Postponed – talk by Franklin descendant exploring history between Rae and her ancestor

27 May 2024

Sadly this talk has been postponed as the speaker and her husband have been involved in an accident. If we are able, we will rearrange this talk. In the meantime, I am sure you will join us in wishing Rosalind and her husband a speedy recovery.

The adventures of Arctic explorers John Rae and Sir John Franklin that ended in a national outcry will be under the spotlight in a talk by Dr Rosalind Rawnsley, a descendant of Franklin.

The talk will look at aspects of Franklin’s last expedition that set out in 1845 aboard HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and ended in tragedy, as well as the many fruitless searches for traces of his crew and ships, including three searches by Rae.

Rae’s discovery in 1854 that Franklin and his crew of around 40 men had perished, but not before resorting to cannibalism to try to survive, was met with outrage when it reached London, particularly as it was told to Rae by Inuit native people. Rae was castigated for some time in a campaign led by Lady Franklin and supported by the likes of Charles Dickens.

Dr Rawnsley, a direct descendant of Sir John’s niece and ward Catherine Franklin, will explore this remarkable story that includes one of the greatest rescue missions in history, in her talk: The Last Link – Rae and Franklin, A Tale of Tragedy and Heroism.

It will be held on Saturday, 15 June 2024 at 7pm at EMEC Building, The Old Academy, Back Road, Stromness.

You can also join online by using the following Zoom link:

Dr Rawnsley, has lectured widely and contributed numerous articles to magazines and journals on this topic and others, and is the co-author of the recent biography of her great-grandfather Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, who was the great-nephew of Sir John Franklin.  This volume has just been long-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award 2024.

Dr Rawnsley says: “It has been fascinating to research this story, and will be a privilege to share my findings with the John Rae Society in his own home town.”

Society President Andrew Appleby says: “I am delighted that Dr. Rawnsley is in Orkney speaking of John Rae and John Franklin, two great Arctic explorers in their own rights.”

The talk is free with donations to the society welcome. Please send an email to to request tickets.

There are just 60 places available and tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.