Map on the Wall

I’ve been focusing on 1909 and 1910 in recent weeks and found an interesting little snippet. A newspaper report in the’ Hamilton Herald and Lanarkshire Weekly‘ on Wednesday 24th March 1909 told of a particular map which still at that time hung on the wall of the Village Hall, in Blantyre.

The decorative map was of Africa and had been known to have been on the wall of the school / chapel for 90 years (since the 1830s), still preserved in 1909. Measuring 6 foot tall by 3 foot wide, it showed a Victorian perspective of what Africa was thought to look like, in those days of pre-exploration and before proper mapping.

However, it was also reflective of how little was known about Africa and the scale was questionable. e.g The River Congo, whilst mighty and wide was shown as a full half inch wide on the map! The centre of the map was simply a dark space with the words “unknown” printed over the middle of it. Knowing this was there in the early 1830’s, one has to wonder if Livingstone saw it and wondered himself what was in that “Dark void”.

To the top of the map was a terrible mountain range with the words “Mountains of the Moon” and the source of the River Nile was simply a few streamlets. By 1909, there were no relatives of Livingstone left in the immediate area of Lanarkshire. His sisters who had lived in Hamilton had died some years before and a tree Livingstone himself had planted near their house had been taken down by authorities to make way for a telegraph pole!

Major Ness, who had passed by 1909, had often said Livingstone was the most modest man he had ever met, even shy at times. He was always happy to chat to people individually though, this great man who described himself as “belonging to the great order of the honest poor.”

1 Comment

Add a Comment
  1. The large scale of the Congo River reflects the awe it had for Europeans. That river was the basis of Joseph Conrad’s famous Heart of Darkness (1899), translating that fear of the unknown, and an uninformed view of Africa, into the state of the human soul.

Leave a Reply