Carmichael campaigns for Orcadian John Rae to receive credit he deserves

March 18, 2009 10:50 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is seeking a meeting with the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Reverend Dr John Hall to discuss the historical inaccuracies on the memorial to Sir John Franklin within Westminster Abbey.

A memorial to Sir John Franklin lies within Westminster Abbey with the wording - "To the memory of Sir John Franklin, born April 16 1786 at Spilsby, Lincolnshire, Died June 11 1847, off point victory in the frozen ocean, the beloved chief of the gallant crews who perished with him in completing the discovery of the North West passage."

It is well known that in fact it was the Orcadian explorer John Rae who in 1848 was the first to identify and map the navigable link of the North West Passage. This is something which has again come into the public debate following Billy Connolly's recent television program on the subject.

Commenting Mr Carmichael said;

"The proximity of Westminster Abbey to the Palace of Westminster gives me the opportunity to pursue this aspect of John Rae's legacy fairly easily and I intend to do so. It is not unreasonable to expect that another small sign might be placed alongside the memorial to Sir Franklin clarifying the proven position. The fact that a sign of this sort should have been erected in a place such as Westminster Abbey is itself of historical interest. John Rae was denied his proper recognition in his lifetime, it is to be hoped that these errors can at last be rectified."

Mr Carmichael has also tabled the following motion in the House of Commons calling upon Westminster Abbey amongst others to recognise the historical inaccuracies contained within there inscriptions and give John Rae his rightful recognition.

That this House records its admiration for all those in the nineteenth century who contributed to the exploration of the North West Passage in Canada; congratulates Billy Connolly on his recent programme, "Journey to the Edge of the World" retracing their steps; further congratulates Mr Connolly on his conclusion that it was not in fact Sir John Franklin but John Rae who was the first to discover the final link to the passage while searching for the lost Franklin crew in 1848; regrets that memorials to Sir John Franklin outside the Admiralty headquarters and inside Westminster Abbey still inaccurately describe Franklin as the first to discover the passage and calls on the Ministry of Defence and the Abbey authorities to take the necessary steps to clarify the true position.