What would the famous Jameson Whiskey have to do with cannibalism? The Jameson-cannibalism affair was a bona fide scandal in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and one that played out in part in the pages of British newspapers, in particular The Times of London. It was alleged that an heir to the vast Jameson Irish Whiskey fortune bought a 10-year-old girl just so he could draw her being eaten by cannibals. James S. Jameson was the great-great-grandson of John Jameson, the founder of the famed Irish Whiskey company, and as such was heir to the family fortune.
James Sligo Jameson was quite an adventurer and would regularly go on expeditions with other more accomplished explorers seeing the world and all its beautiful wonders. In the year 1888, he joined the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition that was led by the renowned explorer Henry Morton Stanley. They set out to travel across central Africa. The reason for this specific expedition was a bit ‘iffy’ at most. They were telling people that it was to bring supplies to Emin Pasha, the leader of an Ottoman province in Sudan that was cut off from most of the world by a revolt. However, many believed it was mainly to source more land opportunities for the Belgian free state colony in the congo.
This specific expedition was where the alleged grievous act took place. Well, I say alleged, because we will never truly know the full story but by James S. Jamesons own admission he witnessed the murder and mutilation of a young girl. The incident took place after Jameson paid handkerchiefs to a man who had said “Give me a bit of cloth and see.”
The allegations you see, was that Jameson physically went out of his way to pay a tribe to commit this horrendous act by cannibalising a young girl so he can draw it and see it for himself. But Jameson insists that he did not set out with the intention of causing or even witnessing any murder or act of cannibalism, and he described what he witnessed as “the most horribly sickening sight I am ever likely to see in my life.”
In 2015, the website Afflictor.com published an article that read as follows:
In 1890, James S. Jameson, heir to the famed whiskey-distilling family’s wealth, was accused of a crime that was singular and sinister even by the standards of colonialism. Syrian translator Assad Farran testified that the peripatetic explorer paid African natives a number of handkerchiefs to kill and cannibalize a small girl. Jameson, it was alleged, desired to not only witness the heinous acts but to sketch them.
In reality, though the truth of what exactly happened and why it happened was obscured from conception by so many different kinds of interpretations and claims and well, counterclaims to the claims. Fueled by attacks and purported retractions. The fact that even after 130 years, we are still making speculations, makes it nearly impossible to truly know what happened on that day.
What we do know though, is that based on Jameson’s own personal journals, he did witness the brutal murder and cannibalisation of a young girl in the what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1888 and he did play some kind of a part in how it occurred.
Jameson had expressed skepticism about the practice of cannibalism, to which one of his fellow travelers supposedly replied “Give me a bit of cloth and see.” Unknowingly of what would actually occur next, Jameson provided six handkerchiefs to the man, and the murder and mutilation of the girl ensued shortly thereafter.
Through various kinds of interpretations over the years, it has been perceived that Jameson used his wealth and power to ‘buy’ the girl with the handkerchiefs due to his own personal perversions and curiosities. However, at the time, Jameson protested against such characterisations, and insisted that he did not believe anyone would go through with any murder and cannibalization.
Jameson’s final telegram to his wife before his death read: “The reports about me, emanating from Assad Farran, a distinguished interpreter, [are] false. If made public, stop them.”
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