The unveiling of a ‘National Commemorative Plaque’ dedicated to John Rae took place in glorious autumn sunshine at Clestrain on 30th September - the 202nd anniversary of his birth.
The plaque was awarded thanks to the efforts of former trustee Josh Gourlay, who had submitted the nomination to Historic Scotland on behalf of the Society. In early July Trustees Colin Bullen and Davie Reid met with Gavin Douglas, Regional Works Manager and the local Historic Scotland team to decide how best to display the bronze plaque.
Normally the placing of a plaque is straightforward and involves simply mounting it on the former birthplace, or residence, of the person being recognised. However, the present condition of the Hall of Clestrain meant another approach seemed more appropriate. The early discussions produced the inspired possibility of setting the plaque on an Orkney standing stone to be erected in a prominent position in front of the Hall. With the help of Heddle Hill quarry in Finstown a very promising stone was identified.
And so to the day itself. President Andrew Appleby welcomed everyone and expressed delight in introducing Mrs Jean Craigie of Clestrain to unveil the plaque. In doing so it was revealed that the stone had been given a further tribute to Rae’s achievements with the scribing and polishing of the route of the Northwest Passage on the top of the stone. The effect is quite stunning and a tribute to the work of the local team with particular mention due to local apprentice Robbie Macvie. Jim Chalmers followed the unveiling with a powerful reading of Harvey Johnston’s poem ‘Rae in the Abbey’ and invited everyone to join a toast to John Rae. Refreshments were served and all enjoyed the opportunity to view the new addition to the wonderful setting of Clestrain.
Some photos of the day are here on our Facebook page
One day we all hope to see the stone relocated closer to a fully restored Hall...
Written by Colin Bullen - Trustee