Theme Layout

Boxed or Wide or Framed


Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider


Featured Slider Styles

Display Grid Slider

Grid Slider Styles

Display Author Bio

Display Instagram Footer

Dark or Light Style

Search This Blog

Blog Archive


Popular Posts


Eyewitness report from Westminster Abbey: John Rae lives!

LONDON, England – The ledger stone is brilliantly placed. It reads: “John Rae / 1813 – 1893 / Arctic Explorer.” Newly installed in Westminster Abbey in the heart of London, it is situated directly beneath the elaborate bust of Sir John Franklin.
The effect is one of completion. Given the privilege of offering “a reflection” today at the commemoration ceremony, I spoke of how Rae had completed the work begun by Franklin. In 1846, after sailing south down Peel Sound from Parry Channel, the good Sir John got trapped in the pack ice at the northwest corner of King William Island.
Eight years later, John Rae discovered not just the most salient features of the tragic fate of the Franklin expedition, but a channel to the east of King William Island – Rae Strait -- that would prove to be the final link in the first navigable North West Passage.
After becoming the first explorer to sail the Passage from beginning to end (1903-06), Roald Amundsen explicitly credited Rae with having shown him how to sail beyond King William Island. Nobody would pass through Victoria Strait, where Franklin’s ships got trapped, until 1967, when a Canadian icebreaker pounded through.
All this and more I outlined to a standing-room-only audience – many of whom had come south from Rae’s native Orkney -- in the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist. Somehow, I confined myself to five minutes! Orcadian musician Jennifer Wrigley then brought tears to many an eye by playing Air for Dr. John Rae, and two Canadian cousins who share an ancestor with Rae – Mary Davey and Jane Hamilton – laid a wreath and flowers by the new ledger stone. A CBC-TV crew captured all this for posterity -- oh, and for tonight's news.
After the ceremony came Evensong in the splendiferous Abbey, and a reception at the Scottish Office in nearby Dover House. This is home base for Alistair Carmichael, the politician who, backed by countless Orcadians and the John Rae Society, spear-headed the drive to get John Rae recognized in the Abbey. As one woman put it, looking around at the reception, “This is an occasion we will never forget.”
 (Photo by Sheena Fraser McGoogan)

Ken McGoogan
Share This Post :

You Might Also Like

1 comment:

ddd said...

Thank you for this post. This event in part pays a debt long unpaid.

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.