The Story of the Life of MacKay of Uganda
Chapter XVII -
The King is Dead
They told of
the feats of his dog and gun,
They told of the deeds his arm bad done;
They sung of battles lost and won,
And so they paid his eulogy.
several other journeys to the south side of the Nyanza, in the year 1884. On
one occasion he had been unable to get any plantains on board, at the port
of Ntebe; so he and his men endeavoured to land on the large island of Sesse
in order to buy some, but the natives met them with mad brandishing of
spears and shields, and they just managed to keep beyond the range of the
stones which were pelted at the little vessel. He says: We held up cowries
and said we only wanted to buy food, as we were very hungry, but they only
shouted that we were not to land, and continued throwing stones and dancing
wildly. More natives came down the hill and joined in threatening us, saying
they would kill us. They were now many, and lighted fires on the beach,
and beat their drums, preparing to watch all night. I refused to allow any
of my crew to reply to their insulting language, and quietly cast anchor for
the night. So they yelled away in vain. In the morning I asked them to bring
food in a canoe to sell to us, if they were afraid of us landing, but they
misrule and robbery by the Baganda have made the poor people naturally
anxious to keep away all strangers. Only a week ago, Mugula, with fifty
canoes, went ashore on this same island, and was met with stones. He shot
half a dozen of the natives and robbed their gardens. But the Mirembe
is not a fighting boat. God give us tact and prudence to act patiently, even
in provocation and hunger. He will give us our daily bread.
had we landed they would all have run away, but that would bring us no
nearer buying food, so I turned the boats head eastward and set sail. They
then gathered courage and slung stones, some falling inside the boat. We
simply held farther out and departed in peace. A thick fog then came on, and
we had great difficulty in finding our way out of this labyrinth of islands.
Thunder was then heard to the east through the fog. I dropped the end of
lightning-conductor into the sea. Soon a severe squall arose and merciless
rain. No inch of canvas could stand, so we just let her drive in trough of
sea. After many hours of tossing we approached Alice Island, when the wind
fell. I woke up crew, rowed into harbour, and found two or three fishermen,
who seemed very frightened at us, but I assured them we had no desire to
hurt them. By-and-by, they became friendly, giving me a dried fish, and I
presenting them with a string of cowries. Afterwards they brought me a pot
While at Kagei
on this voyage, he writes: Gods holy name be praised! He has saved me from
two great perils this day. Said bin Saif and some other Arabs, who came to
meet me yesterday, told me that there was a good sandy anchorage round the
point east of Kagei village. This morning Said sent his dhow captain to show
me the place. We rowed round, and the Arabs met me on the beach. Left boat
in charge of men and went ashore to Saids house. Had breakfast, and got
mail which had arrived a month ago. Just as I was opening my letters I
noticed the sky lowering. Made haste to boat, but crew all gone ashore, save
two men and two boys. Pushed off and pulled, but gale rose before I got many
boat-lengths. Drifting into rocks which were hidden before, but now visible
in the waves. Threw out both anchors. Rode out gale for an hour in dangerous
proximity to rocks on both sides and stern. God alone saved us. Had sea
risen much more, boat had been dashed to pieces by rock under bow only five
feet below. The Arabs came and watched. When the gale lessened we sailed
back to anchorage. Later on I waded ashore. On returning I meant to bathe.
The natives drove cattle down to drink close by; and just as I was about to
enter the water a crocodile dragged off a large cow. I have learned, I hope
for ever, not to bathe or wade in this lake.
saved, and my own life and my mens lives in one day. God be praised!
King Mtesa had
been ailing for several years, and latterly had been getting more and more
feeble. As a natural consequence, he was far less powerful in the land than
in the early days of the mission, when he was able to get about.
friendly to the C. M. S. missionaries, but to their great sorrow showed no
sign of a change of heart.
(prime minister and judge) was also very friendly, as also several of the
other chiefs; but some would have liked to banish every foreigner out of the
Mackay says: Our future is in Gods hands alone, but I think we are
justified in using every lawful means to help to secure protection for our
mission in case of emergency.
I do not know
that I have ever hinted to you of the extreme peril we should probably be in
were our king suddenly gathered to his fathers.
in the history of the country, such a time has always been one of plunder
and much bloodshed. Mtesa's reign of late has been one, of internal peace,
but Baganda still remain the same greedy, plundering, murderous knaves. Only
the strong arm of the law keeps them down.
It is agreed
by all of us foreigners, Arabs, and English, that were it not for the
protection given us by the court, not a single foreigner could be a day in
the country without being plundered, if not also killed.
But God will
provide for us, as He alone can in any such serious circumstances. We are by
no means anxious, for our defence is omnipotent, and He hears prayer. He has
preserved us in great peril before now, and will preserve us again.
of the king was kept a great secret, and he was dead some days before the
report was announced, on October 9th, 1884.
away at the lake at the time, giving the boat a thorough repair. He had it
hauled up on the beach under a large tent, and was quite unaware of the
trouble which the news had caused his brethren at the mission.
Four of his
men, whom he had sent back to the capital, were robbed of their clothing on
the way, and had to run for their lives.
Next day, a
messenger arrived to tell him of the sad event, and that already the people
had commenced to rob each other, and that the mission boat would be
unfortunately, he had now few men with him, but after many hours hard work
the boat was launched, anchored near shore, and all necessaries put on
board. He quite expected the mission-house would be destroyed and that the
brethren would have to seek refuge on the lake. He watched all night, but
received no news of them.
Next day a
band of a hundred armed men arrived from the katikiro to escort him to the
palace, as he wished the kings coffins made at once.
is in his own words: Reached Kitebi after dark. The escort feared to take
me farther in case of a fight, as many might take my arrival at the capital,
at night, with a force, as an attempt at the throne. Slept in a very dirty
house, but the people were very kind, and did everything to make me
- Reached palace early. Main court and space outside filled with
was laid in state in the Kadulubares house (the largest within the
grounds), while a grave was being dug in the centre of the building.
Thousands of women were wailing and men roaring. The katikiro and chiefs
told me that Mtesa had expressed a desire to be buried without delay or
pomp. They wished therefore to do as he wanted, and set the new king at once
on the throne, so as to pacify the country. The first act of the new king is
to bury his father. He is not king till then.
three coffins made immediately, but at last consented to let two suffice.
Mackay went to
the mission-house for his tools, and for the zinc lining of old cases, which
had been sent there from England, with stores. He then returned to the
palace, and, with a lot of native artificers, set to work at once. By dawn
next morning, the huge chests were completed, to the satisfaction of all,
and the king placed therein and buried.
A prince was
then selected. The katikiro and some others wished to elect a little boy,
but they soon found that his appointment would be disputed by rebellion.
They therefore chose Mwanga, a lad of about seventeen years of age, and his
missionaries felt thankful that this young man, whom they knew well, as he
had frequently visited their house, had been elected king, and they were
still more thankful when the news reached them that the princess chosen to
be Lubuga, [The Kabaka,
or King of Uganda, must always have a queen-mother (Namasole) and a
queen-sister (Lubuga). If the kings own mother be dead, then an aunt is
chosen to support the title. The Lubuga is chosen from the princesses. See
Two Kings of Uganda p.87. ]
or maiden queen, was one of their Christians, baptised as Rebecca.
Some of the
chiefs proposed robbing both the Arabs and the missionaries, but the
katikiro restrained them. Mackay says: Our Heavenly Father has watched over
us during this time of danger, while we have been helpless. His holy name be
Mr. Ashe tells
how on one occasion, after he had given Mwanga some instruction, he asked
how he would treat his old friends the missionaries, if he became king?
The reply was, I shall like you very much, and show you every favour; but
he was no sooner raised to the throne than he forgot his promise.
The very first
time the three missionaries went to pay him their respects, in order to show
his sense of his new importance he declined to see them.
As the king
was only in temporary quarters, and daily occupied in receiving the chiefs
and subs, who went with their serfs to swear allegiance to him, Mackay
thought it best, before attempting another interview, to return to the lake
and finish repairs and refitting of the boat.
One day he had
a scare, as the Bavuma, hearing of the death of Mtesa, went and robbed the
country at the mouth of the bay. Fearing that they might go farther up, and
sight the boat, which was rather conspicuous, being white, with a black
point of forest in the background, he got his men to cut green branches, and
closed up the landing-place.
After ten days
he returned to the capital, and on the way met Mr. Ashe, who informed him
that in his absence he was accused by some of having gone off without seeing
the king, while the Arabs said he was robbing plantains, and fortifying
himself afloat. This rumour was widespread, and Mwanga had given orders to
have his movements checked.
from his log are now interesting:-
- We all three went to see the katikiro, by appointment, taking a present of
four good jorah. We thanked him for his good government of the country at
the past critical time.
- Ashe and I went to court, taking king present of three jorah of fine
cloth, and an umbrella. Found him in audience, but very haughty. He wore a
magnificent leopard skin. By his side was the magic horn (a white tusk of
ivory), in his hand was a small mirror, while a larger one was placed in
front of him. He soon left, but ordered us to remain to see him privately.
"At the second
reception we found him lying on the floor on some rich carpets which the
Arabs had given him. He tried to upbraid me for having gone to the lake
without leave. Next he tried to bully me into taking a messenger of his own
choosing with me to Msalala, to fetch our brethren. I had to positively
decline taking this man and prevailed, getting another, who is a Christian,
appointed in his place.
- Started for lake. Launched boat. Several of our Christian friends came
with me to see me off, and spent night at lake.
- Strange to say, as many as nine Christian lads on board with me. This is a
rare treat, and God grant us a prosperous journey.
till late on politics and religion. I was astonished at Sembera giving them
an hours exhortation on Christianity, especially on the idolatry of the
Romish Church, and the need for diligence in seeking after real truth.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.