When Bob Golding was 18, he wrote to Gerald Durrell who agreed to take him along on an animal collecting expedition to the then British Cameroons in West Africa. Golding is immortalized as “young assistant Bob” in Durrell’s book A Zoo in my Luggage.
You can read Golding’s story and see some photos from the expedition on his website here.
In 1984, when Gerald and Lee Durrell visited the then-USSR to film their 13-part documentary, Durrells in Russia, the words ‘Soviet Union’ and ‘wildlife’ were rarely, if ever, spoken in the same sentence (except perhaps ‘when I think of the Soviet Union, I don’t think of its wildlife’). Durrell’s visit to the USSR was groundbreaking – here was a British man who appeared on a popular Soviet TV show, V Mire Zhivotnikh (‘In the World of Animals’), but more than that, here was a British man who was already popular in Russia.
In 1957, LIFE magazine despatched a photographer, Howard Sochurek, to photograph Gerald Durrell during his expedition to Bafut in the Cameroons. The expedition came not long after the publication of My Family and Other Animals in 1956, which became an instant hit – and of course the public were already aware of Durrell and his previous Cameroons adventures from his previous books, The Overloaded Ark and The Bafut Beagles.
Jacquie Durrell accompanied Gerald on this trip, as did his secretary, Sophie Cook, and a young aspiring naturalist, 18-year-old Robert Golding.
Gerald found the Cameroons had changed somewhat since his previous animal-catching expedition, and ran into difficulties with the British Administration, whom Jacquie wrote were:
“not at all pleased to have Gerry back in the country. They wagged a finger at him and tore him off a strip for writing about the Fon the way he had done in the Bafut Beagles, presenting a paramount chief as a carousing black clown who spoke comic pidgin English.”
While Gerald thought the Fon might be angry about his depiction in the Bafut Beagles, he turned out to be delighted. “You done make my name go round the world,” he said.
Here are some of the photos, from the LIFE archive, as digitalized by Google.
Gerald with the Fon
When I was researching into the Durrell in Russia series I came across a fascinating set of photos on Flickr of Durrell and Lee during their trip to the former USSR.
Durrell outside Russian cafe
The photographer, Byron Patchett, very kindly agreed to let me post some here to share with you (thanks again!). Continue reading
The Overloaded Ark (TOA) was Gerald Durrell‘s first book, written in 1953 after his marriage to Jacquie Wolfenden – who encouraged him to write to make money when he could not find work. The book chronicles a 1947-48 animal-collecting expedition Gerald undertook to Cameroon (then British Cameroon) in West Africa, accompanied by ornithologist John Yealland.