BBC’s Great Lives: 'The Tartan Turban'

Author and journalist Sathnam Sanghera nominates as his 'Great Life' an American colonel in the Sikh army.

In BBC Radio 4’s long-running biographical series, in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives, author of The Boy With The Topknot, Sathnam Sanghera, talks to Matthew Paris about Alexander Gardner aka The Tartan Turban.

A Scottish-American soldier, a traveller, an explorer and adventurer, Gardner was a white man with a tartan turban who ended up in India in a Sikh maharaja’s army in the 19th century, just before the British Raj took over.

Though dismissed by critics as a fantasist and a liar in his own lifetime, Sathnam claims he’s worthy of a bigger place in history. If just a tiny portion of what we think we know about him is true, he is a genuinely remarkable figure.

Sathnam is joined on the show by expert witness to Gardner’s life, the historian John Keay who has written an acclaimed biography, The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner.

You can hear the programme here.

Images: BBC