During late 1928 and throughout most of 1929, the old mill house buildings at Shuttle Row, Low Blantyre (famed home of Explorer David Livingstone) were undergoing extensive renovations to preserve the buildings themselves and make them more viable as tourist attractions. Outliving their use as accommodation, the David Livingstone Centre was proposed as being one of Scotland’s leading tourist attractions, and it was for several decades after it opened.
Pictured here in Summer 1929 is Shuttle Row, repaired and just about ready to open for business. As well as improving the exterior, the interior was turned into a visitor experience with small museum offering visitors the chance to see what David’s home looked like in the middle of the previous century. Stone dyke walls were built, with paths around well tended gardens.
On Saturday the 5th October 1929, the Duchess of York visited Blantyre and it is reputed the crowds were in the region of 12,000 people!
This photo shows the Duchess being presented from a block of wood carved from the tree under which Livingstone’s heart is buried in Africa.
The other photo features little David Livingstone Wilson, the great, grandson of the missionary and son of Dr Hubert F Wilson Carnoustie who presented the key to the Duchess. Incredibly behind the boy is Mrs Livingstone Wilson, who is the youngest daughter of the explorer!
The Centre proved immensely popular and is reported to have had 60,000 visitors in it’s first year alone. The opening event must have attracted the greater majority of residents in Blantyre and with so many people, a huge buzz must have been in the air that day.
You don’t have to take my word for it. There is archived footage of the day, which thanks to the Blantyre project, we can bring to you here for your enjoyment. Remember, this film, although only 1 minute long, is 84 years old!