From Boyhood to Africa
David Livingstone began his life in Shuttle Row, home to 23 other families, in single room houses in poor and difficult living circumstances but the Livingstone house would have been a lively place, full of the hustle and bustle of family life and religion was central.
He came from a poor family, and his childhood was one full of incredibly hard work. With an enormous thirst for learning and keen interest in the wider world he took every opportunity he could to broaden his knowledge of the world beyond his immediate environment. As a boy he demonstrated some of the key characteristics and motivators which lasted throughout his life – determination, thirst for knowledge, fascination with the natural world, strong and committed Christian faith. These values, beliefs, traits, and skills were acquired as a boy, and they eventually took him to Africa.
As a young boy he had to work in the Mill and at that time the factory owners were relatively philanthropic and provided hard-working villagers with opportunities to better themselves. However, taking advantage of these opportunities, as David Livingstone did, took great strength of character and determination in the face of exhausting working conditions. He worked 14 hour days, 6 days a week, with only short breaks for meals, and little holidays. The conditions were hot and humid, and deafeningly noisy as he worked as a piecer and spinner. This work in the factory was difficult, dangerous and exhausting, especially for children, but even in the factory David Livingstone demonstrated his capacity for hard work, and determination to learn by propping a book up against his spinning machine. David Livingstone had ambitions, dreams and desires which reached far beyond the walls of Blantyre mill.
David Livingstone was enrolled at Anderson College studying Anatomy, Chemistry and Surgery. Attending University represented a major achievement for someone from David Livingstone’s background, and demonstrates his determination, capacity for hard work and sacrifice. At University David Livingstone was exposed to a number of individuals and experiences which shaped him and impacted the course of his life. His medical training was of the highest standard at the time, and during his later travels Livingstone kept up to date with advances in medicine. Whilst at university, David Livingstone made life-long friends and met influential people such as Dr Thomas Graham, Dr Andrew Buchanan, and James Young.
Soon thereafter the story continues in Africa. David Livingstone became fascinated with Africa, its peoples, languages, landscapes and natural history. It is clear he immersed himself in life there and his love of the local people compelled him to want to return to Africa as explorer and missionary. Establishing and working on a mission station was physically and mentally exhausting and by this time he had married Mary Moffat, her role in the development of the mission station was crucial. She looked after the children and the domestic needs of the family but was also a very skilled butcher and gardener and could make candles, soap and clothes. Mary ran a school for the village children and was a fluent Tswama speaker. David Livingstone was keen to explore further and although Mary and the children joined him initially it became too dangerous, as made clear when a lion attacked David Livingstone. During his travels he was fascinated by cultures, languages, and traditional healing methods, especially for malaria.