So our show is on for 2 weeks in the Fringe exploring the life of Scotland’s greatest explorer but… Who was David Livingstone? He was – explorer, writer, doctor, missionary and, most of all, an ardent anti-slavery campaigner, a legacy that has made Scotland and the entire world celebrate the bicentenary of his birth. But who was the man behind the legend? And what triggered his revolutionary ideas about slavery?
Here some 10 fabulous facts for you
- He was the first recorded European to see Mosi oa Tunya (Victoria Falls)
- He was one of the first Westerners to make the MEGA journey across Africa.
- He survived malaria, dysentery, sleeping sickness and other common diseases, concocting a malaria cure along the way!
- He became great friends with local tribal chiefs, and spoke several African languages fluently
- He was a pretty terrible missionary, with only 1 convert
- He was an ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery.
- He believed that fair trade was the only thing able to replace and stop the slave-trade.
- He wasn’t discouraged by the negative press for the failure of the Zambezi expedition and carried on regardless
- His heart is buried in Africa, under a Mvula tree, but his remains are buried at Westminster Abbey,
10. He brought back HUGE collections of botanic, ecological, geological and ethnographic material, allowing large regions to be mapped,
*** WHAT FASCINATING FACTS DO YOU KNOW? COULD YOU BE AN EXPLORER? IF YOU COULD DISCOVER ANYTHING WHAT WOULD IT BE? LET US KNOW. WE’D LOVE TO HEAR! ***
A bit of background for you!
EARLY DAYS: His family was from Blantyre and was a pretty humble one. Little David was the 2nd of 7 children and had to start earning a living from the tender age of 10. Life was very tough with a 12-14 hour long working day. But David was desperate to learn. He consumed books by other explorers, theological books, travel and missionary stories by his father and these certainly provided a trigger for David’s future choices. He found the best way to combine his passion for science and his strong religious beliefs by studying medicine at college.
AFRICA: David Livingstone first went to Africa as a missionary, at the age of 27. This obviously wasn’t where his heart lay as over the 30 years he spent on the continent, he only made one convert. He must have covered around 50.000 km, mostly by foot.
He became acutely aware of the cruelty inflicted on humans as a result of the slave trade and began to see his role of opening up the interior to Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation. His expeditions took him and his teams deeply into northern, southern and central Africa, places like modern days Zambia and Nile river being forever associated with his name.
Livingstone’s amazing learning ability helped him to learn the local language. His liberal, respectful , (almost equal) attitude to and relationships with African people was unlike other missionaries and explorers of that time.
Despite failing as a missionary, he maintained an exceptionally strong Christianity faith until his death, it’s morals guiding his behaviour and attitudes.
FRIEND AND FAMILY: Livingstone was not an easy man and his closest friendships were formed with the African people he lived and worked alongside. His European colleagues often abandoned him (some died and others left accusing him of being insane) as he had no regard for their safety and was extremely stubborn.
He brought his family up in very rural situations drawing criticism from his peers.
VIC FALLS: Chief Sekeletu helped to finance the Zambezi expedition leading to the
renaming of the extraordinary Mosi oa Tunya. (Victoria Falls). For Britain the mission was considered a failure and made future fund raising very hard. Still, due to his collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society of London new funds were granted and Livingstone continued to explore Africa.
LATER YEARS: In the last few years of his life, he lost contact with the outside world for nearly 6 years, until a party of East Africans brought American journalist Stanley Morton to him. He was considered lost but had simply continued on his dogged mission to explore, writing madly on any scrap of paper he could find. The medicines, supplies of food, writing materials, etc that Stanley brought, enabled Livingstone a reprieve from his extremely difficult situation but he refused to return with Stanley, preferring to continue searching for a magic hill, which, he believed to be the source of 4 rivers.
DEATH: Livingstone died in Africa, in a position of prayer. Susi and Chuma, 2 of his African followers, buried his heart under a Mvula tree near the spot where he died and wishing his spirit to rest in peace, they returned his body to the land of his birth. carrying him from the heart of Africa to the East African Coast, where his body was sent to Britain. This trip was a true testament to their loyalty and humanity travelling 1500 miles, risking disease, capture and more over 8 months and 12 people lost their lives.
To find out more, come and see us in August where we hear his story from the perspective of his African friends.
‘I KNEW A MAN CALLED LIVINGSTONE’
Part of the David Livingstone 200 celebration
Fringe Performances: Edinburgh Fringe 2013, National Library of Scotland, 7-21 Aug, 4pm
Book tickets here :