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The Scottish Churches' Work Abroad
Livingstone and After

SCOTLAND has been prodigal in the gift of many of her noblest sons to Africa, and by common consent David Livingstone is the greatest of them all. He is a monumental figure, and the unparalleled heroism of his life and death marks an epoch in missionary history. Too big to be claimed as the monopoly of any one sect or nation, he is justly reckoned as one of the assets of humanity.

He went to Africa in 1840 as a missionary under the London Missionary Society, being drawn thither by the powerful influence and appeals of Robert Moffat, whose daughter Mary became his wife. He spent eight years working among the Bechuanas in the country that lies west of the Transvaal and borders on the Kalahari Desert. It was while there that he was so severely mauled by a lion that he never after had the proper use of his left arm. It is one of the most amazing facts in the story of Livingstone that through all his subsequent labours and mighty wanderings he was a crippled man.


Livingstone had not been long in Africa before a vast project began to take shape in his mind, and grew to be the master passion of his life. This was the opening up of Central Africa to civilisation and the Gospel. Various influences combined to turn his thoughts in this direction, till at last it became an invincible conviction that here was the divinely appointed path for him. Besides the fact that he was naturally inclined to a forward policy, and that the "regions beyond "made an irresistible appeal to his adventurous spirit, he early saw, what Moffat also had come to realise, that some new and more accessible highway into the interior must be discovered and opened up. No Cape to Cairo Railway was then so much as dreamed of, and the lumbering ox wagon, consuming months in the journey from Cape Town, and now faced with the terrible Kalahari Desert, obviously could do no more. Accordingly we find Living-stone writing in 1850: "When we burst through the barrier on the north, it appeared very plain that no mission could be successful there, unless we could get a well-watered country having a passage to the sea on either the east or west coast. This project I am almost afraid to meet, but nothing else will do." Another determining influence was the attitude of the Transvaal Boers, who had resolved to close the road to the north both to the missionary and to the trader. This they could easily do, as the only route lay through Bechuanaland, which ran northward like a corridor between the Transvaal and the Kalahari Desert. To Livingstone’s eyes the salvation of the vast interior of Africa was in immediate peril.

Accordingly, in 1852 he set out on his first great journey. Striking north, he reached the upper Zambesi, where he made the friendship of Sekeletu, the paramount chief of the Makololo, who at that time held sway in Barotseland. By his help Livingstone organised an expedition which he led westward till, after six months of toil and travel, they emerged on the Atlantic coast at Loanda. It was by far the greatest feat of travel yet accomplished in Africa, but it proved that there was no practicable route for wagons to the west coast. Livingstone therefore declined the tempting offer of a passage home to England, and turned his face again to the interior. He had promised to restore his followers to their own country, and he was resolved to try to find a path to the east coast by following the course of the Zambesi. This he successfully accomplished, the journey across the continent occupying a year, and resulting, among other things, in the discovery of the famous Falls of the Zambesi.

The London Missionary Society felt that such eagle flights were rather outwith the scope of their proper work, and Livingstone severed his connection with the Society, but he never ceased to be a missionary, and he continued to pay to the Society the salary of his brother-in-law, John Moffat. He was now appointed British Consul on the Zambesi, and spent five years in the exploration of that great waterway. Following the course of the Shire, a tributary which flows down from the north, he came to the Shire Highlands, which he declared to be the healthiest and most promising region he had yet found in Central Africa. Passing through these hills, he discovered Lake Shirwa and Lake Nyasa, and was confirmed in his view that here was the finest field for commercial development and missionary enterprise. That this view was sound has been fully demonstrated by the prosperity of Nyasaland and the phenomenal success of the Scottish Missions there.

Recalled by the British Government owing to the hostility of Portugal, Livingstone determined to make one more supreme effort for Darkest Africa. He had found to his infinite sorrow that his tracks were everywhere followed by the Portuguese and Arab slave raiders, and that those regions which he had hoped to throw open to the Gospel were being harried and drenched in blood. He left England in August 1865, never to return. . For seven and a half years he wandered in loneliness, exploring, suffering, praying, till at last his mighty career came to an end at Chitambo’s village in the Ilala country, where his faithful followers, peering into his hut in the morning, found him dead on his knees. His heart they buried under a chipundu tree; his body, carried to the coast by their faithful hands, reposes in Westminster Abbey.

The impression made by the death of Livingstone upon the mind of the civilised world was profound, and it would be impossible to over-estimate his influence on the development of Africa. He had travelled 30,000 miles through the heart of the Dark Continent, and wherever he passed he left a trail of light. He sounded the death-knell of the slave trade, and opened the country for legitimate commerce. His death marked a new era in Christian missions. But his greatest gift to the world was just to have been himself. Born in a commercial age, he brought back to earth the spirit of old romance, and his name will shine for ever with the radiance of saint, of knight-errant, and of martyr.


Scotland’s memorial to Livingstone fitly took the form of a Mission to Central Africa. In this enterprise the Established and Free Churches joined hands, while the leader of the expedition, the now famous Dr. Laws, was a son of the United Presbyterian Church. Under such happy auspices was the Mission born, and with such enthusiasm was it pressed forward that within thirteen months from the day when Livingstone’s body was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, the expedition was ready to sail. The pioneers sailed up the Zambesi and Shire, carried their little steamer, the Ilala, in sections through the Shire Highlands, rebuilt it on the upper river, and sailed into Lake Nyasa at daybreak on the 12th October 1875. It was the first steamer to appear on any of the great inland seas of Africa. The glorious morning sun, just risen above the rim of the eastern hills, and flooding the surface of the Lake with its golden rays, seemed an emblem of the dawn of the Sun of Righteousness over these dark regions. As the prow of the little steamer cut into the virgin waters the engine was stopped, and the company of pioneers, standing together on the afterdeck, sang the 100th Psalm. The same evening a landing was made on the white sandy beach at Cape Maclear, a promontory at the south end of the Lake. After consultation, the Church of Scotland missionaries returned to the Shire Highlands, where they occupied a station which they named Blantyre, from the name of Living-stone’s birthplace on the Clyde. The Free Church party, whose Mission had already received at its inception the resounding name of Livingstonia, proceeded to establish themselves on the west side of the Lake.

Darkest Africa was in those days no poetic name, but a most gruesome reality. Besides the usual horrors of African heathenism—the witch-doctor, the poison ordeal, the burial of the living with the dead— Nyasaland suffered from the two scourges of tribal war and slave raiding. The Angoni, a fierce tribe of Zulu origin, after many wanderings had settled in the hills above the Lake, and were continually at war with the neighbouring tribes. Arab slave raiders from Zanzibar systematically scoured the country and, either by purchase or by violence, secured multitudes of slaves, whom they sent down to the coast. There were regular slave ferries on the Lake, where it was estimated that forty thousand slaves were annually shipped across. This nefarious traffic, more even than the Angoni raids, impoverished and devastated the land. There were the evils which had wrung from Livingstone’s lips, a few years before, the bitter cry, "Blood, blood, everywhere blood." Into this hell upon earth the Scottish missionaries came, and began the seemingly hopeless task of changing it into a garden of God. The results which have been achieved in half a century have far exceeded expectation, and form one of the most signal triumphs of the Gospel in modern times.

The history of Livingstonia is practically the history of Dr. Laws, who long survived all his early comrades and celebrated his jubilee in 1925. While gathering round him many colleagues of great ability and devotion, he remained the outstanding figure, and is entitled without dispute to rank as the true successor of Livingstone,. with a name only second to his.

For years the work was painfully slow. The natives at first could not even see a picture. "This is a cow," said Dr. Laws, pointing to the page of a child’s picture book. The announcement was received with shouts of derisive laughter. " But it is a cow. See its head, its legs, its tail." At last a precocious youth had the eyes of his understanding opened, and suddenly leaping body high, he exclaimed, "It is a cow. I see it." Such was the dawn of education in Nyasaland.

In 1881 the Mission was removed from Cape Maclear, at the south end of the Lake, to Bandawe, half-way up the western side. Here was the home of the Atonga, who, being the nearest neighbours of the Angoni, suffered most from their bloody raids. Sir H. H. Johnston, the British Commissioner, reported to the Foreign Office in 1894 that " but for the intervention of the Livingstonia missionaries, the Atonga would have been almost wiped out of existence by the raids of the Angoni." A similar testimony is given by the Atonga themselves. As an old chief feelingly expressed it, "We hoed our gardens in the strength of Dr. Laws."


About the year 1887 the toilers of the Mission, who had watched and prayed through a long, dreadful night, reached the darkest hour which precedes the dawn. No convert had yet been baptized, except one at Cape Maclear. The rainy season had reaped a terrible harvest of death, and the survivors were almost all weakened with fever. The Angoni peril became so acute that most of the Mission property was shipped to Cape Maclear, and the missionaries held themselves ready to escape at a moment’s notice. There came also a big revival of the slave trade. It was occasioned by the appearance, at the north end of the Lake, of Miozi, the most formidable of all the slave raiders, who declared his intention of clearing the white man out of the country. To crown these troubles, in the same dark year the Portuguese asserted a claim to the whole of Nyasaland, closed the Zambesi waterway, and sent an army of conquest up the Shire. The Mission was thus in the position of an army attacked in front and flank, and suddenly finding its line of communications cut.

The crisis passed, and in a marvelously short time a complete change became visible in Nyasaland. God’s hand turned the darkness into dawn. The solid phalanx of heathenism began to show signs of breaking up, the forces of the Gospel triumphed in Angoniland, and in 1890 there came a season of rich blessing there. Vast multitudes assembled, not now to plan a bloody raid, but to hear the message of peace. They who before were the terror of the country became the sweet singers of Central Africa. The very war-song they were wont to sing when they sent round the fiery cross among the tribesmen was now set to Gospel words which summon fathers and Sons to the banner of Christ.

In 1891 Dr. Laws left a well-established station at Bandawe, and proceeded north along the Lake to found a Training Institution, to which the name of Livingstonia is specially attached, though in popular speech the whole Mission goes by the same name. The site chosen was a lofty plateau behind Mount Wailer, a bold, altar-shaped promontory towering grandly above the Lake. It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find on the face of the earth a spot where so dramatic and beneficent a change has been wrought within living memory. Savage nature surges up to the very doors. Around it are forests and jungle where lions and leopards, elephants and rhinos, freely roam; some thousands of feet below glitters the blue Lake, whose shores are the haunt of the crocodile and hippopotamus. But on the plateau itself, how marvellous a transformation! A road has been built from the Lake shore which, twisting round corners, striding across ravines, clinging to the very face of the cliff, climbs up hand over hand to the top. An avenue of Mianje cedar runs along the summit, leaving space for a line of buildings between it and the cliff edge. Here are the school, the hospital, the teachers’ houses. Opposite are the post-office and the workshops, where engineering, carpentry, printing, etc., are taught. Elsewhere on the plateau are to be found a farmsteading and meal-mill, a saw-mill, a brickwork, and a pottery. Through the liberality of Lord Overton, a lifelong friend of Livingstonia, a water supply has been brought from the hills, and turbines have been erected at a neighbouring waterfall to generate electric light and power for all the buildings. To the natives it was a crowning evidence of the white man’s magic that he was able to make water run uphill and light his house by pressing a button. When one considers the marvellous progress which has already been made, it is easy to believe that this Institution may be destined to be the University of Central Africa, and a source of Christian enlightenment to successive generations of its tribes.


The Blantyre Mission, whose sphere is in South Nyasaland, had some unfortunate experiences in its early years, not only from sickness, but from mismanagement, and the presence of some undesirable individuals on the staff. These difficulties, after causing much anxiety, were happily overcome, and the Mission entered upon a notable career of expansion and success. Its chief glory is the church, a perfect gem of architecture, and one of the seven wonders of Africa. It was designed by the genius of Dr. Clement Scott, one of the missionaries, and built of sun-dried brick by natives under his supervision. The building is in reality quite small—too small, in fact, for the needs of the congregation, but so perfect are its proportions and so wonderful the effect of its turrets and cupolas that it gives the impression of a cathedral. No more striking instance can be found of what the African is capable of doing under the supervision of the white missionary.

Livingstone’s prediction of the suitability of the Shire Highlands for white settlement has been amply verified, for in every fold and hollow of the hills there are now plantations of cotton, tobacco, and rubber, and Blantyre has become the commercial centre of South Nyasaland. This has brought to the work of the Mission, as the contact of white and black always does bring, special difficulties. That these have been in great measure successfully handled may be gathered from the statement of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, who declared that in none of our African colonies were the relations of white and black more satisfactory, and that the chief agent in producing this happy condition of things was the Scottish Missions.

Around and behind the church are grouped all the buildings necessary to a first-class Mission—school, hospital, and workshops— all in excellent condition and humming with life. Carpentry and cabinet-making, printing and tailoring, are taught to the boys; dressmaking and needlework to the girls. All the linen of the planters for miles round is dressed at the laundry. The experimental garden is under the care of a Scots gardener, and it may be mentioned that the first coffee plants introduced into the country were brought from Edinburgh by a missionary. But it is superfluous to remark on the nationality of the gardener where every one is a Scot, and everywhere are evidences of Scottish thoroughness. Dr. Hetherwick, the head of the Mission, a pawky Aberdonian like Dr. Laws, dispenses a genial hospitality in his study, where he sits among his books with no ceiling over his head, but the rough-hewn rafters and the bare thatch. Even the planter who loves the Mission least has nothing but praise and affection for the Doctor. The name of Blantyre is a credential in Central Africa which will carry a boy far. Among the mines of Rhodesia, a thousand miles from the Lake, the name of Blantyre may be heard on the lips of those who cannot tell where Blantyre is, nor care to know. Only, to them, a Blantyre boy is a good boy, and in great demand.

The Scottish Missions have steadily pursued their great aim of taking possession of the land for Christ. The Blantyre Mission has opened stations at Zomba, Domasi, and elsewhere in South Nyasaland. The Livingstonia Mission has occupied Angoniland with great churches at Ekwendeni and Loudon, has pushed north to Karonga at the end of the Lake, and over the mountains to Mwenzo, half-way to Lake Tanganyika. Thence it has sent a long arm to the south-west till it has occupied Chitambo, where Livingstone died. The monument marking the spot where his heart was buried is under the care of the Mission, and the station at Chitambo has, with singular and dramatic fitness, been given in charge to Mr. Malcolm Moffat, a nephew of Mrs. Livingstone, and Dr. Hubert Wilson, a grandson of Livingstone himself.

From the first the two Missions, as was natural, have co-operated in the most brotherly spirit, and now that the native churches under their charge have grown to a considerable number, they have been formally united as the Presbyterian Church of Central Africa, with two Presbyteries of North and South Nyasaland.


In 1891 another Scottish Mission was begun in British East Africa. Sir William Mackinnon of the British East Africa Company and other friends interested in the development of that part of Africa subscribed a large sum of money for a Mission, and asked Dr. Stewart of Lovedale, who was then at home on furlough, to organise and establish it. This he did, spending over a year in the work. Proceeding to Mombasa, he assembled a caravan and led it 200 miles up country, toiling through the Taro Desert till they reached the higher ground north of Kilima Njaro, where the Mission was successfully planted. The Free Church of Scotland, to which the Mission was first offered, having found itself unable to accept, the Church of Scotland undertook the work, and has carried it on with great energy and success. It is familiarly known as the Kikuyu Mission, from the name of its principal station.

Immediately before the War the name of Kikuyu appeared in probably every newspaper in the world, and inspired many articles on Christian catholicity and sectarian narrowness. The catholicity was all on the side of the Kikuyu Mission. Dr. Henry Scott, moved with a sense of the desirability of presenting a united front to heathenism, proposed a Federation of Missionary Societies working in British East Africa. The evangelical Bishop of Uganda cordially approved of the scheme. "Dr. Scott died, but the work went on; and in a Conference of eight Missionary Societies, held at Kikuyu in June 1913, the scheme took definite shape. The Societies set before them as an ultimate goal One Church for the Christian people in the colony; and as a step towards this, the four leading Missions agreed to enter into immediate Federation. Common standards of training for the ministry, of education, of discipline were adopted; adherence to a common faith was declared; approximations in the forms of worship were approved; frank recognition of each - other’s ministry was accorded by the federating units ; inter-communion was arranged for; and with a united communion service in the church at Kikuyu the memorable conference culminated." All this might well be deemed most Christian and brotherly, but it moved the Bishop of Zanzibar to sound some stirring notes on the High Church trumpet, and no small storm arose. In the end, in deference to sectarian prejudice, the Federation was watered down to an Alliance, which, though falling short of the original ideal, has been of real service in strengthening and consolidating the common work of all the Missions.

Like Blantyre, the Kikuyu Mission is faced with the complications of the race problem, only in a more acute form. The field of its operations, better known as the Kenya Colony, lies in a delightful mountainous country half-way between Uganda and the Indian Ocean. In recent years it has attracted a crowd of white settlers, to whom ample grants of land have been given. Nairobi, the capital, is to-day perhaps the most go-ahead place of its size in all Africa. Thousands of Indians also have made their home in the colony, which was indeed at one time looked upon as a possible outlet for India’s surplus population. Needless to say, the aims and interests of the native, the European, and the Asiatic settler are very diverse and hard to reconcile. Only the wisest statesmanship steeped in the spirit of Christ will ever likely find a permanent solution, and no work can be more urgently necessary than to preach Christ in Whom alone the antagonisms of race find their healing. It may be said, therefore, that the Kikuyu Mission holds a strategic position of no small importance.


It would be impossible to set bounds to the influence of Livingstone. Carved on his tomb in Westminster is the text, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold," and the Bishop of Sierra Leone has testified that it was the reading of these words that sent him as a missionary to Africa. As is well known, Stanley was first led to Africa by his search for Livingstone, whose personality and Christian character changed and dominated his whole after-life. It was in response to Stanley’s appeal in 1875 that the Church Missionary Society undertook the Christianising of Uganda. In this great enterprise the leading part was borne by a fellow-countryman of Livingstone, one of the noblest of Scottish missionaries, Mackay of Uganda.

The son of a Free Church minister, he became a trained engineer, and offered himself for mission work in Livingstonia; but, some delay having occurred, he agreed to join the party of Church Missionary Society pioneers to Uganda. Speaking at the farewell meeting, he said : "There is one thing which my brethren have not said, and which I wish to say. I want to remind the Committee that within six months they will probably hear that one of us is dead." These words, spoken by a slim, blue-eyed boy, were startling, and there was a silence in the room that might be felt. Then he went on: "Yes, is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for Central Africa and all be alive six months after ? One of us at least—it may be I— will surely fall before that. But," he added, "what I want to say is this. When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send some one else immediately to take the vacant place."

In less than two years we find him writing mournfully: "There were eight of us sent out. Only two remain. Poor Africa! When will it be Christianised at this rate ? Mackay himself was the last survivor of the band, and was enabled to give fourteen years of unbroken service in Uganda ere he was laid in his grave. They were years of great strain and trial, endured with unflinching heroism. Uganda, "the Pearl of Africa," as Stanley called it, lay at the mercy of a savage king, who reigned in barbarous splendour beside the Victoria Nyanza, with his royal fleet sailing on the waters of that vast inland sea, and who spilt the blood of his people like water on the ground. At one period Mackay was alone for a year, "almost entirely broken down with fatigue and anxiety and want of sleep." In his loneliness, as he watched the atrocious deeds of the brutal slave raiders and still more brutal king, the iron entered his soul, and he wrote in the spirit of Livingstone: "This African problem must be solved, and in God’s name it shall be solved, for God means it to be solved. Brutality must cease in God’s universe, for the universe is God’s, not the devil’s. . . . The rights of poor men, who wish to live lives of peace, are more divine than the rights of royal robbers and murderers."

Stanley was the last white man to see him, as he had been the last to see Livingstone. Passing through the country on his return from the relief of Emin Pasha in the southern Soudan, he spent three weeks with Mackay, and wrote of him with admiration as "the best missionary since Livingstone." "He had no time to fret and groan and weep, and God knows, if ever man had reason to think of ‘graves and worms and oblivion,’ and to be doleful and lonely and sad, Mackay had, when, after murdering his bishop, and burning his pupils, and strangling his converts, and clubbing to death his dark friends, King Mwanga turned his eye of death on him. And yet the little man met it with calm blue eyes that never winked. To see one man of this kind, working day by day for twelve years bravely, and without a syllable of complaint or a moan amid the ‘wilderness,’ and to hear him lead his little flock to show forth God’s loving-kindness in the morning, and His faithfulness every night, is worth going a long journey for the moral courage and contentment that one derives from it. . . . Like Livingstone, he declined to return, though I strongly urged him to accompany us to the coast." So Stanley’s company passed on their homeward way, leaving "that lonely figure standing on the brow of the hill, waving farewell to us." There, on his lonely hilltop, we may leave him—

"Loftier than the world suspects,
Living and dying."

"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit." So the Master said, and His words have often been verified. But never more than in the sacrificial death of David Livingstone. That great heart buried in Darkest Africa has been like a seed dropped into fertile soil, not to die, but to spring up and to bear an abundant harvest. Many sheaves have already been gathered in, and the end is not yet.

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