WARNING: The following may be disturbing
St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner and people no doubt already have or are planning on stocking up on an assortment of Irish beers, stouts, and of course whiskey. No name or brand of Irish liquor stands out more than Jameson Irish Whiskey, but many don’t know that one of the heirs to the brand was involved in a case so horrid that his premature death saved him and the brand from public disgrace.
In the 1880s James S. Jameson tagged along with the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition that was sent to Ottoman-controlled southern Sudan to give supplies since the supply line to the region was cut off by revolts.
Jameson (whose journal provides all accounts of his time in the expedition) was left, along with others, in command of the Rear Column and it was here it appeared he became bored. According to Jameson himself, and other witnesses, he expressed interest and curiosity in the cannibalistic nature of the local tribespeople. Jameson’s own Sudanese translator confirmed this macabre fascination of Jameson’s (no doubt since he would have to translate Jameson’s thoughts to others).
In June 1888, Jameson, along with the help of a local influential salve trader, was able to get his wish to witness cannibalism firsthand. Jameson paid a village leader six handkerchiefs for a 10-year-old slave girl…to be cannibalized.
The child was tied to a tree as some of the men of the village sharpened their knives and Jameson sat and watched one man stab the girl two times in the belly.
Three men then ran forward, and began to cut up the body of the girl; finally her head was cut off, and not a particle remained, each man taking his piece away down the river to wash it.” –Excerpt of James S. Jameson’s letter to his wife.
While all this was going on, Jameson sketched the brutality before him before heading back to his tent to finish the sketches and watercolor them. Jameson himself claimed in his letter to his wife that he did not really think the villagers were really going to kill and slaughter the child. As word of along with other mishaps of other officers in the Rear Colum reached Henry Morton Stanley, the leader of the expedition, Jameson contracted a fever and died.
After his death, the Jameson family along with the help of the Belgian government, covered up James’s antics thus details of Jameson’s exploit faded from public scrutiny. I know what you’re thinking, what does Belgium have to do with this? Well, the relief expedition was not only providing relief to Ottoman allies in Sudan, but it was also clandestinely seizing more territory for Belgian-controlled Congo.
In retrospect, the Jameson Company dodged a bullet by not having an heir like James S. Jameson with dirty hands taking over the company, but I think I’ll not grab for my bottle of Jameson for a while.