Captain Robert Scott’s last letter continues to inspire courage.
A century after Scott and his team perished on their polar expedition, the great explorer’s spirit of adventure inspired a team of students from the University of St Andrews to set off on an adventure of their own – a successful crossing of the 20-mile Lairig Ghru pass in the Cairngorms.
Departing last Thursday, 12 members of the university’s Expedition Society (ExpAnd) led by third year geography student Edward Morgan made the two-day trek to mark the centenary of Scott’s Antarctic voyage.
The mission also aimed to raise money to create an expedition scholarship to allow a young person from Fife to take part in a prestigious British Schools Exploring Society Expedition.
It wasn’t the first time the spirit of Scott was found in St Andrews. It first travelled from the South Pole to north Fife carried in author Sir J.M. Barrie’s pocket when he came to deliver his famous rectorial address on ‘Courage’ at the university on May 3, 1922.
Ten years earlier, on March 29, 1912, Captain Scott, awaiting death by starvation and exposure in a tent in the Antarctic, wrote to Barrie asking him to take care of his wife, Kathleen, and son Peter. Barrie was so proud of the letter that he carried it around for the rest of his life.
Addressed to “My Dear Barrie,” the moving message shows a man who was stoic until the last: “We are showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit fighting it out to the end…..We have done everything possible, even to sacrificing ourselves in order to save sick companions. I think this makes an example for Englishmen of the future.”
Barrie was determined to share Scott’s heroic attitude with the students of the University of St Andrews, and in the full flow of his historic speech pulled the letter out from his pocket and revealed: “I should like to read you some passages of a letter from a man of another calling, which I think will hearten you.
‘‘I have the little filmy sheets here.”