Visiting the Birthplace in 1911

In 1911, a pedestrian out a walk in Bothwell and Blantyre took time to write his description and send it into the newspaper. Here, we have reprinted his account word for word, that Winter in November 1911 as he approached Blantyre. It makes for interesting reading! Shuttle Row is pictured in 1913 and the traveller would have been met with this similar sight.

“Having left Bothwell in order to visit the birthplace of such a renowned traveller and Christian [David Livingstone], we found the way across the River Clyde was by a suspension bridge which was not only quite near Livingstone’s birthplace but near the mill or mills where he had wrought in as a boy.”

“Imagination never arose as to what kind of building he was born in, whether it was on the ground floor or up in a tenement. Making our way to the spot we found it to be what we had not expected and we tried to think it out. The road leading to it is a very disreputable one and as you approach a three-storey tenement without the least semblance or the least interest being taken in it, you begin to ask. “Is it possible that such a great man was born here?’

When you enter what must at one time have been an open court or back door of the commonest description, you enter a very shabby passage or entry, end walking up a miserable dark stair. As you ascend the second one, you see that the stone steps are cleaner and round the edges there is an attempt to beautify them with pipe-clay or chalk, and as you tread along the wooden lobby, you knock at the second door on the right and find it is occupied by a decent body called Mrs Gilbert and it ‘Livingstone’s Birthplace” on the door. The house is clean and a dozen or more could sit or stand in the kitchen which is only a kitchen with two beds and well furnished.”

“Mrs Gilbert has nothing which belonged to the great man and no guide to sell and is not in a position to tell how many of a family Livingstone’s parents brought up in that house. But enough! We all know the name of Dr Livingstone will never die (his centenary is less than 17 months hence). Livingstone died of dysentary on 4th of May. 1873. aged 60 years.

In signing the visitors book, our name was 8,895th since May 1882, but many never knew to sign it. “

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