Even in the years after David Livingstone’s death, a steady stream of visitors came to Blantyre to see where the famous Explorer was born. Long before any museum, the tenant of the birthplace would show late Victorian tourists around.
Interest in this site during the 1890’s continued when a memorial plaque was added in 1897 to the gable of the Shuttle Row building. Interest grew further when in Springtime 1898, a brass mural tablet was laid in the old school room, an exact copy of the inscription of the slab over the tomb in Westminster Abbey, with kind permission of the trustees. This was the gift of Mr. John Boyd of Dunclutha, Bothwell.
On the subject of showing tourists around the area, there’s a fantastic story about Livingstone’s son Thomas. Thomas sadly passed away, aged only 27 years, on 15th March 1876 at Alexandria, Egypt and knowing this story took place after Livingstone’s death, dates the tale to either 1874 or 1875.
Major Ness of Blantyre re-told the story in a newspaper in July 1898, saying, “Many come to see the humble dwelling where lived the “pious and poor” parents who reared this noble lad. Mr Tom Livingstone, son of David was one day back in Blantyre and accosted on his short walk across to Bothwell by two strangers with the question, “Can you inform whether this” (pointing to the village) is where Dr Livingstone was born?!”
“Yes”, was the reply from Tom looking back towards Blantyre Mills.
The strangers commented further, “We’re from the States of America and have come to see it”. Questions about Blantyre, Livingstone and the Works followed in rapid succession, and ultimately Mr Livingstone volunteered to show them round the works, house, school and village there and then. The offer was readily accepted and an interesting hour passed and at the finish thanks were tendered, the goodbyes spoken, and the two American strangers left in happy ignorance of the fact….. that Livingstone’s own SON had been their tour guide that day!!
Photo: Previously unseen photo of Blantyre Works Mills during the mid 1890’s.