MANY Scotsman readers will fondly remember school trips to the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre in Lanarkshire, touring the mill where the town’s most famous son grew up, lived and worked from an early age and learning about his expedition to Africa.
The 200th anniversary of Livingstone’s birth this week presents a great opportunity to reassess his legacy and introduce his story to a new generation of Scots.
Last year, I invited President Joyce Banda of Malawi to visit Blantyre to mark this anniversary and I am delighted that she will spend some time in the town during her state visit to the United Kingdom.
There is a great shared history between Blantyre, Lanarkshire, and Blantyre, Malawi, and the visit will cement that relationship.
President Banda is an inspirational figure, working to improve the lives of Malawians.
It’s not just Blantyre that can be proud of its connections to Livingstone. He left an important legacy across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Although born in Blantyre, he attended church in nearby Hamilton, studied in Glasgow, was a member of the London Missionary Society and is buried in Westminster Abbey, alongside other notable figures from British history such as novelist and social commentator Charles Dickens and William Gladstone, prime minister and statesman.
A commemorative service at Westminster Abbey on 19 March – the day of the bicentenary – will be one way of highlighting Livingstone’s significance across the whole of the UK and beyond.
Livingstone’s contributions to geographic and scientific knowledge, his championing of education and fair trade, and his passionate campaign against slavery made him a hero in Britain and Malawi in the 1800s.
The passage of time has only enhanced his reputation, a rare feat when a modern day reassessment of this country’s legacy in Africa is made.
Livingstone changed not just Scotland, but Malawi and the world. In the coming weeks, we should not only reflect on his legacy but build on it for the future.
• Tom Greatrex is the Labour Member of Parliament for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which includes the town of Blantyre