Hall of Clestrain Purchase – Press Release
After a long period of delicate negotiations the John Rae Society is very pleased to announce that it has acquired for purchase, having paid an agreed deposit the Hall of Clestrain from its current owners Ivan and Jean Craigie.
The Hall of Clestrain ( an 18th Century Palladian building ) was the childhood home of John Rae, the famous Orcadian Arctic explorer, who not only discovered the final part of the North West passage but also what had happened to the previous ill-fated Franklin expedition. It was the publication of this news that resulted in John Rae being vilified by Victorian society and his true place in the history books being denied to him.
The Society plans to restore the Hall to its former glory and to open it to the public as well as making the area around it a key visitor attraction in Orkney.
When told of the news Ken McGoogan author of the book ‘Fatal Passage’ featuring John Rae said:
“Because of John Rae, Clestrain is the most important heritage building in Orkney, and one of the most significant in all of Scotland. It will make a spectacular visitor centre. Hats off to the John Rae Society for persevering in making this happen.”
When told of the news, Alistair Carmichael MP said: "The John Rae story is one that is close to the heart of many Orcadians and which we shall never allow to be forgotten. The Hall of Clestrain is central to that story and it is right that it should be part of any lasting memorial to this great Orcadian and all that he did in his lifetime".
The aim now is to embark on a major campaign of fund raising and to approach other organisations to assist us in this exciting project.
There will be a public open day at the Hall where anyone can come and talk to members of the John Rae Society about the plans for the Hall. All are welcome.
President: Andrew Appleby : Tel: 01856 851 414/01856 771 419
Chairman: Norman Shearer : Tel: 01856 771591
Full Quote from Ken McGoogan
“It is wonderful to see the John Rae Society acting to preserve the boyhood home of John Rae, the greatest Arctic explorer of them all. While conducting a survey for the Hudson’s Bay Company, Rae solved the two great mysteries of 19th-century Arctic exploration. He discovered both the fate of the lost Franklin expedition of 1845 and the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage.
Rae excelled in the north country because, while growing up in the Hall of Clestrain, he had learned how to hunt and sail. Also, and crucially, while working for the HBC, Rae learned from the First Nations and the Inuit how to canoe, cache game, snowshoe, build snowhouses, and ice sledge runners. He subsequently defended Inuit oral history in the face of a criticism unleashed by Jane Lady Franklin and Charles Dickens -- and eventually stood vindicated.
Because of John Rae, Clestrain is the most important heritage building in Orkney, and one of the most significant in all of Scotland. It will make a spectacular visitor centre. Hats off to the John Rae Society for persevering in making this happen.”
Author of Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin
The Hall of Clestrain was built by Graemsay businessman Patrick Honeyman after his marriage in 1769. Before building the house, Honeyman took his new wife toEdinburgh where they greatly admired the splendour of Edinburgh's New Town, then being built. The Hall of Clestrain can be thought of as a small piece of GeorgianEdinburgh,transplanted to Orkney in a form adapted to the Orcadian environment and Orcadian building techniques. The result is unique, as is the setting, with the west side of the hall facing across the Clestrain Sound to Graemesay,HoyandStromness
The Hall was continuously occupied until a great storm in 1952 ripped part of the roof off. A temporary roof was added and the lower floor converted to house livestock. The temporary roof has remained in place ever since!
Canmore; Buldings at risk register description.
“Gabled Georgian laird's house of one and a half storeys and 3x3 bays in harl and ashlar with dressed facework. The house sits on a basement which projects slightly to form a plinth, and the attic is articulated by a bandcourse. The low moulded doorway is approached by a stair, and sits under a lugged architrave and corniced rectangular fanlight. The steeply-pitched roof is in modern asbestos sheeting and sits above a cavetto cornice. The side elevation features rectangular windows at basement and ground floor level, with a single window above in the gable surmounted by chimney stacks. It has been suggested that the slightly advanced central bay may have originally been topped by a shallow pediment. A single storey outbuilding sits to the rear.”
Link to 3D scan of the Hall of Clestrain completed in 2014 by......for the John Rae Society.