Houghton, Daniel (DNB00)
HOUGHTON, DANIEL (1740?–1791), African traveller, was a native of Ireland. The reports of the African Association describe him as having ‘served as a captain in the 69th foot at Gibraltar, and afterwards as brigade-major to General James Rooke at Goree in 1779’ (Reports, vol. i. 1790). The only officer answering to this description is Daniel Houghton, who was appointed ensign 69th foot 14 Oct. 1758, lieutenant 14 July 1759, captain 21 July 1773. He served with the regiment at Gibraltar from 1770 to 1775, and retired from it in Ireland in 1778. He was probably related to Quartermaster and Captain Ralph Houghton, 24th and 69th foot. Among his brother officers in the 69th were Samuel Paterson, the South African explorer, and ‘Fighting Fitzgerald.’ Houghton was at Goree in 1779, and is said to have been at one time attached to the British consulate at Morocco. He married a lady with money, which was taken by his creditors, and he then sought employment from the association formed in 1788 for promoting African exploration. His offers to carry out the project of reaching the Niger by way of the Gambia and to visit Houssa and Timbuctoo were accepted. He left England 16 Oct. 1790, reached the Gambia 10 Nov., and was kindly received by the negro king of Barra, whom he had visited from Goree some years before. Having procured an interpreter, he proceeded to Junkiconda, where he obtained a horse and five asses to carry his belongings to Medina, the capital of Wolli. His slight knowledge of the Mandingo tongue disclosed to him a plot against his life among the negro concubines of the traders, who feared interference with their privileges. He arrived at Medina safely by a different route, but his despatches were lost at sea. In a letter which reached his wife he wrote in high terms of the king and people, and ‘hoped she would accompany him to a place where 10l. a year would keep them in affluence.’ He was sanguine also in respect of the commercial advantages obtainable. But disasters befell him: a fire, which destroyed the greater part of Medina, consumed the merchandise on which he relied to pay his expenses; his interpreter deserted with his horse and three of the five asses; a trade-gun burst in his hands, and injured his arms and face. On 8 May 1791 he set out on foot, in company with a slave merchant, and on 13 May crossed the uninhabited frontier between Wolli and Bondou, thus passing the previous limit of European discovery. Traversing the latter country, the people of which he described as a branch of the ‘Foulies’ (Foulahs) and of Arab descent, he reached the Falemé, the south-western boundary of the kingdom of Bambouk. Part of that kingdom had been lately ceded to the negro king of Bondou, whose son paid Houghton a visit with a band of armed followers, and helped himself to whatever took his fancy. Houghton was then sent back to the frontier, and arrived at Ferbanna, the capital of Bambouk, after a perilous journey, during which he was seized with a delirious fever. He was received with great kindness by the king of Bambouk, with whom he entered into negotiations to open a trade with England. These were interrupted by a great native annual festival. Houghton had previously accepted the offer of an old merchant of the city to conduct him to Timbuctoo and bring him back to the Gambia. He started for Timbuctoo in good health and spirits on 24 July 1791, the date of his last despatch. The only later communication received from him was a note in pencil to Dr. Laidley at the Gambia: ‘Major Houghton's compts. to Dr. Laidley; is in good health, on his way to Timbuctoo, but robbed of all his goods by Feudo Bucar's son.’ The name of the place looked like ‘Simbing.’ News of his death followed, but neither the place, supposed to be Jarra, nor the exact date was ascertained. The natives said he died a natural death, and that his remains lay under a tree. Whether he was murdered was doubtful, but he was stated to have tempted the cupidity of the natives by carrying too many bale-goods with him, contrary to the advice of friends. Houghton's explorations were followed up by Mungo Park. Disasters never diminished Houghton's love of enterprise or his good spirits. His journey from the Gambia to Bambouk, a thousand miles away, enlarged the limits of European discovery, and the information collected by him from native sources threw further light on the problem of the sources and course of the Niger. At the instance of the African Association George III bestowed a pension of 30l. a year on Houghton's widow.
[Army Lists; African Assoc. Reports, vol. i. 1790. A good account of Houghton's explora- tions is given in Georgian Era, iii. 42. Some brief biographical notices are given in different publications. In that in Nouv. Dict. Universelle he is called ‘Anthony,’ and the date of his birth given as 1750.]