continued from Part 8. This is the story of how the David Livingstone Centre was formed in 1929.
Today, we continue looking at how the beautiful Tableaux which were once in the “dark room” were funded. The precious polychromatic plaster tableaux depicting David Livingstone’s historic journey to Africa have now been painstakingly restored [pictured] ahead of the re-opening of the museum. From an account in the 1940s:
“The Association with which the Explorer had closest connection, is the London Missionary Society, and it is well known that it counts this fact amongst its highest honours. With the passing years, however it had grown somewhat apprehensive lest, Livingstone being a Scot, the dominant Presbyterianism of his country might unconsciously absorb him in public opinion, and thus rob the Society of its high honour. Here was an opportunity for it to stake its claim, and so the first pilgrimage was to London.
Now it chanced that perhaps for the first time in its long history, the Society had a credit balance, and it happened also that their Home Secretary of the day, the Rv. Nelson Bilton, was a man of enterprise and vision. He gave the suggestion of a warm welcome, promising indeed should such a course prove necessary to recommend his society to adopt two of the tableaux. It was a most heartening beginning [for funding].
The next visit was to the Rev,. Andrew Forson, at the time editor of the Scottish Congregationalist. It is perhaps the highest pride of these Congregational Churches that Livingstone was reared amongst them. Here, again we found a willing ear, and an appeal in the columns of the magazine quickly brought the needed money.
The rest of the road was easy. Dr. Donalf Fraser made himself responsible for the former United Free Church and Dr. Alexander Hetherwick for the Church of Scotland, though this contribution was later diverted to meet the cost of the beautiful model of the African Blantyre’s Cathedral like Church. The National Bible Society of Scotland gladly provided a fourth. Then the Anti Slavery Society claimed a place, and on the suggestion of Professor Allan Ogilvie, the Geographical Societies gave the cost of another.”
“Only two remained to be disposed of and as it happens, the ways in which these were adopted have a special interest. It had been suggested to us at the London Mission House that Cheif Khama’s Tribe, the Bamangwato, would be proud to be asked to take their share in honouring one so closely connected with their history, and contact with them was established through the local agent of the London Missionary Society. The response was immediate, and gratifying, indeed more than the required amount was quickly sent. How greatly the Tribe valued this opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of the great man will be shown later.
There now remained only one tableaux left [to be funded]. With some hesitation, we approached the “Daily Telegraph” a newspaper which, since the days of its participation with the “New York Herald”, in financing H.M. Stanley’s expeditions, had always shown a special interest in African affairs. This approach was really made under a misapprehension. We believed at the time that the Telegraph had shared with the New York Herald, in the Livingstone relief expedition that H.M. Stanley led. That was not the case – the co-operation came later. None the less, Col Frederick Lawson, the editor invited us to call on him, thanked us for the honour of the invitation, and making it a condition that the picture “Renunciation” which shows the parting of Livingstone and Stanley should first be offered to the New York Herald (now the Herald Tribune), willingly agreed to contribute. On the latter paper’s declining to participate, the Telegraph most generously made itself responsible for this, the sixth tableau.
This already long record is not quite complete. In the end, we actually suffered a temporary embarras de richesses. The Rev. Dr John McBeath of the Scottish Baptist Churches, a great admirer of our hero, felt aggrieved that his people had not been invited to contribute to the gallery and undertook to gather the funds for another tableau if we could find a place for it. This raised an awkward little problem, but as so often in our experience, a perfect solution was soon found.
“About this time Mr. Pilkington Jackson was completing his beautiful group in oak which he has called “the Last Journey”. It represents, in processional form, the great story of how Livingstone’s Africans carried his body from Illala to the Coast, a distance of 1,500 miles. What could be more appropriate than that this beautiful work should be adopted by Khama’s people? In our original plan, the tableau called “Endurance” had been their share, but when the position was explained to them, they most willingly consented, and so all were satisfied. Thus, the faith and enterprise of our committee were fully justified.”