In 1864, the Ethiopian emperor took a number of high-ranking European officials captive.
It’s fair to say that this displeased Queen Victoria’s government greatly.
So much so that in 1868 the British instigated a military expedition of such complexity and scale that it is quite hard to fathom.
Quite staggeringly, to rescue the hostages held in the Abyssinian Highlands, the British built a Red Sea port, then a railway, and finally brought in 44 highly-trained Indian elephants and 26,000 local people to carry their heavy guns. This massive army then began a 400-mile trek to the emperor’s supposedly impenetrable fortress at Maqdala.
Now, 150 years after the British Army completed this trek, explorer John Pilkington decided to bring this story back to life by recreating their journey from the coast through Ethiopia and Eritrea.
And not just to understand the difficulties of their journey; to discover what happened when they arrived at their destination.
On Thursday, November 8, John will be sharing his stories and insights in Edinburgh as part of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) Inspiring People talks programme.
John said: “It is a pleasure to be part of the RSGS Inspiring People talks programme, and I hope my latest will bring some fresh insights into the Horn of Africa.
“In the 1860s there were extraordinary goings-on in the Abyssinian highlands – and my goodness, what adventures are to be had there today!”
Mike Robinson, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, said: “John is a well-loved and seasoned contributor to the RSGS Inspiring People talks programme having given more than 50 illustrated presentations to our local groups over the past 25 years.”
John Pilkington FRSGS is one of Britain’s most experienced adventurers and public speakers having presented to more than 1,000 audiences across six continents.
He will be speaking at 7.30pm on Thursday, November 8, at Appleton Tower, University of Edinburgh. Tickets are available on the door or online via Eventbrite until noon the day before. See rsgs.org/events for links and further details.
The RSGS Inspiring People talks programme is produced in partnership with Tiso, Scotland’s Outdoor Specialists.