Generous donation of Books

28 June 2021

Mr John Ramwell, life member of The John Rae Society, has donated his entire collection of polar exploration books. This is a splendid library of volumes. Numbers of them are signed first edition copies, which are out of print and extremely difficult to find on the open market.

This is a rare opportunity indeed for the John Rae Society! Pictured here are Chris Pearce~Ramwell, who drove his father John to Stromness from South West England. He is handing over the first of 14 boxes to Neil Kermode, who has offered to store them in a safe and dry space within EMEC’s offices.

John Ramwell  a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and life member of the John Rae Society was born in South Africa and when it was time to return to Britain the ship landed in Scapa.  John and family then moved to live with an aunt on Rothesey who was the sister of Henry Robertson Bowers, a member of the Scott Discovery Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole.

This sparked a lifelong interest in polar exploration where John both read about the derring do of some of the worlds best known explorers and personally led expeditions for both the British Schools Exploring Society and Raleigh International.

Within the library of around 650 books there are rare first editions, some signed by the authors including Nansen.  There is also a book about John Rae that is no longer available, was never reprinted and an extremely rare find.  

When the Arctic Centre is built at The Hall of Clestrain, John Rea’s birthplace, this tremendous asset can be used by Arctic researchers and the Orkney public alike. It is probably only the start of the John Rae Society’s reference collection. Other Arctic books and artefacts have been promised in the future, and the Society is already in possession of a number of fine items.