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On the trail of a famous ancestor
A WILTSHIRE family are helping to establish a historical trail in the African Bush in honour of their ancestor Sir Samuel Baker, who discovered one of the significant sources of the River Nile.
David Baker, 74, and his family are working with Julian Monroe Fisher, an explorer and anthropologist, to establish the 360-mile trail in South Sudan and Uganda, named after Sir Samuel and his wife, Lady Florence Baker.
Mr Fisher visited Sir Samuel’s great-granddaughter, Anne Baker, who lives in Harnham, to find out more about the family.
Mrs Baker, 99, wrote a book called Morning Star in 1972, which was based on the diaries of Lady Baker.
The project to establish the trail has the support of authorities in Uganda and South Sudan, with the hope of encouraging tourism.
Sir Samuel was a British explorer, naturalist, engineer and big game hunter in Victorian times.
He rescued the Hungarian Lady Baker from a slave market in Vidin, Bulgaria, and in 1861 they set off on an expedition to find the sources of the Nile. It was a difficult and dangerous journey, but three years later they discovered a lake in western Uganda, one of the great sources of the Nile, and named it Lake Albert after Queen Victoria’s late husband.
Overlooking Lake Albert is Baker’s View, named after Sir Samuel.
Travelling up the river, Sir Samuel and Florence came across a waterfall and named it the Murchison Falls, after Sir Roderick Murchison, the president of the Royal Geographical Society.
When he returned to England in 1866, Sir Samuel was knighted and awarded the gold medal by the Royal Geographical Society for his achievement.
Between 1869 and 1873 Sir Samuel was made Governor-General of Equatoria by the Sultan of Egypt with the express intention of suppressing the slave trade along the River Nile.
He was supported by 1,700 Egyptian troops, many of them discharged convicts, and for the next four years he set up a system of forts and released slaves, but after he left his legacy was not lasting and slavery returned to the area.
In January 2014 the Ugandan section of the trail will be launched, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Sir Samuel’s expedition.
David Baker, who lives in Chirton, and his brother Christopher, who lives in San Francisco, will be in Uganda to set up markers for the trail, which consist of information boards with quotes from Sir Samuel’s diaries to give a sense of his and Lady Baker’s observations and discoveries.
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