Missionary Politics: The Universities Mission to Central Africa

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series History of Malawi

As a missionary – that which he maintained until his death that he was – David Livingstone was a dismal failure. His only convert was Sebituane, the scheming Chief of the Makololo who embraced Christianity in the hope of British protection against the marauding amaNdebele. As an explorer – which Livingstone swore he was only by default – he covered an immense amount of ground, and devoted himself more completely to Africa than any other in his field. However, like his Zambezi junket, and his later quixotic quest for the source of the Nile where it manifestly was not to be found, he brought home very little except the discovery of the last of the great central African lakes.

Although the nation state of Malawi, that grew out of the Nyasaland Protectorate, pays homage to Livingstone perhaps more than any other African state does, Livingstone was in fact quick to abandon his interest in the territory once the most cursory geographic examination had been completed. Responsibility for planting the seed of European interest, and in due course European government and exploitation, fell to the missionaries who followed in his footsteps. It was they, not Livingstone, who confronted the monumental task he had defined: of arresting the slave trade and slowing the catastrophic collapse of human society that had followed in its wake.

The function of the Zambezi Expedition was strictly exploration. Thus, with the discovery of the Lake itself, it was now Livingstone’s great work to lead a crumbling assembly of men – all three of them – on an exploration of the great inland sea that would in due course hear the surrounding landscape ‘…resound[ing] with the church-going bell.

Of course the mundane work of constructing that church, and of ringing that bell, would not be Livingstone’s.

In February 1861 Livingstone interrupted the general work of the Expedition to steam down the river in the dying steamer Ma Robert to meet the vanguard of the Universities Mission to Central Africa that had, after three years in the making, finally arrived to honour Livingstone’s call. That the focal point of the mission had shifted en route from Makalololand to the Shiré highlands did immediately impact the members of the mission. From the decks of the HMS Lyra and Sidon, central Africa was central Africa, the African the African, and the slave trade as deplorable here as it was anywhere. The party had sojourned briefly in Cape Town where it’s leader, Charles Frederick Mackenzie, upon learning the new location of his mission, had been consecrated in St. Georges Cathedral as Bishop to the Tribes Dwelling in the neighbourhood of Lake Nyasa and the Shiré River.

Livingstone, meanwhile, was as much interested in the arrival of a new steamer for the expedition as the presence of his six bewildered compatriots. The Pioneer was the official replacement of the Ma Robert which was on it’s last proverbial legs, and which had prematurely aged engineer George Rae. The Pioneer was a much better craft, no doubt, but  it was still encumbered by a draught too deep to guarantee smooth passage over the capricious waters of the Zambezi. Beggars could not be choosers, however, and as the Ma Robert was beached and left to rot, Livingstone and Engineer Rae happily transferred her compliment of tools and equipment to the Pioneer.

Only then did the Doctor pause to contemplate the merits of the men assigned to take up the task of Christianising the interior. As a man of humble origins, and a mere functionary of the church, Livingstone was no doubt gratified to be assigned a Bishop to work with, and initially he was content to attribute all the best qualities to Charles Mackenzie. Mackenzie himself would have been affected primarily by Livingstone’s reputation, and would have been no less willing during the early days of the mission to overlook some of the disturbing elements of the Expedition’s progress so far. If, on examination of the Zambezi mouth, he also noticed that it seemed much less than God’s highway into the interior, he said nothing to the Doctor, and probably kept his peace to his companions as well.

Mackenzie was not, in fact, entirely initiated, and had since 1854 been archdeacon to the radical Anglican Bishop of Natal, John William Colenso, who was notable for being one of the first to address the delicate question of whether the ancestors of Christianised Africans were condemned to eternal damnation. This led Colenso to question the literal translation of certain books of the bible, which in turn opened the question of biblical fallibility. This, as well as his liberal views on the treatment of blacks in Natal, ensured that the shadow from under which Mackenzie emerged to commence his independent career was as radical and non conformist as any that the age would permit.

Mackenzie was a tall, well built, well proportioned man of thirty six, with the sole physical flaw of an imperilled hairline . This he was apt to compensate for with an extravagant growth on the cheek.  He was possessed of a strength of character and certainty of commitment that rivalled even that of Livingstone’s. His unorthodox style of ministry was described often as swashbuckling, leading one to suppose that he was willing if pressed to fight the devil for the souls of the damned. He was committed to institutionalism which was where he differed from the independent and lonely spirit of Livingstone. Both men, however, shared a ‘profound innocence’. This could be deemed as the most basic qualification that a man might need to enter into an arena that in reality held no hope whatsoever. It was this that caused Livingstone to retain every ounce of his faith, which, until the day he died, drove him ever on in the face of failure; to try, and try, and try again.

The other men of the UMCA were varied and a great deal more prosaic. The Bishop’s deacon and unofficial mission chronicler was a certain Henry Rowley who, like the Dickensian Mr. Bumble, brought to the enterprise a flint hard certainty and all the usual pitilessness of Victorian charity. The Rev. H.C. Scudamore, on the other hand, was the Bob Cratchit of the party whose capacity for self sacrifice was limitless. He mastered the local language before any other, and it was he who loved and was most loved by the children. Although never specifically assigned, he was a pillar of the mission who, usually silently and selflessly, buttressed the efforts of others, filled in the gaps, and held the line when many others faltered. The two junior members where Lovell Proctor and Horace Waller who were both 27 years of age.

Proctor arrived wretchedly smitten by a seventeen-year old girl who he had engaged himself to during the course of the long sea passage out. In this, as in almost every other way, he took himself and his contribution to the enterpise altogether too seriously. Likewise Waller was given to passionate commitment, and also, rather uniquely among his peers and colleagues, an unassailable admiration for Doctor Livingstone. In later years Waller would involve himself very deeply in the affairs of Africa, and would write extensively on the subject, including both about and on behalf of David Livingstone.

Five black missionaries also arrived at the Zambezi that day. In the various histories written about the affair their role has never featured richly, but in many areas of support and liaison it can be taken for granted that their contribution was important. Four had been recruited in Cape Town where existed a substantial mission congregation of black Christians, often liberated from imminent or existing slavery. These were Charles Thomas who had been captured originally in northern Moçambique, and who was to some degree culturally aligned to the area of the Shiré Highlands (although he had been recruited on the understanding that he would be serving on the upper Zambezi, as had everyone else). Similarly William Ruby, Henry Job and Apollos le Paul all hailed originally from the area between the Zambezi, the Shiré and the Rovuma Rivers. Unaware of his exact origins, but probably of West African ancestry, Lorenzo Johnson was a Jamaican who had at one time suffered servitude in the United States, and by dint of an un-chronicled journey, was at that time of his recruitment resident in the Cape.

Waiting at the Cape for word that the mission was established and ready to receive them were Bishop Mackenzie’s sister and a certain Mrs. Burrup, whose job it would be to take in hand and provide for the moral direction and training of the woman and girls among the future converts. Waiting also was Mary Livingstone, now with a babe in arms, and ready to join her husband on the Zambezi.

Meanwhile, if Bishop Mackenzie thought that the party would embark immediately on the Pioneer for Chibisa’s Village, and the commencement of the central African Mission, then he was to be disappointed. Sensible to Livingstone’s activities on the Zambezi, and of his ambitions for the Shiré Highlands, the Portuguese had erected a crude customs house at Kongone on the mouth of the Zambezi. Manned by a black lance-corporal and three privates, who commenced their diplomacy with the British by asking Livingstone for food, the new facility was of symbolic rather than practical value, and could not then have effectively barred British access to the river. However, Livingstone had an extremely poor attitude towards the Portuguese. His most oft quoted expletive described them as ‘an utterly effete, worn-out, used-up syphilitic race.’ Prior to the aggressive partitioning of Africa that followed the Berlin Conference of  1885, no particular momentum existed in Europe to challenge Portuguese hegemony over the area, and Livingstone, although at the head of an official British expedition, possessed neither the means nor the support necessary to challenge Portuguese authority. He therefore felt it necessaryto find a neutral and alternative access to the Highlands and the Lake, and with the Rovuma River draining some 500 miles furthe rnorth up the coast to the north, he hoped that he might have found it.

Thus, while the bulk at the party settled in to wait in the relative comfort of the Comoro Island of Johanna, Livingstone and the Bishop sailed north to test the navigability of the Rovuma. A wide bay and clear entrance made for a promising entrance into the river itself, but 30 miles upstream it became too shallow to proceed, at which point the party turned back, left the Rovuma for another time, and steamed south again to collect the full complete of the UMCA staff and begin the mission.

By the time the Universities Mission finally got underway, all of it’s members, except of course for the Bishop, who had enjoyed the relative comfort of the Pioneer and the open waters, had survived three months of sweltering amid the mosquitoes and the mangroves at the Zambezi mouth. As they languished, snippets of tales of the Doctors tyranny and incompetence where whispered and digested. As the climatic conditions and hasty stowage progressively destroyed most of their stores, some sense of the truth of this began to dawn on the missionaries. On the return of the Pioneer Livingstone was flippant about the losses. It hardly mattered, he said, it would be a swift journey upstream, and these things could be replaced.

Upstream the realities of the Zambezi River passage confirmed that this was definitely not so. In the airy style reserved for his official accounts, Livingstone acknowledge but played down the difficulties. ‘Had our fine little ship drawn but three feet,’ he wrote, ‘she could have run up and down the river at any time of the year with the greatest ease, but as it was, having once passed up over a few shallow banks, it was impossible to take her down again until the river rose in December.’[1]

So it was. As the weeks turned to months, and as the Pioneer dragged her bottom over interminable reed beds and sand shoals, as mountains of wood were shovelled into her furnace to fight the current, it was Rowley who was unashamed to look around and declare the king naked. One particular seven mile stretch took three agonising weeks to negotiate. The Shiré River was manifestly not the God-given highway into the interior that Livingstone had stated it to be, three foot of draught or not. And while the surrounding landscape was undeniably lovely, it was also forbiddingly wild, sparsely populated, less fertile than had been supposed, and in many ways, grumbled the harassed deacon to his journal, not in the slightest what any of them had been led to expect.

Of course none of this was communicated directly to Livingstone himself, and besides which he was forming his own opinion of the missionaries, and none too charitable were his conclusions. The official UMCA history, published in 1897, remarks that Livingstone and the Bishop got on ‘famously’ together, and chaffed each other all day like two schoolboys. If this was so it was not similarly communicated in Livingstone’s account. The newcomers, who Livingstone called the ‘Parso Tribe’, were found to be a soft, malingering, comfort loving litter of malcontents who were inclined to eat more than their fair share of the confectionery. One was the ‘Pilfering Parson’ who was caught one night licking the jam pots when he thought the others were asleep.

Utterly without sympathy, as usual, for how others of his race suffered the African climate, Livingstone busied himself with preparations to disembark and lead the sorry band of evangelists out into the promised land. After the ghastly miscalculation of the Kebrabasa Rapids, and the relatively benign disappointment of the Rovuma River, he was now anxious to prove to them that his assessment of the Shiré highlands had been accurate. His optimism was more grounded on this occasion, based, not unjustifiably, on the pleasant tramp that he, John Kirk and his brother Charles had enjoyed through the region two years earlier. However, in those two years things had changed much, and not for the better.

The pace of the slave trade, evident previously, had now quickened considerably, and it became immediately apparent to Livingstone and everybody else that this was a nervous land beginning to test the strain of deep internal fissures. Villages that had once turned out to greet the Doctor and his companions, whose children had gathered and followed behind them for miles, whose shade trees were made available, mats spread out, pots of beer offered and food dispersed, were now fortified by thorn barricades, muted, suspicious, armed and unfriendly. Others were empty altogether, their occupants moved to higher ground, or concealed in forests and the gullies and crevices of rocky outcrops.

It was a depressing spectacle – depressing particularly for Livingstone, because, here once again, it seemed that the fates were in determined conspiracy against him. It was depressing too for the missionaries. They had journeyed across time and space to make this place their home, the receptacle of all their Christian hopes and ambitions. Furthermore, not one of them was above the brooding, inescapable suspicion that they had been lied to from the beginning, and what other lies and misinformation had Livingstone sown, that were there waiting around the next corner to be discovered?

Such thoughts led inevitably to discussions about their own safety. In such alien surroundings, undeniably beautiful in the jewelled clarity of a highland spring day, but fraught with fear and uncertainty, superficial resemblances to the Highlands of Scotland were of no particular comfort. Despite Livingstone’s assurances – assurances of which many had been disproved lately – that a powerful resolve and Christian like fortitude where all that were needed to overcome, Mackenzie followed the Doctor up and over the escarpment with his Bishopric crosier in one hand and a loaded shotgun clenched in the other. Like the Jews of old under Nehemiah; according to the lore of the mission itself: ‘Every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held a weapon.’

I myself had in my left hand a loaded gun, in my right the crosier they gave me in Cape Town, in front a can of oil, and behind a bag of seeds, which I carried the greater part of the day. I thought of the contrast between my weapon and my staff, the one like Jacob, the other like Abraham, who armed his trained servants to rescue Lot. I thought of the seed which we must sow in the hearts of the people, and of the oil of the spirit that must strengthen us in all we do.[2]

The symbolism of this has not been lost on generations of historians, and nor should it. The guns were of less concern to the natives who witnessed the passing of the column. Guns were known. It was the crosier that contained an unknown mystic. Livingstone was leading the vanguard of white hegemony into the region, and in the absence of any discernible secular authority, the sword and the cross were to be the parallel liberators, and there were none in the party, with the possible exception of Livingstone himself, who did not sniff at least a strain of irony the unfolding situation.

As the party mounted the highlands and settled into a steady pace through the lap of hill country between the massifs of Zomba and Mulanje, increasingly clear evidence of the gathering anarchy ahead met them. Palls of smoke rising from the hills and valleys were clearly to be seen in the crystalline atmosphere of winter. A steady movement of people escaping south gave the missionaries accurate intelligence of bands of Yao raiders ravaging the countryside to the north in search of slaves. The Yao were, and remain, a linguistic group originating closer to the coast, and in areas then under the influence of Arab, or Swahili Arab slave traders. They progressively, from the 1830s onwards, pushed into the region of the Shiré Highlands in pursuance of trade in general, and of the slave trade in particular. By the 1860s, as the UMCA, the vanguard of what might be deemed a sustained Anglo/Saxon interest in the region, had arrived, the Yao were somewhat established and beginning to be responsive to increased demands for slaves emanating from the coast.

On or about the 16th of July the party arrived at Mbame’s village where a stop was made for the sake of Livingstone who had for some days been  struggling with fever. As camp was laid out and a fire built, word began to seep in of a large party of slaves moving in the direction of the village. A little later, in this instance according to the journal of Horace Waller: ‘A sudden whisper amongst our men who were seated around their fires told us something was going on of more than common interest.’ Sure enough, a moment later, a train of captives began to arrive in the village chaperoned by guards of villainous appearance who marshalled their mute captives into squatting groups as they would livestock.

Waller quickly consulted Livingstone who was resting in a hut, and found that the Doctor had already been informed of what was afoot. Livingstone’s inclination, it appeared, was to interfere in some way, but he clearly also not insensible to the risks and responsibility of taking the law into his own hands in such a visible way. The Yao  slavers themselves, having become aware of the presence of a party of whites in the village, and among them the august person of Livingstone himself, were likewise uneasy and uncertain exactly how to proceed.

Meanwhile more and more captives filed into the village, tethered to one another by the use of slave sticks which were simple devices of two forked sticks lashed together at the base and secured to the neck of two captives by an iron rod driven through the extremity of each fork. The combination of the two sticks – larger than sticks of course, being more in keeping with bough of a tree, and weighing upwards of thirty pounds each –  separated each captive from his marching partner by a distance of usually about six feet.

Clearly this was a dangerous situation, although one that Livingstone at least was not confronting for the first time. Previously he had suffered a rebuke from his Makololo companions who had felt it untoward that he should have allowed a slave party to proceed without his interfering in some way to secure the release of the captives. In the present instance, however, circumstances were somewhat different. In the past, as an itinerant explorer, Livingstone had not the means to protect or support a large number of slaves once freed – people who would inevitably be recaptured or killed where he to have forced their release . However, on this occasion he was in the company of a mission dedicated to such things, and sufficiently well provision to undertake the protection of a large congregation of people.

To be considered also was the issue of an increased militancy on the part of the local Portuguese who were heavily implicated in the slave trade.themselves. While the metropolitan authorities in Portugal paid lip service to the conventions of abolition, on the ground, and in the as yet the undefined territory of Moçambique, the trade went ahead uninhibited. Likewise, the local Portuguese residency had absolutely no interest in the maintenance of law and order and could not in any accepted sense be said to have policed or occupied the hinterland. And yet it was a Portuguese administrator who controlled access to the Zambezi, and it was to the Portuguese that Livingstone owed leave to move up and down the river. To interfere overtly with the main commerce of these men, no matter how he might despise them, was to invite trouble and very possibly bring about an end to the entire endeavour.

For David Livingstone this was a defining moment. Each man present in the Christian camp looked to him for leadership. The core of his philosophy was peace. He had walked from one coast of Africa to the other without at any time being force to raise his hand or respond with violence towards a black man. And yet it almost seemed that in the wake his passage came not peace and enlightenment, but violence and the trade in human flesh. As Livingstone himself put it:

…..but this system of slave-hunters dogging us where previously they durst not venture, and, on pretence of being “our children,” setting one tribe against another, to furnish themselves with slaves, would so inevitably thwart all the efforts, for which we had the sanction of the Portuguese Government, that we resolved to run all risks, and put a stop, if possible, to the slave-trade, which had now followed on the footsteps of our discoveries.[3]

As Livingstone grappled with this conundrum the Yao slavers reached their own conclusion.  Clearly it would be in their best interests to avoid any confrontation with a man of Livingstone’s stature, so orders were given, the slaves chivvied up, and preparations made to continue on though the village and towards the Shiré Valley. As the long line of bound and forlorn humanity filed on through the settlement the only words that broke the silence were whispers of bitter outrage from the black men of the Cape who had at one time either been through this process themselves or were the children of those that had.

Then, stepping weakly out of his hut, the figure of David Livingstone appeared in the afternoon sunlight. Moving slowly but resolutely the Doctor approached the leader of the slavers in whose path he then placed himself. For a moment the two men stood and faced one another. Livingstone – shivering, unsteady on his feet, his face pale and his eyes sunken, and yet stern, unsmiling and unmovable – and the native in Arab dress, armed, strong in body, but struck by uncertainty, and in awe of such simple courage and piety.

This is the legend of David Livingstone manifest. Although the many accounts of the affair are probably exaggerated, it must still have been a moment of intense theatre. Certainly it was more than the slave catcher could bear. As Livingstone reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder the man’s resolve collapsed. He turned and fled. Hot on his heels followed his companions. In due course the missionary party found itself  possessed of a large body of freed captives.

The moment was fraught with both jubilation and symbolism. Livingstone’s assertion that evil would wilt in the face of piety and righteousness had been vindicated, and, as he had promised, without a harsh word being spoken or a shot being fired. The captives who had already lost hope, or at least any capacity for self determination, stood or squatted and waited. It took a moment for both sides to appreciate the importance of what had just happened. Slowly, however, the hand clapping rhythm of debt and appreciation began to gather momentum.

Then, as Livingstone always fondly remembered, the women lapsed into ‘loolilooing‘ while the missionaries began to cut and saw through thongs, chains and slave sticks. Horace Waller recalled:

At it we went, my poor old fishing knife well nigh getting it’s back broken cutting the thongs from women and children, saw too came to use – their first use in this country – and many a hard five minutes was there as the poor patient captive held his head on one side to be eased of his burden which had galled him many a day.[4]

Now, for better or for worse, the missionaries found themselves heir to the collateral of eighty-four freed captives in whose interest it was not to wander far from their liberators. In an act of superb symbolism, meanwhile, their wooden neck restraints were chopped up and burned as firewood to cook their first meal of freedom. As Livingstone was apt to observe, this saved the mission years of labour, for it customarily took that long to gain as many converts as the UMCA had gathered in an afternoon.

Most Englishmen, worthy of the name, and imperfectly understanding the state of things, would have done the same.[5]

The next morning the entire body of missionaries and congregation set off in the direction of Chiradzulu Mountain and Chibaba’s Village. Before too long news reached them of another slave party moving through the vicinity, and in this instance Livingstone despatched four of the Makololo to investigate. Shortly thereafter the four returned with eight more women and boys to add to the group. By evening it had become obvious that there was little point in moving forward with the growing congregation in tow, and it was agreed that the majority would remain behind with Proctor and Scudamore at the village of a headman by the name of Soche, while Livingston and the remainder of the party would continue on in search of a permanent home for the mission.

The following day Charles Livingstone led an impressionable Waller on ahead of the others to see what might be seen. The two entered a village where a large body of some 300 men where preparing some sort of celebration, whereupon they systematically ransacked the settlement in search of slaves. Charles Livingstone had developed a reputation for this type of behaviour, and in this, as in a number of other similar instances, he was lucky to have survived. Nonetheless he and Waller recovered six slaves and apprehended two Yao slave dealers. The two slavers escaped that night, however, and no doubt rapidly spread the word abroad that a large column was moving through the countryside on the business of freeing slaves. Having made no general statement thus far regarding their actual purpose, and assuming that even if they had there could be little basis upon which the local people could grasp it, there would likely have been developing much unhealthy speculation about what this armed and aggressive body of Europeans were up to. Meanwhile 98 souls were now attached to the growing mission, and although the freed captives were obviously quick to recognize that their circumstances had improved, it is debatable whether they felt that their destiny was any less in the hands of others than it had been before.

An interesting incident that occurred at Soche’s village perhaps sheds some light on this. Scudamore and Proctor happened to notice one morning that a number of the woman and children in their care had disappeared. Assuming that they had returned to their homes, or left of their own account, neither man thought much more about it. A little later, however, Mbame, in whose village the dramatic rescue had taken place, caught up with them and proffered a request for gifts. Both men had by then come to terms with the cupidity of the local headmen, and Mbame was given most of what he asked for, perhaps in belated recognition of his role in the action of a few days earlier. Upon this Mbame left Soche’s village and returned to his own. The following morning the missing women and children where escorted back. Although it did not occur immediately to the two white men, they had in effect purchased the return of their charges, who themselves recognized the validity of the transaction, and were probably comforted by it being confirmed that their status as slaves had not been altered.

Meanwhile, Livingstone led the advance party on through the highlands in the direction of Chibaba’s Village. The earlier insecurity that had been evident on the leading edge of the escarpment, and in the villages through which they had recently passed, was now beginning to manifest itself more acutely in the increasing movement of refugees. Evidence  was everywhere of some sort of mass dislocation taking place ahead of an as yet unseen front of chaos and pillage moving down from the north east. Whether they cared to admit it or not, the missionaries were beginning to loose their initial objective of men of peace pursuing enlightenment on behalf of the savage, and began more and more to take on the role of an armed invasion force acting as a counterbalance to the pervasive powers of anarchy.

On arriving at Chibaba’s village Livingstone was gratified to find it still intact, but saddened to discover that Chibaba himself had died. In his stead a rather ineffectual replacement had been made in the form of his brother Chigunda. Chigunda appeared to the missionaries to be a man of no particular distinction; corpulent and friendly, but uneasy in authority and aware of his relative weakness in the face of the growing threat. Advance word had reach him that Livingstone and the missionary party were moving towards his village, and  more importantly were in the process liberating a wide swathe of the countryside from the scourge of the Yao slave catchers. He was therefore quick recognize the political advantage of having the proposed mission near at hand, and immediately pressed Livingstone and Mackenzie to accept land and labour in exchange for their siting the mission nearby.

Chigunda’s was a marginal fiefdom owing allegiance to a more powerful principal by the name of Chinsunsé, whose seat was located at the large village of Mitande situated some 15 miles further to the north. Chinsunsé was older and a great deal more established in his authority than Chigunda. It therefore would have been politically more sensible for Livingstone to have suggested Mitande as a base for the mission, and certainly it was unwise for Chigunda not to have corrected Livingstone in this diplomatic error. However Livingstone was known for his political naivety, and Chigunda had very compelling reasons to position the whites close to him.

The main reason perhaps was that the region of Mitande had already succumbed somewhat to the influence of the Yao, and as a consequence Chinsunsé himself might have been deemed corrupted. It will have been noted already that the Mang’anja, as was very often the case with other groups in similar circumstances, where never entirely the innocent party in the slave trade, and alliances in the murky world of profit and procurement were never easy to discern. It was often times a choice between sell or be sold, attack or be attacked, and although venality was not absent, survival was more often the key.

A second consideration was that the Shiré valley, with it’s relative ease of communication, ought to have been an obvious choice as a site for the mission. However it appears that by then both Livingstone and Mackenzie were suffering some myopia brought about by the campaign they had been drawn into. Livingstone had also not entirely given up hope that the Rovuma River might, in a better season, prove itself to be a more ideal access to the Lake and Highlands than the Zambezi.

Thus, and apparently with a minimum of reflection, a site was chosen on a small promontory formed by a bend in a small stream known as Magomero. The mission took the same name. As Livingstone remembered it, the stream was ‘…so cold that the limbs were quite benumbed by washing in it in the July mornings.’ On the far side of the stream were situated the twelve irregularly clustered huts of Chigunda’s village. On the surface this was an ideal fortified position. The rationale, it appears, was that three sides of the promontory were protected by the river, and that the exposed quarter needed only to be braced by a palisade. In other respects it was less ideal. It was limited in space, and on three sides was only approachable downhill.  ‘Everything promised fairly,’ however, at least as far as Livingstone chose to view it. ‘The weather was delightful,’ he went on, ‘…resembling the pleasantest part of an English summer.’

While the Bishop, meanwhile, set about pacing out the regular lines of an Englishman’s abode, and Waller began the construction of a palisade, Livingstone led a large party in the direction of Zomba to conduct a reconnaissance of the locale, and to establish the position of the front line. In due course they began to enter into the vortex of the insecurity. As they progressed they found themselves mingling along narrow hillside footpaths with a large body of people fleeing some sort of a conflagration, the smoke and disturbance of which could be discerned from some distance away. Closer to the action they passed through deserted villages and across valleys and stream banks richly cultivated with corn, cassava and beans, but hurriedly abandoned as people loaded just what food and possessions they could carry on their heads before fleeing.

By early afternoon the group could see the smoke of burning villages and hear the screams and wailing of the dying and mourning. The Bishop halted the party and held a hurried service before, around a hillside, came a long line of captured villagers and a party of jubilant Yao warriors. This time when the leaders caught sight of Livingstone and his party, instead of instantly fleeing, they paused and considered the interlopers for a moment. Then abruptly the Yao scattered and took to the surrounding bush.  The missionaries naturally assumed that a repeat performance of earlier encounters was at hand, and prepared to move forward to release the captive.

Suddenly, however, the party found itself surrounded and badly exposed under a rain of poisoned arrows coming from the cover of the rocks and trees around them. A moment or two later the attackers were reinforced by more Yao fighters who, on hearing the sounds of battle, arrived from the decimated village and added their weight to the attack. Others retrieved their captives and ushered them back out of the line of fire.

The missionary party was thrown back on its wits. In what they were later quick to report was a strictly self defensive action, they returned fire, and with a better weapons and superior range, they were able to retreat up a hill and make good their escape at the cost of one native wounded by a poisoned arrow. Two captives managed to break free in the confusion and join the missionaries, but otherwise the remainder were retained by their captors.

The incident was a sobering one, particularly for Livingstone, who had been forced to break a long-standing philosophy of non violence in all of his dealings with local people. Both he and Bishop Mackenzie had been taken entirely by surprise, but immediately afterwards both had differing opinions on the next step. The Bishop seemed immediately to have adopted a combative and militant approach in advocating the forced expulsion of the Yao from the country side. This policy was endorsed by the others, although Livingstone counselled caution. He suggested that it would be wiser to wait and see what effect the most recent encounters had on the Yao, bearing in mind also that the Portuguese were deeply involved in the trade, and acted very much in the way of sponsorship of the Yao incursions. He also made the point that the Mang’anja had no particular reason at that early stage to trust the British, and nor any clear understanding of their objectives. While being made to understand that the Europeans would not interfere in their affairs, they could perhaps be counselled to unite in the face of attacks by Yao slaving parties.

Livingstone was later candid enough to admit that this was probably a forlorn strategy, bearing in mind the fact that the Mang’anja, in the light of current and ancient feuds, were never particularly aggrieved to observe misfortune befalling their neighbours. He also made the suggestion to Mackenzie that the Yao might, with some persuasion, be directed into some sort of productive activity that did not involve predatory attacks upon their neighbours.

As both the younger man, and the junior operative, Mackenzie was forced by protocol to consider what he believed was rather quixotic and unhelpful advice under the circumstances. Displayed a rather shrewd sense of what might follow, he asked Livingstone what course of action ought to be considered in the event that the Mang’anja leadership approach to missionaries for political or military assistance. Livingstone was again insistent that a policy of none-interference, as difficult as that might be, was the only viable policy under these trying circumstances. ‘You will be oppressed by their importunities,’ he warned, which of course had sufficient experience to be reasonably certain of, but, he warned, ‘…do not interfere in native quarrels.’

In the meanwhile the obvious ramifications of the action against the Yao, ramifications that seemed to have occurred neither to Livingstone or Mackenzie, occurred rather abruptly to their host, Chigunda. Having initially had no clear idea what the missionary objective was, Chigunda was increasingly dismayed as the bulk of the freed captives left behind at Soche’s village began to trickle into his own village. Altogether there were some 177 refugee souls now needing to be billeted, a population which outnumbered his own, which obviously threatened to overwhelm him. In the meanwhile, the missionary’s action against the Yao of a neighbouring village had stirred up a local political a hornet’s nest. This prompted Chinsunsé, the senior local headman, to summon the missionaries to his village. However, neither Livingstone or Mackenzie bothered to respond to or acknowledge this summons. Thus the elderly chief was forced to make the long journey on foot to confront the missionaries himself.

Chinsunsé’s complaint was simple. Ostensibly on behalf of the Mang’anja, the whites had attacked the Yao, who were the strongest local power, and the battle had been inconclusive. This meant that inevitably the Yao would take revenge on the local Mang’anja leadership, which, bearing mind that Chigunda enjoyed the direct protection of the missionaries, would be he. He therefore made the very valid point that the whites were duty bound to headquarter their forces at Mitande, which by dint of any convention of protocol, should have been the case in the first place.

Livingstone, with uncharacteristic acidity, responded that since Chinsunsé was already in bed with the Yao, his problems did not concern the mission. The mission members, it was now established, would never fight unless in self defence. They had arrived in the district with the object of teaching the Mang’anja to worship the Christian God. If Chinsunsé desired their protection, it would be on these terms, and furthermore he should find some other item of trade besides his own children.

Understandably Chinsunsé then spun on his heels in a rage and walked off, muttering that he was now ‘already dead’. Livingstone, again very uncharacteristically, confiscated all his visitor’s personal weapons – possibly a small bow and arrow – declaring in bitter humour that if this was so then the elderly chief would no longer be in need of them.

The hapless and ineffectual Chigunda, meanwhile, was mortified as he watched this summit play out in his own court. As Chinsunsé turned and walked back into the bush in a silent rage, Chigunda was bitterly aware that it had been his hasty and thoughtless actions that had been the catalyst of his leader’s humiliation. Now that Chinsunsé had formally requested that the mission be situated at his village, and had been rebuffed, it’s presence in Chigunda’s village was nothing less than an embarrassment.

It was at this uncertain juncture that the Livingstone brothers and Doctor John Kirk, having apparently safely delivered the missionaries to the site of the field of the their endeavours, turned back towards the Shiré Valley in order to continue with the exploration of the Lake. ‘The connection of the members of the Zambezi Expedition, with the acts of the Bishop’s Mission,’ Livingstone wrote of the moment, ‘…now ceased, for we returned to the ship and prepared for our journey to Lake Nyassa. We cheerfully, if necessary, will bear all responsibility up to this point; and if the Bishop afterwards made mistakes in certain collisions with the slavers, he had the votes of all his party with him, and those who best knew the peculiar circumstances, and the loving disposition of this good-hearted man, will blame him least. In this position, and in these circumstances, we left our friends at the Mission Station.’[6]

The three men, with the addition now of an English sailor who had come as part of the Pioneer complement, and with the help of a number natives, manhandled a small wooden gig that was equipped with a sail over the Murchison Cataracts and launched it ready to sail on the upper Shiré. It was not until early September that the small craft with the four men on board finally entered the lake and set sail northwards up the west shore.

Again Livingstone was confronted everywhere with evidence of rapid social collapse in the region. As the boat drifted up the Shiré, through Lake Malombe, and on towards Lake Nyasa itself, he began to take note of thousands of Mang’anja tribesmen recently settled on the river banks who had fled their homes further inland ahead of Yao slaving expeditions. Ironically there were also those among the refugees actively selling their brethren on to the Yao. When asked by a certain native spokesman, or prime minister, as Livingstone put it, to move against the Yao who were bearing down on the river bank settlement, Livingstone demurred. The village leaders and elders were selling their sons and daughters to the Yao. How could the members of the Zambezi Expedition be expected to protect them under such circumstances.

Wherever the slave trade is carried on,’ Livingstone observed: ‘…the people are dishonest and uncivil; that invariably leaves a blight and a curse in its path.’ Everywhere he beached his gig for the night people would approach and ask the group if they had come to buy slaves. For the first time in his experience in Africa Livingstone was robbed as the party slept. The slave trade had bought fear and opportunity to the country. It introduced a style of commerce, and a new currency, that was far richer than mere subsistence cultivation or husbandry. It had set in motion an internal feeding frenzy that appeared to have no better objective than it’s own prosecution.

This depressing spectacle continued accross the Lake. In fact the superior transport and communication potential of Lake itself offered to those with the facilities to use it a far better means of gathering and transporting slaves than the relatively primitive activities of the Yao on the Highlands. Later, and once upon the lake and getting it’s measure, Livingstone and his companions were exposed to the activities of some of these authentic entrepreneurs of the slave trade. Sometime in October, while sheltering from a storm, the party were visited by a group of Arabs (often these were less Arabs than Arabist blacks who spoke Swahili and were part of a hybrid culture that was African in appearance, but Islamic by inclination, and Muslim in terms of religion, dress and manners) who offered them various goods as well as slaves for sale. Slaves were captured or traded, along with ivory, which proved to be a complimentary commodity since it was possible with the newly captured slaves to transport it easily from the interior to the coast where both were sold. Both were transported across the lake in two dhows built for the purpose, one of which had set sail the day previously

Would that we could give a comprehensive account of the horrors of the slave-trade, with an approximation to the number of lives it yearly destroys! for we feel sure that were even half the truth told and recognized, the feelings of men would be so thoroughly roused, that this devilish traffic in human flesh would be put down at all risks; but neither we, nor any one else, have the statistics necessary for a work of this kind.

Punctuating each of his geographic observation as Livingstone and his companions navigated the shores of the lake, was the constant repetition of the horrors of the slave trade . The explorers were daily depressed by the sight of corpses undulating on lapping waves at the shore, skeletons littering the ground, and waves of refugees living in papyrus forests, on cliffs, anywhere else where some modicum of concealment or protection could be found.

In the meanwhile, Bishop Mackenzie had assumed command of the situation in and around Magomero in the absence of David Livingstone. Unsurprisingly he quickly found himself at odds with advice he had been given by Livingstone on the Doctor’s departure. He also found himself receiving gentle but persistent overtures from Chigunda regarding the return of the some of the land and privileges that had been rather imprudently given to the mission. Unable to influence Mackenzie – who chose to act as a ‘co-proprietor of the soil’ rather than as a guest or a subject Chigunda’s village – Chigunda then resolved to try and make the best of a very bad situation by approaching the problem more obliquely.

It ought to be remembered that, along with political difficulties, the missionaries had brought with them certain advantages. The main one being that Magomero, with it’s large population, was now being lavishly provided for by the missionaries. It very quickly became something a trade centre with higher prices paid in the hard currency of calico and other trade goods for food and other produce. The material power of the mission– still not necessarily defined as a mission, since it had been agreed that Christian instruction would be delayed until the language had been mastered and facilities put in place – now identified Chigunda’s Village as perhaps the most important settlement in that part of highlands. That Chigunda himself was in real terms second in command to the Bishop did not stop him hosting a series of visits from Chinsunsé. These were conducted with civility and restraint, and in terms somewhat improved from the initial contact with Livingstone. Chinsunsé’s message remained the same. The missionaries had made war on the Yao on behalf of the Mang’anja, and now the Yao were determined to punish the Mang’anja for bringing the whites against them. It was therefore the responsibility of the mission to neutralise Yao force in the area once and for all.

This again introduced the question that naturally vexed the constitutional balance of a European Christian’s mind. The mission had not entered the area with a view to usurping, or even replacing, the existing governing authority, and certainly there was no suggestion that Mackenzie wanted to set up any kind of administration of law and order in the secular sense. And yet for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It could be expected without any kind of exploitation or indoctrination that the Mang’anja would see the newcomers as anything less than an occupying force, and with that status came certain responsibility. If the natives of the region where to submit themselves to the ideological expectations of the missionaries, then the missionaries must submit themselves to, and comply with, the native understanding of power and protection. Those were the terms under which the mission had started, and presumably those where the terms under which it must exist.

That missionaries preceded colonial civil administration in almost every part of Africa was part of how the colonial process evolved. In Matabeleland, for example, missionaries had entered the country as the vanguard of greater European involvement, but they had done so very much under the terms of the incumbent monarch. There were few if any that had come into an area bearing arms, and acting immediately to assert their superior coercive capacity, before preparing the ground by airing their moral objectives.

Initially all the members of the mission, including the Bishop, resisted any suggestion that they be drawn deeper into the role of secular authority. However, after several visits from Chinsunsé, and a great deal of heartfelt discussion between themselves, it was agreed reluctantly that a council of all the local headmen and chief’s be held in which Bishop Mackenzie would act as ‘chief’ of the Europeans, and no doubt as a consequence, chair of the conference.

The meeting took place at Magomero and included Chinsunsé and his two most important sub-chiefs, Kankhomba and Barwe, and an assembly of 150 various minor chiefs and councillors who represented the de facto ruling council of the Shiré Highlands. For these men the situation was now both complicated and dangerous. They had suffered an acceleration of the Yao invasion against which they had neither the leadership capacity nor the force of arms to respond. Into their midst had come the whites who, with superior weaponry and a general attitude of superiority, had acted in a manner that had both implicated them in the crisis, and, for the Mang’anja, severely exacerbated the threat. Whilst having no clear sense of what the objectives of the whites in their land was, other than that, whatever it was, it was likely to be achieved at the expense of the Mang’anja, their immediate concern was to neutralise the threat of the Yao. Whatever threat thereafter followed in the wake of the white invasion could be dealt  with at a later point.

Mackenzie’s conundrum was no less complicated. The unanswerable logic of Livingstone’s advice that the missionaries steer clear of native political intrigues did not help him in the slightest. The missionaries had entered a war zone on their own account, and one way or another shots would be fired, be they in self defence or not. There certainly was precious little scope for effective missionary work in a state or terror, so the alternative to action was inaction, or retreat back to the Cape, which was a notion that none were prepared at that juncture to entertain. Furthermore, Chinsunsé’s argument that the whites had started the fight and needed to finish it was hard to disabuse.

In the end Mackenzie had no choice but to agree to fight. However, various conditions were attached to this acceptance: namely the freeing of all captives liberated from the Yao; that the Mang’anja themselves promise not to indulge in slave trading themselves; that it be widely understood amongst the general Mang’anja population that this had been stipulated; and lastly that no slave traders be entertained in their villages. Bearing in mind that the missionaries were seen as being very little removed from slave owners themselves, these conditions were accepted with some wry expressions of irony. An agreement to fight was therefore concluded.

Chigunda, meanwhile, had escaped from under the unspoken obloquy that had fallen upon him, and could perhaps even add that his decision to invite the missionaries into his village been thoroughly vindicated.

The missionaries then armed themselves and prepared for war at the head of an army of some 1000 Mang’anja men assembled by Chinsunsé. At a certain point Bishop Mackenzie allowed a note of jubilation to slip into the letters he wrote home. Perhaps this crusading role suited him a little bit.  He had ‘consented at last to lead an army’ against the slavers. This was heady stuff for a frontier clergyman. For a moment too he contemplated writing home for military assistance in a campaign that he clearly visualised ascending to a crusade. A far cry from any act of self defence!

A dawn attack was launched on an extensive Yao settlement of Chirumba situated in the foothills of the Zomba mountains. The Yao themselves were armed with some firearms, and were on the whole a superior fighting force to the Mang’anja, but were defeated by the element of surprise and the superior range and direction of fire from the missionaries and their retainers. Popular history suggests Mackenzie entered the village, or at least attempted to, at the head of a deputation to negotiate a peace, but was sniped at and insulted, and forced to retreated hurriedly to the cover of his guns.

The battle was hardly spectacular, but victory was conclusive, although it was hard once the settlement had been razed by jubilant Mang’anja, and burned to the ground after a general slaughter of Yao woman and children, and the release of many slaves, to see it in any light other than another slave raid.

Once again imprudent action had brought about unexpected consequences. Not able to blame themselves for the over-reaction, however, the missionaries were inclined to point the finger at the Mang’anja. Not one of the missionaries had refrained from shooting, and possibly there was not one among them who had not taken a life. The Bishop shot at least one man at point blank range. As cowards under threat, however, so were the Mang’anja tyrants in victory. The only winner seemed to be Chigunda,who could now bask in the glory of diplomatic success.

Meanwhile, with the slopes of Zomba now ablaze and people of every ethnic colour scattering in disarray, the missionaries and their Mang’anja raiders drifted back to Mitande. The Bishop walked at the head of eighty four women and children, carrying a boy badly burned who would die before dawn, but not before his baptism under the name of Charles Henry. Forty of the refugees were freed Mang’anja captives, but forty were homeless Yao caught up in the battle and now dependents of the mission. Others of the polyglot group were of mixed blood, Mang’anja and Yao, and yet others Nguru from Moçambique. It was a confusing result, by no means a success, and indeed by no means a  completely wholesome Christian endeavour.

David Livingstone was appalled when the news reached him, but then in due course he came to accept the inevitability of it. Charles Livingstone had no such qualms. Responding to a speech of caution by Edward Pusey, Anglican churchman and leader of the Oxford Movement, stating that no circumstances existed to justify a missionary taking a life, Charles Livingstone scoffed that if Mr. Pusey had been in Africa, and failed to see the light of necessity and circumstance, the literal light would in short order enter him through bullet and arrow holes.

Peace was restored, however, and some sanity did indeed return to the landscape. This, at least, the Bishop could take credit for. And for a short time there was bounty too, for with them the missionaries brought an extraordinary material capacity and a new vitality to local trade. They now had more than two hundred dependants to feed, and much in the way of trade good to pay for it. During the second half of 1861 Magomero grew into the single most important market place in the Shiré Highlands. Production was stimulated and Chigunda in due course found himself headman of the richest village in the district. Waller was one of the first to observe how fat the women of the congregation had become since they had accepted the protection of the mission.

Ironically, though, with such wealth circulating in a limited economy, it was inevitable that the villagers would being to speculate again in the slave trade since it was the only local market that rose some degree above the limitations of a pure cottage economy.  More and more of the production circulated in an economy stimulated by the presence of the missionaries was achieved through various styles of slave labour. Furthermore, since no forceful strain of Christianity had yet entered the equation, it was natural that the Mang’anja would see the mission purely in terms of it’s economic impact. Since the missionaries had built a fortified settlement, and acquired by force a large number of people who were employed by coercion, it was clear that everyone was in the same business.

The official history of the Universities Mission to Central Africa rather laconically points out in reference to the breach of the obvious protocol of non interference that ‘…interference once begun must be followed up.’ As Doctor John Kirk and the brothers Livingstone were adrift on Lake Nyasa, attending to the work of the Zambezi Expedition, affairs further south at Magomero continued in the only manner possible considering what had been started.

The distance in perception and reality between Canterbury Cathedral, where on the 1st of October 1859 the UMCA had been inaugurated, and a tiny native settlement on the mere fringe of accepted, Christian civilization, was far, far greater than the 5 000 miles that in fact lay between them. The cross had impacted the Shiré Highlands to precisely the same degree as the crescent, and both had marched in advance of their respective ideological standards their precepts of race, trade and humanity. It is therefore hardly to be marvelled at that the natives of the highlands were dazzled by neither the gifts nor the good news of Christ, but motivated by what they very reasonably assumed to be the motives of his emissaries.

The freed captives, the first congregation of the UMCA, and in the absence of any overt religious instruction, had in fact no reason to belief anything other than that they had simply become the property of a new and powerful overlord. As a consequence they began to sense that they were owed some tribute from other blacks as a consequence of being the ‘boys’ of the English. A certain amount of petty theft and extortion began to take place against those under Chigunda’s protection. The Bishop, to his credit, referred these matters to Chigunda as the secular power responsible for law, but upon finding the chief unwilling to act, prescribed floggings as a curative measure which did little to disabuse any exaggerated notions of his temporal authority.

On a different level, and due in the main to ignorance, the Bishop received the gifts offered to him by visiting chiefs or headman with a reciprocation that implied official entente. Later, however, these gifts were received with nothing offered in reply, which thereafter carried the perception of tribute. This held the obvious connotations that Bishop Mackenzie was a paramount of some sort, and the visiting dignitaries his subordinates. He was surprised, but perhaps not ungratified, when in due course he was treated with the usual prostration and flattery reserved for a powerful potentate.

In the days following the Chirumba raid, as the missionaries themselves were gauging the outfall of the action, and perhaps avoiding the questions that might have been raised by the likes of Livingstone and others, pleas and petition for further intercession and protection began to be heard. In a mood of self justification, Mackenzie was nonetheless cautious. However, on a tour of inspection of the countryside to the north of Magomero, in the vicinity of Lake Chilwa, he allowed himself to be satisfied that a general state of insecurity existed that would be improved by further military action. In the simple, black and white terms that the missionaries used to define this brewing tribal war, Mackenzie reached the conclusion that the Yao aggression was originating to the north east, and to secure that region, and furthermore to establish a second mission thereabouts, would protect the highlands from the invasion of a mobile and distinct enemy with clear objectives of territorial conquest.

The Bishop then led a second army of Mang’anja tribesmen into battle against a large Yao situated Chikala Hills between Zomba and Lake Chilwa. It was a depressing action that somehow failed to collide with the bulk of the Yao fighting forces. It an almost vengeful assault the UMCA/Mang’anja alliance instead succeeded in sacking and destroying a substantial settlement with a few deaths, but the seizure of over 400 women and children. Once again the missionaries were faced with the conundrum of what to do with such a large number of displaced people. The Mang’anja chiefs, however, were not so burdened. Ultimately the missionaries were forced to leave the captives behind to fend for themselves in the dispiriting knowledge that they would be allocated by the victorious to their allies and friends in payment for support. Only 48 returned to Magomero with the missionaries, and of these most were Yao, and most either old or destitute and of little practical value.

More depressing still, the missionaries had only then begun to realise that they were hosting more refugees at Magomero who were of Yao origin than Mang’anja. This then forced the Bishop and others to concede to one another that they had so far been acting in a general state of ignorance. As newcomers, and moreover newcomers who had been forced almost from the onset to take sides, they had allowed themselves to interpret the confusing melange of black politics according entirely to the needs of their own philosophy. In truth they had no clear idea at all who was who in the highlands, and what was in fact the real nature of the difficult demographic changes under way around them. Clearly they now could see that there was much more to the circumstances under which they had become inextricably intertwined than the simple dynamic of aggressor and victim. That the Mang’anja, it seemed, where as willing as the Yao to prey on those weaker than themselves revealed that the human trade that the missionaries deplored was universal. What separated the Mang’anja at that particular historical juncture from the Yao was not a simple matter of good against evil, but of effective or ineffective internal organisation, and the inability of one group to respond successfully to the aggression of another.

It was also a fact that by the time the missionaries came to realise that they had misinterpreted the focus of power in the Highlands, they had acted more effectively than any other force at work at that time to undermine it. The missionaries had dealt with certain individual chiefs in the vicinity of Magomero, and others that had presented themselves in homage, but they had no idea that a paramount leadership in fact did exist elsewhere in the form of a chief by the name of Mankhokwe.

Mankhokwe carried the paramount title of Lundu, which by then most of the local Mang’anja sub-chiefs and headmen were beginning to apply to Mackenzie himself. Such chiefs as had entered the missionary ‘court’, and others such as Chibisa, whose political objectives in sponsoring the mission had a separatist flavour, and were obvious in retrospect, were appointees, and did not within themselves represent the whole of secular authority in the land.

When, therefore, after an inordinate passage of time, the missionaries became aware that a number of those originally released from captivity at Mbame’s village were in fact Yao themselves, the clear lines of friend and foe became obscured. This was even more the case when they learned that the Yao were themselves refugees of a more aggressive land tussle underway to the east of Lake Nyasa. There they were losing their lands to the Angoni, refugees of the Zulu wars in Natal, and a people more aggressive and better organised still. Furthermore, the frustrating lack of internal unity that had tended to render the Mang’anja so vulnerable to orchestrated attack, existed to a similar, although to a less debilitating degree, among the Yao themselves. Internal squabbles and territorial divisions frequently spilled over into violence. This fact added yet more confusion to the missionaries attempt to interpret the perplexing spiral of conquest and counter conquest, attack and retaliation, location and dislocation, that was rapidly, and it seemed inexorably, beginning to engulf the Shiré Highlands.

Meanwhile, the single, universal and multi-ethnic by product of it all was the slave trade. Once it had become clear to the missionaries that a man or a woman in chains could be anybody, even an owner of slaves themselves, it had become too late to reverse the cycle that they had contributed to, and start again with a clean slate.

The worm, it seemed, began to turn along the familiar axis of the seasons. Much of the ascendancy of the UMCA in the Shiré Highlands could be explained by force of arms, but much of it also by the sudden influx of wealth that the mission introduced in the form of desirable trade goods, and a brisk demand for foodstuff and other domestic products. The missionaries arrived in Magomero in July, in the midst of the cold and dry winter, when the last of the season’s harvest had been brought in, and the granaries and store huts were full. Much was to be had in the land, and fair was the trade in calico, beads, knives, axes, pots mirrors, in fact all that might easily excite the cupidity of simple people awakening on many fronts from a torpid sleep of centuries.

So preoccupied were they with the spiritual importance of what they were doing, with war, politics and the mechanics of their own comfort and survival, that the missionaries did not attach much significance to the warming of the days, the drying of the veld and the hazy, smoke filled atmosphere of the late African season. Stocks that would have sustained a small population through the hungry months had been sold. Now there was nothing. Dislocation, the abandoning of fields and villages, and the movement of refugees, all contributed to the looming spectre of famine. As the late season stretched out in a miasma of heat, dust, smoke and hunger, the missionaries found themselves wanting, and living on the scrapings of charity, and eventually, the power of coercion that had lately won them many battles, and many friends.

The balance of power in the locality, meanwhile, was gradually shifting. The majority of Yao now living within the Magomero stockade had begun to balance out somewhat the earlier advantages that Chigunda had been able to wring from his hosting of the missionary camp. This predominance threatened to overwhelm the village, while more subtly the male dominated Anglo/Saxon perception of gender hierarchy had seen the missionaries allocating land and responsibility in manner that undermined the long established matrilineal relationship between women and men, and between women, men and the land.[7] Thus, with the early advantages of the missionaries living on his doorstep evaporating, Chigunda felt daily less inclined to tolerate any more of their bombastic posturing, and even less the overblown morality of an invisible dogma. Even if they were not yet prepared to openly acknowledge it, there must without doubt have been a creeping realisation among individuals of the mission that daily Magomero was becoming less tenable.

Meanwhile, in the midst of it all, Livingstone and the Lake Nyasa exploration party arrived back at the Pioneer still moored below the cataracts. The date was the 8th of November, and already heavy rains had begun to fall upriver, causing the Shiré to run high and heavy with silt. On the 13th Livingstone was astonished when a young white man appeared alongside the Pioneer in a native canoe with the kind of tale to tell of energy and zeal that seemed to bode well for the future. Henry De Wit Burrup was the first of the fresh recruits to arrive at the mission. Finding at the mouth of the Zambezi the prospect of a long delay before transport to Chibisa’s could be arranged, he took it upon himself to gain leave from the Portuguese to travel, acquired a handful of native canoes, and without guide or direction, set off up the Zambezi, and then the Shiré. Some weeks later a surprised Livingstone, reposing on the deck of the Pioneer, and although grumbling somewhat at the irresponsibility of such a journey, was deeply impressed.

A few days later, in a second canoe, and very much bringing up the rear, arrived his exhausted companions, a certain surgeon by the name of John Dickson and a tanner and shoemaker called Richard Clark. Coinciding with this Bishop Mackenzie made his way down the escarpment in the company of the Pioneer crew who had taken refuge from the bad humours of the Shiré Valley at altitude. According to Livingstone the Bishop was extremely upbeat, having apparently received petitions for peace from the Yao, and being in general very optimistic about the future of the mission. These comments from the Doctor probably masked a more acrimonious meeting during which Livingstone would have heard little of the ugly aspects of the Bishop’s recent campaigns, but nonetheless his response could have been relied upon to be critical and perhaps even a little unreasonable. In his account of the Expedition he commented thus:

The good Bishop was as intensely averse to using arms, before he met the slave-hunters, as any man in England. In the course he pursued he may have made a mistake, but it is a mistake which very few Englishmen on meeting bands of helpless captives, or members of his family in bonds, would have failed to commit likewise.

This was obviously written upon much reflection, however, and written for general consumption. Proof of some bad feeling during the meeting was evident when Livingstone responded to a request from the Bishop to transport a certain individual of the Mission down to Kongone that the Pioneer was not a passenger ship for the sole use of the UMCA.

However, certain practical considerations had to be discussed. Burrup and the others had arrived in advance of the women of the mission who, at this most inauspicious of times, were due to arrive at the mouth of the Zambezi. These included Bishop Mackenzie’s elderly sister Anne, her two paid companions Sarah and Jesse, and Henry Burrup’s young wife of a few months. Incidental to this was also the fact that Mary Livingstone was due on the same transport having being safely delivered of her child.

It was agreed that Livingstone would travel down to Kongone to collect the newcomers and transport them up the Shiré River to Chibisa’s village. Livingstone was not altogether happy with the arrangement, being concerned about the draught of the Pioneer and it’s ability to easily navigate the shallows and sand banks that littered the stream, but that was the arrangement, and upon that understanding Mackenzie and Livingstone parted company.

A few days later the Pioneer weighed anchor and began to sail downstream with current at a brisk and satisfying pace. However, twenty miles below Chibisa’s, progress was arrested by a sand shoal upon which the Pioneer lay stranded for five weeks. During that time the first white casualty of the Expedition occurred in the form of the death from fever of a vigorous carpenters mate. Livingstone wrote to Mackenzie in a state of some irritation, informing the Bishop that the draught of the Pioneer would not permit it to travel further upstream than the confluence of the Ruo River, some 50 miles downstream, which was where he had decided he would deposit the women on or about New Years Day. He added, rather unkindly, that this gave fair vindication to his constant advice to Mackenzie that the mission required a steamer of it’s own.[8]

Many historians judge this moment to be the turning point of the fortunes of both the UMCA and the Zambezi Expedition itself. Livingstone did not perhaps fully appreciate the gravity of the situation in Magomero, but he certainly never guessed that Mackenzie would forswear the obvious route of a foot journey to Chibisa’s village and then upon the river downstream by canoe. The Ruo River is part of the main system of waterways that drains off the southern and eastern slopes of Mount Mulanje, and which more or less marks the south-eastern parameter of the Shiré Highlands. The distance overland between Magomero and Chibisa’s village is a little over 60 miles, with a further 50 miles or so by river then to the Ruo confluence. From Magomero directly to the Ruo confluence overland the distance is little different as the crow flies, but by the indirect means of inter-village and overland foot trails it is much more.

Hoping to economise on time and rigor Mackenzie nominated Proctor and Scudamore to explore a route directly from Magomero to the Ruo confluence.

The two travelled armed, and in the company of a small group of carriers, following vague directions given to them by Livingstone, and otherwise relying on imperfect instincts and the vaguest understanding of the local geography. In fact, in geographic terms the journey ought to have been relatively simple. With massifs of Mulanje of the left, and the smaller feature of Mount Thyolo on the right, the river valley would have been straight ahead and accessible by following the downward flow of almost any watercourse encountered. However, with ill fate that seemed now to haunt the men of the mission, the two became lost. Whether their route was obscured by the layered hill country that surrounded them, and the mists and heavy cloud of the wet season, or simply by ignorance and inexperience, the two veered east and began to approach the southern slopes of Mount Mulanje. There they came upon close knit groups of Mang’anja who had, since the 1850s, taken refuge in the district from the onslaught of the slave trade. Appearing armed and laden with trade goods, the two missionaries could not easily deny that they were slave traders themselves.

Suspicion quickly turned to hostility. Fortunately forewarned by their carriers, the two men were able to make good their escape, but not without a brisk rearguard action that saw them separated from their goods and their companions, and alone in the bush. It was not until a week or more later that the pair finally returned to Magomero with not only a tale of failure, but one of perceived deceit and treachery on the part of certain Mang’anja leaders who, in the opinion of the Bishop, ought to have known better.

As unwise as it is to pass judgement on any man working under extraordinary pressure, the fact remains that Mackenzie’s decision to at that moment mount a punitive raid against the Mang’anja was questionable at the very best best. It was certainly irrelevant to the task of pacifying the countryside, and physically demanding at a time when all energies ought to have been directed towards survival. Most particularly it was an action directed at an ostensibly friendly power, under whose allies the mission, again somewhat theoretically, owed it’s existence.

But, however, this is what he did. Against notable resistance from his Mang’anja allies, Mackenzie chided and cajoled until an army was assembled, after which an apathetic action was mounted. The day witness very little in the way of clash of arms, but a considerable amount of burning and destruction of property  along with the recovery of some property. It was, however, very taxing on the energies of all the Europeans involved, among whom, on their return to Magomero on January 2nd, none but the Bishop and Burrup were fit enough to contemplate the overland journey to the Ruo confluence.

On the 3rd, weakened by exhaustion, malnutrition and diarrhoea, and after only one nights rest, both men set off early from Magomero for Chibisa’s in the reluctant company of a handful of Makololo, themselves battle weary and weakened by hunger. It had been raining intermittently since the end of November. The showers and afternoon thunderstorms of the early season, however, had by January settled in the steady downpours that could, and often did, last for weeks on end. It was an extremely dangerous moment for sick men with weakened defences to step out into the warm tropical rain and direct themselves towards the feverish lowlands in the height of the malaria season. Twenty or more years remained until the Scottish surgeon Sir Donald Ross would prove the link between mosquitoes and the transmission of malaria, but Livingstone was among the pioneers of the use of quinine as prophylactic, and the missionaries were well instructed, and fastidious in the use of the drug.

Carrying these medicines, but otherwise lightly provisioned, the group laboured along miles of muddy and slippery trails, over swollen streams and rivers, wet to the skin, feverish almost from the onset, and considerably weakened. After only five nights out, however, they slithered down the escapement and arrived at Chibisa’s village on the 8th, already more than a week late for their rendezvous with Livingstone. In a surviving account of the journey written by Bishop Mackenzie himself during the days that followed, the optimism that sustained these men of impenetrable moral armour burned brightly in the face of impending horror.

It rained heavily, and we had hard work to get the Makololo into motion; from that till this morning we had had almost incessant rain…we have seen the sun today, and it is a very beautiful place: a village perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the stream, which is now swollen much, and commanding a view of the valley of the Shiré, or at least at its lowest level, extending four or five miles to the eastern hills. The valley itself, in a freer sense, stretches many a mile behind us to the west – fine fertile land, studded with shrubs and trees, and apparently fit for any cultivation. I suppose. However, it is not as healthy as the higher lands.[9]

Wasting no time Mackenzie arranged with Chibisa for the hire of two native canoe and the party set off late in the afternoon, striking out into the middle of the stream in order that a stiff breeze might help to keep the clouds of mosquitoes haunting the river banks at bay. The rain fell unabated but a swift current carried them south. By evening the two canoes were entering the featureless expanse of the elephant marshes, an area of lakes, false channels and uniform wetlands of some 25 square miles or more. It would be treacherous in the dark, but better, it seems, that the prospect of camping on shore amid the mud and the mosquitoes.

Twice the perils of continuing in the darkness brought them to a halt. When they looked around and considered the options they were twice  forced on again by the mosquitoes that immediately engulfed them. Almost predictably, at a little past ten o’clock, the lead canoe glanced off a bank and began to take in water. With the volume of rain falling it was impossible to empty, and it soon sank. Up to their waists in water, under teeming rain, and in the dark of a moonless night, Burrup and Mackenzie struggled to right the craft and clamber in, but in doing so they lost most of what they had been carrying, and most vitally the box carrying their medicines.

Arriving at their destination the following day, wet, hungry, haggard and diminished, the two were appalled to discover that they had missed Livingstone and Pioneer by four days, although, thanks to his long furlough stranded on a sand bank, not on his way upriver with the women, but on his way downriver to collect them. Not only had the haste, so costly on their well being, been for nothing, but now they faced the prospect of an indefinite wait as Livingstone sailed to Kongone and returned with the women.

‘In the meantime,’ the Bishop wrote, ‘we have been led to a very nice village.’ He went on:

A benign, oldish Chief, Chikanza, with a large population, occupying, I should think, about a hundred huts, willing that we should remain here…I have my hopes that our being here in this way may be intended to prepare the village for being one of the stations to be worked by our mission steamer (the University boat), for which I hope to write by this mail.[10]

By the end of the month Livingstone was steaming into the mouth of the Zambezi to rendezvous with the HMS Gorgon towing the brig Hetty Ellen that carried the newcomers to the mission as well as Mary Livingstone and a handful of interested observers, among the the Rev. Dr. James Stewart. Most importantly, on board the brig, stowed in several pieces, was Livingstone’s own purchase of a new steamer for the express purpose of patrolling the Lake against the shore trade and the Arab slaving vessels. He had done this from the proceeds of Missionary Travels, and in response to the general disintegration of the Expedition, and a sense he was building that official interest in, and sanction of the Expedition was fatally waning.

The arrival of his wife, however, enlivened Livingstone’s spirits, while the presence of a small flotilla of navy vessels at the Zambezi mouth, and the influx of fresh humanity, energy and interest – especially in the form of the four women of the UMCA – injected some buoyancy and humour into the Zambezi Expedition that had been absent almost from the onset.

On the 10th of February the Pioneer set off back upriver, hopelessly overloaded with passengers, supplies and the sections of the Lady Nyasa that Livingstone hoped to transport piecemeal over the cataracts and on to the Lake. On board to assist in any way possible were Captain Wilson of the HMS Gorgon and a number of his officers and men. These combined with the ladies of the mission, and to Livingstone’s mind a mountain of superfluous baggage, the craft listed at times so badly that one of her two paddles spun completely out of the water.

Where as once this sort of thing would have irritated Livingstone, and inspired him to commit tomes of criticism to his journal, this time the various letters and journals records that emerged were filled with anecdotal reflections and humour that were refreshingly free of the usual bitter invective. This, however, did not mean that the slow journey upstream was free of the usual catalogue of delays and frustrations that had become almost a hallmark of the Expedition. ‘Our progress up was distressingly slow.’ Livingstone wrote, as  he often did. ‘The river was in flood, and we had a three-knot current against us in many places. These delays kept us six months in the delta, instead of, as we anticipated, only six days; for, finding it impossible to carry the sections up to the Ruo without great loss of time, it was thought best to land them at Shupanga, and, putting the hull of the “Lady Nyassa” together there, to tow her up to the foot of the Murchison Cataracts.’

Certain individuals on board who had little inclination to wait six months as Livingstone dithered began to agitate. It was understood that the Bishop was waiting at the Ruo confluence for the arrival of the women, and could not be expected to linger there indefinitely. Livingstone assured an agitated Anne Mackenzie that he had passed the confluence soon after new years and seen no sign of the Bishop. He felt it likely that Mackenzie had heard about the Pioneer’s mishap and predicted a delay. Captain Wilson was unconvinced, and in response to Miss Mackenzie’s anxiety, and to his own utter frustration with what he saw as Livingstone’s vacillations, blunders and delays, suggested that he convey Miss Mackenzie and Mrs. Burrup ahead in one of his ship’s gigs, accompanied also by Doctor Kirk, and both ship’s surgeon Doctor Ramsey and ship’s paymaster Mr. Sewell, who would ride alongside in the whale boat of the of the Lady Nyasa.

Livingstone went to some length to try and dissuade him, warning, as all were already discovering, that conditions on the inland waterways of central Africa were ever unpredictable, and in the midst of the wet season, were bound to be bad. Wilson, however, was determined. He was heard to mutter that once free of the utter incompetence of the Pioneer crew he and the ladies would be at the Ruo within four days. It was February 17th 1862 as Anne Mackenzie stepped gingerly onto an oar boat at the hand of Captain Wilson and arranged her multifarious baggage around her. A little later the little flotilla surged purposefully upriver with it’s cargo of Victorian ladies as Livingstone turned back to the labours of the moment with a shake of his head.

For once Livingstone was right. In the deluge of the central African wet season both Zambezi  and Shiré rivers were in flood, and as a consequence maintaining progress under oar was a slow and excruciating labour. The experience for the oarsmen was bad enough, but for two gentlewomen of metropolitan sensibilities it was unexpected and cruelly abrupt. As the two boats laboured north alongside the Morumbala Mountain, maudlin under low and shifting cloud, or bobbed directionless through the mystic channels of the Elephant marsh, the two women alternately wallowed in rainwater almost up to the gunwales, or broiled under a tropical sun that that, when the heavy clouds parted, radiated with terrible ferocity out of the crisp and rain washed blue. Worse by far, however, were the ubiquitous clouds of mosquitoes. Night and day they rose like a plague from the damp fringes of reed, fever tree and baobab. They drifted out on the breeze, and at times, if the channel narrowed, or the breeze was right, they were inescapable. At times they were bad, at times unbearable. As the two craft began to drift through intermittent human settlements on the riverbank, malaria was cued with the inevitability of a penny novel plot.

The quaint, loose tongued and faintly hypochondriac Miss Mackenzie was the first to succumb, but the delicate Mrs. Burrup was quick to follow. After eleven days on the river, with both women prostrate on the boards, and Anne Mackenzie manifestly dying, the two boats arrived at the Ruo confluence to find no sign whatsoever of the Bishop or Henry Burrup. Enquiries in the vicinity revealed that the men had indeed been present, but of their current fate nothing was revealed.

To try and avoid the mosquitoes the party anchored overnight in the middle of the stream and there bickered over what next to do. The two doctors advised an immediate return to Tete in the interests of the two sick women. With typically Victorian determination to ignore both his own or anybody else’s physical limitations, Wilson insisted that the group continue on upriver to Chibisa’s, upon which a further agonising six days passed before the deathly party arrived. There, under atmospheres of cloud and rain, and the overt hostility of natives uneager for any new or unheralded arrivals, they were greeted with the curt information that the Bishop was dead, and that Burrup, almost dead himself, had recently been carried by the Makololo back into the hill country, and presumably to the relative health of Magomero.

Within a few days of their arrival at the mouth of the Ruo Bishop Mackenzie began to show signs of fever, and within a week had ceased to worry about the health of his companion, Henry Burrup, who indeed was extremely ill himself. In a dank hut on the fringe of a large native settlement the two were left to their own devices. They had no food, no medicines, and no means of alerting Livingstone, or anyone else, about their predicament. As the rain fell and the mosquitoes feasted Mackenzie’s mind dwelt on Livingstone’s unkind letter, and he composed in faltering script a pleading missive to the Oxford and Cambridge boat clubs to finance a steamer for the mission that Christianity and commerce might prevail against evil – even though that evil seemed so manifest in that horrifying season, in the infestations, the loneliness, the delirium, the hunger and the awful stink of death. ‘Burrup is very low, and we have no medicine.’ Thus Mackenzie wrote, as his own health, and his once unassailable state of mind, began to falter. ‘Quinine, which we ought to be taking every day, there is none. But He who brought us here can take care of us without human means.[11] Thereafter both men occupied themselves learning biblical texts,

The texts in Greek which we have learned day by day lately have been Romans ii. 29, iii. 29 –23, vi. 23;  vii. 24,25; viii 38,39; x 13 –15…Goodbye for the present.

Thus were the last words written by Charles Frederick Mackenzie, first Bishop to the Tribes Dwelling in the neighbourhood of Lake Nyasa and the Shiré River. On the 31st of January Burrup was ordered by the chief to remove the Bishop from his hut lest his spirit render it later uninhabitable. Burrup dragged his unconscious companion across the river and to a low island of reeds in the middle of the Shiré. There in another unbearably dank and infested hut Mackenzie lingered for an hour or two before he died. Burrup again manhandled the body to the far bank and buried it among the reeds and the elephant grass, reciting what he could remember of the last communion.

Thereafter Burrup saw no point in remaining to similarly die in isolation. He struggled up the east bank of the river for three days before he reached Chibisa’s village, and from there he was loaded into a litter and carried by the Makololo back to Magomero. In company of friends he too died within a few hours of his return.

The Makololo who had portaged the dying Burrup approached Proctor, nominated by Mackenzie to succeed him should he die, to request leave to remove their wives and families and return to Chibisa’s village. It was clear from this that the mission was doomed. By the middle of March, as Captain Wilson was approaching Kongone on his return from the Shiré, and handing the near dead women over to the naval blue jackets who carried them on board ship, the survivors of Magomero had abandoned the mission and were making their way down the escarpment towards Chibisa’s village which would be their temporary home as the powers that be pondered their fate.

Livingstone pondered the same fate. To him, as grievous as a death of any type was, more grievous still would the impact of the Bishop’s death on an already ailing expedition. For Livingstone personally the worst was yet to come. On the 21st of April Mary Livingstone fell ill. Within a few days her condition had worsened, and persistent vomiting made the administration of quinine impossible. The Portuguese at Shupanga, the used up and syphilitic race, made available a spacious whitewashed house for her, and she was carried off the Pioneer and laid on a makeshift bed of packing crates. By the 27th she had slipped into a coma, and at seven o’clock that evening she died.

Having throughout his marriage regarded and treated his wife as unimportant in the order of his passions, her death affected Livingstone deeply. ‘And the man who had faced so many deaths, and braved so many dangers, was now utterly broken down and weeping like a child.’[12] So it was. His chief aide and frequent detractor, Doctor John Kirk, who had persevered with the ill fated Expedition for four years, held vigil beside Livingstone as he grieved, and then noticed as the wound of loss scabbed, never to completely heal, that Livingstone was softer in outlook and an easier man to like altogether.

It changed nothing, however. The missionaries built a new settlement outside Chibisa’s village and waited for a new Bishop to arrive to inject new impetus into the emission. Livingstone continued to haul the plates and engines of the Lady Nyasa up the Shiré River with a view to building a road over the cataracts and conquering the great lake of his discovery. As he did his soul was laboured by sights daily more terrible, and each indicative more powerfully than ever of how his pioneering merely opened the road to the interior for the slave trade and worse. His pen was at last deflected from the irritations and petty conspiracies of the expedition. It seemed that in his personal grief, and in the hopeless cycle of continuation that had slowly come to replace his passion, he saw, and simply recorded what he saw, as a tableau, and perhaps the work of a future generation.

The Shiré having risen, we steamed off on the 10th of January, 1863, with the “Lady Nyassa” in tow. It was not long before we came upon the ravages of the notorious Mariano [Mariano: local Portuguese slave trader]. The survivors of a small hamlet, at the foot of Morambala (sic), were in a state of starvation, having lost their food by one of his marauding parties. The women were in the fields collecting insects, roots, wild fruits, and whatever could be eaten, in order to drag on their lives, if possible, till the next crop should be ripe. Two canoes passed us, that had been robbed by Mariano’s band of everything they had in them; the owners were gathering palm-nuts for their subsistence. They wore palm-leaf aprons, as the robbers had stripped them of their clothing and ornaments. Dead bodies floated past us daily, and in the mornings the paddles had to be cleared of corpses, caught by the floats during the night. For scores of miles the entire population of the valley was swept away by this scourge Mariano, who is again, as he was before, the great Portuguese slave-agent. It made the heart ache to see the widespread desolation; the river-banks, once so populous, all silent; the villages burned down, and an oppressive stillness reigning where formerly crowds of eager sellers appeared with the various products of their industry. Here and there might be seen on the bank a small dreary deserted shed, where had sat, day after day, a starving fisherman, until the rising waters drove the fish from their wonted haunts, and left him to die. Tingané [Tingané: powerful Mang’anja paramount] had been defeated; his people had been killed, kidnapped, and forced to flee from their villages. There were a few wretched survivors in a village above the Ruo; but the majority of the population was dead. The sight and smell of dead bodies was everywhere. Many skeletons lay beside the path, where in their weakness they had fallen and expired. Ghastly living forms of boys and girls, with dull dead eyes, were crouching beside some of the huts. A few more miserable days of their terrible hunger, and they would be with the dead.

Towards the end of April 1863 Charles Livingstone and Doctor John Kirk finally asked Livingstone for leave to withdraw from the expedition, leaving just the stalwart George Rae to keep the Pioneer moving amid the floating corpses and crocodiles for once too fat to menace the ship. One day they heard that a boat had arrived at Chibisa’s village with the new Bishop. Bishop William George Tozier was a thickset, heavily bearded man who arrived with good news neither for his ailing and dying missionaries, nor for Livingstone. For the mission Tozier announced that it would retire back to a temporary billet on the slopes of Mount Morambala before, in due course, it would leave the mainland altogether and take refuge on the island of Zanzibar.

For Livingstone the Bishop brought a letter from Whitehall that in cold and unsympathetic terms paid tribute to his efforts and achievements, and the courage and determination of the members of the expedition, but crucially articulated what everybody had known for some time. ‘Her Majesty’s Government cannot however conceal from themselves that the results to which they had looked from the expedition under your superintendence have not been realised.’

With that it was all over. Livingstone drifted south down the Shiré River, and in due course sailed his steamer across the Indian Ocean to Bombay, where it was sold in order that the Doctor could by private means return to the cold and anonymity of England. This time no heroe’s welcome, but the warm charity of a few friends, and the time and space to reflect on a harrowing four years, and to write in both sympathy and charity his euphemistic record of events: A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone’s Expedition to the Zambesi and its tributaries and of the Discovery of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864.

In the end it is debatable whether anything achieved in the interior at that time was necessary work. As the next protagonist in our story asserted time and gain, let Africa be for the Africans, and yet even he could not envisage it without some European superintendentship to set the clock ticking towards an African future. As Christian philosopher William Paley once wrote:

Few ever will be found to attempt alterations, but men of more spirit than prudence, of more sincerity than caution, of warm eager and impetuous temper.

The goodwill in the hearts of these men is undeniable, and what good or ill was achieved, what must be added, and never forgotten, is that they were all men of immense personal courage.


[1]Ibid.

[2] A.E.M. Anderson Morshead. A History of the Universities Mission to Central Africa : 1859 – 1896, 1897, page 21.

[3] David Livingstone, A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone’s Expedition to the Zambesi and its tributaries
And of the Discovery of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864
, Project Gutenberg.

[4] Landeg White, Magomero, 1987, page 17.

[5] A.E.M. Anderson Morshead. A History of the Universities Mission to Central Africa : 1859 – 1896, 1897, page 23.

[6] David Livingstone, A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone’s Expedition to the Zambesi and its tributaries
And of the Discovery of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864
, Project Gutenberg.

[7] Landeg White, Magomero: Portrait of an African Village, 1987, page 50.

[8] Landeg White, Magomero: Portrait of an African Village, 1987, page 51.

[9] A.E.M. Anderson Morshead. A History of the Universities Mission to Central Africa : 1859 – 1896, 1897, page 32.

[10] A.E.M. Anderson Morshead. A History of the Universities Mission to Central Africa : 1859 – 1896, 1897, page 34.

[11] A.E.M. Anderson Morshead. A History of the Universities Mission to Central Africa : 1859 – 1896, 1897, page 34.

[12] William Garden Blaikie, The Personal Life of David Livingstone, 1913, page 252.

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