The Story of the Life of MacKay of Uganda
Chapter XI -
At the Court of Mtesa
God gives to
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordained to fill.
IN early Saxon
times the smith was ever regarded as a mighty man. His person was protected
by a double penalty. He was treated as an officer of the highest rank, and
awarded the first place in precedency. After him ranked the maker of mead,
and then the physician. In the royal court of Wales he sat in the great hall
with the king and queen, next to the domestic chaplain.
From his great
skill in handicrafts, especially in all kinds of iron-work, Alexander Mackay
soon became as much esteemed by King Mtesa and his court as the early smith
was by our woad-stained ancestors. Miscellaneous articles were showered upon
him to repair, and much wonder expressed at the burnished face he put on
metal goods. The native smiths could manufacture hoes and hatchets, also
steely knife blades, but the art of tempering was unknown. To
Burogo (witchcraft) the natives attributed the process by which he put
hardness into steel and took it out again. Neither had they any idea of
rotatory motion, and when he rolled some logs up an inclined plane, he was
followed by dense crowds calling out, Makay lubare! Makay lubare dala!
(Mackay is the great spirit: he is truly the great spirit.)
Industrial Biography-Iron Workers and Tool Makers, by Dr. Samuel Smiles.
Mtesa was very
intelligent, and could understand anything if properly explained to him.
Mackay told him about railways and steamers: how seventy years ago there
were no railways, and now the world is girdled with a network of them. He
entertained his majesty with accounts of the telegraph and the telephone and
the phonograph, and greatly impressed him by saying, My forefathers made
the WIND their slave; then they put WATER in the chain; next they enslaved
STEAM; but now the terrible LIGHTNING is the white man's slave, and a
capital one it is too!
he gave the king and court a lesson on astronomy, illustrating it with
Reynolds' beautiful diagrams. They very quickly understood the first
principles of the Cosmos. Many Arabs were present, and Mackay showed that it
would be impossible to fast a whole month, as the Koran ordered, in the
polar regions, where some months the sun never sets, and others he never
rises, adding, Mohammed could not have been a true prophet of God, else he
would have known this. I am no prophet, and yet I know much more than he
occasion he took Huxley's Physiography to the palace with him, to show the
circulation of the blood, etc. Such a subject proved intensely interesting.
He dwelt on the perfection of the human body, which no man could make, nor
all the men in the world; and yet the Arabs wished to buy a human being,
with an immortal soul, for a bit of soap! The argument went home, and the
king said, From henceforth no slave shall be sold out of the country.
Mackay told him that was the best decree he had made in all his life.
Being a layman
and having had much to do with large bodies of workmen, together with the
valuable experience he had acquired as a Normal School teacher, and being
besides a shrewd observer and independent thinker, he derived his knowledge
of men from real life and not from books. He cultivated the society of the
natives in order to win their love and friendship, joined them at their
meals of meat and plantains, which the Arabs scorned to do, respected their
prejudices as far as consistent with his conscience, invited many of them to
his own house (or rather hut), and entertained them with a magic lantern,
which he contrived to make a chimney for out of a couple of Huntley and
Palmer's old biscuit tins, one laid horizontally on the top of the other and
tacked vertically into a wooden box. These exhibitions greatly delighted the
people. Pictures of houses and details they could not understand, as they
had never seen any building beyond a grass hut; but the representations of
animals were much appreciated, especially when the exhibitor tried a little
But all these
mechanical employments were subsidiary to the spiritual, and he never lost
an opportunity of introducing, in a happy way, the subject of religion, or
of dropping a word that would touch the heart.
log-book in the early part of 1879 are many entries similar to the
following: House inundated with small boys reading with me, and watching my
operations. They say my heart is good. I wish it were, and theirs also.
brought the canoes from Busongora spent last night with me. Gave him one of
the white blankets off my bed. Had a long conversation with him on the way
of salvation. He has been taught something of Islam, but cares little for
that, and took a good deal of interest in what I told him last night.
Every day I
am learning to admire this people more and more.
As he became
familiar with the language, however, he heard of many crying iniquities, -
And oft his
wakeful hours were filled by grief and bitter sighs,
O'er cruel deaths, revengeful blows, and slaves' heartrending cries.
shrank from exposing such evils to the king in open court, and privately to
the katikiro (prime minister and judge) and to the chiefs.
He writes: It
is clearly my duty to point out their error and to show them a better way.
But great tact is necessary for this, and more wisdom than human. Yet I
believe that, with all my unworthiness, I have had more than once Divine
guidance and aid in such delicate work. Well I know that such sacred duties
could be many times better done than I can do them. But my Master above can
use even the humblest instrument in His own hand. The power is in Him
the flag was hoisted on the Palace hill, and Mackay held a short service and
read and explained the story of the Gospel, dwelling especially on the
blessedness of doers and not of hearers only. He invited free conversation
on the passage read, and great eagerness was shown by king and chiefs and
numerous youths to know and possess the truth. Sometimes Mtesa was so much
struck with the explanation of a parable, that he remarked to his people Isa
(Jesus), was there ever anyone like Him? It seemed as if the prophecy was
about to be fulfilled: The kings shall shut their mouths at him; for that
which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not
heard shall they consider.
meantime two reinforcements to the mission were en route for Uganda.
The first arrived by the Nile, having ascended that river under the auspices
of General (then Colonel) Gordon. Unfortunately Egypt had always been an
object of great suspicion in the eyes of the Baganda. Captain Speke, who
formed Mtesa's acquaintance a dozen years before Stanley, tells how the king
objected to his passing through Uganda to Egypt via the Nile, and how
he only gave way on his promising to do his best to open a communication
with Europe by its channel! [See
Lake Victoria: a Narrative of Exploration in Search or the Source of the
Nile, compiled from the Memoirs of Captains Speke and Grant. By George C.
Swayne, M.A. (William Blackwood And Sons).]
station of Mruli was regarded by Mtesa with very jealous feelings, and the
Arabs lost no opportunity to fan the flame. Knowing well that with the
presence of the white man the hope of their gains was gone, they told him
that the Nile party were coming as political spies, and were really
emissaries from Colonel Gordon, and that the Turks (as they called the
Egyptians) would soon come and eat the country. Mackay saw that the king
was becoming very nervous as the time drew near for the arrival of the
expected missionaries. The Baganda had the word Baturki as often in
their mouths as ever the Romans had the word Carthago in the last
days of the empire. He (Mtesa) never wearied in narrating all his
intercourse with white men: how Speke brought Grant, and then sent Baker;
how Colonel Long came, and was followed by Stanley; and now when this party
comes there will be five white men in Uganda. What do they all want? Mackay
tried to assure him that they were merely corning in response to his own
invitation, and that neither the Queen nor Colonel Gordon had sent them,
that godly men in London had asked them to come to teach him and his people,
etc.; and then with tact he changed the subject to one he knew would
interest him. But in the middle of it Mtesa, in his abrupt way, asked, Are
these fellows not coming to look for lakes, that they may put ships and guns
on them? Did not Speke come here by the Queen's orders for that purpose?
At length, on
the 12th of February, 1879, the king received several Arabic letters from
the north, containing gossip about the new party and their stuff. The bearer
of the letters was also closely questioned about them, and in a tone of
relief Mtesa said to Mackay, Their guns are only muzzle-loading.
require breech-loading rifles, and our party are not soldiers.
entries in his journal are interesting:-
Feb. 14th, 1879. - Early my friends arrived. ..In afternoon I was
summoned by Mtesa to give an account of my brethren. Arranged with him that
we should all come up to-morrow, when he should give us a grand reception.
15th. - Having got our presents ready for the king, we were called about
I0 a.m. Great crowds lined the way with drums and a band. The king was
dressed and sitting in the great court, or rather in the adjoining room,
while the chiefs thronged the court. . . . Our presents were produced, the
king and chiefs being delighted, calling Massudi (coastman) to witness how
we gave whole bales of what the Arabs and coastmen sold at the rate of a
couple of yards for a slave or a tusk. [When
the half-caste Arabs saw these gifts their resentment knew no bounds. Every
day they agitated at court, and succeeded in turning the chiefs against us.
I had put them to confusion on every occasion before, when they brought
forward their false creed at court, and the king had got so disgusted with
them that he frequently asked me if he should send them away. I told him,
however, not to do so until English traders came. I knew that if no
merchants at all were here, demands would be made on us to supply articles
we could not meet. These fellows have now got the chiefs to believe that we
ought to have given them rich presents also. The king is much influenced by
his chiefs, and allowed much evil talk against us. - A. M. M.]
I8th. - As we were breakfasting at the oval table (which I had made by
screwing together the two bulkheads of the Daisy, and mounting on six ash
poles stuck in the ground, at which we can all comfortably sit, like King
Arthur and his knights, without any struggle for pre-eminence), and making
arrangements as to the best manner of dividing the work every day, an order
came down for us all to go up .... When we were called in we were told that
two white men had arrived at Ntebe (the port) in a canoe, but who they were
the king knew not.
out to be the vanguard of a party of French Romish priests, who, although
the whole continent was open to them, preferred to go where Protestant
missionaries were already at work. It was a time of very great trial to
Mackay and his brethren. Hitherto Mtesa had been most favourable to Mackay
and his teaching, but the interference of these priests bewildered him.
Every nation of white men has another religion. How can I know what is
right and what is false? he asked. Mackay appealed to the infallible
Book, and the Roman Catholics to an infallible Church. The battle of the
Reformation was fought again at the court of this heathen king; and, to
complicate matters still further, the Arabs, ever ready to seize an
opportunity of showing their hostility to white men in general, derided the
religion of both. It is possible that Mackay's training and the traditions
of his family prejudiced his mind against these priests, but the following
extracts from his journal are one or two illustrations of their behaviour:-
Feb. 22nd, 1879. - Went up to the palace, having heard that the men of
whose arrival we had heard were Frenchmen. We suspected that they were the
Romish priests who were reported by Colonel Gordon to be en route for
Uganda. On reaching the outer courts, I found two men who had come with
them, one being a slave of Said bin Salim, and the other the same old
Msukuma who accompanied me to Ukerewe last July. From them I obtained the
information that the strangers were padres, that they had left three of
their number at Kagei, and that all meant to come here to stay. Thus I was
prepared for an audience with the king, which commenced immediately
afterwards. Mtesa of course asked me about them. They had sent him a letter
in Arabic conveying their salaams. I explained to the king what their system
was: that they were followers of Jesus (Isa) as we, accepted the Old and New
Testaments as we, but worshipped the mother of Jesus more than the Lord
Himself, prayed to prophets and saints dead long ago, and taught obedience
to the Pope before their own king. I proposed that Mtesa should send a chief
along with Pearson and myself to see the Frenchmen, and bring back word to
the king explaining who they were, and why come. Mtesa did not accede to
this plan, however, but said he would call the Frenchmen some day, and we
should then understand all.
23rd. - We understood that a reception was to be given the French padre
to-day (his com-panion frere
being sick). We went therefore up. Drums were beating, and the general noise
so great that I went to the katikiro, and stated how vexed I was at such
profanation of the Lord's day. I said that he had agreed, and the king also,
to have quietness at least on Sunday; and now, the very first day a European
came, all teaching was forgotten. The judge felt guilty, and said that it
was the king's order to pay honour to their guest. I showed the want of
necessity to hold the reception on Sunday, as there was no hurry. The
head-drummer was at once called, and from what we noticed afterwards, I
believe he was ordered to make the reception as quiet as possible. We then
retired to the church, where we spent an hour teaching natives to read and
understand the Creed, when we were informed that the padre had arrived. The
king sat in the side room of the large hall, the throne having been
uncovered, but he did not come out to sit on it. We waited a suitable
opportunity to ask if we were to hold service, but found none. A tall,
stout, awkward white man was then introduced, who made the faintest
recognition of Mtesa, and sat down sideways on a camp stool, with his back
to us. Evidently he was not aware of our presence at all. Soon the king
called me forward, when I rose and shook hands with the stranger, and sat
(or rather kneeled) down by him to interpret. He said he knew no German or
English, but professed his ability to speak in Suahili or inArabic. His attempts at being understood,
or in understanding either of these latter two languages, failed, however;
and I explained to the king that Pearson could talk French, and thus we
might be able to converse. But the padre would not reply in his own tongue
to Pearson's questions, answering generally in Suahili (very broken). A
present for the king was produced of seven or eight common coloured cloths
such as go in Unyamwezi, and a French fifteen-shooter (old). I asked where
he had come from, to what Society he belonged, for what purpose he came? Did
our Society know of their coming, and was he aware of there being five
representatives of a Protestant mission here? He replied to most questions
rather unwillingly (at least we thought so). He belonged to the African
Mission Society, came from Algiers, had heard of Mtesas willingness to
receive white men (he never said Christian missionaries), that their chief
was still at Kagei, that should Mtesa be willing they would all come to
settle here, but if not they would go elsewhere. He was not aware as to
whether or not our Society, or the English Government, knew of their coming,
as he was not chief. He knew there were one or two Protestants here.
plainly if he was not come to teach the Romish faith? He said they came to
teach to read and write, and useful arts. I was cross-questioned by the king
about the faith of Roman Catholics, and I stated that they prayed to the
Virgin Mary, to saints, etc., and inculcated obedience to the Pope. I said
we wrote in the same character, and our arts were the same, and in all
respects we were the same as they, only our religions were totally
different. I said that they accepted the Fathers, etc., while we received
only the Old Testament and the New, as we were distinctly disciples of
IsaMessiah (Jesus Christ). On this the gentleman said
politely, in Suahili: You are a liar. This he explained by declaring
that I had called him a believer in Islam. I explained calmly that he
had not sufficiently understood, that I had not said so, but that we
believed in Isa. For his mistake and rudeness he was not, however,
polite enough to make any apology. The king asked if in Egypt and Zanzibar
there were not both English and French living together? The padre said that
we and they were not different, as there were people of his religion in
England, and of ours in France. I said, Yes, just as there are Arabs living
in Uganda, but who will say that the Baganda in consequence are Mussulmans?
This argument was understood.
Mtesa and the chiefs, for selfish interests, would prefer to have as many
English or French or other Europeans here as possible, as thus they know
they will get more presents, and have prestige added to their court.
Baraza, broke up the Frenchman asked us if he might not have a few words
with us? We therefore asked him down to dinner at five p.m., and he agreed,
but evidently with no goodwill.
earnestly with Kauta and others on the impropriety of having given a state
reception on Sunday, to the exclusion of Divine service. They allowed that
they had done wrong, and after much talk we left.
evening our guest showed no signs of coming, so Pearson wrote a polite note
in French, and we sent two boys with it to show him the way. No reply came,
however, and we dined alone. Towards morning, however, one of our boys woke
us up, saying, he and the other had been bound by order of the Frenchman,
who said he did not want our salaams, and his servants robbed them of
24th. - Pearson and I went early to the katikiro and asked him to send
for our boy, who was still in custody. I explained also to him that if the
Frenchmen were brought here we should all leave.[This
was not my own suggestion. All of our party, at the time, were of the same
mind. I thought then, and think still, it was a mistake; but mistakes become
experience, and the best of us call rise to greatness and usefulness and
goodness only in that school. - A. M. M.]
This, he said, would not be once thought of; still he seemed inclined to
want the Frenchmen here. He said that co one would pay attention to their
teaching. This I declared to be impossible, and distinctly gave him to
understand that we should not remain here, and we should tell the king so.
We then went
up to the king's, but did not see him. We talked with the chiefs, however,
as we had done with the katikiro, but they were evidently inclined to have
the Frenchmen come, yet they would not hear of our going away. In the
evening I was sent for. I spoke of the French padres, and distinctly told
the king that we could not remain here if these men were allowed to settle
in the place. Mtesa asked where we would go to? I said the continent was
large, and we could find plenty of room, as the padres could do without
coming here. He said that it would never do to reject Englishmen in favour
of Frenchmen. Besides, he said he could not adopt a new religion with every
new comer. I showed how impossible it was for padres to settle here without
making proselytes, or doing their utmost to do so, even although Mtesa
declared that neither he nor his people would listen to their teaching. I
left him in good humour, the head chiefs being also gratified by a present I
gave each that morning.
28th. - In the afternoon we proposed sending a note to the Frenchmen,
which Pearson wrote in French; and as we wished to make sure of their
receiving it, one of my brethren and I went off with it, taking a fine goat
also as a present. In the letter we said that we had heard they were both
sick, and that our doctor would be glad to see them, and give them medicine,
condiments, or anything else they might wish. We took with us the two boys
whom they had apprehended last Sunday. After passing the hill on which the
palace stands, we met a native sub-chief, who told our boys that if we went
to the Frenchmen we should be bound hand and foot. We went on, however, but
Juma (our Mganda boy) was afraid, and went to stay at the house of the chief
who had thus threatened us. We took him on against his will, and crossed the
swamp, when natives were seen rushing in various directions, some past us,
to a point on the road in front. When we came up to the place, about thirty
men armed with clubs, spears, axes, and guns (their chief being the headman
whom I have mentioned), stood up and menaced us should we go on. My
companion waved some of them aside, and got half through; but I saw the
danger, as he would next moment have been murdered as well as I; so I cried
out to him to desist, and sat down on the bank by the roadside, he
accompanying me. The wild attitude of the gang was truly diabolical. As I
sat down, one fellow with a large native axe jumped up behind me, and I
expected next moment to have my head in two. I looked up calmly in his face,
and his chief had by this time succeeded in driving back the furious mob. I
asked what was the matter, and wanted the chief to sit down and explain.
This he refused to do, as he was too big a man; but I insisted, and at
length he sat down on the ground. He said he had the king's orders not to
allow us to go on. I allowed him to say no more, but said, Let us go at
once to the king. Back we went, the mob being by this time increased to
nearly a hundred men, all armed. Half went before and the others remained
with us all the way. When we came to the second court the chief went in and
we were told to sit down outside. This we refused to do, and stood waiting
at the gate for a few minutes. One of the pages came out soon, and asked me
if I had brought medicine for Mtesa, or what I wanted. I sent him in to say
that I wished to see the king at once, but I should not wait more than five
minutes for an answer. As no response was made we left, bringing back the
letter and the goat. All hangers-on in the grounds looked on in silence as
we turned to go, but we were not further troubled.
Who is at the
root of all this we cannot say. Probably Mtesa had ordered that sub-chief to
look after the padres, and he, on his own responsibility acted as I have
stated. Anyhow, we feel matters have come to a crisis - our lives are no
longer safe, our usefulness is at an end, our teaching rejected, our
medicine refused, Romish priests received contrary to our advice, and no
reply written to Lord Salisbury's friendly letter. [This
letter from Lord Salisbury was anent the massacre of British subjects in
Ukerewe, and the fact that the Nile party were the bearers of it led the
king to think that they must have come for political purposes. ] May God turn good out of evil. We now
intend sending Mtesa a written letter, stating our determination to leave
the country unless he gives us a written promise of protection, food, and
liberty to go about among his subjects. All promises he has now broken, and
we must demand his word in writing in future. I feel confident that all will
turn out well in the end, and that even were we to leave we should soon be
asked back; still at this crisis it is a time of trouble to us, and only the
God whom we serve can bring us out of it.
to such a crisis that the Church Missionary Society party thought they ought
to withdraw from Uganda for a time, and go to Makraka, on the north of the
Albert Lake, which appeared to be an open field. On the 7th of March, 1879,
they heard it would be well for them to clear out as quickly as possible,
as the king's soldiers were only waiting to kill them all. On the 30th,
also, an Egyptian soldier (a runaway for years) informed them that the king
was very ill and had slept in his large hall last night, expecting to die;
also that there was a conclave between chiefs and coastmen, when it was
resolved to murder all the Englishmen should Mtesa die.
On the 8th of
April, however, their hearts were strengthened by the arrival of Messrs.
Stokes and Copplestone by the Zanzibar route. There were thus seven C.M.S.
missionaries in the country. With the exception of Mr. Pearson, however,
they all soon left. On the 13th of April Mackay writes: To my mind, the
most likely way to get the king to grant us what we want (food and liberty
to teach) is to live on good terms with him and his chiefs and redeem the
time by using every opportunity of teaching the truth. Persuasion is better
than force, and tact and patience better than urgent demand. I feel sure
that the king will now never grant us what we have begged of him unless we
show him that we are his friends, and are actuated towards him by motives of
real love. Many missionaries in many lands have been worse treated than we,
and have held out for many more years than we have done months, and
ultimately the Lord has rewarded their patience and perseverance. No real
success in missions has ever yet been won without long opposition and
frequent violent persecutions for years. It is therefore unreasonable to
expect that it should be otherwise here. I mean, therefore, to stay by my
post as long as God enables me. If I am peremptorily ordered by the C.M.S.
to return, or if the place becomes too hot for me to stay, I may have to
leave, but I cannot just now think any other course honourable or upright.
19th April. - Stokes and I went up to court. I asked the king if he was
willing I should bring up my Bible on the morrow and read a little to him
(the public services had been stopped). He at once replied, Yes, bring the
he had asked many questions on the future state. What sort of bodies, what
desires, what clothing? I explained that we should be like the angels, but I
found St. Paul's own excellent simile suit best, the new body given by God
to the seedcorn sowed. Mtesa quite caught this, and explained it to all
present. A little after he asked what we would wear in heaven? I said, we
were not told exactly, for our bodies would require no protection from heat
or cold. I stated plainly that Christ had left us in the dark about many
things in the world beyond, that we might be the more anxious to get there
to know all. He asked me if we had any more knowledge than Jesus taught His
disciples and they further wrote? I said we had not. I feared the padre
sitting behind me would have contradicted this, but he said nothing. Most
probably he did not understand.
- In the middle of a multitude of questions about the first and second
resurrections, Mtesa abruptly asked me if I knew that the Egyptians had
planted a new station in his territory, and within three days of Ripon
Falls? They are gnawing at my country like rats, and ever pushing their
fortifications nearer. I advised him to send two chiefs to Colonel Gordon
to make a friendly treaty with him, settling the question of boundary for
Gordon is an
Englishman, and so are you: why, therefore, do you take my country from
To this I
merely replied that we had nothing in common: Gordon is practically an
Egyptian, while we are subjects of Mtesa.
Did you not
promise me arms, and now the Egyptians are upon me?
well that we never made any such promise, and probably not willing to hear a
reply to so foolish a question, dismissed the court at once.
In the month
of June, however, the king sent an embassy to Queen Victoria in charge of
two missionaries who were returning to England via the Nile. After
their departure the king's friendliness returned, the Sunday services were
resumed, and Mackay's printing press turned to good account in supplying
reading sheets, and portions of Scripture, and pupils increased in number
Mackay's unavailing struggle against a sorceress who professed to be
possessed of the Lubare of the Nyanza, and to have power to restore
the king to health.* For a time Mtesa and his chiefs prohibited both
Christianity and Mohammedanism, and returned to their pagan superstitions.
extracts from Mackay's journal at this time will give some idea of his
discouragement after all his attempts to teach the knowledge of the true
Dec. 29th, 1879. - Again at dawn, or rather before it, the loud beating
of drums and shrill cries of women let us know that the great lubare, Mukasa,
was on her way to pay the king a second visit. I did not know before that
the individual is a woman. Mukasa is not her name, but that of the deity or
spirit which is supposed to possess her. Mukasa is, moreover, not a spirit
of the whole lake, only of some three or four creeks on the coast of Uganda.
I have been told that the formidable foes of the Baganda - the Bavuma, are
continually paying visits to the island where Mukasa lives, and plundering
the god of cattle and slaves
believe, the audience was of a much more private nature than the previous
one. Some say that not even a single chief, nor a woman, was present at the
interview between the king and the witch. The king has ordered the chiefs to
bring numbers of cattle, slaves, and cowries, and these have been presented
to the lubare in no small quantity.
chaffing some natives about their king being obliged to pay tribute (musolo)
to an old woman. It is not tribute, they replied, it is bigali,or
sacrificial offerings to the deity!
Dec. 3Ist. - Early Mufta came, having been sent by the katikiro to call
me. Between 8 and 9 a.m. Pearson went with me. After waiting half an hour at
his door, he came out, dressed up like a tailor's dummy, thinking himself
remarkably smart, but his appearance tended only to excite our risible
faculties. Among other vanities he had tied to his neck a plated railway
whistle which I gave him many months ago.
He said that
he expected us early, and that he had an engagement just now, but would soon
be back. We sat down thereupon in the inner court, but loud beating of
drums, as in a procession, excited our curiosity to go out and see. We found
the katikiro standing at his outer gate, while hundreds of people, chiefs
and slaves, were squatting on the ground outside. All, including the judge,
had on a string of green leaves passing over the shoulder like a sash. As we
approached, I overheard the katikiro saying (of Pearson and me) to those
round him, Here come our boys (balenzi bafwe), at which they all laughed.
procession came up we found it to consist of a whole host of Maandwas,
i.e. wizards and witches - each with a magic wand which they rattled
on the ground in succession before the katikira, he touching the wands with
a finger. Three or four wizards were dressed in leopards' skins, while the
witches were clad in a succession of layers of goatskins - white and black
alternately. The head of the whole - a little witch named Wamala -
was in aprons of goatskins, and had a head cap of many coloured beads. The
consequential air with which they shook their wands on the ground was rather
amusing. Many women carried on their shoulders, entirely wrapped up in bark
cloth, with a garland of the same green leaves as the chiefs, etc., wore,
what were virtually idols, being urn-shaped things called balongo.
These I did not see exposed on this occasion, but others which I saw before
were of the urn-shape, with a large bow handle like a pot. They were
entirely covered with beads sewed in neat patterns over a mass of bark
cloth, having in the heart the umbilical cord of either the present king or
one of his ancestors.
See A. M.
Mackay, Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Uganda (Hodder
& Stoughton), p. 145.
went then to the palace courts with the procession; we thought it useless
waiting, and came home. I am told that the king refused to be seen by the
witches, etc. Wamala, the head one, is stationed near Unyoro, in Mkwenda's
country. She is a rival of the other great witch Mukasa, and once lived on
the lake, but having quarrelled with the other spirit, she went far inland
to rule the dry land, as the other does the water!
New Year's Day
1880 brought good tidings to Mackay from Colonel Gordon, - viz., that he had
withdrawn all his troops from not only Mruli but also from all the stations
south of the Somerset Nile. Mackay writes: I am truly thankful to God that
Colonel Gordon has determined on this. Now that Mruli is abandoned, I hope
we shall have much less suspicion lying on us as being implicated in
bringing the Turks always nearer. The tone of all Colonel Gordon's letters
is beautiful and spiritual, and I cannot fail to profit much by the
expressed experience of this truly Christian governor.
When we told
Mtesa that Colonel Gordon advised him to occupy Mruli he was very
pleased, and said his heart was good, and that we were good, and that his
remarks at court before Christmas, that we were spies, were finished now.
In other words, that he meant to say nothing of the kind again.
A few jottings
from Mackay's journal in the early months of 1880 will give a glimpse of
missionary life in Central Africa:-
1880. - Sewed up with silver wire the breast of wounded woman. I do not
think any ribs are broken, but I fear the lung is injured from the cough she
has. Syringed inside of wound in body and re-dressed the hand, cutting away
various broken pieces of bone which I did not discover before. [This
was a severe ease of gunshot, which happened on December 26th, 1879. A wife
of Kaitabarwa's was handling a gun which went off (an Enfield with iron
bullet). The bullet passed into the back of the left side, just under the
armpit, out under the nipple, then through the back of the left hand,
shattering the metacarpal bones connecting the forefinger and the wrist. The
bullet passed out under the thumb; we amputated the forefinger, sewed up the
hand, and applied styptics to the wounds in chest. The woman has had a
severe shock to her nervous system and has lost much blood. They brought her
in a hide and we sent her back on a Kitanda. By March 7th she was almost
well, and able to trip about nimbly. ]
- Had a day's work at tailoring to-day. Clothes I am almost out of: and have
considerable difficulty in dressing with any degree of respectability. A
coat of checked tweed which one of the Nile party hung up in his hut one
night on the way here was partly eaten up, and partly built into the earthen
wall by morning, by white ants. This coat he handed over to me, and I have
succeeded in putting patches into the back of it so as not to be very
noticeable. I wish I had got some lessons in sewing before leaving England.
Feb. 8th. - Continued translation this morning. Read with much
edification a nice little book entitled The King of Love, by the author of
How to Enter into Rest. There are most beautiful thoughts throughout the
book, and much I would seek to live in the realisation of them. God is
never so far off as even to be near.
- Patchcd up an old pith helmet inside and out. Cut up and stitched a white
umbrella cover as cover for my helmet. On the whole I have made a decent
1380. - It is now announced that another army is under orders to go again to
Busoga to subdue rebels there. Sekibobo is commander-in-chief. A whole host
of chiefs and subs are now going off with him, and of course as many men as
each can muster. All is feudal system here. I wish I knew the real nature of
this war, and if I found it to be a war undertaken to capture cattle and
slaves, I should not fail, God helping me, to show Mtesa and his court the
evil of such terrible work.
March 21st. - Kago, one of the most powerful chiefs, and also one of the
strongest upholders of the witchcraft religion of the country, called
He told me a
series of lies. He said he was not going to war, while I know he is. He said
that the cattle and slaves which they brought so frequently from the East
were only presents from the people! etc., etc. I reproved him for telling
such false-hoods, he being an old man, and a chief, while he should be an
example to the people. Then I spoke solemnly to him about the evil of making
these raids for murder and robbery. I said that, however Uganda might
meantime escape from punishment for such evil work, yet Almighty God saw it
all and would one day call the king and chiefs to account for it.
On the 2nd
April, 1880, Mackay started for Uyui for a supply of cloth and other barter
goods, as the mission store of such things was all but exhausted, and he and
Mr. Pearson were entirely dependent on the caprice of the king for
subsistence. The Frenchmen kindly lent him cloth to pay his expenses down to
Uyui, and would listen to no promise of repayment. Sorely as they tried to
injure the work of the C.M.S. missionaries, yet in everything else they were
disposed to be friendly. On the above date Mackay writes: This day two
years ago I started from Mpwapwa for Uyui, and now I am on my way to the
same place once more. May the good Lord, who has preserved me amid no
ordinary troubles and dangers since that day, keep me on this journey and
bring me safely back to Uganda.
carried the luggage to Admiral Gabunga's. The king gave me a present of five
thousand cowries, as he said, to buy food on the way, and not to rob! Paid
four thousand cowries, however, to carry the ten loads to Gabunga's.
- Having succeeded in getting a few canoes, we embarked. As the season was
early for marching through Usukuma, harvest not commencing till June, we did
not hurry the canoe-men, allowing them to take their own time. Some of
Gabunga's men who were going to Unyanyembe to sell ivory had joined us, and
altogether we had fourteen canoes in our expedition.
reached Kagei safely. Several men of the Romish mission had arrived there,
en route for Mtesa's."
say, among the freres was a countryman of his own, a Mr. Charles
Stuart, from Aberdeen! He had been educated at Blairs, on Deeside. Mackay
had several talks with him, but did not expect he would hold out long, as he
lay about all day doing nothing, and imagining himself ill from greasy
French cooking. Mackay says: I felt sorely tempted to say to him, Och,
man, I could hae forgi'en ye a' yer Popery, but what for hae ye forsaken yer
parritch?' Poor fellow, he had all his clothes stolen from him on the way,
nor had he any book to read. I happened to have a Shakespeare, which I had
taken to while away weary hours in the canoes, and that I gave him.
The road from
Kagei to Uyui is through a most unsettled and unsafe country, with plenty of
robbers on the way, and continual demands for tribute at every petty
village. Sometimes he had to pay honga three times in a march of seven
But he was
mercifully preserved from attacks of natives and from highwaymen in the
jungles, although he was only armed with his umbrella. He reached Uyui on
the 5th of June, after a march of twenty days. There he remained five weeks,
and set out again northwards to Kagei. Though it was the month of July, it
was the dead of winter there, and while the sun was sultry through the day,
there were piercing east winds every morning, which he found most trying,
especially as he and his men, in order to avoid the cupidity of as many
greedy chiefs as possible, frequently marched through the night. For
instance, on the 4th of August he says: By 3 a.m. my men wakened me up,
saying we should start. Got up and looked at the stars (my only clock), and
told them it was yet several hours to daylight, and we might lose our way in
the forest, but if the porters were willing to start, I was ready. Struck
tent, and packed up in dead silence, and by clear starlight set off. Lost
our way at one point, but got on right road again, and the cocks crew as we
stole silently past the hut of the extortionate chief. After more than an
hour we got into the jungle, where we could breathe freely; but walking was
difficult, as in many places there were deep holes like wells caused by the
tread of elephants.
At the next
village he carne to, he and his party were detained many days before the
matter of the toll was settled. He could get nothing to eat save a few
ground nuts, and a glass of milk was scarcely to be had. But he learned to
be patient of such delays, and embraced the opportunity to instruct the
Baganda lads who were with him, and at the same time he gained much
knowledge from them regarding the superstitions and language of
Uganda. He had made such a rapid journey on the former occasion that much
escaped his observation, but he found now that a common act among many of
the tribes was the kidnapping of boys, such as goat-herds, etc., who were
generally alone, at some distance from the villages, there being always
plenty of Arabs and Wangwana about, ready to buy such children. At such
times the wails of the poor mothers overnight, and. every now and again
breaking out through the day, were most piteous. When will this traffic in
human flesh cease?
villages great crowds of women and children followed him to feast their eyes
on the fair face of the white man. Sometimes, to please them, he got out a
music-box with which they were enraptured; and, strange to say, the popular
tune was God Save the Queen!
Then they must
see his arm and his bare foot, while they stroked his hair and compared it
to an antelope's. Until he bared his foot they believed that his boot was
part of himself! But perhaps the greatest curiosity he could show them was
his lamp, for artificial light is quite unknown.
Owing to the
many detentions for honga, he was forty-five days on the way back to Kagei.
While there his three Baganda lads were nearly murdered. They were sleeping
in a hut behind Mackay's house, when some men they had quarrelled with went
and fired a volley into the hut. A terrible scuffle and chase ensued. The
three lads ran for their lives, and the murderous party after them. Mackay
was half-down with fever, but managed with great exertion to persuade the
leader to sit down and talk to him (having previously secreted the objects
of his malice). The Beloochees and Arabs next appeared, armed to the teeth,
expecting to find that Mackay had been attacked, when they were prepared to
aid in murdering him. The chief of the village also arrived, after making
sure that the fray was over. With much trouble Mackay got them all to fire
off their guns and go home.
never went to Mackay's aid, although they knew how ill he was, but simply
looked over the fence at the fight!
I remained at
Kagei two and a half months. I sent on a man to Uganda with a large load of
cowries to Mr. Pearson, as also his English letters, which I had brought
with me. Many days I spent packing all boxes, etc., in raw hide, sewing the
whole with stout twine, to make our goods waterproof on the lake. Much time
I had to spend in bed from repeated and severe attacks of remittent fever.
- Having secured five canoes, I embarked for Uganda with my loads and
servants, leaving the iron boiler parts and machinery well packed in
Kaduma's care. Last of the Frenchmen left for King Roma's in canoes which he
sent for them. (Roma owns all the west side of Smith's Creek, and the road
from thence to Msalala). Pere Levesque alone goes to Uganda, and is
commended to my protection.
- Camp on Juma Island. Pere Levesque and I cross over channel, and spend a
few days at Roma's capital.
- At Makongo. Went with Pere Levesque to visit Kaitaba, the king of
Busongora. Gave him a present, and received a fat bullock in return.
- Arrived at Ntcbe, with everything safe. Lake journey has thus occupied
- After much delay at Ntebe, and on road, and repeated messages to Mtesa,
got sufficient men under two chiefs to carry all our goods to capital (a
distance of twenty-six miles). Met Mr. Pearson at mission-house, soon after
- King held Baraza in great hall and received the Frenchmen in state, as
also the messengers from Roma. The Frenchmen gave presents of gunpowder in
kegs and in tins, guns, caps, bullets military suits, a drum and sundry
and I agreed that we had better not attend the reception along with the
Frenchmen, as we resolved to give no present of anything in the shape of
arms or ammunition, and the contrast between our presents and those of the
Frenchmen might prove unpleasant.
party now at Roma's had given that king a large present of cloth, guns, a
revolver, gunpowder, etc., etc. Every one of these things Roma sent on to
Mtesa by some of his own men, these accompanying me. The revolver alone he
kept for himself, asking me most imploringly for my revolver offering me ten
boys for it, promising me also a road to Mirambo's, or anything I liked; and
when all these were declined by me, he tried hard to get me to exchange the
one he got from the padres for mine. But I was inexorable, saying that I
would give such a weapon neither to him, nor to Mtesa, nor to Mirambo.
Roma's object in sending the presents to Mtesa was to ask his aid to fight
against (i.e. spoil and murder) Kigaju, the king of Bukosa, while he
asked me to write a letter from him to Mtesa begging the Uganda fleet. I
flatly refused to do so, saying that we white men came to bring peace
into the country and not war. Strange to say, Roma took me and not the
Frenchmen into his private conference with his head chiefs when he proposed
begging Mtesa's aid. Even afterwards, when I was leaving, and the Frenchmen
all present, he asked me again to recommend him to Mtesa, but did not ask
them. I said before them all that I was a messenger of God, and would
willingly ask Mtesa to make an alliance with Roma, but I would bear no
message asking aid in war.
who is head of the mission there, felt offended that he was not consulted by
Roma in the matter, especially after he had given the guns and powder, which
were being sent as the price of the army, and walked off in apparent ill
- Mr. Pearson and I went to court. After friendly greetings from the
katikiro and chiefs in the outer court, we went into the inmost court
(except the king's own). After waiting nearly half an hour, the king called
us in. The house was full of naked women, probably nearly a hundred. The
king apologised for making no public reception on my behalf, on the ground
of his illness.
to Mtesa consisted of a few doti of coloured cloth, two fine large knives,
and a score of Rags of diverse colours. We explained that the flags were
international, and none of them English. (They were a set of the ordinary
We read the
king a Suahili translation of part of the Committee's letter, informing him
that his men had reached England, had been received by the Queen most
graciously, and had been shown every honour, and that Her Majesty had sent
them to Zanzibar in one of her own men-of-war.
that the fact of his men being so well received in England raised in his
mind the longing to go there himself, but he said the Arabs asserted that he
could not reach there. (This is not true, for the Arabs have always, in
court, told him that he would find an open way, and that the English would
be so overjoyed at his condescension, that they would send at once a
hundred large ships to Zanzibar to convey him to London.) I merely said
to him, A great man can overcome many difficulties.
showed the king some pictures in the Graphic of Queen Victoria
receiving his envoys. He was delighted, and seemed never to weary looking at
them. The next day Mackay went to court he found his majesty still
entertaining himself with them, and he greeted Mackay with the remark: I am
determined to go to England, to consult a doctor about my ailments, and I
will leave the queenmother on the throne, in my absence.
chiefs, however, opposed this, saying: Why should a great monarch like
Mtesa go to England? Queenie (Queen Victoria) sends only small men to
Uganda. Speke, and Grant, and Stanley were only travellers!
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