Story of Memorial to David Livingstone – 7 Mural Paintings

Continuing our story of how the David Livingstone Centre was formed in the late 1920’s. From an account in the 1940’s transcribed here:

“The enthusiastic interest that our scheme now began to excite enabled us to carry through without restriction another of our plans. We were anxious that the wall pictures that were to illustrate our theme should have an artistic as well as a story telling value. That meant expense, of course but this proved to be no difficulty.”

“As soon as our plans were known and appreciated, many organisations, mainly Scots came forward with offers to meet the cost of special objects, pictures, and so on , to which their names might be appended. The money contributed in this way amounted to between two and three thousands pounds and it flowed in with little effort on our part.”

“The first of the pictures to be commissioned was the serious of eight wall panels in tempera that are now in the Youth Room. These are by Mr.A.E. Haswell Miller, R.S.W and tell all the well known stories of Livingstone’s strenuous youth; stories that are part of Scotland’s heritage.”

“Mr Miller’s problem was not an easy one. The panels had to tell their tales but not to be merely realistic, and the colour had of necessity to confirm with the somewhat sombre character of the life itself. The lighting of the room is poor and there were besides certain technical difficulties inherent in the treatment. The artist however, overcame his obstacles finely and the whole makes an impressive series.”

“With this gallery finished and subscribed for, we turned to the history of the dual ancestry – highland and lowland – to which the first little room in the Museum is devoted. Here, the subjects have about them a greater glamour of romance and gave the artist wider scope for colour and design. This set completed our original scheme, but a happy incident set us upon another and a fruitful enterprise.”

“One morning, I called upon the late Most Rev. Edward Reid, then Bishop of Glasgow with the plea that the Episcopal Church of Scotland should join in this national effort and that it too should provide us with a picture. He asked what subjects were available. As it happened, the only one that remained unallocated showed the courtship of the explorer’s parents. He smiled and said, “That would hardly suit us, would it since out Church is supposed to have a leaning towards celibacy?”

“That caused us to think again and the outcome was the “Adventure Room” series, in which are depicted some of the most romantic incidents of the African journeys which are much brighter in tone and more exciting in quality. This is especially a boy’s room and the panels are designed to appeal not only to the romantic interest of the lads, but also to suggest the great characteristics of their hero. Later, at the instigation of the late Mr. R Bennett Miller, then one of our governors, the Educational Institute of Scotland presented us with the large panel, “Livingstone the Liberator” that stands near the Shrine. This is the most ambitious and probably the most successful of Mr. Haswell Miller’s pictures.”

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