African Spears in Livingstone Centre


Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 15.31.10A rather interesting story today of the African Spears that feature as an exhibit at the David Livingstone centre. However, bizarrely the interesting part, being what happened to them when they arrived back to Lanarkshire AFTER Livingstone’s trips to Africa.

There is a case of African weapons of war in the centre on the walls.

A year after the centre opened, the warden explained to reporters in 1930, that the weapons were found in a house in Blantyre. Following a fire in the house, the weapons were found under the floorboards and had been put there by a Mr. John. D Reid, a good friend of Livingstone’s who once lived in that home. The present had been made to Reid for safekeeping by Livingstone himself, and John had clearly thought them valuable enough to put beneath his floor. However, they had been unknown or forgotten about upon Reids’s passing until they were found by a later home owner and subsequently and honestly moved to the memorial centre for presenting to the public!

They were seen for many more decades by paying guests to the centre, but were the subject of scandal in 1999, when one of them was stolen!

In 1999, Police who said they were acting on a tip-off, recovered the priceless spear from the back courts of a street in Blantyre. The 150-year-old spear was collected by the legendary explorer during his travels in Africa in the last century and was kept in a display in his former home, which has been transformed into the David Livingstone Centre.  Strathclyde Police said they believed the spear was stolen between between Thursday, 2 December and Sunday, 5 December 1999. At the time, Inspector Richard Bailey said: “I am delighted that the spear has been recovered. David Livingstone is an immensely important figure in Blantyre and there was a real sense that the local community had pulled together to recover the spear.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 15.32.08He said officers were still trying to trace the person responsible for the theft. George Paton from the David Livingstone Trust said: “It’s been part of our presentation since 1929 since we opened. It’s been perfectly safe in its present position for 15 years and whoever took it had maybe a six-feet lift and some strength. Somehow, other other people had the strength to make sure we got it back. “

The spear was decorated with green, blue and turquoise beads laid in a geometric design and has an animal tail attached at its top end.  It has been kept in the centre for 70 years and was lifted from a wall during museum opening hours.

The spear is now safely again in the hands of the Livingstone Trust.

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