“Majwara's Account of the Last Journey and Death of Dr. Livingstone”

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0001 244 Majwara's Account of the Last Journey [April 13, 1874.

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The following letter was read :—

1.—Majwara's Account of the Last Journey and Death of Dr. Livingstone.

              By F. Holmwood, H.B.M. Consulate, Zanzibar.

"My dear Sir Bartle,— "Zanzibar, March 12th, 1874.    

          "No doubt you will hear from several interested in Dr. Livingstone; but, as I do not feel sure that any one has thoroughly examined the men who came down with his remains, I briefly summarize what I have been able to glean from a careful cross-examination of Majwara, who was always at his side during his last days, and Susi, as well as the Nassik boys, have, generally, confirmed what he says. I enclose a small sketch map, merely giving my idea of the locality, and have added a dotted line to show his route during this last journey of his life.

"The party sent by Stanley left Unyanyembe with the Doctor about the end of August, 1872, and marched straight to the south of Lake Tanganyika, through Ufipa, crossing the Rungwa River, where they met with natural springs of boiling water, bubbling up high above the ground. On reaching the Chambezi, or Kambezi River, they crossed it about a week's journey from Lake Bemba, also crossing a large feeder; but, by Susi's advice, Livingstone again turned northward, and recrossed the Kambezi, or Luapula, as he then called it, just before it entered the lake.

"He could not, however, keep close to the north shore of Lake Bemba, owing to the numerous creeks and streams, which were hidden in forests of high grass and rushes. After making a détour, he again struck the lake at a village, where he got canoes across to an island in the centre, called Matipa. Here the shores on either hand were not visible, and the Doctor was put to great straits by the natives declining to let him use their canoes to cross to the opposite shore. He therefore seized seven canoes by force, and when the natives made a show of resistance, he fired his pistol over their heads, after which they ceased to obstruct him. Crossing the lake diagonally, he arrived in a long valley, and the rains having now set in fully, the caravan had to wade, rather than
0002 April 13, 1874.] And Death of Dr. Livingstone 245 walk, constantly crossing blind streams, and, in fact, owing to the high rushes and grass, hardly being able to distinguish at times the land, or rather what was generally dry land, from the lake.

"Dr. Livingstone had been weak and ailing since leaving Unyanyembe, and when passing through the country of Ukabende, at the south-west of the lake, he told Majwara (the boy given him by Stanley, who is now in my service) that he felt unable to go on with his work, but should try and cross the hills to Katanga [Katanda?], and there rest, endeavouring to buy ivory, which in all this country is very cheap (three yards of merikani buying a slave or a tusk), and returning to Ujiji through Manyuema to recruit and reorganise.

"But as he approached the northern part of Bisa (a very large country), arriving in the Province of Ulala, he first had to take to riding a donkey, and then suffer himself to be carried on a kitanda (native bedstead), which at first went much against the grain.

"During this time he never allowed the boy Majwara to leave him, and he then told that faithful and honest fellow that he should never cross the high hills to Katanda.

"He called for Susi, and asked how far it was to the Luapula, and, on his answering 'three days,' remarked, 'he should never see his river again.'

"On arriving at Ilala, the capital of the district, where Kitambo the sultan lived, the party were refused permission to stay, and they carried Livingstone three hours' march back towards Kabende. Here they erected for him a rude hut and fence, and he would not allow any to approach him for the remaining days of his life except Majwara and Susi, except that every morning they were all desired to come to the door and say 'good morning.'

"During these few days he was in great pain, and could keep nothing, even for a moment, on his stomach. He lost his sight so far as hardly to be able to distinguish when a light was kindled, and gradually sank during the night of the 4th May, 1873.

"Only Majwara was present when he died, and he is unable to say when he ceased to breathe.

"Susi, hearing that he was dead, told Jacob Wainwright to make a note in the Doctor's diary of the things found by him. Wainwright was not quite certain as to the day of the month, and as Susi told him the Doctor had last written the day before, and he found this entry to be dated 27th April, he wrote 28th April, but on comparing his own diary on arrival at Unyanyembe he found it to be the 4th of May; and this is confirmed by Majwara, who says Livingstone was unable to write for the last four or five days of his
0003 246 [                                    ] [April 13, 1874. life. I fancy the spot where Livingstone died is about 11.25ºs, and 27ºE; but, of course, the whole of this is subject to correction, and, although I have spent many hours in finding it all out, the Doctor's diary may show it to be very imperfect.

"I fear you will find this a very unconnected narration, but my apology must be that the Consul-General is not well, and the other Assistant absent on duty, and there is much work for me to do. Mr. Arthur Laing has been entrusted with the charge of the remains and diaries, which latter he has been instructed to hand to Lord Derby.

"Trusting that you are in the enjoyment of good health, and with great respect,

                                        "Believe me, dear Sir Bartle,

                                                "Your most obedient servant,

                                                        "Frederick Holmwood.


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Item Details

Author(s) & contributor(s): Frederick Holmwood; Majwara

Date(s): 12 March 1874; 13 April 1874

Form & transmission history: Original narrative, as translated (possibly with the help of an intermediary) and written down in a British writer's letter, then published in a British geographical periodical.

Original publication details: Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 18, no. 3 (13 April 1874): 244-46

Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2021

Critical editing & encoding: Anne Martin, Adrian S. Wisnicki

Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Cite this digital edition (MLA): Holmwood, Frederick; Majwara. “‘Majwara's Account of the Last Journey and Death of Dr. Livingstone’” (12 March 1874; 13 April 1874). Anne Martin, Adrian S. Wisnicki, eds. One More Voice, new dawn edition, 2021, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020053_TEI.html.

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