Wayfarer Column- The tale of the real life ‘Robinson Crusoe’

Last week I mentioned the ingenuity of all animals in their ambition to improve their lifestyle and how to overcome adversity.

We have all read, or at least know, the story of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ but do you know how much truth existed in this tale and who the original character was.

It was Andrew Selkirk from Largo in Fife who was travelling in a ship when he became concerned that it was no longer seaworthy and begged the captain to put him ashore on the nearest land. This was in October 1704 and the nearest land was Mas a Tierra, an uninhabited island some 600 miles off South America. When he realized where he was being landed Selkirk begged to be taken back on board but the ship’s captain refused. There is no report on what happened to the unseaworthy ship but Andrew Selkirk remained on Mas a Tierra island for some four years with survival depending on a musket, gun powder, carpenter’s tools, a knife, a Bible and some clothing. He was eventually rescued by a passing ship in 1709 which returned him back to Britain where he was interviewed by journalist Richard Steele who published his story in ‘The Englishman’. This was read by Daniel Defoe, who probably discussed the tale with Andrew Selkirk, before publishing ‘Robinson Crusoe’ in 1719. How much of this tale was based on truth and how much embellishment was necessary to make this a read-worthy tale is not in question, but whatever happened it proved the man’s ingenuity in being able to survive on an uninhabited island for four years. Just think of it no supermarket handy, no national health service, no female company, no weekly Gazette to read and only the Bible for company. Some quite astounding feats are achieved, often by people who are unaware of their achievement. An American pilot Everett Hughes in 1967 was flying solo in a single-engine plane across the Atlantic when he ran out of fuel some fifty miles from Glasgow. He managed to land in a field and hitch hiked to the nearest service station where he purchased enough fuel to enable him to reach Glasgow. From there he was able to continue his flight to Bitburg in West Germany where he was a flying instructor. He made no fuss about his achievement which consisted of flying solo from America to Germany via Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland. There must be many more tales of various unsung achievements out there to prove determination to accomplish some personal ambition. See you next week.