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Memorial to Orcadian explorer to be placed in Westminister Abbey

He was vilified by leading lights of Victorian society, but now there is to a memorial to the Orcadian explorer John Rae in Westminster Abbey.

It will be dedicated by the Dean of Westminster in September.

Dr John Rae (30 September 1813 - 22 July 1893) was, a Scottish doctor, who was born in Orphir on the Orkney mainland. But spent much of his life exploring northern Canada having signed up with the Hudson Bay Company.

He discovered the final part of the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which many believe should have seen him remembered as one of the most important explorers of his time.

However, his achievement was overshadowed by controversy when he reported on the fate of the lost expedition led by Sir John Franklin and English naval officer. Accounts from local Inuits he had recorded in 1854, suggested that the crew members had resorted to cannibalism in a desperate bid to survive.

A campaign to discredit Rae was subsequently waged by Lady Franklin and other figures, including Charles Dickens, after he relayed these reports.

The memorial to Sir John Franklin in Westminster Abbey, describes him as "..the beloved chief of the gallant crews who perished with him in completing the discovery of the route that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans".

In 2009 while in the Arctic Circle for a television programme, Billy Connolly said it was a "crime" that Sir John Franklin was credited with discovering the route that linked the two oceans, not Rae

John Rae is buried in the kirkyard of St Magnus' Cathedral, Kirkwall and there is a memorial to him in the cathedral. In addition last year full size bronze statue of him was unveiled in Orkney's second town Stromness.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall said he had agreed to the memorial following discussions with the Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael who is MP for Orkney and Shetland.

"I have agreed that a memorial should be placed to Dr John Rae of Orkney in the Abbey near that to Sir John Franklin. I plan to dedicate a ledger stone to the Arctic explorer in the Chapels of St John the Evangelist, St Michael and St Andrew to the west of the North Transept on September 30," he said.

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