Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jameson, James Sligo

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JAMESON, JAMES SLIGO (1856–1888), naturalist and African traveller, was born on 17 Aug. 1856 at the Walk House, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, his father, Andrew Jameson, a land-agent, being the son of John Jameson of Dublin. His mother was Margaret, daughter of James Cochrane of Glen Lodge, Sligo. After elementary education at Scottish schools, Jameson was in 1868 placed under Dr. Leonard Schmitz at the International College, Isleworth, and subsequently read for the army, but in 1877 he decided to devote himself to travel. In that year he went by way of Ceylon and Singapore to Borneo, where he was the first to discover the black pern, a kind of honey-buzzard, and he returned home with a fine collection of birds, butterflies, and beetles. Towards the end of 1878 he went out to South Africa in search of big game, and hunted for a few weeks on the skirts of the Kalahari desert. In the early part of 1879 he returned to Potchefstroom, whence despite the disaffection of the Boers he reached the Zambesi district of the interior, trekking along the Great Marico river and up the Limpopo. In company with Mr. H. Collison he next passed through the ‘Great Thirst Land’ into the country of the Matabelis, whose king received them hospitably, and joined by the well-known African hunter, Mr. F. C. Selous, they pushed on into Mashonaland. They made their final halt near the Umvuli river, and hunted lions and rhinoceroses, obtaining excellent sport, and demonstrating the junction of the two rivers, Umvuli and Umnyati. In 1881 Jameson returned to England with a collection of large heads as well as ornithological, entomological, and botanical specimens. ‘This expedition to Mashona,’ writes Mr. Bowdler Sharpe, ‘added a great deal to our knowledge of the birds of South-East Africa.’

In 1882, accompanied by his brother, he went on a shooting expedition to the Rocky Mountains, passing from the main range into Montana and thence to the North Fork of the Stinking Water. Spain and Algeria were visited in 1884, and on his return home in February 1885 he married Ethel, daughter of Sir Henry Marion Durand [q. v.]

Jameson joined as naturalist, by agreement signed on 20 Jan. 1887, the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition under the direction of (Sir) H. M. Stanley; contributed 1,000l. to the funds, and reached Banana at the mouth of the Congo in March. In June 1887 he was left as second in command of the rear-column under Major Walter Barttelot, at Yambuya on the Aruwhimi river, while Mr. Stanley's party pushed further into the interior in search of Emin.

The chief, Tippu-Tib, had promised Mr. Stanley to send to Yambuya men and carriers. Thus reinforced Jameson and his companions were to follow Mr. Stanley with the stores, which were to reach them from the mouth of the Congo. Tippu-Tib failed to keep his word, and in August Jameson visited him at the Stanley Falls on the Upper Congo without result. No news from Mr. Stanley reached the camp, and privation and sickness soon carried off a third of its occupants. In the spring of 1888 Jameson after an adventurous journey revisited Tippu at Kassongo, three hundred miles higher up the Congo river than the Stanley Falls.

While returning with Tippu to the Falls in May Jameson witnessed at the house of the chief of the settlement of Riba Riba some native dances. Tippu told him that the festivities usually concluded with a banquet of human flesh. Jameson expressed himself incredulous, but gave the performers six handkerchiefs, which they clearly regarded as a challenge to prove their cannibal habits. A girl ten years old was straightway killed and dismembered in Jameson's presence. Jameson asseverates in his ‘Diary’ that until ‘the last moment he could not believe that they were in earnest,’ but he admits that later in the day he tried to ‘make some sketches of the scene’ (p. 291). After his death and the conclusion of the expedition, and at a time when Mr. Stanley's published account of his relations with the rear-column at Yambuya was undergoing severe criticism at the hands of its survivors, Mr. Stanley published the story in the ‘Times’ newspaper (8 Nov. 1890), and represented that Jameson almost directly invited the girl's murder, and made sketches on the spot. Mr. Stanley obtained his information from Mr. William Bonny, one of Jameson's companions at Yambuya, and from Assad Farran, Jameson's interpreter, whose uncorroborated testimony was of little account. Of the inhumanity thus imputed to Jameson he was undoubtedly incapable, but that he was guilty of reprehensible callousness is apparent from his own version of the affair.

On arriving at Yambuya (31 May 1888) Jameson prepared for the evacuation of the camp, which took place on 11 June. Tippu had at length sent four hundred Manyemas to act as carriers, but they proved insubordinate, and Barttelot, dividing the expedition into two, hastened forward (15 June), and left Jameson to follow with the loads at greater leisure. On 19 July Barttelot, while still in advance of Jameson, was shot dead at Unaria. On receiving this disastrous news Jameson hurried to Unaria, and thence to Stanley Falls, where he arrived on 1 Aug. On 7 Aug. he was present at the trial and execution of Sanga, Barttelot's murderer, and obtained the promise of Tippu-Tib, who seemed alone able to control the unruly native followers, to accompany the expedition in the search for Mr. Stanley, under conditions, which it was necessary to submit to the committee at home. Jameson offered to pay 20,000l. out of his own purse rather than allow the expedition to be abandoned. In order to place himself in communication with England, he (8 Aug.) left Stanley Falls to go down the Congo to Bangala, where Mr. Herbert Ward, a member of Major Barttelot's party, was known to be awaiting telegrams from the Emin committee. The weather was bad; a chill contracted by Jameson on 10 Aug. developed into hæmaturic fever, and on 17 Aug., the day after his arrival at Bangala, he died. On the 18th he was buried on an island in the Congo opposite the village.

A small but valuable collection of birds and insects which Jameson made at Yambuya was sent home in 1890. The bulk of his collections remains with his widow; but a valuable portion of the ornithological collections has been placed by Captain Shelley, to whom Jameson gave it, in the Natural History Museum, Kensington. His ‘Diary’ of the Emin Pasha expedition was published in 1890. A portrait is prefixed.

Of slight build, great refinement of manners and cultured habits, Jameson was to all appearance scarcely robust enough for the rough work of his latest expedition. Yet his loyal determination at all risks to carry out Mr. Stanley's orders, and his unflinching endurance of hunger, toil, and illness, go far to counterbalance the incident which has marred his fame. His widow and two daughters survived him.

[Information from Mrs. Jameson; Times, 22 Sept. 1888; Athenæum, 1888, p. 453; Darkest Africa, by H. M. Stanley, 1890; Barttelot's Letters and Diaries, 1891; Troup's Diary, 1891; Story of the Rear-Column of Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, by Jameson himself, edited by his wife, the preface by his brother, Mr. A. Jameson, 1891; Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa, by Surgeon T. H. Parke, 1891; Documents and Log of the Rear-Column, published in the Times (weekly edition 14 and 21 Nov., and 5 Dec. 1890); Times, 7 and 24 Dec. 1890.]

M. G. W.