Take a walk around Bedford and you will come across several references to ‘Burnaby’ – from Burnaby Boarding House, to Burnaby Road and even The Burnaby Arms, a charming pub. But have you ever asked yourself: who was Burnaby and what link does he share with the town and, indeed, the school? Former Burnaby Housemaster, Tim Machin (staff 70-05), and Chris Aslan Alexander (86-92), gave an insightful online talk on this larger than life Old Bedfordian who lived from 1842-85.

Firstly, Tim gave a graphic account of Burnaby’s life based on his biography, Colonel Frederick Burnaby, A Great Victorian Eccentric.  He talked about his many accomplishments – Burnaby was a soldier in The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards), an author (with two books still in print), a balloonist, a linguist (speaking 7 languages), a Tory politician, and a War correspondent for the Times; and that merely scratches the surface!

 “To understand Burnaby one must realise that he had three dominant qualities; firstly, as a friend said about him, ‘I have never come across anyone else who was so completely devoid of fear’; secondly, he was very obstinate and single minded, and lastly, he had immense determination. Burnaby seemed to thrive on danger. During his time as a soldier in The Blues, he had the reputation of being the strongest man in the army – and at 6ft 4”, weighed over 17 stone.”

Tim Machin

Chris, who was inspired by Burnaby’s Victorian bestseller, A Ride to Khiva: Travels and Adventures in Central Asia,  then shared his fascinating journey,  where he followed in Burnaby’s footsteps. In 1998 Chris moved to Uzbekistan to work on a guidebook. There, he was ‘adopted’ by a local family, fell in love with the place and people, and stayed. His book, A Carpet Ride to Khiva – Seven years on the Silk Road, tells this story. Chris’s account of living in ‘the Stans’, and specifically, Khiva, where he set up a carpet-making workshop to provide local employment to the marginalised in society, and restore ancient arts of Khivan dyeing and weaving, had us hanging on every word.

To find out more about Chris, and about the book he has written on this subject, visit his website.

For those of you who are interested in walking in Burnaby’s footsteps, Chris is leading a series of Tours to Central Asia in 2021.

We’d like to extend our thanks to Tim and Chris and everyone who joined us for the online talk.  We think you will agree that it was extremely fascinating and showed what an interesting and amazing man Burnaby was.

If you were unable to join us, or would like to watch it again, you can do so using the following link:

Watch Video

If you would prefer to watch the video without the ‘chat messages’ you will need to click on the ‘Fullscreen’ button next to the image of scissors at the bottom of the screen.

Our next virtual event is our first Careers Skills Talk which will be focusing on Networking. Find out more and book your place here.


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