Saturday, 11 April 2015

A long lost adventurer and pioneer - Robert Gordon McArthur

Glasgow. A wonderful city. A city rich with history and culture. Full of inventors, adventurers and pioneers.
On a recent trip to Scotland with the family I thought it best to take them to a visit to one of the cities great buildings, the Kelvingrove art gallery in the west end.

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Inside the museum entrance sitting on the first floor is a grand organ, huge pipes run up into the ceiling, I believe at 1pm most days you can hear them being played which would be a rare treat as the acoustics of the room would make for some incredible sounds for the ears.
As we were in a rush trying to fit a city visit into two days we broke off into teams to go and explore at our own leisure. We had one hour, which, considering you could spend the day in the museum was not a lot of time at all.
It was at this point I decided to walk into the natural history section of the museum full of all the exotic animals of the world from penguins to elephants to the meerkats of the Kalahari desert of Botswana. Such fascinating sights, the colours and sizes of the animals that share the earth with us on display in front of me when through a group of emperor penguins and a giraffe I noticed something I had never seen before in my life, The giant Golden crab found only on the shores of the Marshall islands.
The below photo is genuine and not been photoshopped or altered.

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This crab has been in the museum for over 100 years and dates back to the voyages of forgotten Glasgow adventurer and explorer Robert Gordon McArthur.
McArthur was born into a middle class family in Govan, south west Glasgow in the early 1800's. He was the youngest of second youngest of six children however his younger brother Gregor McArthur died of lung problems as a child. It is often said that Robert got the inquisitive mind to travel from his father who was a ship builder. He would go with his mother Agnes to meet his father at clocking off time and see the giant ships sailing down the clyde into the distance.

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Later in life while working at the Lipton tea factory he over heard a chance conversation between Thomas Lipton and Garry Osidge discussing the golden crab and how they would love to have one on display in their trophy room however with the tea business growing every week Thomas Lipton could no longer devote periods of time away for his hobby of hunting. It was at this point Robert held his hand up to man a voyage to bring one of the crabs back for, at the time, the large fee of ten pounds.  
After much haggling on the part of Lipton he agreed to the finders fee, with half to be collected on his return with the bounty. Two weeks later with a crew of twenty Robert McArthur set sail for the Marshall Islands leaving from Glasgow across to Mexico where he met up with a group of colonists who helped them crossed the rugged south american land.
Below is a map of the first part of the voyage.

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After many months away from his beloved Glasgow Robert and the team landed on the shores of Majuro which is now the capital of the islands. There they met with local Marshallese who held the crab in high regards, the largest seen crab was believed to have been estimated with a diameter of 7 metres, truly a monstrous beast. The locals agreed to help capture one of the golden crab in return for Robert taking some of the children to Scotland in when they left. Knowing how much adventure had spurred him to seek new lands he agreed and a further six months later they finally had the crab in their hands. 
A stakeout on one of the many beautiful beaches resulted in a crab coming onto land to forage and after a bloody battle that resulted in the loss of three crew Robert struck the beast with a trident killing it dead.
It is believed that the countries motto 
"Jepilpilin ke ejukaan" which in english translates to "Accomplishment through joint effort" comes from this battle.
Returning back to Glasgow almost a full two years after they left Robert was met with little fanfare if any at all. Lipton had since decided he no longer wanted the crab as he could not show off something he did not capture himself, He did agree to pay the outstanding five pounds though and Robert decided rather than the beast go to waste he donated it to the Kelvingrove art gallery where it is still on display.
Robert Gordon McArthur went on many more adventures around the world and I will endeavour to look them out and post them in my blog to preserve his memory. I am also in contact with a member of his estate to see if I can get any photos of the man as the museum sadly did not have any.
Thanks for reading.