James Bruce of Kinnaird
James Bruce of Kinnaird came from an old Scottish family in Stirlingshire. He was 6 feet 4 inches in height, handsome and well-built, with dark red hair and considerable charm of manner. Charming as he was, Bruce had a quick temper. In his own words he was "of a sanguine, passionate disposition, very sensible of injury."
Bruce married when he was 24. Nine months later his young wife tragically died of tuberculosis. In order to take his mind off his loss Bruce decided to travel abroad. On a visit to Spain he became very interested in the Moors - the Arabic-speaking people who had conquered Spain during the 700's , ruled over most of it until the late 1200's and were finally expelled in 1492 - and began his studies of Arabic.
Shortly after, Bruce was appointed British consul general to the Moorish city of Algiers. To prepare himself for this new job he perfected his Arabic, and because part of his official mission was to learn all he could about Africa, he began to study the little-known Ethiopian tongues of Amharic and Ge'ez. After two years in Algiers he spent the next seven years traveling in North Africa and the Near East, looking, learning, and equipping himself for an enterprise which, in the words of his first biographer, "had taken deeper possession of Mr. Bruce's mind than any other project." His goal was to reach Ethiopia and find the springs which were said to he the source of the Nile.
Instead of traveling, like most well-to-do Europeans of the day, in luxury and aloofness, Bruce lived and dressed as an Arab. In North Africa he learned to ride in the Arab style and proved to be a brilliant horseman. During an attack of malaria while he was staying at Aleppo in Syria he came under the care of a doctor, Patrick Russel, who had made a study of tropical diseases. Bruce picked up so much medical knowledge From Russel that he could pass himself off as a physician. When he started off for Ethiopia the Sherif of Mecca gave him the closest thing in those days to a passport, saying Bruce was a Christian physician accustomed to wander over the world in search of herbs and trees beneficial to the health of man."
In 1768, Bruce, now 38, was in Cairo ready to embark on his quest. With Luigi Balugani, a young Italian he had hired as secretary and artist to make sketches and maps, Bruce set off up the Nile by boat. The party- got as far as Aswan only to find that tribal wars to the south made it too dangerous to go on. Bruce, however, was determined. Turning eastward, he left the Nile and crossed the desert and the Red Sea to the port of Juddah on the coast of Arabia. From there he sailed south to Massaua, a port on Ethiopia's coast. Massaua was then under the control of the Turks who detained Bruce for two months.
On November 10, 1768, Bruce set out from Massaua for Gondar, the Ethiopian capital. He was accompanied by Balugani, some guards he had hired and armed, three servants, and a guide. The most important item in his baggage was a quadrant - an instrument for measuring the altitude of the sun or stars and used in determining position - so that when he found the source of the Nile he could work out its latitude. The quadrant was so heavv that two teams of four men were needed to carry it over the mountains that rise so quickly from the coast to the high plateau of Ethiopia. Traveling over the plateau the party passed through immense flocks of antelopes that scarcely moved aside to let them by. The Ethiopians were herdsmen and Bruce wrote that cattle were "here in great plenty, cows and bulls, of exquisite beauty, for the most part completely white."
The usual diet of the Ethiopians consisted of honey and bread made from dhurra) a kind of millet. When they ate meat, it was taken raw from living animals. Bruce first experienced this when his party overtook three soldiers herding a cow along with them. When they reached a river bank the soldiers tied the cow and proceeded to cut two large portions of flesh from her flanks. After this they folded the skin back over the wound and fastened it with small skewers, untied the cow and drove her on.
After three months the expedition reached Gondar, where small pox had broken out. Because of his reputation as a physician, Bruce was summoned to the palace of the Iteghe, the queen mother, and commanded to treat her grandchildren. Following Russel's procedures he had all the doors and windows opened, the rooms fumigated with incense and myrrh, and the walls washed with vinegar. The children recovered, and the Iteghe's gratitude and protection opened the way to Bruce's success. A close friendship grew up between him and the ladies of the court. Bruce spoke their language fluently, charmed them with his manners, and took care to dress to please them. "My hair was cut round, curled, and perfumed in the Ambaric fashion, and 1 was thenceforward, in all outward appearance, a perfect Abyssinian."
But Bruce's way to the source of the Nile was blocked by political strife. Ethiopia was in a state of civil war caused by a rising against the 15-year-old king of the country, Takla Haymanot. The real ruler of Ethiopia, however, was not Takla but his adviser, Ras Michael, who was away campaigning against the rebels when Bruce arrived. Upon his return Ras Michael paraded through the capital at the head of 30,000 men. Every soldier who had killed an enemy decorated his lance or musket with a strip of red rag. One soldier "had been so fortunate in combat that his whole lance and javelin, horse and person, were covered over with shreds of scarlet cloth." Held high in the procession was the "stuffed skin" of a rebel chief who had been flayed alive. One of Ras Michael's first acts on his return was to have the eyes of 44 captive chiefs torn out and "the unfortunate sufferers turned out into the fields, to be devoured at night by the hyenas." Bruce rescued three of the chiefs and nursed them back to health.
Ras Michael, apart from his brutality, was an intelligent man. He was about 70 years old with "an air perfectly- free from constraint," and he saw in Bruce a possible ally in the civil war and court intrigue. He appointed theScot master of the king's horse, groom of the bedchamber, and titular governor of the province of Geesh where the fabled spring that Bruce hoped to find was located.
It was while Bruce was in the employ of the Ethiopian court that he got his first view of the Blue Nile. The river's source is the Little Abbai River, a stream that rises about 70 miles south of Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and some 2,750 miles from the Nile Delta. The stream enters Lake Tana, emerges from the lake's southeast corner, and then - as the Blue Nile - flows in a great curve, first to the southeast and then northwest to enter the Ludan. Bruce first saw the Blue Nile where it thunders over the Tisisat Falls 20 miles below Lake Tana, but he was campaigning with the king's army. As they were returning to court he had to turn back with them.
Bruce was determined to attempt to reach the source of the river. Eventually, in October, 1770, he received royal permission to under take his search, and he left Gondar with a small party of men and his precious astronomical instruments. Just as they approached the stream, his party climbed a steep, rugged mountain populated by great numbers of baboons. Although these long-toothed powerful animals can be dangerous, Bruce was not deterred. From the mountain's 9,500 foot summit he looked down on "the Nile itself now only a brook that had scarcely water to turn a mill."
Below the mountain, at the tiny town of Geesh, lay a shallow ford and beyond that a deserted Ethiopian church where the small party paused in the shade of a grove of cedars. Before them lay the swamp from which the river drained. The guide now turned difficult and bargained for Bruce's scarlet silk sash in return for revealing the spring which was the ultimate source of the Blue Nile. Throwing off his shoes, Bruce raced toward the little island in the marsh the guide had pointed to, and there he found his prize. The spring, which was sacred to the local people, appeared to Bruce as in the form of an altar. . . . I stood in rapture over the principal fountain which rises in the middle." Bruce indulged himself in a moment of triumph "standing in that spot which had baffled the genius, industry, and enquiry of both ancients and moderns for the course of near three thousand years. Kings had attempted this discovery at the head of armies But Bruce had at last triumphed and reached his goal.
For all his exuberance, Bruce was mistaken on two counts. This spring was not the true source of the Nile, nor was he the first European to reach it, of the two branches that unite to form Africa's greatest river, the White Nile is the longer, and the place where it issues from Lake Victoria is now generally accepted as "the source of the Nile." The Blue Nile is, in this sense, a tributary, although a mighty one, supplying six-sevenths of the water that flows through Upper Egypt as well as the fertile silt upon which Egypt's civilization' was founded.
The first European to set eyes on the spring at Geesh had been a Spanish Jesuit, Pedro Paez, in 1618. About 10 years later another Jesuit, Jeronimo Lobo, had passed through the district and visited the Tisisat Falls. But Bruce was the first to verify the source and to fix the spring's position, and the first to follow the river from Sennar, where the Sennar Dam now blocks its path, down to its confluence with the White Nile where Khartoum now stands.
Bruce's mood of euphoria quickly gave way to one of gloom' Having achieved his object, he wanted to go home, but this was not allowed by the Ethiopian court. As master of the king's horse he found himself caught up in campaigns against the rebels, and for his part in one of them was rewarded with a massive gold chain. But the intrigues, bloodshed, torture, and executions sickened him' "Blood continued to be spilt as water, day after day," he wrote, ''Priests and laymen, young and old, noble and vile, daily found their end by the knife or the cord. Bodies were left to rot where they lay - and by night the capital was filled with scavenging hyenas." Bruce fell sick with malaria. His Italian draughtsman, Balugani, died of dysentery. "Nothing occupied my thoughts but how to escape from this bloody country by way of Sennar."
Eventually, because of Bruce's ill-health, the king reluctantly allowed him to depart. More than a year after his return from the spring at Geesh Bruce rode out of Gondar accompanied only by three Greeks, one of them almost blind, an elderly Turk, and a few grooms. He headed for Sennar in the Sudan both to follow the Nile and to avoid the Turks at Massaua. He was to take just over a year on the journey, which began on December 26, 1771, and ended at Cairo, a total of 2,000 miles, on January 10, 1773.
At this period the authority of the Ottoman Turks who controlled Egypt extended no farther up the Nile than Aswan, at the first cataract. South of this lay an immense and sparsely-populated region where independent kingdoms waxed and waned according to the strength and fortunes of their rulers. These desert kings were of Arab blood mixed with the native Negro or Hamitic. They were Moslems who spoke and wrote Arabic, and kept to some Arab customs and traditions. Their subjects were either nomadic herders - long-horned cattle or peasants barely able to survive because of the taxes imposed upon them by their landlords.
Despite the remoteness of these kingdoms, cut off by cruel deserts and even more cruel bandits from the rest of the world, they had not lost all touch with civilization. To such markets as Shandi and Barbar on the Nile came silks from the Indies, swords from Syria, rugs from Iran, glass from Venice, brass and beads from India, and spices from many other parts of the world. From them went spirited desert-bred horses, ivory, leopard skins, ostrich feathers, gold-dust, and a great number of slaves. There was a regular slave trade with Egypt, and with Arabia via the port of Suakin on the Red Sea.
After a four-month journey part of it taken up with a two-month bout of malaria Bruce reached Sennar. The courts of the sheiks kept up a barbaric sort of splendor. One traveler recorded in 1409 that the ladies of Sennar wore robes of silk or fine calico with sleeves falling to the ground, "their hair is twisted and set with rings of silver, copper, brass, and ivory, or glass of different colours. These rings are fastened to their locks in form of crowns; their arms, legs, ears, and even nostrils are covered with these rings."
Bruce was less flattering to the King of Sennar's favorite wife. She was, he wrote, "about six feet high, and corpulent beyond all proportion. A ring of gold passed through under her lip, and weighed it down, till, like a flap, it covered her chin, and left her teeth bare." Her ears reached to her shoulders, tugged down by more rings, and "she had on her ankles two manacles of gold, larger than any I had ever seen upon the feet of felons." It was not surprising that all the royal ladies needed treatment for some ailment.
In Sennar the king's authority was enforced by a small but highly trained corps of cavalry, the Black Horse, who fought, like medieval knights, in chain mail. Bruce was deeply impressed by the Black Horse of Sennar, known and dreaded throughout a kingdom stretching from the Ethiopian foothills to Kordofan, west of the White Nile. Bruce admired the 400 famous horses, "all above sixteen hands high, of the breed of the old Saracen horses, all fimely made." The soldiers slept beside their horses, and each man hung up on its stall his suit of chain mail, his copper helmet, a broad-sword in a red leather scabbard, and a pair of thick leather gloves.
Despite the splendor of the horses, the beauty of the country, and he hospitality of the people, Bruce soon grew tired of Sennar which, in the rainy season, became unbearably hot and unhealthy. Once again the king refused to let him go. Bruce ran out of goods and money, and was forced to sell all but six links of his massive gold chain to buy food to keep himself and his men alive. But after four months, he managed to escape with the three Greeks, the old Turk, an unreliable guide, and five camels. Ahead lay 800 miles of unknown country, mostly desert, separating Sennar from the borders of Egypt at Aswan.
After passing the junction of the two Niles and then Shandi and Barbar, Bruce and his party reached the point where the Nile turns west to make an 800- mile loop before it turns north again. Rather than follow the great curve, they struck out on the direct but dangerous route north across the desert toward Aswan, a distance of about 350 miles. On November 11, 1772, they filled their water- skins and Bruce had his last bathe in the Nile, "and thus took leave of my old acquaintance, very doubtful if we should ever meet again."
His doubts were nearly justified. The men's shoes wore out and they trudged on through burning sand and over jagged rock, barefooted, and in pain. There was no food for the camels. Then, to add fear to physical discomfort, the struggling group came on the remains of a large caravan that had left Sennar a few days before them and had been wiped out by robbers. "In this whole desert," wrote Bruce, "there is neither worm, nor fly, nor anything that has the breath of life."
Whirlwinds and the dreaded simoom, the burning dust-laden wind of the desert, almost suffocated them. Bruce's feet were so badly blistered and swollen that he could scarcely walk. As a last desperate resort Bruce and his companions killed the camels and drained' their stomachs to replenish their water supplies. They set off on foot, leaving Bruce's instruments and the records of his four years of travel.
When all hope seemed lost, Bruce saw two hawks in the sky- signs that water was not tar away. The party staggered on, and in the evening heard the distant sound of a cataract. "Christians, Moors, and Turks all burst into floods of tears, kissing and embracing one another, and thanking God for his mercy in this deliverance." Next morning, November 29, 1772, they limped into Aswan.
Despite his desperate condition, Bruce's first thought was for his papers. He begged camels from the governor, retraced his steps, and found his baggage untouched. From Aswan he went by boat to Cairo, sick and with feet so swollen that he could not stand.
Now Bruce was ready to reap his reward. He set out for home. Before going to England, however, he went to France to receive treatment for a leg infected by the parasitic Guinea worm he had picked up in Sennar. Several months elapsed before he arrived back in London, expecting recognition and praise for his great achieve ment. At first, people listened to his story. George III received him and accepted a present of some of Balugani's drawings. Then the mood changed.
In 1774, London society was dominated by polished, skeptical wits. This bluff, noisy Scot, full of what seemed to be tall stories, was an irresistible target. London society just did not believe Bruce's tales of meat cut from living cows and served raw and bleeding, and of fat princesses with golden rings in their noses. Moreover Bruce fell foul of Samuel Johnson, one of the great figures of London who greatly influenced popular opinion. Johnson's first published work had been a translation of Jeronimo Lobo's account of his Ethiopian travels, and he had written a novel, Passe/as, Prince of Abyssinia, set in an imaginary Ethiopia very different from the reality described by Bruce. Johnson, who disliked Scots anyway, made it known that he did not believe that Bruce had ever been to Ethiopia at all. This was a sentence of death to the explorer's reputation. None of the honors Bruce had hoped for came his way.
Hurt, angry, and hurniliated, Bruce retreated to his estate in Scotland, remarried, raised a farnily, and enjoyed the social and sporting life of a Scottish laird. Only after his wife died in 1785 did he begin to work on the notes and journals he had brought home at so high a cost and then locked away in disgust at his treatment. And it was not until 1790 that his Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile appeared. The public did not question the author's truthfulness, but delighted in his racy style, and admired his courage and tenacity. He did not, however, live long to enjoy his popular success. On April 27, 1794, Bruce, the gentleman-adventurer, died at the age of 64 as a result of an accident the day
Patrick Geddes was born on October 2, 1854 at Ballater in West Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Geddes moved with his parents to Perth in 1857, where they inhabited Mount Tabor Cottage.
At the age of seventeen, Geddes enrolled at the University of Edinburgh. but left after one week to attend the London School of Mines and study under the tutelage of the great natural scientist, T.H. Huxley. A couple of years later, Geddes traveled to Paris to study. In 1879 Geddes first encountered the social theories of Frederic Le Play. The works of Le Play greatly influenced Geddes as he became aware of the effect of environmental and geographical factors on the existing social structures.
The French influenced Geddes in many other ways. He learned about the geographical concept of regionalism, a concept which would lie at the core of his urban studies. Geddes was impressed by Comte's evolutionary development of science which placed the social sciences above mathematics and logic, physics and chemistry, and biology.
Geddes' busy mind developed three-dimensional "thinking machines," which synthesized knowledge from geography, economics, and anthropology. These thinking machines attempted to show the inter-relatedness of different arenas of the social sciences. Geddes was also interested in civics, which studied the relation of individuals and the environment. He believed in the earth as a cooperative planet where people should be taught how to properly treat their environment. Specifically, Geddes' web of life aimed to educate children, improve the physical quality of people by using new biological knowledge to produce better medicine, and understand the human influence on ecology. These ideas led to his notion of Eutopia, a Utopia which was realizable here and now.
After an episode of severe illness in November, 1879, when Geddes became temporarily blind, Geddes returned to Scotland and his fundamental love of botany. He became a demonstrator of botany and a lecturer on zoology. In May, 1885, Geddes fell in love with Anna Morton and married her eleven months later. His new bride seemed to rejuvenate and give him a renewed sense of direction.
The University College at Dundee offered Geddes a chair as Professor of Botany in 1888. A year later, Geddes co-wrote The Evolution of Sex with his friend, Arthur Thompson. His book is still of great interest because of the section which discusses the origin of being male or female.
After writing The Evolution of Sex, Geddes next turned to the establishment of a museum which would be located in his famous Outlook Tower. Being a strong believer in the need to synthesize knowledge, Geddes put his energy into the development of the Outlook Tower. He wanted to provide "a new understanding of the world...with the widest possible perspective". Geddes inscribed the motto vivendo discimus above the entrance to the Outlook Tower to signify his belief in a living museum where knowledge would be applied, not just stored. His regional museum was to provide an environment in which to advance solutions to societal problems.
Geddes held summer meeting at the Edinburgh school, utilizing the Outlook Tower to preach his three S's; sympathy for people and the environment, synthesis of all factors relating to a case, and synergy—the combined cooperative action of everyone involved. As Meller wrote, "Geddes felt that he had formed a new philosophy of education which incorporated the many methods he had learned from Le Play, Comte, Huxley, and others during his endeavors into biology civics, and geography.
The evolutionary approach to social science which Geddes had championed was evident in the arrangement of the Outlook Tower.
A tour of the museum began at the top where a camera obscura allowed for a survey of the region surrounding Edinburgh. From the top of the tower, a visitor would descend from one floor to the next, observing the wealth of synthesized knowledge concerning Edinburgh (5th floor), Scotland (4th floor), Great Britain (3rd floor), Europe (2nd floor), and the world (1st floor). The descent progressed from an understanding of one's immediate region to its impact on a global scale, emphasizing the connection between humans and the environment. In his urban studies, Geddes sought to understand this connection and its effects on culture, the evolution of cities, and the perceived cyclical nature of urban growth.
As the museum grew and Geddes continually became involved in other projects in multiple fields of study, the Town and Gown Association was formed to run the activities of the Outlook Tower. As Geddes became more detached from its daily activities, he devoted the next stage of his life to the urban planning movement.
At the time Ebenezer Howard was working with his Garden Cities movement, Geddes looked at problems of existing cities. Geddes wanted to provide a link between social reform and the urban environment not only in small towns, but also in large cities. When the 1909 Town and Planning Act was passed, it required local officials to survey the local areas before undertaking any planning. Thus Geddes published a general survey method despite his opinion that each city and its culture are unique. His work continued with the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition. In 1911, the exhibition took Geddes to Dublin, Ireland. Dublin would become Geddes focus as he attempted to solve the city's tremendous health and housing problems.
Following his trip to Ireland, Geddes wrote Cities in Evolution, an essay on the growth of cities. There Geddes emphasized preservation of historical traditions, involvement of the people in their own betterment and the rediscovery of past traditions of city building.
In 1914, after enjoying some success with the Cities and Town Planning Exhibition, he decided to take his studies to India. He was attracted to India because of its challenge for him. As Meller mentioned, Geddes' urban planning had been directed toward a European culture. Extending to India his ideas about regional surveying, cooperation between man and the environment, and synthesis of knowledge would give Geddes a chance to prove himself. India's different culture and lack of industrial development provided another platform for Geddes to further his approach to urban planning.
Among the many problems facing India were the extreme poverty and obscenely overcrowded slums plaguing India's rapidily growing cities. In addressing these problems, Geddes wanted to revive indigenous customs and use them for modern purpose. Although Geddes enjoyed his challenges in India concerning urban planning, he suffered through two tremendous losses from which he never fully recovered. First, in April 1917, Geddes' son Alasdair was killed on the battlefront during World War I. Geddes had always considered Alasdair his closest companion because he best understood his father's passions and ideas. At the same time, Geddes wife Anna was suffering from dysentery. Patrick did not even tell Anna about Alasdair's death so as not to make her undergo any more anguish. In early June 1917, Anna passed away. These two tragic events occurring in such a short span left Geddes devastated and lonely. As Kitchen wrote, "It was a loneliness that would last the rest of his life".
In 1918, Geddes became involved in the Zionist movement, turning his interest to Jerusalem and Palestine. After five years of traveling back and forth between India and Dundee College in Scotland, the prospect of working in Jerusalem seemed to him a culmination of all his dreams. While working with Dr. M.D. Eder of the Zionist Commission, he suggested a comprehensive survey of Jerusalem which would evaluate the Past, Present and Possible. Geddes received the Commission's permission to plan Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Geddes planned for the Hebrew University to follow his ideas of synthesizing knowledge and promoting an intimate relationship between university, city, and region. Geddes left his mark on the university with the building of the Dome which he envisioned as a sign of unity. Geddes wanted his architectural style and good city planning to encourage the integration of Palestinians, Arabs, and Jews.
Geddes influenced the urban planning movement in many different ways. His work on regional surveying influenced Lewis Mumford and numerous others. Mumford, however, did not totally accept Geddes' ideas on social reconstruction. Yet, the method of considering social implications in city planning has carried over to the sustainable city projects of today. His understanding of the connection between the individual and the environment, as described in his last major work, Life Outlines of General Biology, constitutes the core of modern planning. In the last years of his life, Geddes settled in southern France, building a school at Montpellier. He tried to teach his views of life and the sciences. While his son Arthur helped Geddes with his school in Montpellier, the Outlook Tower in Edinburgh received less attention and eventually had to close. Still, Geddes was recognized for his lifelong efforts by being knighted in 1931. On April 17, 1932, Geddes passed away. Geddes' work on regional surveys, cultural evolution, and urban sociology has become even more noticed since his death. His Outlook Tower and view on life serves as a catalyst for today's sustainable city movement.
Mary Slessor "Mother of All the Peoples"
Mary Slessor was born on 2nd December 1848 in Gilcomston, a suburb of Aberdeen, the second of seven children, only four of whom survived childhood. Her father, Robert Slessor, originally from Buchan, was a shoemaker to trade. Her mother, from Oldmeldrum, was a deeply religious woman of sweet disposition, who had a keen interest in missionary work in the Calabar region of Nigeria.
In 1859, the family moved to Dundee in search of work. Mrs. Slessor became a member of the Wishart Church, named after the nearby Wishart Arch from which Protestant martyr George Wishart had reputedly preached to plague victims during the epidemic of 1544.
Mary's father became an alcoholic and was unable to continue his shoemaking work. He finally took a job as a mill labourer. Mrs. Slessor was determined to see her children properly educated, and the young Mary not only attended Church but, at the age of eleven, began work as a "half timer" in the Baxter Brothers' Mill. Mary spent half of her arduous day at a school provided by the mill owners, and the other half in productive employment for the company. Thus began a harsh introduction to the work ethic which was to dominate her life.
By the age of fourteen, Mary had become a skilled jute worker. The life of a weaver, no longer with the benefit of company schooling, was daunting by modern standards. Up before 5 a.m. to do the housework, Mary worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with just an hour for breakfast and lunch. This photograph of a Dundee millgirl is not contemporary, but depicts a working life in which little had changed during the intervening years.
Fortunately, Mary had benefited significantly from her rudimentary education. More importantly, she developed an intense interest in religion and, when a mission was instituted in Quarry Pend (close by the Wishart Church), Mary volunteered to become a teacher. Later, the mission moved to Wishart Pend, where the Church still stands, and so began a formative period in Mary's life during which she learned to cope with both physical and mental hardship.
The story is told of how she stood her ground against a local gang, who swung a metal weight on a string closer and closer to her face. This stalwart young woman defied the gang by obtaining their agreement that, should she not flinch, then all her tormentors would join the Sunday School class. Mary triumphed, and gained experience which she would later exploit in her contacts with even more threatening tribes in a distant land.
Strangely, although entranced by the accounts of work in Nigeria outlined in the "Missionary Record", this courageous woman doubted her own ability to perform similar deeds, describing herself as "wee and thin and not very strong". Eventually, however, she applied to the Foreign Mission Board of the United Presbyterian Church, effectively offering her life to the people of the Calabar region. After a brief period of training in Edinburgh, Mary set sail in the S.S. Ethiopia on 5th August 1876, and arrived at her destination in West Africa just over a month later. She was 28 years of age, red haired with bright blue eyes shining in enthusiasm for the daunting task ahead.
Some of the old hands in Calabar might have been excused for questioning whether she would last her first full year.
Portuguese mariners first visited the present day Nigeria in the 15th century to pursue trade with the kingdom of Benin, which straddled the land between Lagos and the Niger delta. By the year 1811, Wilberforce's great anti-slavery reforms started to take effect, and so the slave trade, which had disrupted society and government, finally began to crumble. In 1861, Britain seized Lagos in order to preserve her trading interests, the first of a series of colonial initiatives which led to the establishment of the Nigerian Protectorate in 1914. When Mary Slessor arrived, she was to witness one of the most turbulent periods in the history of this process.
The culture and customs of her new flock are well described in Charles Partridge's book, "Cross River Natives". Witchcraft and superstition were prevalent in a country whose traditional society had been torn apart by the slave trade. Human sacrifice routinely followed the death of a village dignitary, and the ritual murder of twins was viewed by the new missionary with particular abhorrence. Her dedicated efforts to forestall this irrational superstition were to prove a resounding success, as photographs of Mary with her beloved children testify.
In this primitive society, women were treated as lower than cattle, and Mary was so successful in raising their standing in society that she may be considered as one of the pioneers of women's rights in Africa. She also became fluent in the Efik language, so that she might use humour and sarcasm to reinforce her arguments. Her voice was recorded by Charles Partridge on his phonograph, and you can hear an extract of Mary Slessor speaking Efik. Unlike most missionaries, she lived in native style and became thoroughly conversant with the language, the culture and customs, and the day-to-day lives of those she served so well.
Unfortunately it was dangers other than those from aggressive natives and wild animals that faced missionaries from a relatively healthy Western European environment. It was not until 1902 that Sir Ronald Ross was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the Anopheles mosquito and its role as a host for the deadly malarial parasite. This knowledge was too late for Mary Slessor and her colleagues. Like lambs to the slaughter, they came to a country with its river mists and overpowering heat, where diseases and infections were legion, and they succumbed in their hundreds to the very fevers from which the modern traveller is mercifully spared.
Their average life expectancy was just a few years, and those who survived and returned home often endured recurring fevers and ill-health for the rest of their lives. In letters reproduced here, Mary bravely makes light of her experiences, but the horrors of forty years of debilitating suffering may be clearly discerned through the surface humour and stoicism. In the early years of the 20th century, some remedies and precautions were becoming available, and Mary provided vaccination against the dreaded smallpox, and set up mission hospitals for treating illnesses and injuries suffered by the native peoples.
Mary's dedicated work with the people and her almost total integration with them culminated in an official request by the Governor that she combine her missionary activities with an administrative position as a Member of the Itu Court. Her letters to Charles Partridge chronicle this period of colonial expansion. Roads were being driven into the interior, and military expeditions were starting to make use of motor vehicles. Untold dangers faced all those involved in these hazardous enterprises, and Mary Slessor, though ever keen to discount her own perilous situation, retained a pragmatic attitude to the dangers facing lesser mortals. In one letter she urges that the expedition should include a "Maxim" machine gun ".
She was constantly urging the Foreign Mission Board in Edinburgh to finance extensions of her work in the interior. The trading markets which she had enthusiastically encouraged attracted people from far afield, and her attempts to reach out to them were the natural consequences of these contacts. Gradually the money was forthcoming and, as new missionaries took over responsibility for the posts vacated by Mary, she was able to move ever further into the heartland. Her courage in braving the hostility provoked by these incursions is legendary.
The recurring illnesses and general hardships which she faced as a matter of course all took their toll on this redoubtable woman. By 1915, her physical strength had greatly declined, and the woman who had once thought nothing of all-night treks through the rain forest was finally reduced to travelling in a hand-cart propelled by one of her assistants. On the 13th January 1915, after an excruciating and prolonged bout of fever, Mary Slessor died. In his biography of 1980, James Buchan described her as the "Expendable Mary Slessor". Expendable she may have been, but few have given so much of themselves to so many, and under such appalling conditions.
The grave of Mary Slessor, marked by an imposing cross of Scottish granite, is in the heart of the country she served so well. She was accorded a state funeral and, in 1953, the new head of the Commonwealth, Elizabeth II, made her own pilgrimage to the graveside. Mary Slessor is still remembered in Dundee, as in her adopted homeland, and there is a growing world-wide interest in her work.
Thomas Blake Glover
In his native Northeast of Scotland Thomas Blake Glover is virtually unknown, however in his adopted country of Japan he is revered as a national hero - one of the founding fathers of modern Japan.
Thomas Blake Glover was born at 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh on June 6, 1838 and lived at the same address for the next six years. His father, an Englishman, had served as an officer in the Royal Navy, later becoming the Chief Coastguard in Fraserburgh, the Coastguard house stood just around the corner from the cottage in Commerce Street. Glover's mother was a Scot through-and-through, she was from Fordyce in Banffshire.
In 1851 the family moved to Bridge of Don, Aberdeen but Glover would soon move again. After leaving school he began working for a trading company and travelled the world. He was successful as a merchant trading in ships and weapons in Japan during the 1860's, at that time a politically unstable and violent corner of the world. He settled in Nagasaki, his house was built in 1863 and remains the oldest western style building in Japan.
The battleship Mikasa in dock. Like much of the Japanese navy by the end of the 19th century she had been built in Britain.
Glover became a prominent individual and helped the samurai to topple their military leader, the Shogun, restoring the Emperor to his throne. At this time he helped in the industrialisation of Japan.
He was responsible for commissioning three warships for the Japanese navy from Aberdeen shipyards, subsequently he established his own shipbuilding company which later grew into the industrial giant Mitsubishi. He was responsible for introducing the first railway locomotive into Japan as well as establishing the country's first mechanised coal mine. He also organised the education of many young Japanese abroad, mostly in Britain.
Glover married a woman called Tsura, the daughter of a samurai, who many believe was the inspiration for Puccini's opera - Madame Butterfly, since she habitually wore the emblem of a butterfly on her clothes.
Glover was not only the first to introduce much western technology to Japan but was also the first non-Japanese to be presented with the Order of the Rising Sun - one of the country's top honours. He died in 1911, aged 73.
Glover's house in Nagasaki is now the centrepiece of "Glover Garden", Western Japan's top tourist attraction with almost 2 million visitors each year. The site of Glover's birth has not fared so well. During the Second World War the Luftwaffe scored a direct hit on 15 Commerce Street - the site to this day remains empty, although plans have been put forward to rebuilt the cottage at a cost of £375,000 and turning it into a tourist attraction.
Alexander Duff was born in Moulin, Perthshire in Scotland. His father was a crofter or small farmer and Alexander’s early years from 1806 were spent in the family home a small cottage on open ground, flanked by mountain streams and with woodland of birch, ash, larch and oak as background. It was attractive and impressive countryside.
The visit of Charles Simeon of Cambridge to that area in 1796 had had a profound effect on many in the area. Duff’s father and the parish minister were amongst them and the religious life of the district was strengthened. Alexander Duff was introduced to the teachings of the Scriptures, to the life histories of those who had suffered persecution and to the Gaelic poetry of Dugald Buchanan, known as the John Bunyan of the Highlands.
Three experiences influenced Duff deeply. The reading of one of Buchanan’s poems, the ‘Day of Judgement’ had a profound effect on young Alexander Duff and from the impact of the experience he came to assurance of peace with God through the death of Christ.
Almost drowned in a stream near his home, he shortly afterwards had a vision that confirmed his understanding of special service in which he would be engaged.
A third experience illumined God’s loving, providential care for him. As a boy of thirteen, he was returning from school in Perth one winter weekend, accompanied by a school friend. Darkness fell when they were some distance from home; snow was falling and there was no sign of habitation. Exhausted, they tried to remain awake and prayed for help. Suddenly in the darkness they saw a light. Making their way towards where it had been, they discovered a garden wall and soon found warmth and shelter in a hospitable cottage.
In 1821 he went to St Andrews University, having been dux of Perth Grammar School. He was energetic and enthusiastic. Research carried out by Stuart Piggin and John Roxborogh for their book, The St Andrews Seven shows that Duff was a most assiduous reader. From the University Library during his years at university he borrowed more books than any other student - 334 titles (413 volumes) quite apart from those he may have consulted in the Library. He was an outstanding student, one of those who were enthused by Thomas Chalmers when he took up the position of Professor of Moral Philosophy there in 1823. He and other students of that time were to have great influence in Scotland, but extraordinary impact in India.
In 1843, after years of difficult labour there was in Calcutta an educational work and associated church development that was a credit to the Church of Scotland. Far from the scene of activity in Scotland and the commotion surrounding the Disruption, Alexander Duff had established principles for working amongst the 130 million people of India and means that were effective in opening Indian thought to an intelligent understanding of Christianity. In August 1843, Duff and the four other missionaries with him in Bengal indicated their adherence to ‘the Free Protesting Presbyterian Church of Scotland’.
In May 1829 Duff had been formally appointed as its first missionary by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In September the missionary and his wife left Leith for London and sailed from Portsmouth on the East India Company’s ship ‘Lady Holland’ a month later. In February of the following year, the 22 passengers and the crew were shipwrecked on Dassen Island near Cape Town in South Africa. All survived the disaster, but the cargo was lost. Duff had taken with him a library of 800 books, his journals, notes, memoranda and essays, of which 40 books were washed up in very poor state - only his Bible and Psalter surviving in reasonable condition. The second part of the voyage from South Africa to the Bay of Bengal ended in a second shipwreck in the estuary of the Hooghly. A May cyclone drove the ship aground and again the Duffs and other passengers reached safety, sheltering in the village temple until they were rescued. Help was sent from Calcutta and the passengers were conveyed to the city. The ship was later refloated and its cargo safely disembarked.
Duff had been charged to set up an educational institution, but not to do so in Calcutta. He resolved to ignore the advice in view of the advantages that he saw in Calcutta as a centre in Bengal from which to reach 500,000 people.
The difficulties of missionary work were exemplified by the lack of Christian converts after many years of labour. Those that existed were often of the lower classes and did not form a lively Christian witness. Duff chose to work amongst young people and his aim had a future as well as present purpose.
‘While you engage in directly separating as many precious atoms from the mass as the stubborn resistance to ordinary appliances can admit, we shall, with the blessing of God, devote our time and strength to the preparing of a mine, and the setting of a train which shall one day explode and tear up the whole from its lowest depths’.
Education, saturated with the teaching of the Scriptures, was the means to be used in bringing change. While religious instruction was of special significance, he aimed to teach every branch of useful knowledge - elementary forms at first, advancing to the highest levels of study in history, literature, logic, mental and moral philosophy, mathematics, biology, physics and other sciences. These aims were very different from those of other Christian educational institutions.
After consulting with a wise Indian adviser, Duff resolved not to teach in Bengali, Persian, Arabic or Sanskrit but to use English as the medium of teaching.
This meant that students using these other languages were all learning English on an equal basis, were taught the Scriptures in English, were introduced to English literature - much of which was permeated with the spirit of Christianity - and studied the sciences in English, freed from the focus of the ideas that permeate Hindu thought.
Duff, with the assistance of a young untrained Eurasian spent six hours a day teaching 300 Bengali youths the English alphabet. His evenings were spent preparing a series of graduated school-books called ‘Instructors’. The first books dealt with interesting everyday subjects, the second with Biblical themes, especially those which were historical.
Word study was a key to discussion of the properties and uses of objects, drawing on information known to the boys and stimulating their powers of observation. The boys were encouraged to think. Their delight in gaining understanding was infectious and the school acquired a very favourable reputation in the community. His pedagogical style was in very marked contrast to the mechanical and monotonous style of teaching prevalent in India.
Within the first year the size of the school was expanded, as also its scope, in that no student was allowed to begin to learn English until he could read with ease in Bengali. These students were enriched with vocabulary and spiritual ideas derived from English literature. Alexander Duff was able to carry forward his own studies in Bengali in friendly rivalry with his students.
Since Duff’s approach had been rejected out of hand by the European community, he tested the results of his first year’s work through a publicly-announced examination of his students in the Freemasons Hall. He invited an Anglican Archdeacon to preside. The boys responded with such effect that reports in the three daily English newspapers of Calcutta were totally favourable to the new venture.
In the second year hundreds of students had to be turned away because of lack of space. Saturdays were set aside for European visitors to view the school since they came in such numbers during the week as to interrupt classes. Visitors from all parts of India came to review what was being accomplished and returned home to establish educational centres on the same principles.
Duff also concerned himself with the education of girls, supported those who were involved in it and encouraged the younger generation to consider the importance of the education of women and girls.
After 3 years of labour the work of the school was fully recognised. In correspondence, Dr Duff wrote, ‘The school continues greatly to flourish. You may form some notion of what has been done, when I state that the highest class read and understand any English book with the greatest ease; write and speak English with tolerable fluency; have finished a course of Geography and Ancient History; have studied the greater part of the New Testament and portions of the Old; have mastered the evidence from prophecy and miracles; have, in addition, gone through the common rules of Algebra, three books of Euclid, Plane Geometry and logarithms. And I venture to say that, on all these subjects, the youths that compose the first class would stand no unequal comparison with youths of the same standing in any seminary in Scotland’.
Work of a similar sort was set up in Bombay and Madras.
After the Disruption, preliminary letters from Dr Brunton of the Church of Scotland and Dr Charles Brown of the Free Church of Scotland reached the missionaries in India declaring that each church would continue Foreign and Jewish Missions. In contrast to the East India Company’s Presbyterian chaplains, all fourteen missionaries to India gave their support to the Free Church of Scotland. They well understood that they might forfeit the College provided for them, with its library, its apparatus and other furnishings. Morally and in equity these were the fruit of personal legacies and gifts made to Dr Duff. The honourable solution would have been to make these available for the missionaries of the Free Church of Scotland to continue their work and allow for the purchase of these buildings from the Established Church in as far as that was deemed necessary.
The committee of the Established Church rejected their approach. The work, however, had to continue and search was made for new premises in the vacation of 1843-1844. ‘From all sides, Hindus as well as Christian, Anglican and Congregationalist as well as Presbyterian, in America no less than in Asia and Europe, came expressions of indignant sympathy’. By early 1844 £3,400 had been received as spontaneous gifts.
The second College having been organised Dr Duff set about establishing branch schools in Baranuggui, Bansberia, Chinsurah, and Mahanad. Culna was retained. Some ten years later Dr Duff was invited to answer a question posed by Lord Stanley of Alderley.
‘Will you state what you would propose the Government should do towards the further improvement and extension of education in India’. Duff responded by recommending:
The gradual abolition of oriental colleges for the educational training of natives, liberating funds for the purposes of sound and healthful education.
The relinquishing of pecuniary control over primary or elementary education by the Government, thus achieving considerable saving.
That lectureships on high professional subjects such as law and civil engineering should be established on a free and unrestricted basis allowing attendance of qualified students from all other institutions and that, in Calcutta, a university might be established on the general model of London University, with a sufficient number of faculties in such a way as to stimulate and foster studies in Government and non-Government institutions.
The use of the Bible as a class-book in English classes in Government institutions, under the express and positive proviso that attendance on any class, at the hour when it was taught, should be left entirely optional.
The Government ought to extend its aid to all other institutions where sound general education is communicated.
These ideas formed the basis of the Educational Despatch of 9th July, 1854 signed by 10 directors of the East India Company and sent out to the Marquis of Dalhousie.
The College continued to grow. New buildings were provided and the school roll reached about 1,200, the students receiving instruction in literature, science and the Christian religion.
Duff was nominated by the Governor General to be one of those who drew up the constitution for Calcutta University. For the first six years of its history, Dr Duff led the senate. Of his leadership Dr Banerjea wrote, ‘To his gigantic mind the successive Vice-Chancellors paid due deference, and he was the virtual governor of the University. The curriculum he promoted for the university was broad in its extent. Against the trend of the time, Dr Duff insisted on education in the physical sciences and urged the establishment of a professorship of physical sciences for the University’.
Sir Charles Trevelyan strongly recommended that Dr Duff be appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University. In a letter to him he stated, ‘It is yours by right, because you have borne without rest or refreshment the burden and heat of the long day, which I hope is not yet near its close’. However, at the age of 57, it became obvious that the ill- health that had limited his activities from time to time required him to return to Britain.
James Cook British Navigator and Explorer
1728 - 1779
Captain James Cook (1728 - 1779) is a good candidate for the title of greatest explorer in history. He was impressive both for the scope of his travels and the meticulous detail with which he noted his discoveries. Besides being a great explorer, he was very enlightened for his time, showing a high degree of regard for both his own crew and for the various peoples and cultures he encountered.
He was a native of Yorkshire, England. After being apprenticed to a shipping family aged 17 he learnt his trade of sailing and navigation. Later, joining the Royal Navy, he was sent to North America where he was put to work surveying and mapping the St Lawrence River, and he quickly became well-known in the navy for the accuracy and detail of his work.
The First Voyage
It was in 1768 that James Cook was given his first command, The Endeavour. The expedition was to go to the South Pacific and take observations of the upcoming transit of Venus across the sun's face. Astronomers in the Royal Observatory wanted readings from different places on the Earth's surface, and they would then be able to calculate the exact distance of the earth from the sun. Also on board was Sir Joseph Banks, a scientist from the Royal Geographical Society who was to take specimens of the exotic animal and plant life they were to encounter. After leaving Plymouth, UK, The Endeavour sailed around Cape Horn, and up to Tahiti, where the observations were performed. After that, Cook turned his attentions to the second task, his sealed instructions. These were to search for, and either prove or disprove the existence of the presumed Terra Australis Incognita1, which geographers had speculated might exist in the southern hemisphere in order to 'balance' the great northern land masses.
He sailed south, and in October 1769 reached the eastern shores of the land that Abel Tasman had found in 1642 - New Zealand. His lookout boy first caught sight of the land from the crow's nest, and this point near Gisborne is known still as Young Nick's Head. The hostile reception he received from the local Maori tribe led him to name the nearby bay Poverty Bay, and he sailed around East Cape to a better reception in the Bay of Plenty. He moved on to the Coromandel Peninsula and observed the transit of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun while anchored at Mercury Bay. He continued around the North Island and through Cook Strait, which divides it from the South Island, and all around the South Island, mapping the land and thus demonstrating that these were two islands, and not part of any 'Great Southern Land'.
After spending about six months in New Zealand, Cook headed home. On the way he visited the shores of Australia. After landing around the present site of Sydney, he continued north along the coast over the next four months, narrowly avoiding being shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef along the way. Whilst doing so he collected specimens of the unique flora and fauna he encountered. They found so many specimens in one bay they named it Botany Bay (which later became a prison colony). Continuing through Indonesia and the Indian Ocean, after many difficulties and trials he finally arrived home in England in July 1771.
Another notable thing from this voyage was that Cook insisted that his men ate sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) and fresh fruit. He was the first captain who had stopped his crew from getting scurvy2, and understood what caused it.
1772 - 1779
One year later in July 1772, Cook was to set off on another circumnavigation of the world, in a ship called The Resolution. The matter of whether or not there was a Terra Australis Incognita had been considered inconclusive from his first voyage. This time he sailed through the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa and to the Antarctic ice pack before reaching New Zealand again in March 1773. He was to continue across the Pacific, discovering many of the Pacific Islands, and discovering a commonality in their language and cultures. He returned to the pack ice again, and, having disproved the existence of any great southern land, he returned to England via Cape Horn in July 1775.
After another year on land, he led a third expedition of discovery, with the object of charting a north-west passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific. He again sailed directly from England to New Zealand, and then North to the Cook Islands and on to Hawaii. He charted the coast of the present British Columbia and Alaska, before returning once more to Hawaii. This time he and his men were not made so welcome by the native Hawaiians. During a confused skirmish on the beach in Kealakekua Bay on the 14 February, 1779, James Cook, the greatest explorer of his age, and possibly of all time, was clubbed to death. The crew returned to England without him in August, 1780.
During his life James Cook had made accurate maps of lands which prior to his arrival had been vague suggestions. He discovered and charted countless islands of the Pacific, found hitherto unknown flora and fauna, and made contact with many complex native civilizations. His was the first expedition to cross the Antarctic Circle. He was the original voyager of discovery who boldly went where no one had gone before.