Joseph Thomson (1858-1895)
Joseph Thomson (1858-1895)
Explorer in Africa
Joseph Thomson was appointed geologist and naturalist to the Royal Geographical Society’s 1878 expedition to Africa under Alexander Keith Johnston the younger. It was tasked with opening up a road from Dar es Salaam to lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika and set out with 125 porters on 19 May 1878. He took charge after Johnston's death the following year. They reached Lake Nyasa on 22 September and the shores of Lake Tanganyika on 3 November 1879. The latter had been sighted by David Livingstone in 1867. Joseph Thomson became the first European to cross the 250 miles between the lakes. He also collected flora and made observations on geography and geology. Between 1881 and 1890 he explored possible coal deposits for the Sultan of Zanzibar; between the eastern seaboard and the northern shores of Lake Victoria; the Atlas Mountains of Morocco; and across central Africa. Inspired by his experiences he wrote several books and articles including 'To the Central African Lakes and Back' (1881), 'Through Masailand' (1883) and the fictional 'Ulu: an African Romance' (1888) as well as a biography of Mungo Park. He became seriously ill, returned to Scotland in 1894 and died in London on 2 August 1895.
Birth in 1858
Joseph Thomson was born at 0h 15m PM on 14 February 1858, the son of William Thomson, mason (journeyman), and Agnes Brown. The entry in the statutory register of births for the parish of Penpont in the county of Dumfries gives the place of birth as Penpont Village.
Birth entry for Joseph Thomson (60 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1858/845/6
1861 and 1871 Censuses
In 1861, Joseph Thomson, 3, was enumerated at Penpont - no more specific address is given. The census return for the parish of Penpont shows the household included his parents and brothers James, William, John and Robert. His father’s occupation is recorded as ‘master mason’ and notes that he employs five men. His father’s birth-place is Keir, his mother’s Penpont.
1861 Census return for Joseph Thomson (65 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1861/845/7, page 9
In 1871, Joseph Thomson, 13, scholar, was enumerated at Gatelaw Bridge Hamlet. The census return for the parish of Morton shows the household included his parents, brothers William, John and James, his cousin Agnes who was born in Gretna (and recorded as niece to the head of household) and a general servant/Dom[estic]. His father’s occupation is recorded as ‘Quarry master & farmer of 42 acres, employing 18 men & 4 boys’. His brother William (19) was a mason and brother John (17) a draper.
1871 Census return for Joseph Thomson (60 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1871/843/1/6, page 6