Roualeyn George Gordon-Cumming - Encyclopedia

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ROUALEYN GEORGE GORDON-CUMMING (1820-1866), Scottish traveller and sportsman, known as the "lion hunter," was born on the 15th of March 1820. He was the second son of Sir William G. Gordon-Cumming, 2nd baronet of Altyre and Gordonstown, Elginshire. From his early years he was distinguished by his passion for sport. He was educated at Eton, and at eighteen joined the East India Co.'s service as a cornet in the Madras Light Cavalry. The climate of India not suiting him, after two years' experience he retired from the service and returned to Scotland. During his stay in the East he had laid the foundation of his collection of hunting trophies and specimens of natural history. In 1843 he joined the Cape Mounted Rifles, but for the sake of absolute freedom sold out at the end of the year and with an ox wagon and a few native followers set out for the interior. He hunted chiefly in Bechuanaland and the Limpopo valley, regions then swarming with big game. In 1848 he returned to England. The story of his remarkable exploits is vividly told in his book, Five Years of a Hunter's Life in the Far Interior of South Africa (London, 1850, 3rd ed. 1851). Of this volume, received at first with incredulity by stay-at-home critics, David Livingstone, who furnished Gordon-Cumming with most of his native guides, wrote: "I have no hesitation in saying that Mr Cumming's book conveys a truthful idea of South African hunting" (Missionary Travels, chap. vii.). His collection of hunting trophies was exhibited in London in 1851 at the Great Exhibition, and was illustrated by a lecture delivered by Gordon-Cumming. The collection, known as "The South Africa Museum," was afterwards exhibited in various parts of the country. In 1858 Gordon-Cumming went to live at Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal, where the exhibition of his trophies attracted many visitors. He died there on the 24th of March 1866.

An abridgment of his book was published in 1856 under the title of The Lion Hunter of South Africa, and in this form was frequently reprinted, a new edition appearing in 1904.

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