Cooks assistant and clerk - Shackleton - Rowett Expedition Quest 1921-1922
Christopher Naisbitt (1893-1978)
On the morning of the 22nd November 1921 the Quest, in need of repairs, put into Rio de Janeiro where Naisbitt, originally from Sunderland, was serving a three year contract with Grace Brothers, an Anglo-American shipping firm.
As a member of the British Club he was present at Club Central for a reception given to Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew. At this reception, Naisbitt was among a hundred or so men who volunteered to join the expedition, when it was learned that Shackleton had returned home three original crew members, John Charles Bee-Mason, Mr Eriksen and Norman Mooney. Two of the berths went to Argles and Young.
The next day, in an attempt to fill the final space, Naisbitt persuaded the secretary of the British Society to take him to Wilson's Yard where the Quest was undergoing its repairs. Aboard the ship he was introduced to the "Boss" who was in conversation with Worsley. Shackleton took one look at the man "dressed in a Palm Beach suit and a Panama hat" and asked if he had ever done a day's hard work in his life. Naisbitt told him he had spent four years in the navy and was keen on sport, which evidently pleased him. However, in an attempt to discourage him Shackleton put Naisbitt on a day's trial hauling supplies, peeling potatoes and swabbing the kitchen, all of which he did without complaint. Shackleton hired him as the assistant to Green, the ship's cook.
Being multi-lingual and capable of using a typewriter, he was asked to translate some old Portuguese records of Trinidade, where they should have visited. He soon became the ship's clerk and was responsible for the Quest's newsheet: "Expedition Topics".
After Shackleton's death, Naisbitt made the wooden cross that sat atop the rock cairn, constructed in South Georgia, to honour the Boss.
Following the expedition he returned to work in Rio de Janeiro but, as a casualty of the Great (Wall Street) Crash, was forced back to England with his wife Cecilia (nee Mawson m.1928) and two sons, John (b.1929) and Roy (b.1930).
After a period living on the Sussex coast the family settled in Swiss Cottage, London where Naisbitt worked as a joiner and decorator whilst also becoming a popular raconteur, wit and occasional violinist in the local hostelries.
He died in 1978 in North Wembley, Middlesex having spent his last years wheelchair-bound following a stroke suffered in 1968Biography and picture provided courtesy of Ivan Naisbitt, Christopher's grandson.
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