Mr. Neil Livingstone, the father of David Livingstone the explorer was born in September 1789 at his father’s croft on the Island of Ulva.
David’s grandfather, because of extreme poverty and famine caused by the failure of the kelp and potato cropon the island in the latter part of the 1700s, moved with his family to Blantyre where he gained employment as company cashier at Blantyre Works.
According to his daughter, Janet, Neil was apprenticed against his will, to the tailor David Hunter (David had a tailors shop in the old Wages Building). A father’s word was law within the family in those days and as Janet recalled, “Mr Grandfather excerised in his own family all the authority of a Highland Chief.”
Neil was in daily contact with his master’s daughter Agnes, and soon fell in love with her. They were married in 1810 and had 7 children.
Livingstone’s parents were poor but his father, like his father before him was a very religious and highly principled man who had a great fondness of books. No alcohol was allowed into the house and the only books that he permitted to be read were works on religion, travel and missionary journals.
Neil, at some point left the tailoring trade and became a tea-peddler and moved to Hamilton to Peacock Cross around 1839, where he lived until his death in 1856.
After David Livingstone’s death in 1873, his sister Janet gave an insight into the family. She recalled that two of her brothers, Charles and Neil died when they were barely 3 years old and were buried in the old Kirkyard at High Blantyre beside their maternal grandfather, David Hunter, after whom David Livingstone was named.
Whilst this picture of Ulva looks an idyllic place to live, the landscape was unforgiving, especially in winter and poverty and lack of food would have been a strong reason to leave for the mainland.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016
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