Gill Bowman's song about John Rae deserves some exposure here, I think:
JOHN RAE Gillian Bowman
1. In the year of Our Lord, 1833,
He set sail for Hudson's Bay over the sea,
A company man, a ship's surgeon was he,
A young man of barely twenty.
But he took to the life of the wild Rupert's Land,
He was eager to learn, he was quick to command,
He studied the ways of the Dogrib and Cree,
Hunting for fresh food a-plenty.
With his gun in his hand, and his deerskin coat,
He could hunt, he could fish, he could sail any boat,
And his name was John Rae, and his spirit was free,
From Stromness he sailed away.
2. His boyhood in Orkney ensured he was suited
To a life in the wilderness, tough and sure-footed,
As the Hudson Bay Company governor put it,
"John Rae's the fellow we need".
With some well-chosen men he could duly set forth
To fill in the gaps on the maps of the North,
To King William Island and the cold Arctic coast,
John Rae's the man who'll succeed.
3. The first white explorer, the first expedition
To learn from the Inuit's native tradition,
Travelling light, living off of the land,
Succeeding where others had foundered.
And he brought news of Franklin whose game was so great,
From the Inuit tribesmen he learned of their fate,
And the tale was so gruesome, it served to create
Suspicion of all he recounted.
4. And he lived not for glory, he lived not for gain,
At one with the elements, snow, wind and rain,
And the trusted in God, and the power that came
From his own self-reliance and knowledge.
In St Magnus Cathedral, his figure reclines
As if taking his rest in a forest of pine,
At peace with the world, and a man of his time,
His spirit goes a-walking for ever.
The vilification of John Rae by Lady Franklin, Charles Dickens and others for daring to suggest that Franklin's crew may have practiced cannibalism at the end was grossly unjust. He was THE consummate arctic traveller and the true discoverer of the North West Passage....although he didn't sail it, he did locate the final "missing link".
And thanks to Gill for sending me her CD containing this song about 3 years ago.