Mmegi Blogs :: From Glasgow To Shokwane
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From Glasgow To Shokwane

Previously it was noted that from the age of 10, David Livingstone had been put to work from 6 am to 8 pm, six days a week at a cotton spinning mill. It was while working as a child labourer in the factory that he educated himself through self-study; positioning open books on his spinning jenny.
By Jeff Ramsay Mon 27 Feb 2017, 17:29 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: From Glasgow To Shokwane

His thrift as well as intellectual determination paid off in 1836 when, at the age of 23, he entered a classroom for the first time. Having saved money from his wages over the years, while mastering the arts and sciences, he enrolled at the then Anderson University, Glasgow, for medical studies.

In 1838, he suspended his studies for a year to work for the London Missionary Society (LMS), who thereafter sponsored him to become a medical missionary.

Thus, it was that he moved to London in 1840 to complete his training at the British and Foreign Medical School, Aldersgate Street Dispensary and Charing Cross and Moorefield’s Hospitals. While in London, Livingstone also became involved with the newly formed “Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and the Civilisation of Africa”, being among the large crowd who attended its inaugural meeting at Exeter Hall on June 1, 1840.

The event was highlighted by the first public speaking engagement of the Prince Consort Albert, who had married Queen Victoria (Mmamosadinyana) the previous February. Having agreed to serve as the Society’s President, the Prince Consort opened the meeting with the following remarks: “I have been induced to preside at the meeting of this Society, from a paramount conviction of its great importance to the great interests of humanity and justice.

I regret that the benevolent and persevering exertions of England to abolish that atrocious traffic in human being (at once the desolation of Africa and the blackest stain upon civilised Europe) have not as yet led to any satisfactory conclusion.”

The meeting is also remembered for Thomas Buxton’s passionate call for Africa’s transformation through the ‘civilising’ influence of commerce and Christianity, the origin of what become known as the “3 Cs”. More substantively, the Society resolved to support the establishment of missions that besides preaching the gospel would promote practical education, including medical and agricultural science, on the continent.

During the same period, Livingstone first contacted Robert Moffat, then on furlough in Britain, who spoke of a vast plain north of Kudumane where there were “a thousand villages where no missionary had ever

been.” For Livingstone, who had originally thought of working in China, this was a turning point. 


On December 8, 1840 he embarked for South Africa, having both passed his medical examinations and been ordained as an LMS missionary the previous week. He arrived at Cape Town on March 15, 1841, where he


spent a month before embarking for Port Elizabeth.

Thereafter, on May 20 he finally set out overland for Moffat’s mission at Kudumane, arriving on July 31, 1841. Once settled, Livingstone devoted himself to learning Setswana. In a letter to his parents, dated September 29, 1841, he reported: “I am busy learning the language which is not remarkably difficult.

The only impediment is the want of proper aids such as Dictionaries, Grammars etc. I hope, however, to soon conquer it, & then preach Christ & him crucified to the perished Bechuanas.” The good doctor further added: “I have a great deal of work helping the infirm, & many of them seem attached to me on account of the little attentions shown to themselves or children, of whom they are remarkably fond.

Mothers are mothers I see all over the world.” In keeping with Moffat’s vision of thousands of villages hungry for the gospel on October 17, 1841 Livingstone joined the Rev. Roger Edwards on an expedition to re-establish LMS contact with the merafe north of the Batlhaping, which had been relatively neglected during the Amandebele reign of terror.

During their six week reconnaissance, they visited the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana under Kgosi Mosielele, then living at Maboutsa, the rival Bakwena factions at Shokwane and Dithubaruba, under Dikgosi Sechele and Bubi respectively, the Bangwaketse of Kgosi Sebego at Setlagole and the Barolong boo Ratshidi of Kgosi Tawana, who had re-settled at Lotlhakane.

In his later book “Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa”, Livingstone described the expedition as a visit to the Bakwena country, where he first met Sechele, further stating that: “I attached myself to the tribe called Bakuena or Bakwains, the chief of which, named Sechele, was then living with his people at a place called Shokuane.

I was from the first struck by his intelligence, and by the marked manner in which we both felt drawn to each other.” Notwithstanding their 1841 encounter it was sometime later, in 1846, before Livingstone took up permanent residence at Sechele’s. 

Thereafter, for a relatively brief period the two forged a partnership that transformed both their personal destinies and that of the entire region. Livingstone’s private correspondence, however, further reveals that he was at first wary and at times dismissive of Sechele, who on the other hand appears to have been eager from an early stage to recruit the missionary for his own ends.

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