The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography



Born in East Africa, Dado was a member of the Galla people, a historic name for the Oromo, the single largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. He was captured by Arab slavers but later rescued when he was about seven years old by a Methodist missionary, Thomas Wakefield. Shortly afterwards Wakefield returned to England ‘for a well-earned rest’ and Dado accompanied him, the two travellers departing from Zanzibar on 17 June 1868. Back in England, Wakefield received a warm welcome while Dado ‘greatly attracted the young people, the prepossessing appearance of the little African winning all hearts.’ During his furlough, Wakefield met and married his first wife, Rebecca Brewin. Three months later, the couple returned to Africa with Dado, their ship leaving Gravesend on 24 February 1870. Mrs Wakefield’s account of the long voyage is peppered with references to Dado and it seems clear he was treated as an adopted son.

The Wakefields and Dado returned via Zanzibar, where Mrs Wakefield gave birth to a daughter, Nellie, in October 1870. Around this time she noted in her diary that ‘Dado goes to school with the boys here and seems thoroughly at home among them.’ She later wrote that his ‘health seems to have improved by a return to his native land and I believe he thoroughly enjoyed his stay at Zanzibar and the companionship of the boys of the Mission School.’

From Zanzibar, the Wakefields and Dado travelled to Ribe, a Methodist mission station inland from Mombasa. A son, Bertie, was born here in June 1873 but died the following month, as did his mother four days later. Wakefield made the difficult decision to send his young daughter back to England for the sake of her health, to be raised by her mother’s brother, Robert Brewin, also a Methodist minister. The child was placed in the care of two CMS missionaries who were returning home, and Dado went with her too ‘for purposes of education.' The party left Mombasa on 8 September 1873. Dado returned to Ribe in December 1877 but Nellie continued living with her uncle until her marriage in 1898.

Wakefield returned to England for a second furlough in 1879 ‘to gain strength for further service.' On 27 December 1881 he married his second wife, Esther Susannah Sommers, at Bristol. The couple set off on the return journey to Africa on 17 February 1882. News reached Wakefield just before his departure that Dado had died at Ribe.

Photographed in 1869 by Edmund Eccles of Bury in Lancashire.

Entered by the photographer at Stationers' Hall, an essential part of the copyrighting process, on 6 February 1869. According to the documentation held at the Public Record Office in Kew, another portrait from the same sitting shows Dado with Nellie, and a fourth with Nellie and her uncle.

Code: 122010
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