Monday, August 29, 2011

John Rae gains recognition in London


John Rae has a gained a plaque in London, England.
Friends of the Scottish-Orcadian explorer, who lived in that city from 1869 to 1893, recently mounted an historical plaque on the wall of his long-time home in Addison Gardens. I visited that site while researching Fatal Passage, and I remember feeling outraged that Rae -- arguably the greatest Arctic explorer of them all -- was not commemmorated there.
Obviously, Margaret Street of Edinburgh felt the same way. She launched a campaign to rectify this historical affront. And on June 23, the round blue plaque was publicly unveiled by survival expert and TV presenter Ray Mears. It reads: “John Rae (1813-1893) Arctic explorer lived and died here.”
Situated in the heart of London, the plaque complements the marble memorial in St. Magnus Cathedral in Orkney and the inscribed metal plaque that overlooks Rae Strait in the Canadian Arctic -- the one that, along with Louie Kamookak and Cameron Treleaven, I erected in 1999. It marks the spot where Rae, working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, located the final link in the only Northwest Passage navigable in that period.
The London unveiling, organized by English Heritage, attracted about fifty well-wishers, among them Orcadians James Irvine and David Aggett. Irvine reports that after the brief ceremony “the current residents kindly invited all present to drinks, enabling us to appreciate why Rae would have much enjoyed the delightful large but secluded communal garden to the rear of the property.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Robbie Burns returns to New Brunswick

Great news out of New Brunswick. The Scots in those parts are set to unveil a gloriously refurbished Robbie Burns Statue on September 10. Guests will include J.K. and Jean Irving and the lieutenant-governor of the province. There will be a reception and a dinner. There will be singing and sundry pipe bands. Would you believe that I was invited to participate in the festivities? The heart-breaker is that I will be elsewhere. Dagnabit, I spent a year in Fred as writer-in-rez at UNB! True, I will be in the Northwest Passage, which mitigates the pain. Still, I would have loved to attend. Party on, Fred!