On our registers: John Rae

A lot of what we do here at Registers of Scotland (RoS) is future-focused. Whether its new digital services or completion of the land register, we’re looking forward. History is a big part of Scotland’s story though, and we hold huge amounts of it in our registers.

For example, the 30 September marks the birthday of John Rae, a central figure in Arctic exploration, and one of Scotland’s more unsung heroes. Rae is most famously remembered as the discoverer of the final navigable link of the Northwest Passage, a geographical feat which had defied explorers for centuries.

Born on Orkney at the Hall of Clestrain (the sasine search sheet for which is seen below) and educated in Edinburgh, Rae travelled to North America and gained a reputation as a skilled and experienced outdoorsman. He also played an important role in working to uncover the fate of the famous Franklin Expedition, which also sought to find the Northwest Passage but succumbed to the harsh conditions and vanished without a trace.

However, Rae’s report on the grisly details of the expedition’s end shocked Victorian society when he returned to Britain, and led to him being ostracised and, at the time, denied the credit he deserved for such an important discovery as the Northwest Passage.

Though he died over 120 years ago, John Rae and his story have recently re-entered our registers. The Hall of Clestrain has been purchased by the John Rae Society, who are dedicated to advancing public knowledge and memory of John Rae and his achievements. As part of the purchase, the Hall moved to the digital land register, so Rae’s birthplace can be preserved for centuries to come. You can see the Hall’s mapped plan, and what it looks like from the air, in the below screenshots from our land information service ScotLIS.

John Rae and the Hall of Clestrain are just one of the countless number of stories on our registers. Thanks to efforts like our digital land register, these buildings and the stories they hold can be effectively recorded and maintained, so they can be told to future generations.

You can find out more about the land register, and how to search our registers for property ownership information, on our website.

Find out more!

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