Story of the Memorial to David Livingstone – 3a Next Steps

Continuing a look at how Shuttle Row became the Museum for David Livingstone. An account written in 1940s remembers back to the efforts of the 1920s and how the transformation came about.

“Preliminary matters having been this happily settled, our next action was to appoint an Organising Secretary, under whose guidance our formidable financial task should be tackled. We were fortunate in securing Mr. J.G.Harley, who had considerable experience in work of this kind.

First a very attractive booklet was printed and widely circulated in this country, in the United States, In Canada and in South Africa. It contained the beautiful pencil sketch of the houses (pictured) drawn for us by Mr. E. Eadie R.S.W, that has appeared in most of our publications ever since. Mr Harley’s first business was to secure a sufficiently imposing Honorary Committee and in this he was very successful. There was no Scotsman however eminent but felt honoured to be associated with the name of the lad who began life as a ‘piecer’ in the cotton spinning work at Blantyre. There is space to give only a few of the more distinguished names: J.M.Barrie, John Buchan, J.Ramsay Macdonald, the Earl of Home, The Earl of Elgin, Earl Haig, and the official leaders of all the Churches in Scotland, the principals of the Universities and the Lord Provosts of the chief towns. Among the very few who declined was Arthur Balfour, and the reason he gave was that he disliked the modern custom of glorifying individuals however great.

Appeals for money have much in common are not in general interesting. In this case, however, there were certain unusual happenings which are perhaps worth recording, if only to show how difficulties which seem almost staggering, worked out, in the issue, to our advantage.

We were unfortunate with our beginning. Just when our appeal was about to be launched came the General Strike of May 1926, and we had to hold back till the Autumn. The long coal stoppage which followed had a most depressing effect. The wealthier givers to whom we looked for our main support were nervous as to the future. One usually very liberal donor, from whom we had confidently expected a lead of some hundreds of pounds, to our dismay gave us only £25! The was particularly disappointing, as other wealthy men in the West sought his example and gave a proportion.

Thus the response during the early months of our appeal was distressingly small. The largest personal gift, at that time was one hundred guineas. Donations above fifty pounds were few. So slowly did the money come in that we had to apply for an extension of our option. At the end of 1926 we had received little more than a fourth of the total aimed at. It was a very bleak time and it was during that period that D Donald Fraser’s optimism helped us so greatly. His presence at our rather depressed meetings seemed to lift the sky.

It is significant that in retrospect, we can rejoice over these and similar financial trails. It is our proud boast that probably no national scheme in Scotland owes so little to the gifts of the rich. And this is as it should be. Livingstone was a man of the people, and proud of the fact, ands he still a great people’s hero.”

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