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The old African queen lending a hand to improve health in Malawi

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A doctor who founded a nation’s medical system, and the many lives of his ship

Not long after the explorer, medical missionary and anti-slavery campaigner, Dr David Livingstone, explored Lake Nyasa, now Lake Malawi, a wave of evangelising zeal saw the establishment of religious communities along the lake shore. One of those who went forth was an Anglican priest, Chauncy Maples. After 19 years, he was recalled to England to be appointed the Bishop of Nyasaland. It was on his return journey that the small vessel carrying him across the lake sank, and he drowned, weighed down by his bishop’s cassock.

Subsequently, as the plans for a large steamer were being drawn up to service the mission communities, the name Chauncy Maples was chosen for this vessel.

The building and rebuilding of the Chauncy Maples

The original plans for a 108-foot-long vessel were drawn in Africa, then repeatedly modified in Scotland by Henry Brunel, until the final version, a 127-foot-long design, was settled on.1

The ship was initially built in the inland shipyard of Alley and McLellan in 1899. This was a Glasgow company that supplied vessels in kit form to be exported to the colonies. During construction, the plates were bolted together rather than riveted, and once complete the entire ship was dismantled, the parts were galvanised, sorted into 3481 lots…