Story of National Memorial to David Livingstone – 11 Final Arrangements

Continuing a look at how Shuttle Row was changed from slum to museum in 1929. A written account from 1943 by Rev. James McNair explained the efforts made.

“The events described in the foregoing chapters had been spread over about three years. The chief reason for this delay, which was not actually harmful to us, was that the occupants of the half-ruinous houses of the Shuttle Row had to be provided with alternative accommodation. In the end, a Council building scheme in the neighbourhood solved this difficulty and by the spring of 1929, we felt able to consider arrangements for the opening ceremony.

We had received unstinted help from many quarters. Livingstone’s name was a key that unlocked every door. The best technical advice was always open to us and we needed it badly, for , apart from our architect, none of the committee had experience in work of this sort.

The Museums of Edinburgh and Glasgow were more than sympathetic. They gave us from their stock of discarded showcases many that suited us admirably and which would, at that time, have been far beyond our power to purchase. But perhaps the most appreciated help of all was that rendered us by Mr. Thomas Grant, a retired employee of the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, who , working unobtrusively for many months, gradually brought order and method out of our confusion.

About the time we appointed Mr. R.G.McCallum of Motherwell to be our Warden, a choice in which we have been singularly fortunate. In aptitude and experience he was well fitted for his exacting task. Many of our more recent improvements are due to his suggestions.

Thought the grounds were still far from the beauty they have since attained, much had been done to improve them. The “Lodge” had been removed and the unsightly corner down by the river bank was in process of being converted into the Rose Garden that has become so great an attraction. The playing grounds, full of rough growth when we took them over, had become somewhat civilised and play apparatus had been installed.

Further we had been enabled to carry out, on an extensive scale, the expensive work of path making. This was made possible by grants of considerable sums that came from a quite unexpected source.

At the time our plans were taking shape there was much unemployment and distress in the adjoining coalfields and a recently established religious newspaper, the ‘Scots Observer’ had raised by the help of its readers, a considerable sum of money for purposes of relief. One condition of its appeal had been that the money was to be used to provide work and was not to be given as charity. But it was soon found that relief work, road-making and so on, required such heavy expenditure in material and tools that only a dismayingly small proportion of the fund contributed remained over for wages. So their committee, of which Dr. Donald Fraser was an active member, looked round for some other way of using the money and thought of us. As it happened, we were able to promise that all monies given to us would go without deduction into wages, and so it came about that a group of unemployed miners built our paths and shaped our auditorium , to out mutual advantage.

It had been hoped to have finished the work by the early summer of 1929, but that proved impossible and the inaugural ceremony had to be postponed to rather late in the season. Ours was a national movement and it was fit that some royal person should be asked to preside. An attempt to secure the presence of the Prince of Wales failed, but later through the kindness of Bailie Violet Robertson, then one of our Governors, and the good offices of the Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Helen Graham, we obtained the gracious promise of H.R.H, the Duchess of York, now Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Nothing could have pleased us so much.

The fifth of October 1929 was the date finally chosen and as it approached our worries increased, but in the end all all anxiety centred around the weather. Heavy splashes of rain from the south-west became the order of the day. A large platform had been erected facing the playing field and there was a frantic moment when it seemed as if we should fail to secure the necessary covering to make this rainproof. However, this difficulty was solved at the last moment through the kindness of the L.M.S Railway Company.

1929 Duchess of York opens DLC

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