Oudney, Walter (DNB00)

OUDNEY, WALTER, M.D. (1790–1824), surgeon royal navy and African traveller, was born in December 1790, of humble parents, in Edinburgh, where he picked up sufficient knowledge of medicine to become a surgeon's mate on board a man-of-war. He was appointed an assistant surgeon in 1810, was stationed in the East Indies (Navy List, 1814), and on 24 May of that year was promoted surgeon. At the peace he returned, on half-pay, to Edinburgh, where his mother and sisters were living, attended classes at the university, graduated M.D. 1 Aug. 1817, and set up in private practice. He had the friendship of Dr. John Abercrombie [q. v.], who inserted two or three of Oudney's 'cases' in the 'Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal.' Oudney became a member of the Wernerian Society, applied himself to the study of chemistry and natural history, and had hopes of becoming university lecturer on botany. His views were changed by his association with Lieutenant Hugh Clapperton [q. v.] and Major Dixon Denham [q. v.] in an expedition for the discovery of the source of the Niger. Oudney and Clapperton arrived at their starting-point (Tripoli) in October 1821, whither they were followed by Denham. On 7 April 1822 they reached Murzuk in Fezzan, where they spent the rest of 1822, making excursions in the neighbourhood. In March 1823 they reached Kouka, on Lake Tchad, the capital of the kingdom of Bornou, where they remained some months. On 14 Dec. 1823 Oudney and Clapperton set out for the western extremity of the Bornou. The party was exposed to intense cold, and Oudney, who had been in poor health since his arrival at Kouka, was attacked by pneumonia. He seemed to mend a little on the return journey, but died at Katagum, in the Soudan, on 12 Jan. 1824, and was buried there.

Oudney is described as of middle stature and slight build, with a pale, grave face, pleasing manners, and possessed of much enterprise and perseverance. As an explorer he appears to have been very successful in his intercourse with the natives. Only two of Oudney's papers came into the hands of Colonel Denham, viz. 'An Itinerary from Murzuk to Bornu,' the mineralogical notes in which alone appear in Denham's narrative; and 'An Account of an Expedition to the Westward of Murzuk' (country of the Tuaricks), printed at the end of Denham's introductory chapter.

[Biography of Oudney in a small volume of Biographies of Oudney, Clapperton, and Laing, by the Rev. Thomas Nelson, Edinburgh, 1830, 12mo. The particulars of Oudney are given mostly on the authority of his personal friends Dr. Kay and Lieut. Shirreff, R.N. Scots Mag. 1824, pt. ii. p. 637; Denham's and Clapperton's Narratives.]

H. M. C.