Lawrence Samuel Durrell

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Lawrence Samuel Durrell (23 September 1884 – 16 April 1928) was a British Indian subject and engineer, and is best remembered as the father of novelist Lawrence Durrell and naturalist Gerald Durrell. He was an Anglo-Indian in the sense that he was an Englishman born and brought up in India.

He was born in Dum Dum (present day Kolkata) on 23 September 1884, the son of Samuel Amos Durrell and his wife, Dora Maria Johnstone, and christened in Fatehgarh, Bengal on 7 October 1884.[1]

He was an engineer by profession. He studied in the prestigious Thomason College of Civil Engineering (now the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee). It was in Roorkee that he met Louisa Florence Dixie and married her in 1910. They had three sons and a daughter - Lawrence, Leslie, Margaret, and Gerald. He worked for the North-West Railway and it was in Jalandhar that Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912. He also went on to work for the Mymensingh–Bhairab Bazar Railway Company in Bengal.

In 1918, he became the Chief Engineer of the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and in 1920 left the company to found his own company Durrell & Co., Engineers and Contractors at Sakci, which became the industrial boomtown of Jamshedpur. Gerald Durrell was born in Jamshedpur in 1925. Many of the important industrial constructions in Jamshedpur were undertaken by his company, including the Tinplate Company of India, the Indian Cable Company, and the Enamelled Ironware Company, and contractual work for the Tata Iron and Steel Works.

He purchased a house in Dulwich and was planning on moving to England but had to move to Lahore with his family for supervising contract work. He fell ill there in 1928 due to causes which were medically undiagnosed and attributed to overwork. The family moved to Dalhousie for the climate in 1928, but Lawrence Samuel Durrell died on 16 April 1928 of suspected cerebral haemorrhage. He is buried in the English cemetery at Dalhousie.

Like many Englishmen whose families had been resident in India for generations, Lawrence Samuel Durrell worked and socialised with Indians of all confessions and castes. On one occasion, according to a story told by Lawrence Durrell, his novelist son, Lawrence Samuel gave up his membership at a club when his proposal to include an Oxford-educated Indian doctor who had saved his son's life was turned down.

References[edit]

  1. ^ FamilySearch.org, India, Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947, at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FG7P-F96. Retrieved 8 November 2012; FamilySearch.org, India, Marriages, 1792-1948, at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FGN1-Q53. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  • Through the Dark Labyrinth: Biography of Lawrence Durrell, Gordon Bowker, Sinclair Stevenson, 1996
  • Gerald Durrell: The Authorized Biography, Douglas Botting, Carroll & Graf, 1999
  • Alexandria: City of Memory, Michael Haag, Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 2004, which contains biographical material on the writer Lawrence Durrell and his family.