Object of the Month: May 2016

Duncan MacCormick’s Watch Chain

LISDD:2010.156

Duncan MacCormick's Watch Chain LISDD2010-156

Duncan MacCormick’s Watch Chain LISDD2010-156

Gold watch chain of twisted oval links, connected to an oval commemorative medal inscribed on one side with the initials DMC and on the other:  “Presented to Duncan MacCormick from his friends & well wishers in Lismore.  22 August 1908”

Duncan MacCormick, son of James and Jessie MacCormick, tenants in Baligarve, was 21 years old when he left for Nyasaland (now Malawi).  William Jervis Livingstone, Bachuil, had been appointed to manage the A L Bruce estates, which were beginning to develop cotton plantations, and Duncan was engaged as his assistant.

Chiradzulu, Malawi

Chiradzulu, Malawi

 The early years of the 20th century were a turbulent period in Nyasaland, with Independent African Churches providing a focus for discontent about colonialism (Nyasaland was a protectorate, not a colony), conditions of work on the plantations, and restrictions on the establishment of new churches.  John Chilembwe (1871-1915) a Baptist minister and teacher, trained in the USA, returned to Nyasaland to found the, American-funded, Providence Industrial Mission at Chiradzula, near the Bruce estates.   Dedicated to resistance to colonialism, he took the opportunity provided by WW1 to raise an armed rebellion in January 1915.  Although short-lived, and quickly suppressed by the authorities, the rebellion centred on the Bruce estates, and claimed the lives of William Jervis and Duncan MacCormick, who were brutally murdered at Magomero.  John Chilembwe was finally captured and killed on 3 February.

Duncan MacCormick wearing the watch chain

Duncan MacCormick wearing the watch chain

Pocket watches, which were very fashionable in the Victorian period, had gone out of use by the 1920s.  This was partly because of the decline in the wearing of waistcoats, but one important reason was that officers in the trenches in WW1 found it much easier to use wristwatches.  Before that, they had been considered to be effeminate.

CELM is particularly grateful to the MacCormick family for entrusting such a precious family heirloom to the museum collection.  It is on permanent display.  In 2004, members of the family made a pilgrimage to the sites in Malawi that were associated with Duncan.

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