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Surely #MeToo should be all over The Wife, The Ghost Brush, Colette, and Lady Franklin?


 So we caught the hit film The Wife last night. The movie, based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer, features a tour-de-force performance by  Glenn Close. But what struck me is that you can change the culture, the time period, the mode of expression . . . yet the story remains the same.
-- In The Wife, Joan Castleman does the writing . . . but her husband Joe wins the Nobel Prize. Backstory set in 1990s U.S.A.
-- The Ghost Brush, by Katherine Govier, is set in Japan in the late Edo period. The daughter Katsushika Oei does the printmaking, her father Hokusai takes the credit.
-- Colette, set in late 19th century France, finds the eponymous heroine doing the writing . . . and her husband Willy reaping the celebrity.
-- In Lady Franklin's Revenge, which unrolls through Victorian England, Jane Franklin emerges as the real explorer, the one who orchestrates the mid-to-late career of Sir John Franklin . . . yet he is the one celebrated in myth and legend.
The Wife, The Ghost Brush, Colette, Lady Franklin's Revenge . . . surely #MeToo should be all over this?




Ken McGoogan
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Frozen Dreams Quintet makes for Bethlehem


People tell me I am too modest and self-effacing. They say, Ken, enough with the shy-and-retiring. You have to stop shunning the spotlight. Lately, in response, I've been banging the drum for the newly released paperback edition of Dead Reckoning. While working up a nifty little song-and-dance, I chanced upon the above slide and The Frozen Dreams Quintet. So of course I thought of Yeats and his rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. And I realized that, with Christmas whirling toward us, probably I should ask my publisher to drop everything and bring out my Arctic books as a boxed set. Makes sense, right?

Ken McGoogan
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St. Kilda evokes Flight of the Highlanders


The December issue of Celtic Life International features a gorgeous 3-page spread on a visit to the Scottish island of St. Kilda. We turned up in the vicinity while sailing with Adventure Canada earlier this year. A version of the article, which begins as below, will appear in a 2019 book to be published by Patrick Crean / HarperCollins Canada. We're calling it FLIGHT OF THE  HIGHLANDERS: Canada's First Refugees.

Unbelievable. Overwhelming. Voyagers who have visited the archipelago of St. Kilda more than a dozen times declared this The Best Visit Ever. If they had said anything else, the rest of us would not have believed them. Bright sunshine, balmy temperatures, no wind . . . was there a cloud in the sky?
During the morning, when we arrived in this vicinity aboard the Ocean Endeavour, the day had looked less promising. Most ships that reach St. Kilda never land a soul. Winds too rough. Today, a serious swell caused people to doubt we would make it ashore. But in an inspired bit of decision-making, our Adventure Canada expedition leader turned the day upside down, switching early with late.
Instead of attempting a morning landing, we sailed directly to the bird cliffs of Stac Lee, home to the largest colony of gannets in the world. As the winds died and the sun came out, the captain showcased his navigational skills. Seventy or eighty metres in front of the towering black wall, he held ship steady. We found ourselves gazing almost straight up at a whirlwind of wheeling birds more than 400 metres above. I’m no birder but this was impressive.
A back-deck barbecue kept us busy as we sailed to Hirta, the archipelago’s main island. We’re talking about the remotest part of the British Isles, 66 kilometres west of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. I had landed here once and knew enough to remain dubious. But on arriving, we found the swell had receded. We piled into zodiacs and zoomed ashore. Incredible!

St. Kilda is one of very few places with Dual World Heritage Status for both natural and cultural significance. Bronze Age travellers appear to have visited 4000 to 5000 years ago, and Vikings landed here in the 800s. Written history reveals that a scattering of people (around 180 in 1700) rented land here from the Macleods of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. While living in a settlement (Village Bay) of stone-built, dome-shaped houses with thatched roofs, they developed a unique way of life, subsisting mostly on seabirds.
Gradually, as better ships enabled more contact with the outside world, they came to rely more on importing food, fuel and building materials. They constructed better houses. In 1852, 36 people emigrated to Australia, so beginning a long slow population decline. During the First World War, a naval detachment brought regular deliveries of food. When those ended after 1918, St. Kildans felt increasingly isolated. In 1930, the last 36 islanders were evacuated to the Scottish mainland.
During our June visit, we strolled along the curved Village Street where these last holdouts had resided. Most passengers found time to climb the saddle between two high hills. After a rise in elevation of perhaps 150 metres, we came to a cliff edge. Gazing back over the vista in the sun – the Village Street, the scattered beehive cleits, the Ocean Endeavour in the harbour, the occasional zodiac, the distant mountains – a consensus emerged: unbelievable!
Beyond this, everyone had their personal highlights. I registered two. The first came when I found the beehive cleit that stands today on the foundations of what was once the home of Lady Grange. She was an articulate, headstrong woman who, in the 1730s, spent eight lonely years as a prisoner on this island. While living in high-society Edinburgh, she learned that her husband was having an affair in London. Infuriated, she had threatened to expose him as a treasonous Jacobite.
That gentleman – who was indeed conspiring with such powerful figures as Macdonald of Sleat, Fraser of Lovat, and Macleod of Dunvegan -- responded by having his irrepressible wife violently kidnapped and bundled off, ultimately, to this almost inaccessible island. Here Lady Grange endured as the only educated, English-speaking mainlander on Hirta except for the minister and his wife. Her house is long gone, but a ranger directed me to the hut that stands today on its foundations. Made me shiver.
(To read the rest of the article, check out the December issue of Celtic Life International.)

Ken McGoogan
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Michael Palin's Erebus and Dead Reckoning look alike because they belong together



"What the publishing industry hath joined together let no bookseller put asunder." That's the way I see it.
Faithful readers have been nudging me: "Have you seen the cover of Erebus? Michael Palin's new book? Doesn't it remind you of the cover of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage?"
Well, now that you mention it, I say, yes, yes it does. It’s a perfect match. And that is as it should be. The two books complement each other. Ideally, they form part of the same whole. Erebus tells the story of a single ship. Dead Reckoning puts that story in context.  The two books should be displayed, bought, sold and read together.
When I was asked to provide a blurb for Palin’s book, I wrote: “At this late date, and against all odds, Michael Palin has found an original way to enter and explore the Royal Navy narrative of polar exploration. Palin is a superb stylist, low-key and conversational, who skillfully incorporates personal experience.”

Dead Reckoning, published in hardcover last autumn, drew an equally enthusiastic response. The paperback edition, which is now rolling into bookstores, quotes a couple of reviews on the back cover. “This book is a masterpiece, setting the standard for future works on Arctic exploration,” one reviewer wrote. “Dead Reckoning could be the best work of Canadian history this year.”
A second wrote: “Outstanding. . . . This is not the Canadian history that we learned in school.” And a third: “A sweeping work that sets out to bring the Indigenous contributors to northern exploration into the story as participants with names – not just tribal affiliations or occupations stated as ‘hunter’ or ‘my faithful interpreter.”
You get the idea. Since Palin’s book is published by Random House Canada and my own by HarperCollins Canada, I don’t think we can expect to see a boxed set any time soon. No worries. My advice would be that, when you buy the one, you should always pick up the other. Hey, just my opinion.




Ken McGoogan
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Beautiful quest narrative finds Dude Quixote hauling a surfboard along Atlantic Coast


Say hello to my friend Ryan (R.C.) Shaw. And his surfboard, Old Yeller. Ryan is launching his first book tonight in Toronto. It's called Louisbourg or Bust. And it's one of 19 books (and counting) produced by graduates of that unique MFA program in Creative Nonfiction offered at University of King's College in Halifax.
That's the one in which, full disclosure, I serve as a mentor. When Ryan asked me for a book-jacket squib, I was delighted to offer a few words: "This crazy beautiful quest narrative puts Don Quixote on a bicycle and sends him out to face history with a surfboard. Half hilarious dream-adventure, half marathon-nightmare, Louisbourg or Bust is all madcap love letter to Nova Scotia."
The launch is happening at 865 Bloor Street West from 7 p.m., and if you're looking for a bunch of folks who are ready to party, I'd suggest that this is where to find them.
In related news, things will be more sedate -- but equally welcoming -- on November 12 at the Toronto Meet and Greet for interested potential students. What happens is that the program's faculty, mentors, students, and alumni get together for wine and nibblies in the boardroom of Penguin Random House Canada. That's at 320 Front Street West, Suite 1400.
From 6 p.m. onward, you can hang out with us while contemplating whether this program might work for you. We're talking two years during which you combine short intense residencies in Halifax, Toronto and New York with ongoing one-on-one mentoring with professional nonfiction writers. At the end, you graduate with a degree, a polished book proposal, and a substantial portion of a finished manuscript -- or maybe, if you're like Ryan, a contract to publish a book. Anyway, lots more here:
https://ukings.ca/area-of-study/master-of-fine-arts-in-creative-nonfiction. And maybe see you tonight or on Nov. 12.

Ken McGoogan
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Frozen Dreams bring Dead Reckoning to T.O.



OK, so the photo is from Back in the Day. August 1999, to be precise. That would be me on King William Island as taken by the late Louie Kamookak. We were atop Mount Matheson on King William Island. Behind me: Rae Strait.
I'll probably mention this adventure when I give an illustrated talk called FROZEN DREAMS: Dead Reckoning in the Northwest Passage. That's going to happen in the near future at three different venues in the Toronto area. 
The talk is based on my 14th book, Dead Reckoning, which is now available in paperback. The book challenges the conventional history of Arctic exploration and highlights the contributions of fur-trade explorers and the indigenous peoples, notably the Inuit. 
In recent times, I have been visiting the Arctic almost every year, sailing as a resource historian with Adventure Canada. I am also involved in planning the 2019 Arctic Return Expedition, which will retrace the 1854 journey of explorer John Rae, who discovered the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. Hope to see you here or there!
Oct. 30: Arts & Letters Club
Nov. 5: Canadian Federation of University Women, Mississauga
Nov. 14: Carlton Theatre Lecture Series
Ken McGoogan
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Detective hunts psychopathic killer in Sixties San Francisco


Hands up if you remember when the Haight-Ashbury was THE place to be. Well, it was a magical time, let me tell you -- before it went bad. Peter Moreira's detective novel, set shortly after the Summer of Love, finds detective Jimmy Spracklin trying to solve a series of brutal murders in The Haight. Spracklin is a terrific tough-guy detective. Of course he is flawed. His marriage is in trouble, partly because he is fiercely committed to his job. And he is desperate to find his teenage stepdaughter, who disappeared into the District some months before. Moreira sets his eventful crime novel against the larger political landscape, as Spracklin is also a Kennedy Democrat hoping that Senator Bobby Kennedy will give his career a boost. The author builds the stakes with every twist and turn, and when the daughter takes up with a psychopathic killer, Spracklin's quest becomes a race against time. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a cracking good detective story -- or for anyone who remembers when the Haight was the centre of the universe.
Ken McGoogan
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MYSTERY SOLVED!!! Polar Bears explain Fate Of the Franklin Expedition


Ken McGoogan in Arctic.


Polar Bears Explain the Fate of the Franklin Expedition

What happened to the Franklin Expedition? Researchers have been debating that since 1847, two years after Sir John Franklin disappeared into the Arctic with 128 men. From the note later found at Victory Point on King William Island, most people believe that in April 1848, 105 men left the two ice-locked ships. The note tells us that already, nine officers and fifteen seamen had died. That represents 37 per cent of officers and 14 per cent of crew members. Historians have scratched their heads: why such disproportionate numbers?
Researchers have spent vast amounts of time and energy inquiring into the deaths of the first three sailors to die, whose graves remain on Beechey Island. Did lead poisoning kill them? Botulism? Zinc deficiency leading to tuberculosis? But wait. Maybe those three early deaths were anomalies – exceptions that tell us nothing about subsequent events. Perhaps the other twenty-one dead -- nine officers, twelve sailors -- died because of some event, some accident or injury.
A few scientists have wondered if these twenty-one men ingested something that others did not. But nobody, to my knowledge, has publicly invoked the calamitous Danish-Norwegian expedition of the early 1600s, which lost sixty-two men out of sixty-five. In 1619-20, while seeking the Northwest Passage, the explorer Jens Munk led two ships filled with sailors into wintering at present-day Churchill, Manitoba.
In my book Dead Reckoning, drawing on Munk’s journal, I detail the unprecedented miseries that ensued. During my research, I had turned up an article by Delbert Young published decades ago in the Beaver magazine (“Killer on the ‘Unicorn,’" Winter, 1973). It blamed the catastrophe on poorly cooked or raw polar-bear meat.
Soon after reaching Churchill in September 1619, Munk reported that at every high tide, white beluga whales entered the estuary of the river. His men caught one and dragged it ashore. Next day, a “large white bear” turned up to feed on the whale. Munk shot and killed it. His men relished the bear meat. Munk had ordered the cook “just to boil it slightly, and then to keep it in vinegar for a night.” But he had the meat for his own table roasted, and wrote that “it was of good taste and did not disagree with us.”
As Delbert Young observes, Churchill sits at the heart of polar bear country. Probably, after that first occasion, the sailors consumed more polar-bear meat and Munk did not think to mention it. During his long career, he had seen men die of scurvy and knew how to treat that disease. He noted that it attacked some of his sailors, loosening their teeth and bruising their skin. But when men began to die in great numbers, he was baffled. This went far beyond anything he had seen. His chief cook died early in January, and from then on “violent sickness . . . prevailed more and more.”
After a wide-ranging analysis, Young points to trichinosis as the probable killer —a parasitical disease, not fully understood until the twentieth century, which is endemic in polar bears. Infected meat, undercooked, deposits embryo larvae in a person’s stomach. These tiny parasites embed themselves in the intestines. They reproduce, enter the bloodstream and, within weeks, encyst themselves in muscle tissue throughout the body. They cause the terrible symptoms Munk describes and, left untreated, can culminate in death four to six weeks after ingestion.
So, back to the Franklin expedition. Could trichinosis, induced by eating raw polar-bear meat, have killed those nine officers and dozen seamen? And galvanized the remaining men into abandoning the ships? And rendered many of them so sick that they could hardly think straight or walk. And made some of them so horribly sick that they had to be quarantined into a separate tent?
In recent years, while visiting Beechey Island with Adventure Canada, more than once my fellow voyagers and I have been driven off by polar bears. We retreat into the zodiacs at first sign of approach. In that same situation, spotting a polar bear, how would Franklin’s men have responded? They would have killed those bears and eaten them -- perhaps bringing some of the meat onto the ships. That undercooked polar-bear meat, unevenly distributed among officers and crew, might well have led to the lopsided fatality statistics . . . and to all the rest. So, anyway, I suggest in Dead Reckoning.
When I put forward this theory to online-friends, some balked. By the time Franklin sailed, they observed, in the mid-19th century, Royal Navy officers knew that bear meat could wreak havoc in the human body, even if they did not fully understand exactly how. This is undoubtedly true. But then a supportive contributor drew attention to a contemporary video broadcast in which an expert hunter describes how he and his companions got horribly sick after eating poorly cooked bear meat. On an episode of Meat Eater, Steven Rinella admits to feeling mortified: “I have been preaching about the importance of cooking bear meat to my viewers and readers for a decade now,” he says, “and it’s really embarrassing.”
Rinelli knew very well that bear meat could be dangerous. But he went ahead and ate it anyway. Can anyone doubt that the men of the Franklin expedition, subsisting on short rations, desperate for a change of diet, would have made the same decision? Within the next few years, Parks Canada will almost certainly turn up some decisive evidence -- written records or human remains or both -- as divers investigate the Erebus and Terror. Until then, my money is on polar-bear-meat-induced trichinosis.
This essay turns up on a wonderful website devoted to Canadian mysteries. Check it out at The Franklin Mystery: Life and Death in the Arctic.

Ken McGoogan
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Lovely paperback edition lists under $20



The paperback is here! A single author's copy anyway, with countless others flowing into bookstores next week. Hats off to the folks at HarperCollins Canada! What a lovely package! This edition is slightly smaller than the hardcover . . . the perfect size!And it contains new and improved maps! And here on the back cover, a reviewer says, "This book is a masterpiece. . . . " And what is not to love about a list price under $20? OK, one cent under . . . but still! My day, no my week, is made.

Ken McGoogan
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Voyage around Scotland inspires Celtic Life spread on the Highland Clearances


The October issue of Celtic Life International features a gorgeous 3-page spread on the 1853 Highland Clearances at Knoydart. The writer -- that would be moi -- turned up in the vicinity by great good fortune while sailing with Adventure Canada earlier this year. A version of the article, which begins roughly as below, will turn up in a 2019 book to be published by Patrick Crean / HarperCollins Canada. Working title: SPIRIT OF THE HIGHLANDERS: How the Scottish Clearances / Created Canada's First Refugees.

On day four out of the resort town of Oban, we awoke to find our expeditionary ship anchored in Isleornsay harbour off the Isle of Skye. This was not a planned stop. Overnight, faced with southwesterly winds gusting to 60 and 65 knots, the captain had taken the Ocean Endeavour north into the Sound of Sleat that runs between Skye and the mainland. Here he had found shelter in one of the most protected harbours on the east coast of Skye.
June 2018. We were circumnavigating Scotland, my wife, Sheena, and I, with Adventure Canada. We had stopped in Islay and would soon visit Iona, St. Kilda, Lewis, Shetland, Orkney.  We were among roughly 200 passengers and I was one of several resource people available to hold forth on matters of historical interest. This surprise anchorage drove me to my maps.
For the past few years, I had been researching Scottish Highlanders who emigrated to Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some made the move of their own volition, but most were refugee victims of the Highland Clearances. During one of those Clearances, I recalled, a ship called the Sillery had anchored here at Isleornsay harbour. It had arrived late in July 1853 to carry off farmers who lived along the north shore of Loch Hourn, a broad inlet that enters the mainland six or eight kilometres due east of Isleornsay. That area was part of Knoydart in Glengarry.
I remembered wondering why the Sillery had not entered that inlet to reduce transport time. Now, onboard experts suggested that strong westerly winds – not unusual in these parts – would have made it difficult for any 19th-century sailing vessel to emerge out of that inlet. That explained why the Sillery had anchored in this sheltered harbour and the captain had set his crewmen to rowing across the sound.
Almost 100 years before that, in 1746, farmers from Knoydart had been among the 600 Highlanders who followed Macdonell of Glengarry into the catastrophe known as the Battle of Culloden. In the decades that followed, some had emigrated to Upper Canada and others to Nova Scotia. Still, by 1847, more than 600 people remained in the coastal settlements, though their numbers were then reduced by the Great Famine. But activist-journalist Donald Ross, who collected first-hand accounts of several Clearances, wrote that these crofters needed only a little encouragement to resume thriving as farmers.
In 1852, however, the newly widowed Josephine Macdonell gained control of the Knoydart estate. A Lowland industrialist named James Baird – a Tory member of Parliament -- had expressed interest in acquiring her lands, but only if they were unencumbered by paupers for whom he would become legally responsible. Ignoring the people’s offers to pay arrears caused by the potato famine, the widow Macdonell issued warnings of removal. “Those who imagine they will be allowed to remain after this,” she wrote, “are indulging in a vain hope as the most strident measures will be taken to effect their removal.”
In April 1853, she informed her tenants that they would be going to Australia, sailing courtesy of the landlord-sponsored Highland and Islands Emigration Society. In June, she amended that: they would travel instead to Canada, their passage paid as far as Montreal. On debarkation, they would each be given ten pounds of oatmeal. After that, they were on their own.
On August 2, 1853, with the Sillery anchored at Isleornsay, men with axes, crowbars, and hammers rowed across the inlet and landed. They joined a gang of mainlanders and began clearing farmers from their homes. The factor in charge ordered that after removing the tenants, his men were immediately to destroy “not only the houses of those who had left,” Donald Ross wrote, “but also of those who had refused to go.”
Burly men ripped off thatched roofs, slammed picks into walls and foundations, and chopped down any supporting trees or timbers. Eventually, Ross wrote, “roof, rafters, and walls fell with a crash. Clouds of dust rose to the skies, while men, women and children stood at a distance, completely dismayed.” According to Ross, "The wail of the poor women and children as they were torn away from their homes would have melted a heart of stone."
(To read the rest, check out the October issue of Celtic Life International.)
Ken McGoogan
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Grounding of expeditionary ship in the Arctic evokes memories but no worries


Sorry to hear that the Akademik Ioffe ran aground in the Arctic.
But the expeditionary cruise ship, on which I have sailed, has already been refloated.
The last time something like this happened, with the Clipper Adventurer back in 2010, we were on the ship, Sheena and I. It wasn't fun, obviously, but we were never in any real danger.
From what I have read, I don't believe the 160 or so people on the Ioffe are threatened in any way.
In 2010, our ship stayed grounded and we had to be rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Given that the Ioffe has been refloated, and is reporting no hull breach, the ship will probably head to the nearest major port -- possibly Resolute.
A sister ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, has been making its way to Kugaaruk, near where the ship slid onto a submerged shelf. It may already be there and taking on passengers from Ioffe.
Keep in mind that the Canadian Arctic is NOT like the Antarctic.
First, it is an archipelago of islands, which means land is never very far away.
The worst case scenario in 2010 would have found us bundled up in our cold-weather gear and zooming ashore in zodiacs to await the arrival on land of the coast guard. As it happened, the sun was shining and we waited, most of us, lounging on the top deck.
Second consideration: as in this case, other vessels are always within rescue distance.
The other concern is environmental damage. But given that the ship is floating again -- probably after discharging fresh drinking water to reduce weight -- the chances of that appear to be minimal.
Adventure tourism involving expeditionary vessels of this modest size brings important benefits to people who live in the Arctic.



Ken McGoogan
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Rock band Rhonda and the Cries for Help sing John Rae at the Hall of Clestrain



The trouble began when Fran Flett Hollinrake, aka the Queen of St. Magnus Cathedral, asked in all innocence, "When's the new album coming out?" We could see what she meant. Tom Muir, Rhonda Muir, Sheena Fraser McGoogan and I had not yet settled on a name for our emerging rock band. But the Beach Boys sprang to mind and would you believe it? they were singing Help Me, Rhonda. So we became Rhonda and the Cries for Help. The photo is by Orkney's own John Welburn, a leading member of the John Rae Society. And if you have read this far, I know you want to catch one of the Cries for Help talking John Rae to Orkney News, filmed by Fiona Grahame. All you have to do is click this link:  https://youtu.be/CBHroVUU_uU.



Ken McGoogan
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Searching for ancestors leads to gravesite madness


Twice before, we had located it, the gravesite of John McGugan -- Ground Zero, really, for a host of McGugans, McGougans, and McGoogans. We had made our way to the Kilchatten Cemetery on the tiny Scottish island of Gigha, three miles west off the coast of Kintyre.
The first time, roughly a decade ago,  I had ignored a Keep Out sign as not pertaining to me, climbed over a makeshift fence surrounding the ruined church and, on deciphering the word "Gugan," excitedly scraped away as much mud and overgrown grass as I could.
The second time, five or six years ago, conservators had cleaned up the mess and, as a sign says, "consolidated the church as a ruin." With the help of a gardener, who knew the stone as the oldest legible marker in the cemetery, I was able to get a better look. But the day was overcast and the light was terrible and we failed to get a decent photo.
Third time out, yesterday, we had a devil of a time locating the stone. We remembered roughly where it was, both Sheena and I, but the grass -- the flourishing grass is no friend of ours. Eventually, we found it. And so began our moment of gravesite madness, ripping and tearing at the grass, clearing away chunks and small strips of turf. Finally, we got the stone uncovered.
As you can see, it is very near the wall of the ruined church, which dates back to the 13th century. Archaeologists have determined that it was still in use in 1695, but was replaced by another in the early 1700s.
Nearby, there existed an old holy well dedicated to St. Cathan -- but its position "has now been lost." My madness, you see, is not without reason. This gravestone could easily disappear forever.
Variations on the McGugan name, one of the most common on Gigha, turn up on at least four legibly printed and much more impressive markers from the 19th and 20th centuries.
But on the Ground Zero stone, and this is what I love best about it, somebody scratched out the lettering by hand. Not only that, but the line-breaks are marvellously haphazard, dictated only by space considerations: "This is the bury// ing place of John Mc// Gugan tenant at Ardminish . . . "
Ardminish is the name of the only village on Gigha. There is more. Sheena says that it might come clear if we could take a decent rubbing . . . but of course we carried no pencil.
Fortunately, a few written records do mention John McGugan. But about those, I shall leave you in suspense.










So there we were in Kilchattan Cemetery on the Isle of Gigha, pulling out
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Ken McGoogan
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The Canadian Invasion of Scotland


Canadian invasion forces have swept through the Dunfermline area north of Edinburgh, claiming Broomhall House.  This impressive mansion, located on a splendiferous, well-kept estate has been in the family of Robert the Bruce for more than 300 years. The Canadian connection comes via James Bruce, the eighth Earl of Elgin, who had his home here. In the late 1840s, as governor-general of Canada, he proved pivotal in introducing responsible government, a key step in Canada's emergence into independence. The taking of Broomhall House follows hard on earlier successes.  Canadians were able to claim Dalhousie Castle thanks to George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie, who spent more than a dozen years in Canada and established Dalhousie University in Halifax, modelling it after Edinburgh University. East of Edinburgh, the invaders claimed Ballencrief Castle, birthplace in 1721 of James Murray. He fathered the Quebec Act of 1774, which saved Canada from joining the rebel states in the American Revolution. The rebels judged it intolerable, this business of allowing French colonists to retain their language, laws, and religion. The Canadian invasion of central Scotland began in
Edinburgh with the taking of Abden House, where in 1862, Canadian politician George Brown met and fell in love with Anne Nelson. Their marriage proved transformative and enabled Brown to become a leading father of Confederation. Canadian forces had begun their all-inclusive campaign in Orkney at the Hall of Clestrain, birthplace of Arctic explorer John Rae, who joined the Hudson's Bay Company and discovered the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. In central Scotland, the taking of four landmark locations -- Broomhall, Dalhousie, Ballencrieff, and Abden -- suggests that the Canadian invaders will soon turn their attention to the Highlands.
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Ken McGoogan
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Braving storms in search of John Rae




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What was he thinking, explorer John Rae, when he built a stone house in the High Arctic? He hired local Inuit to use their dogs to bring him big rocks. This was at Repulse Bay in 1846 with winter coming on. He got the house finished, a big room for the men and, because he did not smoke, a smaller one for him. With temperatures plummeting, he named the place Fort Hope.
What was he thinking? He was thinking of home, of growing up in Orkney, of riding out from the Hall of Clestrain with his musket to hunt for hare, and for curlews and grouse and lapwing.  He was thinking of one place in particular, a stone-built house near his favourite hunting spot in the rolling hills, where because of the distance from home, roughly fifteen miles, he would sometimes ask and receive permission to stay overnight.
This afternoon, on Orkney's Mainland, four of us visited the ruins of that stone house: me and Sheena and historian Tom Muir, our sortie led by Andrew Appleby, president of the John Rae Society. The house is located at Cottascarth in the Harray district, directly behind the Eddie Balfour Hen Harrier Hide – a bird-watching sanctuary.
Rae would have seen many such houses, of course. But this was the one where, according to local lore, he stayed more than once. And, though we have no documentary evidence, this was almost certainly the one that sprang to his mind when he needed to build a shelter. The style of construction is identical.
During our visit, after an initial half-mile slog from where we parked, the rains came on. We clambered around regardless, snapped a few photos, and even made our way through the grass to a winding stream or burn. This was it: another house in which John Rae once slept.
At Fort Hope, in the Arctic darkness, Rae learned the meaning of Real Cold. But then he visited some Inuit in a snowhouse they had built. He realized: wait a minute! it’s far warmer in here. He converted on the spot and, nostalgia be damned, never built another stone house. Oh, and one thing more. Next spring, when the Arctic Return Expedition sets out to retrace Rae's route of 1854, the team will visit Fort Hope before striking westward.



Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.