Alexander Selkirk

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An earlier Age of Sail story than usual this week – my wanderings round Fife have taken me as far as Lower Largo, birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, one of the main inspirations for the story of Robinson Crusoe.

There’s a monument to him on the houses which now stand on the site of his childhood home.

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Alexander Selkirk monument

The statue is the standard Crusoe image, with the goatskin clothes – an image which was definitely taken from Selkirk’s story, wherever the actual story came from!

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Selkirk statue
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Selkirk inscription

In memory of Alexander Selkirk, mariner, the original of Robinson Crusoe, who lived on the island of Juan Fernandez in complete isolation for four years and four months. He died 1723, lieutenant of HMS Weymouth, aged 47 years. This state is erected by David Gillies, net manufacturer, on the site of the cottage in which Selkirk was born.

Originally sailing on privateers, he had joined the Royal Navy after his return from the island. ‘Lieutenant’ on the inscription is doubtful although possible – he had served on several non-naval ships as sailing master, and although he seems to have been a bit of a dubious character, must have been a skilled sailor and navigator.

The local hotel has gone for the better known name, but with a sign pointing to the Juan Fernandez islands rather than to Crusoe’s Atlantic island.

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Crusoe Hotel
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Juan Fernandez Island sign
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