Lawrence Samuel Durrell

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Lawrence Samuel Durrell
Born(1884-09-23)23 September 1884
Dum Dum, Calcutta
Died16 April 1928(1928-04-16) (aged 43)
Cause of deathcerebral haemorrhage
Alma materThomason College of Civil Engineering
Spouse(s)Louisa Durrell
ChildrenLawrence, Margaret , Leslie, Gerald

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 of English descent and brought up in India.

Durrell was born in Dum Dum, north of Calcutta (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]

An engineer by profession, he studied in the prestigious Thomason College of Civil Engineering (now the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee). In Roorkee, he met Louisa Florence Dixie and married her in 1910; the couple had three sons and one daughter—Lawrence (1912), Leslie (1918), Margaret (1920), and Gerald (1925). While he worked for the North-West Railway in Jalandhar, his son Lawrence was born in 1912. Durrell 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.

Although Durrell purchased a house in Dulwich and was planning on moving to England, instead he transferred to Lahore with his family for supervising contract work. In 1928, the engineer fell ill due to causes which were medically undiagnosed and attributed to overwork; the family moved to Dalhousie for the climate in 1928, but Durrell died on 16 April 1928 of suspected cerebral haemorrhage and is buried in the English cemetery at Dalhousie.

Like many Englishmen whose families had been resident in India for generations, 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, Durrell 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.


  1. ^, India, Births and Baptisms, 1786–1947, at Retrieved 8 November 2012;, India, Marriages, 1792–1948, at 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.