2019 John Rae birthday eulogy

30 September 2019

Dr. John RAEs birthday

Good day. I am John Welburn, a happy servant of The John Rae Society. Sarah and I stay in Orphir. Our love of Orkney stretches back decades.

John RAE’s story is enormous. two minutes on him is quite a challenge! So it will be nearer 3 minutes.

Here I will paint a sketch of his early life and then a few words about his generosity.

Today 30 September is his 206th birthday.


My Mother was born on the same day but 1916

And best wishes for John Rae come from London

Born in The Hall of Clestrain, which had been built in 1769 by Sir Patrick Honyman. John was taught to hunt by his Father when quite young. During his formative years he built up his strength by hunting in the Orphir Hills. Sailing was also a family skill. He and his brother would race the mail Packet from Stromness to the island of Graemsay and they had many adventures, which included fishing.

At the age of 20 he journeyed to Edinburgh to train for a degree in medicine. He qualified as a Surgeon. So you see it was a great coup for the Hudson Bay Co when they hired him.

Receiving training as a surveyor meant a 1,200 mile walk on snow-shoes before finally reaching his tutor and then qualifying.

There are two amazing examples of his generosity:

After the terribly destructive period of his life and with his battle to establish the TRUTH about Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the North-West Passage.

He won through and was awarded £10,000, which he shared with the men who accompanied him on his expedition to find Sir John

And then his WILL:

“I give to my sister Marion, widow of John Macaulay Hamilton of Hamilton City, Ontario, Canada – £1000” and I am sure that there are other examples of his generosity

Arctic Return:

I had the privilege to meet David Reid (for a second time) and his comrade, Richard Smith, who re-traced RAE’s Expedition of March 1854.

They followed RAE’s principles:

1. Wherever you choose to work or travel or venture, listen and talk to the LOCALS.

 2. Equip yourself with the necessary skills and qualifications to ensure your goals and objectives are achieved.

 3. While it might not always sit comfortably or be popular with others, tell the TRUTH, whatever it may be. Have confidence and belief in yourself.

The Society, having purchased the Hall, now has to restore John RAE’s dwelling. We are NOT shy about asking for financial help.

Contact details are on the web, where a copy of this dissertation will be found.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. John Rae then check out these websites

johnraesociety.com and orkneyology.com

and read books by Jane Hamilton and Ken McGOOGAN