An African “auld alliance”

2nd September 2013

We Scots usually think of the “auld alliance” being the one between Scotland and France to contain the expansionist plans of mediaeval England. However there is another “auld alliance” between Scotland and Malawi that is already making me feel very at home here in Blantyre.

Ruth and I arrived in Lilongwe International Airport too late to catch our noon bus to Blantyre (a four hour journey) and instead killed a few hours absorbing the new atmosphere of Malawi. Initial impressions were: less litter, less threatening, less people, less colourful clothing, more heat!

Scotland has long had special ties with Malawi going back to David Livingstone’s explorations and missionary work in the 1800’s. And it may surprise many that the bulk of Malawians still have warm regards for the memory of Livingstone in particular, and Scotland in general.

Livingstone’s books on his explorations were very popular, no more so than in his native Scotland. So no surprise that Blantyre was founded originally as a Church of Scotland Mission Station in 1876 and named after Livingstone’s birthplace, no surprise that the partnership between Scotland and Malawi continues to this day, and no surprise that I grew up in a Christian home in Scotland with stories of Livingstone and Malawi ringing in my ears.

Livingstone died in Africa, was buried with honour in Westminster Cathedral, but (literally) left his heart in Africa. Seeing Malawi I can understand why.

1 thought on “An African “auld alliance”

  1. Just discovered another thing in common: he studied at both of the Scottish universities I studied at: David Livingstone studied surgical techniques at Andersons College, now the University of Strathclyde, and he studied Greek at the University of Glasgow.

    Both universities do a lot to maintain strong links with Malawi – especially in 2013, the 200th anniversary of his birthday.

    From the UoS web site:

    “When David Livingstone journeyed through Africa, he learned a great deal from the people he met there, and shared with them his spiritual experience, and his belief in a loving God who cared for all people. This belief in the value of every human life drove his vigorous fight against the evils of slavery. He was a powerful communicator, and his journals, shared among missionary societies in Britain stirred public opinion to intervene to close the East African Slave Trade. Many people today attribute the end of the slave trade to the work of David Livingstone.”

    “His journals speak with great respect for the culture and civilisation that he found in Africa, providing a very different account from some other stereotypes. He supported education and trade in goods as a means to improve the livelihoods of the communities he encountered. The missionaries who followed him from Scotland provided healthcare and education, as well as religious teaching. Livingstone preferred to live out his days in Africa among the people he had grown to love.”

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