William (Willie) Lammond, who was born on November 5, 1876, was one of the last links with the very early explorers in Central Africa, such as Livingstone, Arnot, and Crawford, having arrived on the west coast at Benguela in Angola in 1900 as a young man of twenty-three years of age. Like many of the early explorers, he was a Scot, coming from Glasgow and also, like them, he left school at fourteen to undertake a practical apprenticeship, in his case in engineering, as a fitter, rather than pursue a university education. By the time of his death in 1968, in his ninety-second year, he had become one of the best known and respected missionaries in Zambia (the former Northern Rhodesia) and the undisputed doyen of the whole missionary community with an unmatched length of continuous service of over sixty years .
When he and his companion, John Alexander Clarke, landed at Benguela in Angola, the interior of the continent was as undeveloped as it had been in the days of Livingstone and Arnot. Not only so, but as he was to write, the “slave trade was in full swing in 1900 … I was to meet with hundreds of the poor wretches in chains, forked sticks, and tied up with ropes tramping to the west” . They were bound for the cocoa plantations on the Portuguese islands of San Tome and Principe and the authorities on the coast seemed to turn a blind eye to the situation. His route into Central Africa followed very much the path of Arnot and earlier missionaries, across the Kwanze River and on to the Lualaba River before heading for Luanza on the shores of Lake Mweru. This mission had been established by Daniel Crawford in 1894 and Willie Lammond was to remain there for four years. In 1904 he married his first wife, Flora Merry. In order to do so, they had to walk 250 miles to the town of Abercorn (modern Mbala, in Zambia) at the foot of Lake Tanganyika and 250 miles back. On the return journey she nearly died of blackwater fever, a complication of severe malaria often associated with high quinine usage (the only anti-malarial drug available in those days), and she sadly succumbed to this illness just two years later in 1906. By this time the Lammonds had moved south to Mambilima, close to chief Mulundu’s village, on the Luapula River, that forms the border between modern Zambia and the Congo Republic.
Mambilima, the local name for the rapids and meaning “the jumping of the waters,” was also called Johnston Falls for a number of years from about the early 1920s until Zambian independence in the mid-1960s, in honor of one of the governors of Northern Rhodesia. The local chief, Kazembe, had allowed the establishment of a mission station in 1898, although not without frequent trouble. Attempts had been made to kill H. J. Pomeroy, the first resident missionary, at the instigation of the chief and the situation remained tense for some time. The tables were turned a year or two later, however, when the British sent a punitive expedition against Kazembe in order to depose him and he turned to the missionaries at Mambilima for refuge. By this time a Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were the missionaries and Mrs. Anderson persuaded Kazembe to return with her and meet the force, while her husband remained at Mambilima to keep control of the remnant of Kazembe’s followers. Of this incident, Willie Lammond was later to write that one of the officers involved had said to him, ‘What could we do with the man when a woman brought him by the hand and said, ‘Do be kind to him’?” .
Towards the end of 1906, after the death of his first wife, Willie Lammond returned to the homeland for a period of leave. Once again he walked across Africa, not meeting the train, on the newly constructed railway, until he was just a few hours short of Luanda. While in England, he married his second wife Dora Gammon in 1908. She came from the English West Country, from the seaside town of Ilfracombe in North Devon. He had also taken the opportunity of undertaking a course in dentistry at Livingstone College, providing him with skills that would be put to good use on his return to Africa. The Lammonds returned to Mambilima in May 1908 to find that sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) was devastating the Luapula Valley. This disease is transmitted by the tsetse fly, and feral animals, as well as cattle, form the reservoir for the parasite that causes the disease. In the early twentieth century there was no treatment for the condition and the authorities on both sides of the Luapula River (that is, both British and Belgian) ordered the complete evacuation of the relatively densely-populated area. As a result, the Lammonds moved some forty-five miles to the north to the village of Kaleba, remaining there from 1910 until 1922. During this time, Willie Lammond began an extensive educational program and saw considerable growth in the local churches. Local Christians became effective in evangelizing their own people and significant progress was made in bringing Christianity to that area. Willie also had the pleasure of welcoming his brother George and his wife to the mission in 1913 and he too played a significant part in developing Christian work in the Luapula Valley before eventually retiring to England in 1951 as a result of failing eyesight. During that period, George was renowned as a highly skilled cabinet maker throughout that area of Northern Rhodesia.
The strict regulations governing movements in the Luapula Valley were relaxed by the authorities in 1922 and it was possible for the Lammonds to return to their original mission at Mambilima. He was the only dentist for hundreds of miles and over the years, not only the local people, but government officials, missionaries of all brands, settlers and traders, were to find relief at his hands. He was also a highly practical builder and there was a substantial building program at the mission as time progressed. In addition to the missionaries’ houses, a school, a home and school for blind and physically handicapped children, as well as a hospital were all established. The numbers of both European and local staff increased with teachers and nurses, as well as those specifically concerned with the spiritual aspects of the mission. Willie Lammond ruled over all as a gentle autocrat, countenancing little change in the way things were to be done. Even in the years immediately before his death on February 24, 1968, he still retained what was essentially a controlling interest in the affairs of the mission, as well as the local churches, and the local church leaders regularly sought his advice.
Willie Lammond’s second wife, Dora, died in 1952 and late in 1953 he married again. His third wife, Betty Shepherd, a graduate in mathematics, had joined the mission as a school teacher in 1946, just after the Second World War, and she continued working at the mission after Willie’s death until her own retirement from Zambia in 1992. She died in England the following year.
Someone who had worked with Willie Lammond for a number of years paid this tribute to him. He “was a great man and a straight man. One of those unswervingly righteous Scottish characters whom one can only admire - and sometimes fear” . He was undoubtedly a man of great integrity, but he could be autocratic, obstinate and difficult. On the other hand, there was another side to his character. He had a mischievous, almost impish, sense of humor and a great love of children with whom he was thoroughly at home, even though he had no family of his own. He was also a man of broad sympathies and had little time for denominational barriers at a time when ecumenical cooperation had scarcely been thought of. He was appointed M.B.E. in 1945 in recognition of his work, but his true legacy remains in the thriving Christian communities of the Luapula Valley in northwestern Zambia that he was instrumental in establishing.
J. Keir Howard
Editorial note, “Willie Lammond” in The Northern Rhodesian Journal, Vol.1, No. 3 (March 1951), pp. 75-76.
William Lammond, “Fifty years in Central Africa” in The Northern Rhodesian Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, (March 1951), pp. 3-7.
Lammond, p. 6. Robert Rotberg has accused the missionaries at Mambilima of intrigues with the authorities against Kazembe which led to the expedition against the chief (Christian Missionaries and the Creation of Northern Rhodesia: 1880-1924. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965], pp. 68-70). Rotberg’s account appears somewhat biased and he adduces no documentary evidence and quotes no sources, other than highly selective extracts from missionary letters (now in the Christian Brethren Archive at The John Rylands University Library, Manchester, England). The documentary evidence, in fact, would appear to be very much to the contrary as the full letters show, also borne out by the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.
A. E. Fulton, From Forest Track to Tarmac (Bala, North Wales: Dragon Books, 1970), p. 20.
William Lammond,_ Lessons in Chibemba,_ 8th ed. (Lusaka: Northern Rhodesian Publications Bureau, 1957). First edition published in 1930 in Brussels.
——–, “Fifty years in Central Africa” in The Northern Rhodesian Journal, Vol.1, No.3, (March 1951), pp. 3-7
W. T. Stunt, G. P. Simmons, A. Pulleng, D. K. Boak, A. Pickering, and S. F. Warren, Turning the World Upside Down: A Century of Missionary Endeavour (Eastbourne: Upperton Press and Bath: Echoes of Service, 1972), pp. 391-392, 401-402, 404-405, 566.
F. A. Tatford,_ That the World Might Know. Vol 6: The Dark Continent _ (Bath: Echoes of Service, 1984), pp. 366, 443, 445.
This article, received in 2005, was researched and written by Dr. J. Keir Howard, a retired consultant physician and Anglican priest who holds doctorates in both medicine and theology. From 1961 to 1966, he served as a medical missionary in Zambia.