience were children who had been following their hero’s progress across Antarctica. During the evening it was clear that their lives had been changed, young leaders in the making who now had a passion for the polar regions, all because of Henry Worsley. Only a few weeks ago I sat in a packed audience at The Royal Geographical Society in London, listening to another inspirational polar explorer, Ben Saunders, who is about to walk in the same footsteps as Henry Worsley to complete the first solo expedition across Antarctica. Interestingly I was one of the older people in the audience! In a few weeks the Ice Maidens, the first all-female team, will endeavour to cross Antarctica unaided via the South Pole. So what next?

Why not join us at the FoSPRI and make a difference to our polar regions? By showing an interest and thus keeping the importance of science and the environment on everyone’s agenda and in the forefront of people’s minds, I believe we can all make a difference. I also believe as someone who has her own business, leadership in adversity is an important part of life and so often we overlook its importance. So thank you Sir Ernest for changing my life, inspiring me and making me believe in something bigger and better for the world we live in.

Click on this link to buy a shackleton mug

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