Joseph Thomson photo.JPG

Celebrating Dumfriesshire’s African Explorer

Cultural Connections are back with another historical drama with music for this year’s Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival. 

Dumfriesshire’s African Explorer is written and directed by Ayrshire’s Craigie Folk Club joint organiser Dave Dewar who has teamed up with esteemed folk musicians. The musical director is singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ian Walker who has written nine songs specially for the show, which he also performs. One of them is partly in Swahili, written with the help of African folk music expert Ewan McVicar. Ian will be assisted by accomplished cellist and singer Wendy Weatherby.  

This drama tells the story of Dumfriesshire’s African explorer Joseph Thomson. He was born in Penpont in 1858 and later moved to Gatelawbridge when his father leased the local quarry there. He died in London in 1895 aged only 37 and is buried in the Morton Cemetery at Thornhill.

Thomson discovered many previously unchartered parts of Africa.  His successes were rewarded by titles and honours including the prestigious gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society and the Thomson Gazelle. Thomson had a genuine love for Africa and its native people.  He strived throughout his travels to avoid confrontation with all whom he met including hostile African tribes.

This was encapsulated in his motto “He who goes gently goes safely, he who goes safely goes far”.  This was severely put to the test when dealing with the ferocious Maasai tribe in what is modern day Kenya.  He used a series of tricks to deal with their aggression.  A favourite one was to remove his false teeth which convinced the natives that he was a medicine man! On one occasion a native tried to remove his nose assuming that all his body came apart!  

The show will be performed at Penpont Parish Church at Penpont on Thursday 1st June and at the Ewart Library in Dumfries on Friday 2nd June

Tickets cost £10 from the Midsteeple Box Office in Dumfries on 01387-253383

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