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Lieut. John Irving


1815 - c.1849

Naval officer who died while exploring the Arctic. Born in Edinburgh, the son of a lawyer who was a friend of Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832), Irving joined the navy at fifteen. He left in 1836 and moved to Australia to run a sheep farm but soon returned to Scotland and rejoined the navy in 1843. After a brief period at naval headquarters in Portsmouth, he was selected for Arctic service and joined HMS Terror. Irving thus became part of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition to search for a Northwest Passage. Trapped by the ice, the entire expedition was eventually to die. In 1879, Irving's grave was discovered and his remains where brought back to Scotland to be buried following a grand public funeral in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh, where the inscription on his monument records his fate in detail:

In memory of Lt. John Irving, RN. HM Ship Terror. Born 1815. Died in King William's Land 1848-9. Her Majesty's Ships Erebus and Terror left England in May 1845 under command of Sir John Franklin KCB to explore a North West Passage to the Pacific. After wintering 1845-6 at Beechey Island they sailed south down Franklin's Strait and entered the NW Passage. Having been there beset with ice for two years Sir J. Franklin and 8 other officers and 15 seamen having died the survivors 105 in number Lt. Irving being one landed on King William's Land and attempted to march to Canada but all died from cold and want of food. In 1879 Lt. Schwatka of the American searching expedition discovered Lt. Irving's grave. Through his kindness the remains of this brave and good officer were brought away and were deposited here on 7th January, 1881.


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