This photo was taken on 8th August 1963 Low Blantyre outside Shuttle Row, birthplace of David Livingstone. Now, it would be common for many Blantyre families to have a similar Summer photo in their albums, but there is something special about this event and indeed the lucky child to the right. He was the 2,000,000th visitor to the David Livingstone Centre!
The visitor’s name is sadly unknown, but i was able to investigate more about the day and events surrounding the presentation.The occasion was also by happy co-incidence the 150th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone, the famous African explorer. The lucky child was presented with a framed photograph of the Centre and granted a free pass for their family and themselves, for life.
Mr John mcLean, Chairman of the libraries sub committee of Lanark County Council asked the child to present a field notebook belonging to David Livingstone, over to Hubert Wilson, chairman of the Trust and grandson of the explorer. The library service had bought the notebook for the presentation at a cost of £285. The notebook went on temporary loan to the Memorial and included a detailed account of the explorers findings from March 1866 to December 1868. Scientific findings are included in the notebook, as well as drawings and personal thoughts from a lively mind.
Since the memorial opened in 1929, children have always been important to the centre. A quarter of a million children from Sunday Schools throughout Scotland helped raise a sizeable proportion of the £12,000 needed in 1929 to renovate and open the memorial and museum. Children were again responsible when in 1952, the Centre’s foundations needed strengthening on the slope facing the river, they rallied around to raise £1,177, quite incredibly all in pennies banked, known as the collection of “Livingstone pennies!” Of the 40,000 visitors in 1963, around 70% were children. They came in organised groups, from schools, sunday schools and organisations, from all over Scotland, enjoying the amenities and 30 acres of playground. In the Summer weeks leading up to the 1963 presentation, construction renovation work worth £2,500 had been completed renovating the timber lintols above the doors and windows. It removed the final ruined parts of the building, removing the last traces of slum, and restoring the building to the state it was in when built.
Interestingly, and despite having 5 grounds staff daily (20 of them at weekends!), the centre then reported no financial problems and relied on subscribers to pay the wages, as ticket costs did not cover salaries. There was no waning of interest in attendance. Even before the memorial opened in 1929, the centre was being visited by tourists wanting to see Mr Livingstones birthplace. The first entry in the visitor book is May 22nd , 1882, just 9 years after Livingstone died. At that time Shuttle Row’s single end houses were still inhabited but the shrewd old lady who was fortunate to live in Livingstone’s exact birthplace knew exactly the value of her glorious situation and charged 6d for the privilege of viewing what was merely after all, her own home. Such was the magic in this, she clearly made a considerable income, ironically being able to afford to move to better accommodation, but choosing not to.
Does anybody remember going for School outings to this building or visiting with your family?