It was at an early age that Inga Adams playing around in Kirkwall’s St Magnus Cathedral first became entranced by John Rae. Situated in the cathedral is a large memorial to Orkney’s famed Arctic explorer.
The curiosity of the wee Inga was stirred and she wanted to find out more about this man. That interest has never waned, indeed it has grown and become more informed as Inga has researched, read about and collected items connected to Dr John Rae.
Inga Adams talk to the Orkney Family History Society on Thursday 9th of May at St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall was lively and informative. Many there would be aware of the story of Dr John Rae, his mapping of the North, his discovery of the North West passage and his revelations of what befell the ill fated Franklin expedition.
Even though many knew the story (and it is always good to be reminded of it) Inga’s enthusiasm and passion for Rae’s considerable achievements was infectious. From his solitary outdoor childhood where he learned to hunt to his appreciation and respect for the Inuit, learning and adapting to their ways. Rae was also respected in turn by the Inuit as a skilled hunter and given the Inuit name ‘Aglooka’.
It is now known that Rae’s assessment of what happened to the Franklin expedition, which he learned from talking to the Inuit , was correct. It is also now accepted that it was Dr John Rae who discovered the North West passage.
In later life, for many years, Rae returned to Orkney on hunting trips, mainly to the parish of Rendall. He died on the 22nd of July 1893 in Kensington, London. His body was returned to Orkney where he is buried in the graveyard of St Magnus Cathedral. In 2014 a plaque was installed in the floor of Westminster Cathedral below the considerable memorial to Franklin – who is now famed for leading an ill-fated voyage which caused the death of the crew of both ships.
As well as the magnificent memorial to John Rae inside St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, there is also a statue to him in Stromness.
Dr John Rae is finally beginning to get the recognition outside of Orkney that he so deserves as an Arctic explorer and a man who mapped thousands of miles of Northern Canada. Recently a team of 4 men led by David Reid set out to retrace the long strides of Rae in the Arctic Return Expedition, so gruelling was their journey that only 2 of them managed to complete the journey.
The 2019 Arctic Return ExpeditionIn March 1854, Orcadian explorer John Rae set out from Naujaat (Repulse Bay) in the central Canadian Arctic. Together with the Inuk William Ouligbuck and the Ojibway Thomas Mistegan, Rae discovered both the catastrophe that had engulfed the failed Franklin expedition and the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. In doing so, he accomplished one of the most significant expeditions in the history of Arctic exploration.In March 2019, the Arctic Return Expedition team will return to Naujaat and embark upon on a 650-kilometre trek across Boothia Peninsula that will follow the route taken by Rae and his indigenous companions.
You can read about it here on their blog : The 2019 Arctic Return Expedition
The Orkney News has many articles on Dr John Rae which you will find in our search facility.
This was a fascinating talk by Inga Adams. The Orkney Family History Society has over 1700 members in 21 countries. They have a superb website Sib Folk and Facebook page Orkney Family History Society.
Inga’s presentation took place at The Orkney Family History Society AGM where members re-elected the committee. The meeting was extremely well attended by members of the society and it was open to the public.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame