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Morrison, George Ernest (Chinese) (1862–1920)

from Argus (Melbourne)

George Ernest Morrison, by Charles Ritchie, 1912

George Ernest Morrison, by Charles Ritchie, 1912

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an6054769

The death is announced of Dr. George Ernest Morrison, the former Peking correspondent of The Times and since 1912 political adviser to the President of China. He was an Australian.

Dr. Morrison's career reads like a romance. Born in Geelong, in 1862, his father being a Scotsman, and principal of Geelong College, Dr. Morrison early showed the wandering spirit. One vacation he spent walking round the southern coast of Victoria and South Australia. Another he passed in a canoe, covering 1,500 miles in 65 days. As a result, when he went for honours he failed to obtain "a pass," and promptly entered upon the career of a wanderer. Voyages to the South Sea Islands and New Guinea as a seaman were followed by a famous walk across Australia, from Normanton, in the north, to his home in Victoria, 2,043 miles, in 123 days. He was alone, carried no arms, and when floods overtook him waded and swam. He next took command of a pioneer expedition to New Guinea, where he was wounded by two native spears. With the spearheads sticking in him, he was left for dead. He was picked up later, and made a wonderful recovery, but for several months carried the second spearhead about in his body. The marvellous feat of surgery of extracting the spearhead was preformed by Professor Cheyne, of Edinburgh, and while he was in the doctor's hands he resumed his medical studies, and in 1887 took his M.B. and C.M. degrees. After several other exploits, including a trip as an emigrant, a walk round Jamaica, working his way to New York as a purser, Dr. Morrison became medical officer to the Rio Tinto Company in Spain, then Court physician to the Shereef of Wazam. For two years Dr. Morrison was resident surgeon in charge of the hospital at Ballarat, but the wandering instinct again overtook him, and he left for a trip through China, Japan, and the Philippines. Dr. Morrison's second famous walk, across China from Shanghai to Rangoon, dressed as a Chinaman, was the means of his introduction to The Times, which, after the publication of his interesting book, offered him a post as travelling correspondent. After a short sojourn in Siam he left for Peking, in 1896, where he had been ever since, except for occasional visits to England and Australia. At the time of the Boxer Rebellion he was reported to have been killed in an attack upon the legation at Peking, and had the unique experience, of reading his own obituary notices, all of them highly eulogistic, in his own newspaper, The Times, and in other journals throughout the Empire. What happened was that he was seriously wounded. By 1912 Dr. Morrison had so impressed his abilities upon intellectual China that when the Republic was formed in 1912 he was appointed Political Adviser to the first President, a post he held at the time of his death. What is even more remarkable than the gift of winning such a high degree of confidence amongst the Chinese was his power to retain it through the troublous years that followed.

Dr. Morrison in 1912 married a daughter of Mr. Robert Robin, and leaves a widow and three sons. He was the eldest of five brothers—Dr. Reginald Herbert Morrison, of Melbourne; the late Mr. Charles Norman Morrison (who succeeded his father as head master of Geelong College, and was killed in a shooting accident in 1909), Mr. Arthur Morrison (an engineer in South Africa), and Mr. D. Clive Morrison (solicitor, of Tatura). One of his sisters is the wife of Mr. Justice Higgins.

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Citation details

'Morrison, George Ernest (Chinese) (1862–1920)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/morrison-george-ernest-chinese-7663/text25246, accessed 21 November 2017.

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