Incidently, while we were visiting Ffynnon Fair we visited St Asaph and its cathedral. An attractive building, though very small in the cathedral stakes, it is really all St Apsah has to offer. It was interesting to discover that the area was the birth place of H Morton Stanley, mainly remembered these days for his immortal phrase "Dr Livingstone I presume ?"
Apparently he was born (probably illegitimate) in Denbigh, and spent much of his early life in St Asaph Workhouse. After first emigrating to America in 1859 aged 18, he later spent much of his time in Africa at the head of colonial expeditions. Although in his records of meeting Livingstone in 1871 records his use of the famous question, Livingstone doesn’t record it.
In subsequent years his actions in Africa, including assisting the Belgians with theur colonisation of the Congo appear to be quite controversial. There are accounts of intense cruelty and barbarity on the part of the colonisers, Stanley is reported as saying "the savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision", and Stanley has been held responsible for a large number of African deaths in his campaigns.On the other hand it has been suiggested that he refused to negotiate contracts with local chiefs that would effectively sign over their lands to Belgium.
Stanley has become a controversial figure in the Denbighshire area in recent years, There is an HM Stanley Hospital in the area occupying the site of the workhouses where Stanley lived. I believe discussions had been held about renaming the hospital, although it is possibly due to close in the near future. Earlier this year the unveiling of a statue to Stanley in Denbigh drew considerable opposition, with a petition against the scheme being published in the Daily Telegraph, although it was supported by the Congo-Wales Friendship Circle, who said Stanley is still revered in their country.
It was interesting to read recently that the David Livingstone statue at Victoria Falls, was also the subject of debate between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The falls are on the border and Livingstone stands on the Zimbabwe side. I saw the statue when we visited the falls some years ago. It was argued a few years back, by the Zambian government, that since the people Zimbabwe were not maintaining or respecting the statue sufficiently well that it should be moved to the Zambian side of the falls, given that Zambia had always had more respect for the explorer. Clearly this is more a battle for tourists, Zimbabwe always had the better infrastructure for tourism at the falls. We travelled by steam train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, and visited the grand Victoria Falls Hotel. Nothing similar existed on the Zambian side at the time. However since then, with the political turmoil in Zimbabwe, tourists have tended to visit the falls from the Zambian side, leading to an increase in development work and infrastructure in that country.
Thus two very different controversies rage over two statues 130 years after the two men met .
Meanwhile to complete my visit I need to unearth a copy of Isabelle Kelly’s novel The Abbey of St Asaph, published in 1795, long before either man was even dreamt of.