Remembering Livingstone’s Speech, 1856

At the end of 1856, David Livingstone came briefly back to Blantyre from his African travels and gave a speech in the old Blantyre Works School at the village. He had a captivated audience and this event has been written about often.

Sometime later in 1898, a reader wrote into the Glasgow Herald remembering that day, but other readers wanted to point out some corrections. Herald reader JHM wrote, “JMC’s letter in today’s Herald is utterly wrong. He forgets there are others still living such as I, who were actually present at that never to be forgotten meeting in Blantyre School. I was barely 16 years old in 1856. I sat not five feet from Dr Livingstone, he on the platform, myself on a row in front, just below. I can never forget the quiver of his lip and the moisture in his eye, when holding a roll of parchment, he rose to speak. There were many eyes wet, at least on the platform when he began in a hesitating manner to express himself. Well, I remember his appeal to Baillie Hannan and those beside him to put him right, as it was so long since he had spoken in English he did not know, or remember which words to use, just as Mr Ness once wrote. I have not seen Mr Ness for nearly 30 years but his accurate letter carried me back to the scene as if it were yesterday. As to JMC’s statement that Dr Livingstone uttered such broad Scotch, well that was not in my hearing and I was present in that meeting from first to last. I am. JHM. “

Illustration: Generated by AI.

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