Wednesday, 22 June 2011

W G Burn-Murdoch

When I was recently on holiday in Thailand I read WG Burn-Murdoch's from Edinburgh to India and Burma, which is a nice enjoyable piece of Edwardian travel writing.

Now it is very much a product of its time, with its robust enjoyment of field sports, yet also for its descriptions of the landscape and countryside of Upper Burma by the author, who was a prominent artist in his time. It's also interesting historically in the way it reveals a conflict between the author's loyalty to the British Empire and his developing sense of Scottish nationalism.

So, I resolved to find out more about the author. Shouldn't be difficult, there's a wikipedia page on everyone isn't there?

No there isn't. In fact there's very little online about him at all, except for single web page by the RSGS, and a rather arresting image of him playing the bagpipes in the snow.

In fact he was a member of the Scottish Antarctic Expedition, which was one of the few expeditions from the heroic period of Antarctic exploration to concentrate of science rather than public school heroism, to concentrate on sciences and a friend of William Speirs Bruce, the noted and now forgotten Scottish Antarctic explorer, as well as a noted traveller in his own right.

And just as with Peter Fleming and Ella Maillart, by tracing his friendships, we can begin to graph the community and linkages of the Antarctic research community, for example, Speirs Bruce knew Nansen, Burn-Murdoch travelled with Speirs Bruce and was a co-investor in WSB's Spitzbergen venture, from which we could surmise that Burn Murdoch must also met Nansen ...

(The link cited points to a print edition on Amazon, if you have an e-reader you can also get it for free from Gutenberg).

1 comment:

the blog author said...

Hi, knowledge geek, you sure are! I'm also doing a bit of research on W.G. Burn Murdoch (amongst many others), as I'm currently managing an online cataloguing project for the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia Library. Trying to add some biographical-historical notes to the cat. records. Only about 50,000 to go! First draft of catalogue at
Many, many thanks for this - saved me hours of work!