19th March 1813

Explorer David Livingstone is born in Bantyre

Explorer David Livingstone is best remembered for his quest to find the source of the Nile. Born in South Lanarkshire in 1813, he started work aged just 10 in a cotton mill, where he stayed for 16 years while also attending to his education. He learned Greek and Latin, then joined the London Missionary Society.

His missionary work took him to Botswana where he led a hunting party with the aim of killing a lion, believing that it would act as a warning to all the other lions in the area to leave some villagers and their cattle alone. Although the unfortunate lion was injured, it wasn’t killed, and it attacked Livingstone, breaking his arm. The injury bothered him for the rest of his life.

Navigating Africa’s rivers

A few years later, he set out into those parts of Africa that had not yet been explored by European visitors, believing that this would give him the best chance of passing on his beliefs without interference from fellow missionaries. He used the continent’s rivers as his pathways, initially traveling on the Zambezi.

The Zambezi brought him to the waterfall that he renamed Victoria Falls in honour of Queen Victoria. He was the first European to have set eyes on what had previously been called Mosi-o-Tunya, which translates as The Smoke that Thunders. Doing so made him famous throughout the British Isles.

The government funded a six-year expedition to open up more of the African interior, but he was unpopular among his team, some of them abandoned him and his wife, Mary, died in Malawi.

His quest to find the source of the Nile began in 1866 but, again, many of those travelling with him deserted him en route, and he eventually fell ill, with pneumonia and cholera. He never did get to the river’s source.

Henry Stanley arrives

Following that failure, and his illness, he more or less disappeared, and the New York Herald dispatched journalist Henry Stanley to see if he could find him. Stanley was more successful in this endeavour than Livingstone had been in searching for the source of the Nile, eventually tracking him down to Lake Tanganyika. When the two men met, Stanley uttered his now infamous greeting, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Livingstone died in 1873 of malaria and dysentery and his heart was buried in Zambia, where he breathed his last. The rest of him was returned to London and interred at Westminster Abbey.

The Montrose Standard of 24 April 1874 reported that “the remains of Dr Livingstone were on Saturday laid in Westminster Abbey amid universal demonstrations of regard.” A service had already been conducted in his name, according to the form of the Church of Scotland, at the Geographical Society in Saville Row, following which a cortege was formed which “consisted of the hearse, twelve coaches, and the representative carriages of the Queen [Victoria], the Prince of Wales and other illustrious persons… In Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hamilton, and other Scotch towns, bells were tolled and flags hoisted half-mast high, to show respect for our great countryman”.



Other events that occured in March

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