Despite being a modest sized wee place, Blantyre has had more than it's share of famous and not-so famous folk. These pages outline the lives and achievements of some of the more prominent.
Born in Shuttle Row in Blantyre in 1813, David Livingstone was one of seven children, raised in poverty. At the age of ten he began work in the local cotton mill, studying the classics in his spare time. He furthered his education at the University of Glasgow, where he studied medicine and theology. He decided he wanted to become a missionary and, in 1840, was ordained. He arrived in South Africa the following year.
From 1841 to 1852, whilst a medical missionary for the London Missionary Society in what is now Botswana, he crossed the Kalahari desert and reached Lake Ngami in 1849. He discovered the Zambezi River in 1851. Hoping to abolish the slave trade by opening Africa to Christian commerce and missionary stations, he travelled in 1853 to Luanda on the West coast. Following the Zambezi River, he discovered and named Victoria Falls in 1855 and reached the east coast at Quelimane, Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique), in 1856. His "Missionary Travels in South Africa" of 1857, is an account of that journey. Appointed British consul at Quelimane, he was given command of an expedition (1857–63) to explore the Zambezi region. His wife Mary died on April 29, 1863 of dysentery, but Livingstone continued to explore, eventually returning home in 1864 at which point with his brother Charles, he wrote "The Zambezi and Its Tributaries" which was published in 1865.
Despite the success of his book, the Zambesi Expedition was castigated as a failure in many British newspapers of the time, and Livingstone experienced great difficulty in raising funds for further exploration in Africa.
In 1866 he returned to Africa to seek the source of the Nile. He discovered lakes Mweru and Bangweula and in 1871 reached the Lualaba tributary of the Congo River. Sickness compelled his return to Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, where the journalist H. M. Stanley found him in 1871. Unable to persuade Livingstone to leave, Stanley joined him on a journey (1871–72) to the north end of Lake Tanganyika.
Despite Stanley's urgings, Livingstone was determined not to leave Africa until his mission was complete, and he died in the village of Chief Chitambo in Ilala, Zambia, sometime between the first and fourth of May 1873 from malaria and internal bleeding caused by bowel obstruction. His body, carried over a thousand miles by porters, was returned to Britain for burial in Westminster Abbey.
Adapted from "The Personal Life of David Livingstone" W.G. Blaikie, Edinburgh, 1880
(freely available as an e-book from the Project Gutenberg Resources)