Opening David Livingstone Centre

An impressive ceremonial in presence of a huge crowd gathered from all over Scotland, the Duchess of York on Saturday 5th October 1929, formally declared open, the National Memorial at Blantyre to David Livingstone, the great missionary, scientist, explorer, and pioneer of civilisation. (as pictured from the Hamilton Advertiser in October 1929)

1929 Oct opening of DLC coverage

The road through the mining and steel area of Lanarkshire, was lined by thousands of people. Flags and bunting and scrolls of welcome were displayed everywhere. Beyond the LMS Low Blantyre Station, stretched high across the Station Road was the word “Welcome”. The memorial was planned to preserve Livingstone’s birth place, and incorporates the tenement single apartment houses along with an adjacent building. These were being used to house relics, illustrative paintings, etc., and there were also 10 acres available for playing fields.

Saved from dereliction, Shuttle Row had been scheduled for demolition as an uninhabitable slum, by the County Council, but with the foresight of Rev. McNair, a vision came to be of turning the building into a museum. Together with the assistance of architect Mr. F.C Mears who supervised the progress, the pair were instrumental in making the museum come to be.

The opening ceremonies included an impressive service taken part by the Moderator the United Church of Scotland, Rev. Dr John White; Mr Adamson, Secretary for Scotland; and several clergymen prominently associated with the missionary movement. The Duchess, who received tremendous ovation, was presented with a gold key, with which she opened the door of the memorial. The key was handed over by Master David Livingstone Wilson, great grandson of Livingstone, and son of Dr Hubert F. Wilson, Dalhousie Villa, Carnoustie. As he stepped off the gangway to the platform, a bright smiling lad. wholly unconcerned, the Duchess left her seat and walked towards him and asked him to take the key from the casket. Later, the boy’s parents, who had been engaged for years in missionary work in Africa, were presented, as also were a number of other descendants of the explorer.


Stepping forward to the microphone, and giving the great gathering one her characteristic smiles, the Duchess said:, “lt is a pleasure, and also a privilege, to me to be here today, and to join with you in honouring the name David Livingstone. It seems most appropriate that the birthplace of this great Scotsman should, henceforth, be a memorial to his achievements as a missionary and a pioneer. Livingstone’s life is one that must always appeal its courage and adventure the youth of this country, and I hope that this most worthy memorial will ever remain a place of pilgrimage those who revere his memory. I have much pleasure in declaring the Scottish National Memorial David Livingstone open.”

Presenting the trust of the Memorial was the Chairman of Committee, Rev. James I. McNair, Very Rev. Donald Fraser said they held Livingstone to be one of the greatest moral assets of their nation, not only for what did for geography and human progress and for world evangelisation, but, chiefly, for his own character and his indomitable courage, his patient endurance, his gentle forbearance, and his wholehearted devotion to his Master. They trusted, he continued, that the Memorial might be a nursing place of such characteristics in the youth of Scotland.

William Adamson. Secretary State for Scotland, said it was particularly approprite that the house in which Livingstone was born should be rescued from slumdom and converted into a shrine which would stand for all time the symbol of Scotland’s appreciation of the great missionary explorer. As man, Christian, missionary, and scientist. Mr Adamson proceeded, Livingstone ranked with the greatest of their race. Few men’s lives could better show how even the poorest and the humblest of men had in them the power to do great things. Born in a single apartment, of poor parents, educated in the village school, earning his living 10 years of age, he, by his force of character, and that simple clinging faith which was such a distinguishing feature of his life, overcame all those difficulties. Nothing said Adamson, could be more significant evidence to the truth and power of Christianity than his life. Many of the natives of darkest Africa had lived to call his name blessed. “May the youth of Scotland,” he concluded, “catch the vision and the glory of his life of service. I am glad that Scotland has at last, seen fit to honour this great missionary son.”


Sir David Mason, Lord Provost Glasgow, said they were proud of Livingstone, a great Lanarkshire man and as a great Scotsman. Livingstone’s first eventful African journey, he added, was recognised by Glasgow, which placed his name on the burgess roll. “Her Royal Highness belongs to Scotland and Scotland belongs to her Royal Highness, for she holds her hand the heart of every true Scotsman and Scotswoman all the world over,” said Dr Heatherwick when presenting to the Duchess a small wooden block from the tree under which the heart of Livingstone is buried in Central Africa. The Duchess walked quickly down the gangway and planted a beech sapling in front of the memorial with a few deft turns of the the spade. Following a lengthy inspection Livingstone’s birthplace and the museum, tea was served. The Duchess expressed great appreciation of the way in which the memorial had been completed. The huge crowd was reluctant to farewell to the Royal visitor. Through downpour of rain they waited for her emergence from the Memorial to cheer and wave handkerchiefs until the slow-moving car in which she sat had disappeared from view up Station Road.

On social media:

Jan McFarlane Many happy memories spent there , great piece of history

Ed Judy Rea It is still a thrill to visit this place, because of what it represented during Livingstone’s day and as a memorial to him. Thank you for your effort here on Facebook!

Gord Fotheringham This is where I spent most of my days…….used to intermingle with the excursions of people who came for the day trips by church’s and schools…..always managed to get fed by strangers……to go back to those days will never happen…….

Leave a Reply