Casket and amulet, wood / metal / paint, China / Japan, 1905
The wooden casket and amulet is of special significance to Alastair Morrison as it belonged to his father George Ernest Morrison and had a connection to his father's boyhood hero, the 19th century great adventurer and explorer of the African continent, Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
The small wooden casket and amulet was a gift to George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920), from Dorothy Stanley (nee Tennant), a Welsh artist who was the widow of Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904). On the inside of the casket is the inscription: "From Dorothy Stanley to G.E Morrison Xmas 1905".
Born in Denbigh, Wales and christened John Rowlands (Stanley), the young Rowlands endured a harsh childhood. Unwanted, he was sent to a workhouse at the age of 6. He left Wales at 18, sailing to New Orleans as a cabin boy. He was employed by an American merchant, Henry Hope Stanley who became somewhat of a father figure to the fatherless Rowlands. John Rowlands subsequently adopted his mentor's name to become Henry Morton Stanley. Stanley was the journalist and explorer responsible for finding David Livingstone, a famous British anti-slaver, physician and Christian missionary, who in 1866 had set off to find the source of the Nile and subsequently not been heard of since.
Henry Morton Stanley was a journalist with a flair for self-promotion and an intrepid explorer with an often ruthless determination to succeed. He was the first European to descend the length of the Congo River and the second European to cross central Africa from east to west. He is generally credited with resolving the question of the source of the Nile River.
George Ernest Morrison shared with his childhood hero, Stanley, an adventurous spirit that saw him explore remote areas of New Guinea, penetrating farther into New Guinea's interior than any previous white man. He was the first permanent correspondent of the prestigious London 'The Times' newspaper to be stationed in Peking from 1897-1912. As a highly respected government advisor to President Yuan Shi-kai, 1912-1919, his perceptive observations and recommendations were always based on China's best interests. He was idealistic with a great love of the truth, achieving world-wide recognition as 'Morrison of Peking'. He had a keen sense of humour, an insatiable curiosity, an inquiring mind and enjoyed a varied yet distinguished career as a respected journalist, political advisor, physician and explorer. Morrison's contribution to journalism, his role in shaping policies in China, and his 'Boys Own' adventures are generally not well known in Australia.
Alastair, the second son of George Ernest Morrison was born in Peking. After the death of their parents, Alastair and his two brothers were educated in England where their upbringing was supervised by an elderly and distant cousin. Alastair returned to Peking in 1940 where he secured a post in the British Embassy as a cypher officer in a small intelligence unit. Alastair married Hedda Hammer in 1946.
Hedda Hammer Morrison was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1908 and spent most of her working life in Asia. She travelled extensively through China and Sarawak photographing the people, cultures and environments. She moved to Peking in 1933 and lived there until 1946, meeting her husband Alastair in 1940 and marrying in 1946. After leaving China they lived in Hong Kong for 6 months and then moved to Sarawak in the north-west of Borneo, where Alastair was appointed to the British Colonial Service and later became a district officer. The Morrisons lived in Sarawak until 1967 when they moved to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
According to Alastair Morrison (conversation with C. Roberts 29/11/06) his father was a great admirer of Stanley. Stanley's wife Dorothy was much younger than her husband and she and Morrison became great friends.
The Chinese charm was in Stanley's possession and it is thought he acquired it in Africa. It was given to G.E Morrison as a Christmas present by Dorothy Stanley the year after her husband's death.
Alastair recalls meeting Lady Stanley in London when he was a young boy. Lady Stanley arranged for the family to attend the Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
The Powerhouse Museum holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of Hedda Morrison photographs and research material in Australia. The collection includes personal memorabilia and objects collected by Hedda and Alastair Morrison and donated to the Museum by Alastair.
Although the maker of this piece is unknown it is most likely that the amulet and the casket are not original to each other. The amulet is Chinese while the casket was made in Japan. They were brought together in during 1905.
The casket was a gift to donors father, George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920), from Dorothy Stanley, a Welsh artist who was the widow of Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904), the journalist and explorer responsible for finding David Livingstone. George Ernest Morrison visited Lady Stanley in England. The inscription in black ink inside the casket reads, 'from Dorothy Stanley to G.E Morrison Xmas 1905'. The donor believes the casket to be of Japanese origin.