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What do you know about the great Scottish explorers?

Image of Andy Cannon for the SISF Scottish Explorers Article.

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You’ve probably heard of John Rae, David Livingstone, John Muir and Mary Slessor, but do you know what they discovered or the impacts they made across the globe?

Did you know that Mary Slessor saved numerous new-born babies from being executed in Nigeria? Did you know that John Rae designed his very own snow shoes that allowed him to travel great distances with very little resources? And did you know that in 2006 Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver included John Muir into the California Hall of Fame?

This year at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival you can learn about our great Scottish explorers and the legacies they left behind. Experience their great adventures as our Scottish and International storytellers bring their expeditions to life, providing an entertaining way of learning about some of Scotland's most influential and daring people.

Martin Martin

Image of Martin MacIntyre

Martin Martin (yes, that is his real name) was a Scottish writer in the late 17th and early 18th century. He is best known for his Description of the Western Isles of Scotland which is particularly noted for its information on the St Kilda archipelago (cluster of islands) in the Hebrides.

Inspired by Martin’s journey into the Western Isles, the aptly named storyteller, Martin MacIntyre, will take you on a journey to the Hebrides, exploring its language, literature and traditions.

Storytellers’ Journeys: Martin Martin
Saturday 19 October, 5pm
£7.50 (£5)
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John Rae

Image of Bob PeggJohn Rae was a Scottish doctor who explored Northern Canada, surveyed parts of the Northwest Passage and reported findings of cannibalism in the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. He was noted for his physical stamina, hunting skills and the ability to travel long distances with minimal equipment.

The Rae Strait, Rae Isthmus, Rae River, Mount Rae, Fort Rae and the village of Rae-Edzo (now Behchoko), Northwest Territories were all named in honour of John Rae and his explorations.

“My performance looks at his life and times through European folk song and Inuit legend, the music of the concertina and the Native American flute, and an excursion into the Victorian obsession with cannibalism.” Bob Pegg.

Storytellers’ Journeys: John Rae
Sunday 20 October, 6.30pm
£7.50 (£5)
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John Muir

Image of John Muir stamp

John Muir was the founder of North America’s national parks and is described by his biographer, Donald Worster, as “saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism”.

Schools, parks, mountains, beaches, walks, plants and animals have all been named in his honour. In California they celebrate John Muir Day on 21 April each year; John Muir has featured on two U.S commemorative postage stamps and appears on the Californian state quarter coin. John Muir hasn’t been forgotten his home land though; there is a 45 mile coastal path in East Lothian, The John Muir Way, in his memory.

 “This performance focusses on how experiences of blindness, sickness, immersion in darkness and near-death encounters gave Muir access to a new level of consciousness, the 'wilderness within' that allowed him to know nature on a level of true intimacy.Daniel Allison, storyteller.

Storytellers’ Journeys: John Muir – The Wilderness Within
Monday 21 October, 5pm
£7.50 (£5)
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Thomas Muir

Image of Stuary McHardyThomas Muir, a Scottish Lawyer and a political activist, was expelled from university, charged with sedition and transported to an Australian penal colony, escaped from the colony, traveled to America and banished from Spanish territories… and these are just a few of his major life events!

Storyteller and lecturer, Stuart Hardy, will take you on Thomas Muir’s radical journeys across the world, ending back in Edinburgh on Calton Hill where a monument still stands in his honour.


Storytellers Journeys: Thomas Muir’s Radical Voyage
Monday 21 October, 6.30pm
£7.50 (£5)
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Image of Dr David LivingstoneDavid Livingstone

Dr David Livingstone spent 30 years in Africa spreading the word of Christianity, denouncing slavery, introduced new forms of health care and education, improved trade links and discovered previously unknown natural wonders on his African explorations. He story is astounding.

We have numerous Festival events to celebrate this national hero:

Livingstone & the Ordeal of the Congo
National Library of Scotland

Monday 21 October, 6pm
Talk, (free)
Sold Out
I knew a man called Livingstone
National Library of Scotland
Friday 25 October, 2.30pm
Live Storytelling, £8 (£6)
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Storytellers’ Journeys: Mr Livingstone’s Lantern Lecture
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Friday 25 October, 5pm
Live Storytelling, £7.50 (£5)
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Picturing Africa: Illustrating Livingstone’s Travels
National Library of Scotland,

Until 3rd November
Exhibition (free)
More Info


Mary Slessor

Image of Ruth KirkpatrickMary Slessor was born in 1848 near Aberdeen and was brought up in Dundee. After learning of Dr Livingstone’s death in 1875 when she was 27 years old, she wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Mary was a missionary in Nigeria, spreading Christianity and promoting women’s rights. Despite witnessing widespread human sacrifice, especially of young children, she was not deterred in her mission. Mary saved hundreds of twin babies from death as it was considered an evil curse to give birth to twins so many were left out in the jungle to die. Mary was heralded the ‘white queen of Okoyong’ for her work in Nigeria.

Storyteller Ruth Kirkpatrick will take you on Mary’s journey from Scotland to Africa, bringing her mission to life.

Storytellers' Journey's: Mary Slessor
Friday 25 October, 6.30pm, £7.30 (£5)
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View all events   About the Storytellers