Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Another Look At Victoria Falls

 By Nick Baalbergen

 The early tourist map (photo 1) of the Victoria Falls and surrounding points of interest, was pasted to the inside back cover of an original photo album dating from the early 1900's. The map shows the trolley line, introduced by the Victoria Falls Hotel in 1920, but does not yet show the statue of David Livingstone, unveiled in 1934. The map therefore dates from the period between 1920 and 1934. As the attached photos numbered 2, 3 and 7 are from the same album and date from the early 1920's, the map most probably dates from the same time.

 The trolley line of two foot gauge rail, consisted of two routes, one taking guests from the Hotel to a view site overlooking the Victoria Falls Bridge and the gorge it spans. The second route ran for about 500 metres up river from the Falls, to the Boat House and Landing Stage. In the late 1940's, the Victoria Falls was an overnight stop on the Flying Boat service, which operated from Europe through the length of Africa. Passengers would be ferried by motor launch from the Sunderland Flying Boat moorings to the nearby Landing Stage and Customs House. The Hotel operated a Tearoom at this location, indicated on the map by three small rondavels. The attached photo taken in 1955, is of the Tearoom surrounds.

 A restored original trolley placed on a small section rail, has been preserved in the gardens of the Victoria Falls Hotel. (A second trolley was housed at the Bulawayo Transport Museum). A brass plaque attached to the trolley bench records the history of the service and reads as follows :

 ITALICS "The Victoria Falls Hotel Trolley Service, which operated from the Hotel to the Bridge and the Boat House, was introduced in 1920. Before this date, the Hotel guests were conveyed to various points of interest by means of rickshas. During their life the trolleys were used by some 2 million guests, and were replaced by motor coaches in December 1957, after 37 years of romantic, yet reliable, service." End Italics

 A well known point of interest shown on the map, is 'The Big Tree', a magnificent Baobab on the original Hunters Trail to the Victoria Falls. The earliest surviving photos of The Big Tree and the Victoria Falls, were taken by hunter/trader Frank Watson in 1891. Photographs are known to have been taken by an expedition several years earlier, but none have survived. The three attached photos span a period of 116 years. A severe storm in the 1960's broke off a section of the lower right branch of the tree, shown in the earlier photos. An information sign at the site details relevant facts relating to the tree as follows : Latin, Ndebele and Shona names of the Baobab, its girth and height (18 metres and 23 metres respectively), approximate age of between 1000 and 1500 years and finally the flowering time - early summer.

 An imposing bronze statue of David Livingstone sculped by W Reid-Dick, placed on a natural granite plinth overlooking the Devils Cataract of the Victoria Falls, was unveiled on 5 August 1934 by Howard Moffat, a nephew of David Livingstone and early Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. On 16 November 1955, at a ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the discovery of the Victoria Falls by David Livingstone, a second plaque was unveiled by Lord Llewellin, Governor-General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In attendance at the ceremony was Doctor Hubert Wilson, grandson of David Livingstone, who participated in the unveiling. A short British Pathe news clip of the ceremony can be viewed at the following link :

 The three images of the commemoration programme and the photo of the statue with flag drapped plaque, were supplied by Dudley Wall, who owns the originals. The inside page of the programme, detailing the message from Lord Llewellin, was signed on request by Doctor Hubert Wilson in the top left hand corner.

 In closing, it is interesting to note that the Zambian Government commissioned their own bronze statue of David Livingstone, to honour the significant contribution he made to the early development of the country. This statue, unveiled in 2005.

Ph1, Another look at Victoria Falls
1 - Early Victoria Falls tourist 'map'

Ph2, Another look at Victoria Falls
2 - Victoria Falls Township circa early 1920's
Ph3, Another look at Victoria Falls
3 - Victoria Falls Hotel Trolley Service early 1920's.

Ph4, Another look at Victoria Falls
4 - Original trolley in the gardens of the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Ph5, Another look at Victoria Falls
5 - The Tearoom on the banks of the Zambezi River 500 metres up river from the Falls. 11 August 1957.

Ph6, Another look at Victoria Falls
6 - 'The Big Tree' on the Hunters Trail near Victoria Falls. Photo by Frank Watson  1891

Ph7, Another look at Victoria Falls
7 - The 'Big Tree' Victoria Falls. Early 1900's.

Ph8, Another look at Victoria Falls
8 - The 'Big Tree' Victoria Falls. July 2007

Ph9, Another look at Victoria Falls
9 - David Livingstone Centenary Programme - Front Cover

Ph10, Another look at Victoria Falls
10 - David Livingstone Centenary Programme - Guide Map
Ph11, Another look at Victoria Falls
11 - David Livingstone Centenary Programme - Inside Page - Message from Lord Llewellin


JUST a hundred years have passed since David Livingstone found the Falls. What changes there have been in this country from then to now: then there were no qualified doctors, no schools, no modern houses, no mining, no industries; to day we have tor better health, far better houses, a considerable number of schools, large mines and industrial undertakings which provide by the wealth that they create the amenities now enjoyed. In Livingstone's day there were no roads, no railway, no aircraft and the Falls were months and months away from the centre of the Empire; now it is less than a two-day flight from the Livingstone Airport to the London one. What wonderful progress in a material senw- But Livingstone came to bring more than merely material benefits. He came with Christ'* message: "To love the Lord Thy God and thy neighbour as thyself."

May the Livingstone Centenary Celebrations serve to remind us all of these two ereat Commandments and help us to keep them.

Ph12, Another look at Victoria Falls
12 - Statue of David Livingstone Victoria Falls.The centenary of the discovery of the Falls in 16 November 1955

Ph13, Another look at Victoria Falls
13 - Centenary ceremony on 16 November 1955 at statue of David Livingstone Victoria Falls.
Ph14, Another look at Victoria Falls
14 - The Livingstone Statue and the two plaques. Victoria Falls 23 August 2010.
Ph15, Another look at Victoria Falls
15 - Centenary plaque below Livingstone Statue Victoria Falls, unveiled on 16 November 1955

Ph16, Another look at Victoria Falls
16 - The original plaque unveiled below the Livingstone Statue on 5 A


 Thanks to John for sharing his photographs and memories with ORAFs.

  Comments are welcome, please enter them below or mail them to ORAFs and they will be uploaded to this article

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