IT was 150 years ago today, according to tradition, that journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley arrived in Ujiji (now Tanzania) and found the Scottish missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone, left, who had been officially missing somewhere in Africa for four years.

It became one of the most famous meetings in history, with their first union passing into legend.

On November 10, 1871, Stanley moved towards a pale white man sitting in Ujiji. Stanley would later write: “I did that which I thought was most dignified. I pushed back the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people until I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the gray beard.

“As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of gray tweed trousers.

“I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob – I would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman [tsk, tsk Henry], I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing – walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’ ‘Yes,’ said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.

I replace my hat on my head and he puts on his cap, and we both grasp hands, and I then say aloud, ‘I thank God, Doctor, I have been permitted to see you.’ He answered, ‘I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.’”

Stanley recalled later: “I found myself gazing at him, the wonderful man at whose side I now sat in Central Africa. Every hair of his head and beard, every wrinkle of his face, the wanness of his features, and the slightly wearied look he wore, were all imparting intelligence to me – the knowledge I craved for so much.”


PROBABLY. Stanley was a risk-taking journalist who had been sent by the Herald’s publisher James Gordon Bennett Jnr, the son of a Scottish immigrant, to find Livingstone or bring back proof that the great hero of the British Empire was dead.

Stanley was not who he seemed. He was born in Wales with the name John Rowlands, and was sent to the workhouse after his prostitute mother abandoned him. At the age of 15 he fled to the USA and reinvented himself as Stanley, first as a soldier on both sides of the Civil War and then as a journalist.

With Bennett’s funds, from 1869 Stanley trekked inland from the east coast of Africa towards Lake Tanganyika, suffering many problems en route – his only two white companions died, and most of his native porters abandoned him. While resting from a bout of cerebral malaria that almost killed him, a rumour reached him of a white man in Ujiji and off he set.

The exact facts – even the date – of the meeting have been disputed for many decades but Stanley and Livingstone’s accounts of their meeting concur, and the journalist maintained until his dying day that he had uttered the famous greeting – his log book had missing pages, it was later found. To quote from journalist Maxwell Scott in that great movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Fact or fiction, the legend has been printed ever since.

The National: The meeting between Henry Morton Stanley and David LivingstoneThe meeting between Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone


SENSATIONAL. Livingstone really was a towering figure in the Golden Age of exploration that enriched the British Empire. Ostensibly a Christian missionary, Livingstone’s aim was to open up areas of Africa to the Empire in order to convert the natives to Christianity and to stop the foul trade in slavery that was practised mainly by Arab merchants.

Since his first trip to Africa in 1841, he had walked across the Kalahari Desert, traced the path of the 2200 mile Zambezi River and, in the 1854-56 journey that made him famous, ambled from one side of Africa to the other. The missionary’s renown was so great that he was mobbed by fans on the streets of London.

He was also passionately anti-slavery and many people revered him for this stance.

On several expeditions he made significant discoveries, such as Lake Malawi, but they cost him his health, and his wife Mary died of dysentery in Africa in 1862.

He was on a final expedition to find the source of the River Nile when he went missing in the interior of Africa, penniless and ill.

He later wrote: “I felt, in my destitution, as if I were the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. But I could not hope for priest, Levite or good Samaritan to come by on either side,”

He was wrong. Help was on its way.

The press which had lionised him kept his disappearance in the public eye, so when the New York Herald announced Stanley had found him the name of David Livingstone was again on everyone’s lips around the world.


DESTITUTE and gravely ill, Livingstone was revived with the food and medicine which Stanley brought. The two men became firm friends and went on short expedition together to explore Lake Tanganyika before Stanley had to return to the USA with his great story, which was soon to become famous.

Stanley would go on to become a great explorer of Africa himself, while Livingstone was determined to carry on with his attempt to find the source of the Nile, a task set for him by the great Scottish explorer Sir Rodney Murchison.

By now he was in completely the wrong place, however, and when he became ill in April, 1873, this time there was no rescue. He died in what is now Zambia around May 1, being found in an attitude of prayer.

His heart was buried near where he died and his embalmed body was taken to London where he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Stanley was knighted, became an MP and died in 1904.