Cumming, Roualeyn George Gordon- (DNB00)

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CUMMING, ROUALEYN GEORGE GORDON- (1820–1866), the African lion hunter, second son of Sir William Gordon Gordon-Cumming, second baronet of Altyre and Gordonstown, was born on 15 March 1820. He was educated at Eton, but even in his boyhood was distinguished more for his love of sport, especially salmon-fishing and deer-stalking, than for anything else. He entered the East India Company's service as a cornet in the Madras cavalry in 1838, and on his way had his first experience of sport in South Africa; but the climate of the East did not agree with him, and in 1840 he resigned his commission. He then returned to Scotland, and devoted himself to deer-stalking; but in his own words he found ‘the life of the wild hunter so far preferable to that of the mere sportsman’ that he obtained an ensigncy in the Royal Veteran Newfoundland Companies. Not finding the opportunities for sport in America which he expected, he exchanged in 1843 into the Cape Mounted Rifles, and once more found himself in Africa. He did not long remain in his new regiment, but resigned his commission at the close of the year, and purchasing a wagon and collecting a few followers, he spent the next five years hunting in the interior of South Africa. In 1848 he returned to England, and in 1850 he published his ‘Five Years of a Hunter's Life in the Far Interior of South Africa,’ a book which had an immense success, and made him the lion of the season. In 1851 he exhibited his trophies of success at the Great Exhibition. He then went about the country lecturing and exhibiting his lion skins for some years, and under the sobriquet of the ‘Lion Hunter’ he obtained great popularity, and made a good deal of money. In 1856 he published a condensed edition of his book as ‘The Lion Hunter of South Africa,’ and in 1858 he established himself at Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal, where his museum was a great attraction to all tourists. He was a man of great height and physical strength, with very Scotch features, and he seems to have had a Scotch premonition of death, for he ordered his coffin and made his will just before he died at Fort Augustus on 24 March 1866.

[Preface to the first edition of his book; Gent. Mag. May 1866; private information.]

H. M. S.