Chinese George

George Ernest Morrison (1862 – 1920), also known as Chinese Morrison, was an Australian adventurer and The Times Peking correspondent.

image found here

He was born in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. During a vacation before his tertiary education, he walked from Geelong to Adelaide, a distance of about 600 miles (960 km). Landing at Normanton, Queensland at the end of 1882 Morrison decided to walk to Melbourne. He was not quite 21, he had no horses or camels and was unarmed, but carrying his swag and swimming or wading the rivers in his path, he walked the 2043 miles in 123 days.

image of Geelong found here

Financed by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison was sent on an exploration journey to New Guinea. The men Morrison chose to accompany him were a mixed and mostly comical lot. They included Ned Snow “remarkably short and of such eccentric configuration that, whereas his body seemed longer than his legs, his head appeared more lengthy than either’. There was a Malay named Cheerful (possibly because he was an opium smoker) and another, Lively, who was “curious”.

Mud Men from New Guinea found here

High mountain country barred the way, and it took 38 days to cover 50 miles. The natives became hostile, and Morrison was struck by two spears, one, driven into his head near his right eye, the other deep in his stomach. Retracing their steps, with Morrison strapped to a horse, Port Moresby was reached after many days. On a ship taking him home he blew his nose and shot out a two centimetre splinter of wood. 

image found here

In Melbourne, 169 agonising days after the ambush, a surgeon removed the spearhead that was wedged in the back of his throat. Without anaesthetic the surgeon took the tip of the spear (six centimetres long) through and up the throat and into then out of Morrison’s right nostril.

He sailed for London on 27 March 1884, where he had the second spearhead cut from his abdomen by surgeon Joseph Bell in front of no less than 16 other surgeons. Morrison graduated as a doctor from Edinburgh University two and a half years later. After graduation he travelled extensively in the United States, the West Indies, and Spain. He then proceeded to Morocco, became physician to the Shereef of Wazan, and studied in Paris under Dr Charcot. In Siam, where the British and French were vying for power, he worked as a British secret agent. 

George found here

In 1894 he journeyed from Shanghai to Rangoon. He went partly by boat up the Yangtze River then rode and walked the remainder of the 3000 miles. The journey was completed in 100 days at a total cost of £18. He was unarmed and at the time knew hardly more than a dozen words of Chinese. 

Yangtze found here

In 1899 he went to England, and early in 1900 paid a short visit to his relations in Australia before returning to Peking. The Boxer Uprising broke out soon after, and during a prolonged siege, Morrison showed great courage, always ready to volunteer for every service of danger. Superficially wounded in July, he was erroneously reported as killed. He was afterwards able to read his highly laudatory obituary notice, which occupied two columns of The Times.

Boxer uprising found here

Morrison was a handsome, heroic man of action, much admired by women. In Spain he was captivated by a young girl named Pepita. In Paris he spent all his savings on Noelle and in Rangoon he had an idyllic affair with a Eurasian named Mary. In London, aged 43, he fell heavily for Toni, a 22 year old Hungarian. In Peking, he lusted briefly for Bessie and while visiting Sydney, spent time with a German actress. May, an insatiable American heiress, had him in the shadow of the Great Wall. He was spellbound by her sexuality and described her as the most thoroughly immoral woman. His diary contained an account of her industrious love life:

shadowy Great Wall found here

“May played with herself every morning even after passing the night in bed with a man. Seduced by a doctor, she went to Washington, slept constantly with Congressman Gaines, had four miscarriages, kissed all the way over Siberia by Captain Tremain Smith. Had for days in succession by Martin Egan. Her desire now is to get a Japanese maid to accompany her back to America and to kiss her every morning. In Tientson she had the Dutch consul and Mr Holcombe had her four times in two hours….”

Japanese maids found here

Morrison was dejected when May dumped him but at the age of 53, he married his thirty years younger assistant, Jennie. They had seven happy years together before he died of pancreatitis in May 1920.  

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50 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I would never try to blow my nose that way. It is uncivilized and I would get wet snot all over my beard and mustache. In an emergency I would use my Italian handkerchief. The shirt sleeve.

  2. As I kid I had a friend who would do that when we were outside all the time. Just lean over as we were walking to the store/school etc and just blow his snot all over the sidewalk. Thanks for bringing back a gross memory.

    • You’re welcome bearman

      • Why do men think this is an appropriate way to blow their noses in this day of age? Sure on the construction jobsite- I can see it but in a parking lot? Really? I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember. I can’t belive you actually found a graphic to demonstrate NM! You are so resourceful.

  3. That method of sinus-clearing is particularly effective when riding a bicycle. That said, I always carry a few pieces of paper towel to use for that. However, should I ever take a spear to the head, I’ll probably do whatever is necessary to eject the shrapnel from my system. Like your intrepid hero. His portrait gives me the willies. It shows a young man of excess earnestness. No wonder the natives grew hostile.

  4. i would have fallen for Morrison too if i had met him 🙂
    i didn’t know they had camels in Australia, Nursie.

  5. Any one of those adventures would be more than enough for a lifetime.

  6. God, I envy gutsy, rugged individuals like that!

  7. What an exciting life.

  8. Ah, now the images have loaded. Love the mudmen and George I find quite handsome.

  9. I wonder sometimes if there are still men like that nowadays. Are all the adventurers gone because there are so few undiscovered places anymore?

    • i think they pop over to war zones now. It’s usually called journalism.

  10. I wonder if, at the end of his life, he was thinking, “Huh. I think the whole ‘unarmed’ thing might have been a crappy idea.”

  11. Classic example of a badass who lived life to the fullest.

    • do you think he was such a badass?

  12. That is a lot of walking – wonder who made his boots 🙂

  13. Your posts stay with me for days. Why are there no more people like this anymore? Excuse me while I blow my nose…

  14. I like his use of the modal verb “had” there, in both active and passive forms, in his diary.

    Oh dear… now you see why unlike this swashbuckler, I haven’t got a girlfriend.

  15. I don’t even want to DRIVE 2,043 miles.

    “Possibly” because of opium? With a wink, I assume.

    The decapitation pic is cool. I had to blow it up.

    Ditto the Japanese maid pic.

    What an unsettled man. I wonder what he was running from? Something scared the hell out of him. Boredom, perhaps.

    • Addicted to adrenaline maybe

  16. Why take out the spear tip through his nostril when he has a mouth?

    • The medical degree decreed it

  17. That’s an awful lot of walking.
    I’m in danger of getting that Proclaimers song stuck in my head.
    Better than a spear, I guess.

    • Aaarrrgh….no! I hate that song

  18. He’s sure travelled to many places. Such an adventurous life. I’d be happy if I had even 10% of that. Minus the women, of course 😉

  19. I’m sure the world is full of wonderful characters like this still, but taking trains and planes everywhere somehow seems to lessen the effect. Not to mention that medical science has advanced somewhat…

    The King

    • And I for one, am delighted about that

  20. Bloody hell, with a life like that it is no surprise he did not get his three score and ten!

    • Even if it was not a weapon that brought him down in the end!

  21. What an amazing life. I like the fact that he traveled unarmed, even with not much of the language to help him. There is something to be said for approaching the world from a peaceful place.

    And it was a lot of walking, but if you do the math, it was about 17 miles per day, which is very very doable, giving you plenty of time to catch a meal and ford a river, stop for a while and look at the view. After all, the USArmy will march 20 miles before breakfast for training purposes….

    • I can’t remember the last time I walked just one mile

  22. Ironic that he survived all those marathon journeys, two serious spear wounds and an uprising and then died of something as routine as pancreatitis.

    The photo of the Japanese maids is curious. The one in the centre looks as if she’s pouring breakfast cereal into her socks….

  23. Obviously May is out there so I shall now cast my clout.

    • Ha! Watch out for TG’s reaction

  24. May had the right idea with the Japanese maids. I have had similar thoughts myself – that picture only serves to reinforce the excellence of this idea.

  25. I wonder who the heiress, May, was. I would like to read her autobiography.

    • Yes, she sounds fascinating

  26. Great post. They should use this fellow’s life to encourage young people to leave their computers and go out and become physically active.:)

    • It would probably terrify the hell out of most of them

  27. He was a dish early on but I’m not sure that remained after they pulled the spearhead through his nostril?

  28. I’m convinced, Japanese maids are better than French maids.

  29. great post but the nose made me retch lol xjen

    • well don’t go delving into my archives Jen. there’s a lot of retch inducing stuff there 😉

      • fascinating im sure a little retching a day keeps the the gp away so il keep reading xjen

  30. Very impressed with Mr Holcombe…oh yes and with Morrison’s exploits

  31. His feet must have been covered in blisters and corns and bunions. Unlike mine, which are smooth and baby-like from disuse.

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