Local News

Celebrate John Rae’s Birthday with Rum, Rhyme & Reels

statue of John Rae in Stromness, He is in his outdoor gear ready to travel across the North of Canada and on his back is slung his rifle

A special-edition rum, a graveside vigil, an awesome auction and a specially-penned ode are among the celebratory happenings.

John Rae Society President Andrew Appleby said:

“We have organised a bumper birthday weekend and are hoping lots of folk will come along to help us mark John Rae’s 10th coming of age.”

The programme begins at 11.30am on Saturday, 30th September, at the Kirkyard Gate of St Magnus Cathedral, with a piper procession to John Rae’s graveside where Orkney’s Convener Graham Bevan will make a dedication and do the libation of Highland Park whisky. This will be followed by the Maureen Findlay Dancers performing ‘The John Rae Reel’ on the Cathedral forecourt.

Celebrations continue at 7pm with ‘A Rum Do’ at The Matchmakers, at The Albert Hotel, when The Hall of Clestrain special-edition rum from makers John Gow will be launched by Collin Van Schayk.

a bottle of J Gow Hall of Clestrain rum

Collin explained:

“It’s my favourite rum released so far. It has been aged in first fill chestnut and then split into PX sherry octaves for a total of 5 years. It is a big bold heavy rum; the chestnut cask notes of dried fruit and almonds pair perfectly with the chewy toffee and raisin notes from the PX casks. The story ties in perfectly too with John Gow raiding the hall all those years ago, and now we’re giving back 298 years later.”

Former Orkney Convener Harvey Johnston will read a specially-penned ode in a chorus with those attending and a glass of rum will be raised.

There then follows a bumper auction, led by local bid master John Copland, with some very special lots from local makers and artists as well as the first bottle of Hall of Clestrain Rum signed by maker Collin; a limited-edition bottle of John Rae Explorer whisky from Highland Park, and a model of TV plasticine personality Morph, handmade by creator Peter Lord. A raffle, with a first prize of Northlink Ferry tickets, as well as prints from local artists and many other super prizes will boost funds further.

Hall of Clestrain, large manor house requiring renovation
Ken McGoogan at The Hall of Clestrain , Orphir, the childhood home of John Rae

All proceeds from the evening will go to the John Rae Society’s £150k Road to The Arctic Appeal, that will pave the way for restorations at The Hall of Clestrain, by creating an access road for plant and machinery to the site.

Andrew commented:

“We thank all those who have donated some very special lots and prizes and, in doing so, have shown their support for restorations at The Hall of Clestrain and for our aim to make sure John Rae claims his rightful place in history as one of our Great Scots. We have raised around £50,000 already towards the road and we hope to see lots of folk come along to give us a birthday boost.”

A birthday cake, buffet and handmade ‘Rae Bread’ will keep the evening going and a bar will be available. Fionn McArthur will be playing fiddle to accompany proceedings.

The next day, Sunday October 1, at 11.15am there will be a special service in St. Magnus Cathedral featuring John Rae and once again, the Maureen Findlay Dancers will perform ‘The John Rae Reel’ following the service.

Everybody is welcome.

If you want to attend the ‘Rum Do’ email chapman611@btinternet.com for catering purposes.

As well as the rum and whisky there is also a beer , Long Strides, brewed by the Orkney Brewery, which was launched earlier this year.

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