John Rae and the Hall of Clestrain

by Stuartbarbara April. 19, 2019 235 views
I had contacted the John Rae Society and the chairman was kind enough to invite me to tour the house with him. It has been abandoned for the past sixty years and suffers from the neglect of that time. The weather can be harsh. The house was modelled on a fine Georgian house in Edinburgh

I had contacted the John Rae Society and the chairman was kind enough to invite me to tour the house with him. It has been abandoned for the past sixty years and suffers from the neglect of that time. The weather can be harsh. The house was modelled on a fine Georgian house in Edinburgh

The main entrance. It would have been grand in 1813 when John was born here

The main entrance. It would have been grand in 1813 when John was born here

To the right of the entrance as you entered was a vestibule and a room, perhaps a bedroom, on the main level

To the right of the entrance as you entered was a vestibule and a room, perhaps a bedroom, on the main level

Further to the back of the house was a dining room with a marble fireplace

Further to the back of the house was a dining room with a marble fireplace

Across from the dining room was the main hall, or sitting room. The windows were bricked over but plans are to reopen them with their view of  Stromness across Scapa Flow.

Across from the dining room was the main hall, or sitting room. The windows were bricked over but plans are to reopen them with their view of Stromness across Scapa Flow.

A small pantry was beside the dining room

A small pantry was beside the dining room

The main staircase is not very safe but can be rebuilt. This leads up to the second floor

The main staircase is not very safe but can be rebuilt. This leads up to the second floor

The second floor would have had the family bedrooms. It is now an open space and plans are to create a research area here for Arctic exploration and specifically John Rae’s work. The Hudson Bay Company has offered a large board room table which will be featured in the space

The second floor would have had the family bedrooms. It is now an open space and plans are to create a research area here for Arctic exploration and specifically John Rae’s work. The Hudson Bay Company has offered a large board room table which will be featured in the space

Window looking inland up to the far hills

Window looking inland up to the far hills

Part of the original iron railing remains, so can be reproduced

Part of the original iron railing remains, so can be reproduced

The overall plan of the Society, now that they own the Hall and surrounding land, is a major renovation. They plan a conservatory added at the back which would function as entrance and a tea room. Washrooms would be located beside the rear of the building. The lower level, which now has concrete pigsties, would have a restored period kitchen and a gallery space for temporary exhibitions. A new entrance from the main road would be constructed at the rear to keep vehicles away from the farmers fields at the front of the house.

Wonderful to see the ambitious plans to the Society members and all their hard work to bring this to fruition.

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David Stringer 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Hi Stuart and Barbara,

It seem that my earlier comment on your visit to John Rae’s house didn’t go through maybe because I’ve just joined ‘PhotoBlog’. We certainly are enjoying your photos and comments.

Judging from his birthplace, it seems that John Rae must have been used to isolation. This would have helped him deal with the isolation of Hudson Bay and the Arctic. What a great explorer he was. He didn’t get the recognition he deserved in my opinion, probably because Lady Franklin didn’t believe that cannibalism had taken place in her husband’s expedition

Lots of rain back home but the snow has almost gone.

Best wishes,
David and Michele

5 months, 4 weeks ago Edited
Stuartbarbara Replied to David Stringer 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Thanks David. I agree that John Rae is grossly unknown. And undoubtedly it stems from the work of Lady Hamilton to shore up the reputation of her failed husband. He was a tragic figure put into an impossible position by the rigid British Navy. Cannibalism by British sailors has been proven so John Rae’s Inuit sources were right. But the damage to Rae’s reputation, and to the Inuit, was done and remains to this day. But huge efforts are being made to right this wrong.

5 months, 4 weeks ago Edited
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