Our Hero Disbelieving

Our Hero Disbelieving

Monday, October 6, 2014

John Rae sweeps Our Hero into the Polish Times

You can read the whole story of John Rae at Westminster Abbey by clicking here -- but only if you read Polish. Me, I can read, in the highlight paragraph, not just my own name but the book title Fatal Passage. I find this noteworthy because we have two grandchildren, ages five and two, who speak excellent Polish (for their ages). Or so I am told. Here you go . . .
We wtorek w Kaplicy św. Jana Ewangelisty w opactwie westminsterskim odsłonięty zostanie kamień upamiętniający Rae. Jako symbol pojednania kamień umieszczono pod wielkim popiersiem Franklina. W uroczystości wezmą udział zarówno potomkowie Rae, jak i Franklina, a także Ken McGoogan, autor książki "Fatal Passage", która przyczyniła się do przywrócenia szkockiemu odkrywcy należnej mu chwały. Wielebny John Hall, opat Westminster, przyznał, że ma nadzieję, że kamień zakończy dysputę. - Cieszymy się na to pojednanie - powiedział. Dodał, że spodziewa się "ożywionych debat" na temat tego, który z podróżników jako pierwszy przepłynął Przejście Północno-Zachodnie. W tej dyskusji opactwo nie opowie się po żadnej ze stron.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Orcadian poet commemorates John Rae's arrival at Westminster



After the dedication ceremony at Westminster Abbey, back at the Scottish office in Dover House,  Orcadian poet Harvey Johnston read a wonderful, Burnsian poem entitled Rae in the Abbey. He graciously agreed to let me publish part of it. The final four stanzas run as follows. I have no photo of Johnston, but the above image of Our Hero captures the spirit of the thing:



Cheust like the Cree and Inuit
He’d grown tae understand
Ye work wi’ watter, wind and wave
Tae live aff sea and land.
 

Wi’ snowshoes, long strides and a gun
Up North wi’ dog and sledge
He learned the fate o’ Franklin
Bae the cruel Arctic’s edge.

And on he strode tae find the strait
Weel named on maps ye view
The final strait Amundsen sailed
The North West Passage through.

Wan hunder noo, and sixty years
Hiv passed by since that day
High time indeed, that in This Place
We mark the name of Rae.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Eyewitness report from Westminster Abbey: John Rae lives!

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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)



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Canada's Scottish architects designed a pluralistic, postmodern nation


When Maclean's magazine invited me to ruminate on why Canadians should care about the Scottish referendum, I discovered that, yes, I did have a few thoughts. The piece runs around 1,100 words, and can be found here in its entirety. It begins like-so:
In uptown Toronto, if you look east across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, you will see an elegant building that symbolizes what the Scots have done for Canada. It also suggests why, in light of today’s divisive referendum, Canadians should take a moment to think of their Scottish cousins. Originally, this stately, three-storey structure formed part of the University of Toronto. Today, the main tenant is Club Monaco, a clothing-store outlet geared to young professionals. If you step inside on a Saturday afternoon, you will marvel at the ethnic and linguistic diversity swirling around you.
What does that have to do with the Scots? I would argue: everything. The architect who designed this building, working with philanthropist Lillian Massey, and as part of an architectural firm owned by G.M. Miller, was my wife’s grandfather—a Scottish immigrant named William Fraser. Few people know his name. The Scottish architect has become invisible. Yet, when you look around from inside this neoclassical edifice, you realize that the architect is all around you. So it is with Canada. The Scottish architects are invisible. But if we stop and look around, we realize that they played a preeminent role in shaping our country. Nobody owes them more than we do. . . .

Monday, September 15, 2014

New edition sheds light on explorer who discovered the Fate of Franklin