Horrible Report proved false

This medicine chest of Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873).

This medicine chest of Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873).

In 1935, some 6 years after the opening of the David Livingstone Memorial, some further possessions of the Explorer were added to the collection. In April 1935, the additions consisted of a large number of miscellaneous articles, including the contents of a medicine case, that came from the house in Rothesay-terrace, Edinburgh, occupied till her death 1912 by the Explorer’s elder daughter, Agnes (Mrs. Livingstone Bruce).

Several of the articles carried the missionary’s handwriting, and at the time, the way in which they were found left no doubt they belonged either to Livingstone or to his daughter. Perhaps the most valuable of the additions, was a small collection of rock specimens brought from the Victoria Falls. These were wrapped in papers that had descriptions in Dr. Livingstone’s handwriting. One of these wrappings was part of an official envelope directed to him as British Consol, and dated January, 1855. The missionary visited the Falls for the second time in 1860. The most interesting thing from a personal point of view was a small notebook that belonged to the daughter. In this are brief entries referring to what must have been for the family terribly anxious time.

In 1865, when Livingstone engaged in exploring the country south of Lake Nyasa. some his porters decamped and spread the rumour that he had been killed. The story was widely believed at home in Scotland. Comments in the notebook written some time after are: 1867 March 7th. “Frightful report of Papa’s death. January 19. The search party returned with the news proving the horrible report false, 1868 April 21. The long-wished-for letter from our Papa has come setting all fears at rest.” 

How horrible this must have been wondering if her father was alive or dead for a year!

Pictured is the aforementioned medicine chest which belonged to Dr David Livingstone (1813-1873). It was last used on the journey to bring his body to Westminster Abbey for burial. Includes drugs from Treacher of Bombay and Poona, in 17 glass bottles, as well as a lancet and caustic pencil. It is my understanding this is now held at the Science Museum.

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