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Looking Back: My Grandfather – David Livingstone

March 1963

My Grandfather – David Livingstone


We asked Dr Hubert F. Wilson, grandson of the great missionary, and himself a former missionary of our Church and now an elder, to sum up his grandfather’s character.


When I was young I seemed to meet many who could only speak of David Livingstone in accents of worshipful admiration. One does not meet that in these days – and it is no wonder, for these good folk belonged to a generation that had actually overlapped the closing years of his life. Some had seen him; some had heard him speak.

Admittedly they had all the facts wrong often enough!

To them he was the Scot who had crossed Africa “with no other armament than a Bible” – whose two devoted followers, Susi and Chuma, had tramped a thousand miles to carry his body to the coast after his death at Chitambo.

But today we have a flood of new biographical works, and these give us a fresh picture of the man – a man singularly alert as an observer, singularly exact in his geographical work, and remarkably painstaking in his observations and calculations; a man, too, inspired by an ideal of dedicated service to Africa. This inspiration gave to his glance its piercing quality and to his voice that tone of authority which impressed even the truculent.

We read of his “unconquerable faith,” his sense of being called by the Almighty to uplift the African. That was the motive power of his life.

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