Home Up Across the Pamir..

Death in the Morning

The story of George J. W. Hayward

Great news!  Tim Hannigan's Book on Hayward will be published in the Spring of 2011
 You can Pre-Order HERE! 

England's Royal Geographical Society lives in a staid but formidable old building in London. The hallways and rooms are covered with the memorabilia of famous expeditions and explorers of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century. Speke, Livingstone, Burton, Scott and Shackleton are all there, portraits lining the massive entry hall. For all of them, formal portraits are shown, head and shoulders all, studio shots, most posed for well after their heroic deeds had won them the Society's vaunted Gold Medal. 

But of all the dozens of paintings and photographs, one stands out for its complete dissimilarity from the rest. A lone explorer, bearded and be-turbaned, dressed in native cloth and armed to the teeth, glares out at the visitor with resolute firmness. It is George Hayward, one of the RGS's most illustrious members, and, of all the explorers of Central Asia in the 18th and 19th century, the only one actually sponsored by the Society. 
His brief career, shrouded in doubt, immersed in shadows, is not well documented anywhere. As of early 2002, a search of the Internet, and even the official Royal Geographic Society's web site, revealed not a single specific reference to him (Hopefully, that will change now)...

In 1859, he was an ensign, commissioned in the 89th Regiment of Foot, stationed in India. He was probably Irish by birth, born around 1840. In 1863 he purchased a commission as a Lieutenant, and in 1864 transferred to a Scottish regiment, the famed Cameron Highlanders. In 1865, he ended his short and undistinguished military career by selling his commission. In those days, it was not uncommon for gentlemen to buy and sell appointments like this, but the practice was soon ended by the British Army.

Nothing is known about Hayward's travels in the next few years, except that he evidently loved to hunt, especially the giant horned ibex and Markhor goats of the western Himalaya, for when he briefly returned to England he knew Kashmir and the Baltistan area of the northern Punjab well. In 1868, he approached Sir Henry Rawlinson, vice president of the RGS, and pronounced himself "desirous of active employment" as an explorer on the next expedition to central Asia and the western Himalayas.
This was just short of folly, as the one area of the world where the RGS was not so interested in, was Central Asia. The British Lion and the Russian Bear had intensified their  sabre-rattling over suspected intrusions by one side or the other into the lands between the huge empires, and tensions were as high or higher than they had ever been. Much of Chinese Turkistan and Tibet was still officially off limits to all non natives, and foreigners were harassed, chased out, or worse. The native rulers still wielded an iron hand over their subjects, quaint though their practices had started to become by the second half of the 19th century. Murder, robbery, and kidnapping were standard avocations. The RGS had been steering clear of the area for over a quarter century.
It's a wonder, then, why, within just days, Hayward was given the sum of 300, a mass of surveying instruments and map making gear, and packed off on the next boat to India. Of all the other questions about Hayward's life, apparently the most puzzling is why the RGS had anything to do with him at all.  It was as if an unkempt, unknown roustabout had shown up at Cape Canaveral in 1960 and announced he wanted to be an astronaut.  But deeper study suggests a motive.  Rawlinson was a distinguished soldier and traveler himself,  had advised the Governor General of India on many subjects, and had a specific interest in exactly the area Hayward wanted to explore.  Rawlinson was one of the foremost proponents of the "forward policy",  a hawkish and reactionary position with regard to the Russian threat to India, and spent much of his time beating the drum for increased military and intelligence spending in the area.  Rawlinson no doubt knew that there could be little difference between scholarly exploration and political knowledge in the area, and felt little anxiety about possibly sullying the Society's non-political stance. 
According to the RGS, his official destination was the Pamirs, specifically the source of the Oxus River.  The Pamirs, the "Roof of the World" are a chain of mountains and valleys, in the far western Himalaya chain.  Remote, inaccessable, unknown, yet the crucible of Anglo-Russian interaction, they cried out for mapping, surveying and intelligence-gathering on both sides. Marco Polo went across them in the 1300s.  A rather bizarre and unknown British naval Lieutenant, John Wood had gone several hundred miles up the Oxus in 1841 to explore.  And Hayward would be the third European in 500 years to see the area.   Rawlinson was under some pressure from the new Conservative government in Whitehall to provide information about this blank spot on the map. Britain and Russia were soon to either go to war over it, or establish a frontier boundary somewhere in the area.  Even the northern boundaries of the Afghan territory and the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and the Sind had never been formalized.  Hayward was sent there to find out what was where, who was who, and report back to Rawlinson.  Hopes were that the decades-old conflict could be cooled off.

peaksnearhushe-wesker.jpg (79345 bytes)

In India, after repeated attempts to cross the borders were denied, he managed to hook his little caravan up with a larger one, headed by an English tea planter named Robert Shaw.  Shaw had been laying out a journey through the mountainous country of Ladakh and then northwest into Turkistan, in the hopes of establishing a market presence in that land of over a million tea drinkers.  Shaw was not overly pleased to see him, fearing that Hayward's brash, sometimes intemperate, and always dangerous mission might endanger his own.  They agreed to travel just far enough apart so that, given the circumstances, Shaw could claim that Hayward was not associated with his caravan, and Hayward could claim that he WAS associated with Shaw.  After numerous fits and starts, with Hayward carefully measuring and mapping all that he could across Ladakh and the western Himalayas, Shaw, and then finally Hayward, arrived in Kashgar.  Held under house arrest by the current local despot, one Yakub Beg, they didn't see much of each other, the rest of the country side or anything at all. Visions of Stoddart & Connelly must have run through their minds, as those two erstwhile representatives had shown up, more or less uninvited and unwanted, in Bokhara just 30 years earlier.  However, it must be noted that Shaw and Hayward were not mistreated or made to suffer in any way - they just weren't allowed to do anything or go anywhere. Each time Hayward tried to sneak out of the city, he was met with sword wielding guards and turned back. 

Ultimately, though, Yakub Beg released both men and they made their way safely back to India - Shaw with the beginnings of a trade agreement, and Hayward with a volume of notes and letters back to the RGS.  Awarded the prestigious Gold Medal, Hayward instantly became as famous an explorer as Livingstone (still missing in Africa) or Burton. His failure to capture or record any really useful information about the Pamir and the lands around them was overshadowed by the amazing news that he'd managed to get to Yarkand and Kashgar at all. Rawlinson was overjoyed at the information he did get, and quickly sent Hayward instructions to continue across the Karakorams and head for western Turkistan....

On to Part Two - Across the Pamir