Prioritising Efforts, 1899

The monthly meeting of Blantyre School Board took place in mid November 1899, a meeting where debate arose about an important matter.

A letter was read from local clergymen and teachers asking for permission to allow Blantyre’s schoolchildren to collect subscriptions towards the erection of a monument to David Livingstone. However, this wasn’t to be in Scotland, but instead the statue was to be placed in Africa, near where the heart of Livingstone was buried. The letter reinforced that Dr Stanley had initiated the idea and that Blantyre people were suitably in a position to help.

The letter created varied and divided opinions around the table. Mr Davidson thought they should all be doing something nearer to home first, with Blantyre having no memorial or statue to Livingstone. Mr Douglas thought it a bad thing to ask children to collect money, perhaps irresponsible though it was pointed out children had done this before collecting for infirmaries.

Mr Kelly added the village itself, including the old houses and Livingstone’s birthplace is a memorial to Livingstone in a round manner. Mr Small reminded the board that men like Stanley had made significant fortunes since coming back from Africa and were well positioned to fund a statue in Africa without the need for children!

Mr Small then raised the subject that various children had been unable to attend school in recent months owing to malnutrition. It had been discovered the Board Officer and even the headmaster had passed up on their own dinners, sometimes to feed children who looked in need of a meal. Mr Small told the Board he had already written to the Inspector of the Poor and the Government Board to help these families.

There was unanimous agreement that the time had come, when instead of further considering erecting statues in a foreign country, the Board should take action to ensure the children of the home parish were all fed, clothed and educated.

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