John Rae (1813-1893)

John Rae (1813-1893)

Arctic explorer

John Rae was an Orcadian surgeon who signed up for service in the Hudson's Bay Company. He spent time learning the skills of indigenous people around his post at Moose Factory. He became an expert at making and using snowshoes. and attributed his success as an explorer to his reliance on their technology. Due to his skill and renown, Rae was chosen to search for fellow Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin and his missing party. Ever resourceful, on one trip Rae even used tin dinner plates to paddle across a river in a small boat after the real paddles had been left behind! He made four long explorations of the Canadian Arctic between 1846 and 1854.

Birth in 1813

John Rae was baptised on 14 October 1813, the son of John Rae in Clestrain, factor to Sir William Honyman, and Margaret Glen. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Orphir in Orkney records that he was baptised by Gavin Hamilton, minister of Hoy and the witnesses were William Wall of Skaill and Robert Watt of Kirkwall.

Baptism entry for John Rae

Baptism entry for John Rae in the OPR for Orphir (16 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 23/1

Testament of John Rae

National Records of Scotland, SC70/6/54 pp 421-445

Among the particular bequests to his wife in his will are a few of the Franklin relics 'brought home by me in 1854 when I first discovered the information of the unfortunate expedition as well as my stone implements, Eskimo and other curiosities, deer antlers and other horns'. He instructs that these latter items be donated or bequeathed by her to the Museum of Edinburgh University.

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