‘Real-life Robinson Crusoe’ artefacts set to go on display

Possessions belonging to Fife-born seaman Alexander Selkirk will feature as part of an exhibition in Dunfermline.

‘Real-life Robinson Crusoe’ artefacts set to go on display PA

Artefacts belonging to the real-life Robinson Crusoe are to go on display in Fife.

A knife handle and a powder horn, believed to have belonged to Fife-born seaman Alexander Selkirk, are to go on display in Dunfermline.

Selkirk is widely recognised as the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe.

The artefacts, part of the collection managed by OnFife (Fife Cultural Trust), were in the hands of Selkirk’s family before being given to the museum collections in 1970.

Alexander Selkirk was born in Lower Largo in 1676 and spent most of his life at sea as a privateer – a sailor authorised to raid enemy ships in times of war.

Following a spat with his captain in 1704, Selkirk asked to be put ashore on Juan Fernandez Island, since renamed Robinson Crusoe Island, 420 miles west of Chile, where he lived for four years.

Among his possessions were a pistol, gunpowder, a knife, a hatchet, navigation instruments, a bible, a flask of rum and enough food for a few days.

The powder pouch, less than one foot long, came home with Selkirk; the knife’s blade, having snapped from its handle, is lost to this day on the island.

Selkirk was eventually rescued by another privateer in 1709.

He joined the crew and returned to Britain a wealthy man, thanks to his share of the ship’s loot. His memoirs are widely thought to have inspired Defoe.

The chairman of Fife Cultural Trust, Dr David Caldwell, who led an archaeological dig on Robinson Crusoe Island in 2005, says the objects can transport the viewer to a far-off place.

He said: “Many of us, sitting in an office or, these days, at home, have looked out the window and thought ‘I wish I wasn’t here, but on a Pacific island, leading a different life’.

“This idea of being stranded on a desert island, free from every day constraints, is something that is quite deep in our psyche and we owe it all to Selkirk and Defoe.

“These objects take us right there and help us enter into that story and glimpse something of the reality of that life – of Selkirk, fending for himself and hoping to be rescued.”

The objects are part of an exhibition called Explore! Travellers & Trailblazers, which will open at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries once Covid restrictions are lifted.

Artefacts from six continents will feature in the family-friendly show.

Explore! features a host of intriguing objects from far flung places including Japan, China, South Africa, India and Australia, and from the depths of the oceans.

“We are all explorers from the day we are born,” said exhibition curator Lesley Lettice. “But you don’t always have to leave these shores to go on your own voyage of discovery.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code