This website page celebrates the Scottish and African friends of explorer Doctor David Livingstone, born in Blantyre, Scotland, in 1813, in part through an imagining of their tales and remarks about him. Created and maintained by Ewan McVicar

David Livingstone's Timeline

1813 19 March - born at Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

1836 - Enters Anderson's University, Glasgow, to study medicine. Meets James Young

1837 First contact with London Missionary Society

1838 Starts a probationary year at the London Missionary Society in Essex

1840 January - moves to London to continue medical studies
Meets Robert Moffat
November - passes exams to become Licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and is ordained a missionary in London
December - sails for South Africa

1841 March - reaches Cape Town
July - arrives at the mission centre at Kuruman
October - travels with Rogers Edwards

1842 Two long journeys north from Kuruman

1843 Mission founded at Mabotsa

1844 May - Gets engaged to Mary Moffat

1845 January - marries Mary Moffat, daughter of Robert Moffat

1846 January - birth of their first child, Robert
Begins work at Chonuane

1847 May - birth of their second child, Agnes
Moves to Kolobeng

1849 March - Birth of their third child, Thomas
Expedition to Lake Ngami with William Cotton Oswell

1850 Expedition northwards with family
Birth of their fourth child, Elizabeth (dies after 6 weeks)

1851 August - Reaches Zambesi with Oswell
Birth of their fifth child, (William) Oswell

1852 Mary and children leave for Britain
Sack of Kolobeng by Boers

1853 May - arrives at Linyanti
November - sets off up Zambesi

1854 May - reaches Luanda

1855 Returns to Linyanti
November - sets off for Zambesi and Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls which he names after Queen Victoria

1856 March - reaches Tete
July - sails to Mauritius
December - returns to Britain

1857 Publication of Missionary travels and researches in South Africa
Resigns from London Missionary Society

1858 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
March - Leaves for Zambesi Expedition with Mary and son Oswell whom he leaves in Cape Town with the Moffats
May - reaches mouth of Zambesi
November - birth of their sixth child, Anna Mary in Kuruman

1859 Mary and children return to England
Expedition up the Shire River to Lake Nyassa

1860 Travels up Zambesi and returns to east coast

1861 Paddle steamer the Pioneer arrives from England with missionaries to build a mission on the Shire

1862 Mary Livingstone joins expedition
April - Death of Mary Livingstone

1863 Expedition recalled by London
Explores western side of Lake Nyassa

1864 Returns to Britain

1865 Publication of Narrative of an expedition to the Zambesi and its tributaries
Leaves England for Bombay

1866 January - sails from Bombay to Zanzibar
Arrives on the African mainland and travels up Rovuma valley

Reaches Lake Mweru and Lake Bangweulu

1869 arch - arrives at Ujiji with pneumonia
September - reaches Bambarre & travels to Luama river
December - returns to Bambarre

1870 Travels north but falls ill and returns to Bambarre in July

1871 February - leaves Bambarre
March - reaches Nyangwe and Lualaba river
October - returns to Ujiji
November - joined by H M Stanley

1872 Travels with Stanley to Unyanyembe
March - Stanley leaves
August - Leaves Unyanyembe for Lake Tanganyika

1873 May 1 - dies at village of local headman, Chitambo

1874 Body shipped to Britain via Zanzibar and Aden
April 24 - buried in Westminster Abbey

His Family and Early Days

I have the English as well as the Gaelic, and can write in both. We spoke and sang in the language of the Garden of Eden when we worked our ground on Ulva, and when my father fought at Drummossie Muir for the rightful Prince. Then we were of the Catholic faith, but one day the laird came, with him a man leaning upon a yellow stick, and we were told to follow the faith of this man, the Religion of the Yellow Stick, a harder sharper more severe faith to us.
Then cruel new landlords came with their Great White Sheep to hound us from the land of our forefathers. We came over water and through tribulation to Glasgu, till I found gainful employment in this stone-built town of Blantyre, as a clerk in Montieth’s Works.
Neil Livingstone Senior, Grandfather of David

There is Gaelic at me, as my father would say. I am his youngest son, born in 1788, and bear his name. He got me apprenticed to his own clerking work, but I escaped to be an apprentice tailor to Davie Hunter, and married his own daughter Agnes. We had seven children, five of them lived. Davie was our second boy, Charles our third, all of us up the stairs in our small Shuttle Row dwelling. Davie started work at the factory in 1823 when he was 10 years of age. First he was a piecer, in and about the spinning machines for fourteen hours a day, mending broken threads. When he was grown enough at nineteen he himself became a spinner to tend his own machines. After his work he was away to night school, while in his work he’d have a book propped up on his machine to read a line each time he passed by it, though his fellows made fun of his great learning, and threw spindles or bobbins to knock his book down. I locked our house door each night at eight of the evening, and if Davie was later from his night classes – then he slept out in the passageway. Not much less hard than his bed.
I would not allow the reading of novelles, full of trashy lies, but the tales of our brave Scottish travellers Bruce and Park were wholesome enough.
Davie began to save so he could study even more, and talk of becoming a physician, but I saw it an affront to my faith that a son of mine should earn a living from science. And if none of our family worked at the mill, we might lose our house that was thirled to the factory.
Then a great missionary named Von Gutzlaff appealed for medical missionaries to go serve in China, and I saw that medicine and evangelism might go hand in hand. He kept saving till in 1836 he had enough pelf to enrol at Anderson’s College in Glasgow, and worked during his holidays back in the mill till they refused him. So in 1837 we moved to 46 Almada Street, Hamilton. The house was better for my business of going about selling tea. Sometimes the money was good, sometimes less good. Davie applied to join the London Missionary Society, that would train him then carry him off to China.
Neil Livingstone Junior, father of David

Livingstone's African Friends

This page holds an imaginative construction of some of the words and thoughts of Livingstone's African friends, made by Ewan McVicar.

I boated 400 miles down our Great Water Za-Mbezi to meet my visitors, the doctor and his friend Oswell, and at night’s dead heart I went, woke them, and told my dreams of my life, wars, escapes, conquests and far-distanced wanderings. And of this new infection in my spear-pierced chest. The doctor feared to treat me lest he be blamed for my death. So I left them, and died. The doctor wept for me. Chief Sebitwane of the Bakwena, the Kololo

I welcomed the doctor, friend of my father. I most enjoyed his magic lantern light, but he would not give it to me though I gifted him many oxen. Sekeletu, son of Sebitwane, 1853

My little doctor man much wished I wore body coverings, but they would hide my dangling ornaments and medicines. The little doctor feared my scolding tongue, as do all men, so when he came back my way I gifted him food but excused him from my company and bed. Princess Manenko of the Luanda, 1855

We asked if there was smoke that thunders in his country, and when he said no we took him and his company close so he might go see Mosi-Oa-Tunyaa. We do not go there ourselves, it is a place reserved for our gods. He liked it, and said he would change its name to that of his Great White Mother. We did not agree. Sekeletu, son of Sebitwane, 1855

Doctor, I guided you from Linyanti, down the Great River to Tete, to Quelimane. In return you took me onto the Great Salt Lake on the great wooden craft called the Frolic, and my guts were churned as the Salt Lake grew ever larger. When at last we reached some land I thought me safe, but a sailor on the Frolic told me there were so many months of tall waves still to cross. I hit him. They brought chains to bind and enslave me. So now I climb down this anchor chain till I reach the bottom of the Lake. I will live down there. Goodbye, doctor. Sekwebu [guide and friend] July 1856

Doctor, when these people who called themselves your friends arrived I did my best to believe them, for they said you sent them. But they did not have your way of speaking, or your way of hearing what is said to you. I kept them within their encampment while I waited word that you were coming to account for and reassure us about them. They were full of complaining, and their leader made some threats against us – he had a gun. But one by one they sickened with malaria, and then they died, the leader and his wife, the other white woman and two of her children. Her man and his other two children, with their black friends from south across the Kalahari Desert, then went home again. Doctor, we need you here. Our own people are sickening and dying, killed by malaria. I myself have now the skin disease you call by the name leprosy, and my pain is sometimes great. Come to us. Help us. Sekeletu, 1860

[need story of Zambesi Expedition here, about Kirk and the others in the party]We met the doctor again in Mumbai, far from our own homes, in the Christian year 1865.
I Susi came with him by boat over from Shupanga, but I had worked for him before that, carrying and helping to build that same boat the Lady Nyassa far upriver in my Africa, sailing it as far as we were able, then taking it apart again, carrying it down river past the many rapids and rocks, building it again at Shupanga, loading it with coal to burn instead of wood, and sailing it to Mumbai. Then the doctor found me work on the docks till he should come again. He came back after a year.
I James Chuma had been caught and made a boy slave by the Yao, but the Bishop friend of the doctor frightened away my captors, and freed me. He took me in that boat with Susi and the others, placed me in a Protestant mission near Mumbai where I was christened and given my name James.
The doctor came, and took us away back across the great ocean, and we walked with him as he travelled and measured and searched.
I Chuma became his personal servant, making a bed for him to lie on, cooking for him, keeping safe all his working things and his clothes.
I Susi always travelled with him and helped to care for him and his needs as we travelled this way and that, following rivers and hoping that the doctor would find and prove he had found his own Greatest River that would flow far far north and further north again. Susi and Chuma

“The old white man was good to me, and he saved me from Arabs many a time. The Arabs are hard men, and often he would step between them and me when they were hard on me. He was a good man, and my children were fond of him.” Village Chief, Kambarre, [where Livingstone was for months in early 1871, recovering from a fever. He had come from Upper Congo, going eastwards towards Lake Tanganyika.]

Sometimes we travelled well, carrying him over rivers where the water was up to our mouths as we crossed, pulling him out of elephants’ mud-filled footsteps. But more often the doctor was ill and we must rest and tend his poor breaking body and stem his bleeding. At last we stopped moving, near the edge of the Lake Bangweulu in the village of Chief Chitambo. Susi and Chuma

I made the sick man welcome and permitted the building of a small pole and thatch house, and huts for his followers. On his last day I came early to pay a visit of courtesy and was shown into his presence, but he asked me to go and to come again the next day when he would have strength to talk. Chief Chitambo of the Lala, 1st May 1873.

He asked me Susi to bring his watch to his bedside and told me how to hold it in my hand so I could keep it still while he turned its key. About the darkest part of night I was called to go to him. There were loud shouts in the distance, and he asked ‘Are our men making that noise?’ I told him no, the men of the village were scaring a buffalo away from their dura fields. Then his mind wandered and he asked where we were, asked how many days we were away from the river Luapula, then he seemed to have great pain, sighed ‘Oh dear, dear’, and dozed off again. Then he asked for water to be boiled so he could mix it with calomel to drink. He could hardly see to do it. He said in a low feeble voice ‘All right, you can go out now’.
About 4am the lad Majwara that watched the doctor called in alarm, and the six of us ran to the hut. He was kneeling by the side of his bed, his body stretched forward, his head buried in the pillow. Susi

We knew him dead, our doctor. We talked of what to do. We would carry his body to Zanzibar, though that place was 1000 miles away and across salt water. We chose Susi to lead us.
We prepared his body, taking out his bowels and heart, and burying them in an iron box at the foot of a large mpundu tree. Jacob had the skill of reading, and read the funeral service, then he cut an inscription with names and the date on the tree. We rubbed his empty body with salt, inside and out, dried it in the sun for two weeks, bathed it in brandy, wrapped it in cloth and placed it in a bark cylinder, encased that in sail cloth, and waterproofed it with tar. Chief Chitambo asked that the body be buried at his place, but we strung it on a carrying pole and set off. Ten of our men died on the long journey. Most of the way to the coast, we rested at Unyanyembe, where a white man called Cameron who had come seeking the doctor, took from us by fierce command the doctor’s boxes we had sealed, and helped himself to the doctor’s instruments. He ordered us to bury the doctor but we refused, so he went on his way travelling west.
I Susi and I Chuma were paid off when we reached the coast, but Jacob went with the body back to the doctor’s homeland. When they paraded his body through the weeping streets and buried him in their fine Westminster Abbey, Jacob was one of those who carried the coffin. Susi, Chuma and Jacob Wainwright

Mr Young, the great friend of the doctor, sent money, and we were brought to the land of Britain, so full of interesting surprises. We came to the doctor’s friends the Webbs at Newstead Abbey where we were welcomed carefully, then Limefield House, the home of Mr Young. In both places they asked us to show the appearance of the hut the doctor died in, so we built them one of wood and straw. In the stream that runs by Limefield House Mr Young asked us to help build a dam, to look like Mosi-Oa-Tunyaa. We smiled privately to each other, and helped him make a small noisy dribble of water. Only we know how little like The Smoke That Thunders it is. Susi and Chuma

James Paraffin Young

Livingstone's greatest Scottish friend, and greatest financial supporter, was James 'Paraffin' Young. They met as students at Glasgow's Anderson's College, now the University of Strathclyde. Young became rich, and lived at Limefield House, Polbeth.

In about 1855, Young bought Limefield House and Estate, in which grounds West Calder HS now is. In 1864 Livingstone, Young’s friend since college days in Glasgow, visited him at Limefield, planted a tree still standing in front of the house, and laid the foundation stone for Young’s huge new oilworks plant at Addiewell.

[In 1913, on the centenary of Livingstone’s birth, The Scotsman newspaper said “Several of the old workmen in the West Calder district have a lively recollection of the visit of the explorer”.] There are no houses now on Livingstone Street in Addiewell.
When Livingstone returned to Africa Young became in effect guardian of his children, and paid the costs of his later expeditions. The two exchanged many letters. Young funded an 1872 expedition to find Livingstone. When in 1873 Livingstone’s body was brought to Britain and buried in Westminster Abbey, Susi and Chuma who brought the body to the coast were overlooked, so Young paid to bring them to Britain, where they helped write a book about Livingstone’s last journey. Then they came to Limefield House. Young asked them about Livingstone’s death, and they took advantage of the high grasses in the fields to build a replica of the hut Livingstone died in.

Then Susi and Chuma helped construct the miniature Victoria Falls on the Harwood Water beside Limefield House, in tribute to Livingstone. A new viewing platform and information board about the Falls have just been erected in Limefield Park near the football pitches, and Central Scotland Forest Trust have redded up the walkways along the Harwood Water.

Sir Roderick Impey Murchison

Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st Baronet KCB DCL FRS FRSE FLS PRGS PBA MRIA (22 February 1792] – 22 October 1871) was a Scottish geologist who first described and investigated several of the Ages of the Earth, then as president of the Geographical Society

He supported much exploration work, including that of David Livingstone, who dedicated his first book to Murchison and counted him one of his best friends. They exchanged many letters.

Murchison was born at Tarradale House, Muir of Ord, Ross-shire, the son of Kenneth Murchison. His wealthy father died in 1796, when Roderick was 4 years old, and he was sent to Durham School 3 years later, and then the military college at Great Marlow to be trained for the army. In 1808 he landed with Wellesley in Galicia, and was present at the actions of Roliça and Vimeiro. Subsequently under Sir John Moore, he took part in the retreat to Corunna and the final battle there.

He eventually became interested in geology, he identified the Silurian and the Permian ages of the Earth, and co-identified the Devonian Age. In 1846 he was knighted. During the later years of his life a large part of his time was devoted to the affairs of the Royal Geographical Society, of which he was in 1830 one of the founders, and he was president several times.

In Scotland he was a chief participant in the Highland Controversy, a long-running argument on geological sequences, and a collaborator with Cromarty’s Hugh Miller, and such other amateur geologists of the North as Rev James Joass of Edderton and Golspie, Robert Dick ‘the baker of Thurso’, Wick coastguard Charles Peach, and Rev George Gordon of Birnie near Elgin.

The crater Murchison on the Moon and at least fifteen geographical locations on Earth are named after him. These include: Mount Murchison in the Mountaineer Range, Antarctica; Mount Murchison, just west of Squamish, British Columbia, Canada; tiny Murchison Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands in the same province; Murchison Falls (Uganda); and the Murchison River in Western Australia. Murchison has two other rivers named after him in Western Australia: The Roderick River and the Impey River, both trIbutaries of the Murchison.