Story of Memorial to David Livingstone – 6 Birth Room

1930s Livingstone Birthroom

Continuing our detailed look of how Shuttle Row became the David Livingstone Museum in the late 1920’s. Transcribed from an account in the 1940s:

“The main personal interest of the Museum naturally centres round the little room, ten by fourteen feet in size, in which on the 19th March 1813, David was born and where for all the days of his youth, the parents and a family of five children lived. The restoring of this to something like its old look was one of the easiest and most pleasant of our tasks.

Pictures, almost contemporary, of the simple fittings and of the colour scheme came to our hand, and we were able to secure several pieces of the original furniture, the most valuable of which was the ‘chest of drawers’ given to us by Mrs Livingstone Wilson. All the other articles are true to the period and came from homes in Blantyre and neighbourhood. So keen was the interest that the local people brought us their precious family relics and felt honoured when these were accepted. As a result, the little room has about it a remarkably homely atmosphere. It is a room with personality. Not the least interesting article is the old clock, hanging in its customary place, ticking steadily for the last 130 years. This came to us in a fashion that became quite usual. I saw it first in the Edinburgh office of the late Mr. Andrew Reid, an old Blantyre resident, and asked it on load for our opening ceremony.

Some months later when Mr. Reid saw it hanging it its old place and heard it strike he said, ‘I can’t take that back. It was meant to be there , and there it will stay.’. Certainly the feeling of the room would not have been right without the monotonous voice of the old Wag-at-the-Wa’.

When her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, then HRH , the Duchess of York, stood on the opening day in the little birth room, she remarked, “Is it not homelike to hear that clock tick?’ and I think it was the same gracious lady who exclaimed, as many others have since done, ‘I expect to see old Mrs. Livingstone come in at any moment.”

This is perhaps a suitable place to record that with only a few insignificant exceptions every one of our now inestimably valuable personal relics, and they are very many, is either a free gift or a permanent loan. As most of these on public sale would realise, considerable sums of money, the generosity of the donors is obvious. The prevailing sentiment has been that such things are too sacred to sell, and thus Blantyre has drawn them as a magnet, and still draws.

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