NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Statue of 'forgotten explorer' Dr John Rae unveiled in Orkney

Ian Scott's statue of Dr John Rae
Image caption Dr John Rae died, relatively unknown, in 1893

A statue of Arctic explorer Dr John Rae has been unveiled in Orkney.

Born on the island in 1813, Rae followed in the footsteps of many other Orkney men of his generation, and travelled to Canada to work for the Hudson's Bay Company - a major player in the Canadian fur trade.

Although employed initially as a doctor, his abilities as an outdoorsman who was able to travel huge distances on foot were soon recognised, and he was set to work mapping vast areas of uncharted territory.

While searching for traces of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition of 1845, Rae discovered the final link in the north west passage.

But his achievement was overshadowed by the fact that Rae also recorded eyewitness accounts from local Inuit who told how Franklin's last surviving crew had resorted to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to save themselves.

Rae reported the findings discreetly to the British Admiralty, but was horrified when they were passed onto a British newspaper.

Lord Franklin's widow was enraged, and along with her friend Charles Dickens she set about ridiculing Rae for accepting the word of the Inuit.

Dr John Rae died, relatively unknown, in 1893.

The statue, which stands on the Stromness harbour front, has been created by local artist Ian Scott, and has been funded by a donation from businessman Alan Twatt.

Mr Twatt, who was born in Stromness, is now a successful potato merchant in Aberdeenshire. He said he was keen to see greater recognition for Rae's "incredible achievements".

A series of events are taking place in Orkney this weekend to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

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