Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gloomy David Douglas - New Year's Day, 1826

As you'll perhaps recall, I'm doing some parallel blogging again this year, of the allotment in 2009 and David Douglas (botanist & plant collector extraordinaire, 1799-1834) in 1826. At that time he is at the Fort Vancouver headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Co'y in the Pacific Northwest.

To refresh the story in 2009 for new readers, I am involved in making a TV documentary on Douglas's life and achievements, with colleagues from the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, in the USA, and the UK Forestry Commission. Filming is almost complete in Oregon and Canada, it starts in Hawaii (sadly not with me) in February, and then we're in London and Scotland in May. A premiere is scheduled for Douglas's birthplace in Perth, as part of the Scottish Year of Homecoming, for October.

Anyway, here he is on New Year's Day 1826 clearly feeling a bit sorry for himself. A hangover perhaps?

Commencing a year in such a far removed corner of the earth, where I am nearly destitute of civilised society, there is some scope for reflection. In 1824 I was on the Atlantic on my way to England; 1825 between the island of Juan Fernandez & the Galapagos in the Pacific. I am now here and God only knows where I may be the next. In all probability, if a change does not take place, I will shortly be consigned to the tomb. I can die satisfied with myself. I never have given cause for remonstrance or pain to an individual on earth. I am in my twenty-seventh year.

Douglas is being unnecessarily gloomy here, although in fact he had only another eight years left before a grisly end on Hawaii. I've stood where he died and also where he is buried in downtown Honolulu.

A small custom has grown up of toasting his grave with a wee dram. I did that on my visit and will be having a wee dram in his memory tonight on Burns Night. (The Memorial cairn you see behind me in the first photo was erected by the now-defunct Burns Club of Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, in 1934 to commemorate the centenary of his death).

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