We really want to do a full presentation on the lives and adventures of the plant hunters. These amazing collectors of trees and plant specimens are a recurring theme for us both. When we played at Castle Menzies in 2018 we were able to add in a few songs to our programme to reflect the life of Archibald Menzies. He was one of the first great plant hunters, born near Aberfeldy in 1754 and you can read another wee blog about him and the fundraising we supported to restore his grave in London. Menzies was fortunate to come back to this country after all his travels and to marry and then live and work in London until his death in 1842. He was 88. Most plant hunters were not so fortunate. One of the great fascinations about their lives is that the work they were doing was so dangerous, the territory they explored so uncharted and new that they often met pretty grisly ends. We will come back to that!
David Douglas (1799-1834) was a plant hunter who came after Menzies and who was inspired by his work and the new plants and trees that Menzies had discovered. We are going to revisit these characters and do a blog on each of them in a fuller way which will give more biographical information on their lives but Syd has previously written a book on David Douglas called The Tree Collector. Writing this book and promoting it got Syd involved in an international collaboration called 'Finding David Douglas'. (there is a website and a DVD!) Syd was lucky enough to follow Douglas' footsteps and travel to the Pacific Northwest of America and this journey took him to York Factory in Hudson's Bay. This remote outpost was formerly the hub of the Hudson Bay Company and it features in many books written about that pioneering time and in movies about the period.
Syd was asked to write a song as the theme to the film and below is the film of him singing the song on an island in the river leading into Hudson's Bay! When Syd was there he got to meet a summer ranger with Canada Parks called Ian McKinnon. A kindred spirit for Syd, Ian was someone who looked after the land and introduced visitors to the experience of York Factory. Ian joined in the singing of the song, remote and unaccompanied, but how atmospheric and so right for a song about Douglas! This was an experience Syd will never forget, singing about Douglas in the place the great man himself once knew.
Syd and I reworked the song and recorded a PlaidSong version -click on this To The Oregon Country
The whole project can be found online Finding David Douglas
PS this video was recorded some years ago when Syd was a younger man....!