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Dr Livingstone's Gavel, I Presume!

February 19, 2013 2:18 PM

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A moving tribute to Scottish medical missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, was made at the board meeting of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC)  today (Tuesday 19th February 2013) by his great, great grandson – himself a Glasgow surgeon.

Mr Neil Wilson, who lives in Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire, is paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill and is Livingstone’s great, great grandson.

To commemorate the bicentenary of Livingstone’s birth Mr Wilson presented health board Chairman, Andrew Robertson, with a historic gavel carved from the wood of the tree where Livingstone’s heart was buried following his death in Zambia in 1873.

The gavel has a long standing connection with the health service in Glasgow as it was used by the NHS Executive Council for the City of Glasgow following the creation of the NHS from 1948 through to 1974. Since then the gavel has remained in safe keeping within the NHS archives.

At the presentation Mr Wilson said: “To have such a tangible link is great reminder that the events of the past live on into the present.”

Receiving the gavel on behalf of the health board, Chairman Andrew Robertson, said: “I am absolutely delighted to receive this wonderful historical artefact. Following David Livingstone’s death Florence Nightingale described him as ‘the greatest man of the age’ and it is indeed an honour to receive this gavel which will be put on display for our visitors to see.

“Given Livingstone’s strong links to medicine in Glasgow it seems to me that it is fitting for us to be responsible for the safekeeping of this most extraordinary of artefacts.”

NHSGGC archivist, Alistair Tough, was also at the presentation, he added:
“With the gavel we also have a certificate of authenticity provided by another very famous historical figure, Robert Young, who was the British officer responsible for suppressing the slave trade in North Eastern Zambia following Livingstone’s death.”


For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected]

Images of the presentation are available on request.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021