BOOKS: by Michael Daniel (reviewer)News Weekly
THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE: The Life and Times of Morrison of Peking
, June 5, 2004
THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE:
The Life and Times of Morrison of Peking
By Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin
Allen and Unwin, Rec. price: $32.95George Ernest Morrison, known to history as "Morrison of Peking", was one of the most fascinating Australians whose life spanned the close of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. For much of his career, he was a foreign correspondent in China for the London Times and in this capacity was an eyewitness to the Boxer Rebellion.
Son of the Principal of Geelong College and nephew of the Headmaster of Scotch College, Morrison was born in 1862. His family intended him for a medical career and he was eventually to complete his medical studies and practise, albeit briefly, as a doctor.
Yet from an early age, Morrison developed both the desire to travel and to write about his experiences.
He rose to prominence with his exposé of the Australian Kanaka trade which he saw at first hand in a Kanaka boat.
Although accused by vested interests of exaggeration, Morrison's account was to set the pattern of much of his journalism: objectivity and insightfulness gained through first hand experience. Morrison's other early adventures included walking from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Melbourne and attempting to cross New Guinea, only to be almost killed.
A journey to Great Britain after the latter expedition was necessary to remove fragments of native spears embedded in his body.
Morrison was appointed China correspondent for the Times
in 1895 after travelling in the Far East. He was wounded during the Boxer Rebellion and mistakenly reported as dead.
He furthered his reputation for first hand observation of events. For example, at a time when the British Government was courting alliances with Japan, he was critical of Japan's expansionist agenda, particularly towards China.
Later, he served as an adviser to the Republic of China, after its inception in 1911. In this capacity, he was more than a mere casual observer of events, accompanying the Chinese delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919.
Marrying late in life, he died in 1920.
Thompson and Macklin have drawn extensively on Morrison's papers and newspaper articles in compiling this very interesting biography. The Man Who Died Twice
will introduce younger generations to the career of George Morrison.